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Don't overlook Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

In October 2015 we wrote an article about Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff. He exceeded rookie status in 2015 with 51 innings of work so he didn't show up on prospect lists for '16, but 51 innings wasn't really enough to establish how good he really was, or wasn't.

Well 2016 brought us 197 innings of more data and Eickhoff acquitted himself well: 3.65 ERA, 167/42 K/BB, 4.19 FIP, 2.9 fWAR.

The report we wrote last fall is still valid.

Within the context of his entire career, what Eickhoff did with the Phillies was just past the upper-bound of expectations. He pitched like a sound number three starter (if not a number two), but the minor league track record showed him as more of an inning-eater number four or five type, albeit an efficient one with good control.

Why did this happen?

There was no magical increase in fastball velocity: his heater was 88-94 in the majors, averaging about 91, which is exactly what it was in the minors. In the Rangers system in 2014 his breaking ball looked to my eye like a decent slurvy curve. The change-up was okay but not as good as the fastball or breaker. He looked like a back-end starter, just as the numbers would imply.

However, Eickhoff's secondary stuff took a big step forward this year. The breaking ball is now viewed as two distinct pitches: a power curve and an effective slider, both pitches described very well by Paul Sporer at Fangraphs in a recent article. I'm not sure if Eickhoff made a deliberate decision to develop two different breakers, but either way the breaking stuff he showed with the Phillies has considerably more bite than what he showed in 2014. The change-up is still mediocre, definitely a fourth pitch. He doesn't use it nearly as often as the fastball, curve, and slider, but it is there to give hitters a different look.

Sporer points out that Eickhoff had a very sharp platoon split despite his big league success, something that will catch up with him eventually as a starter. That said, Eickhoff has clearly shown the ability to adapt and improve. He's big (6-4, 240), throws strikes,and obviously pitched well enough to make a strong claim on a rotation spot heading into 2016.

He maintained the diverse arsenal in 2016 with particularly good results from his curveball (Fangraphs pitch value 7.2) and slider (3.1).  His average fastball velocity held steady right at 91 MPH with peaks at 95. Obviously there was no loss of command compared to past seasons.

My basic point here is that Eickhoff has been a very good starting pitcher so far but hasn't received a great deal of attention outside of Phillies circles. Don't overlook him in your fantasy planning for 2017.