Catching up with our series of 2016 MLB Rookie Reports, we turn our attention to Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin, promoted to the major leagues on June 14th. He made his debut that day against the Toronto Blue Jays and was hit hard: nine hits and nine runs in 2.2 innings, walking three while fanning two. Who is this guy and what does the future hold?
Eflin was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the compensation round in 2012 from high school in Oviedo, Florida. He performed well as a control pitcher in their system in 2013 (2.73, 86/31 K/BB in 119 innings in Low-A) and 2014 (3.80, 93/31 K/BB in 128 innings in High-A) then was traded to the Phillies in the Jimmy Rollins deal. He posted a 3.69 ERA in 132 innings in Double-A last year with a 68/23 K/BB.
From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book
Zach Eflin, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-4 WT: 200 DOB: April 8, 1994
2013: Grade B-; 2014: Grade B-; 2015: Grade B-
Zach Eflin came to the Phillies from the Padres via the Dodgers in the Jimmy Rollins trade. His debut in the Philadelphia organization was successful, his campaign for Double-A Reading being similar to his first two seasons in the Padres system. Key attributes: low-90s fastball, above-average change-up, excellent control, ideal pitcher’s body. Key weakness: his breaking ball comes and goes, varying between being a decent curve and an undistinguished slurve. Sabermetrically this issue manifests itself as a poor strikeout rate. Ticketed for Triple-A, Eflin needs to work on that third pitch. Look for any spike in K/IP ratio as a presage of a breakout. Grade B-.
Eflin was performing well in Triple-A before his promotion, with a 2.90 ERA in 68 innings and a 55/11 K/BB with 49 hits allowed. There was a notable improvement in his strikeout rate this spring, traced to more aggressive use of an improved breaking ball, though this did not help him in his debut against the Blue Jays.
His fastball peaked at 95 in his first outing and averaged 93, right in line with reports from the minors. He has a change-up in the mid-80s and breaking stuff in the upper 70s to low 80s. Location and pinpoint control are normally Eflin's best attributes but they failed him in his debut.
"This was his Major League debut, and I suppose he was a little nervous," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He just made a lot of bad pitches. He normally locates a lot better than he did. He was just up in the zone with all his pitches and got hit. Sorry to see his debut turn out that way, but this is a good lineup, and he can't make mistakes to them."
Based on the entirety of his track record, Eflin projects as a command-oriented number four or five starter. His margin for error will never be huge but he's just 22 and more chances will come.
This clip from a start in late May is more typical of what Eflin can do and also shows off his improved breaking stuff.