Phillies: Solving the Zach Eflin mystery for 2020

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 11: Pitcher Zach Eflin #56 of the Philadelphia Phillies hands the ball to manager Gabe Kapler #19 as he walks off the mound with Rhys Hoskins #17 looking on during the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves during a game at Citizens Bank Park on September 11, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 11: Pitcher Zach Eflin #56 of the Philadelphia Phillies hands the ball to manager Gabe Kapler #19 as he walks off the mound with Rhys Hoskins #17 looking on during the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves during a game at Citizens Bank Park on September 11, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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With a third above-average pitch, Eflin could even be a two-slot starter for the Phillies. Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. /

Eflin’s mastery of a third pitch is the main obstacle for the Phillies to have three front-of-the- rotation studs, and to date the towering right-hander is the top moundsman acquired during rebuilding.

Third pitch in progress:   

For the Philadelphia Phillies faithful, Zach Eflin is either a five-slot arm or a potential hurler in the middle of the five-man staff. And the reason is 2019’s 4.13 ERA or his frequent brilliance. But when you unearth a rookie pitching coach’s belief to add a high fastball in season to improve the righty’s performance, you realize why.

"IN OTHER WORDS:    “The most important thing is to not stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein"

To understand Eflin’s current situation, go back to the Fightins’ trade for him and his MLB baptism. Translation: He had competition. Yes, he was one of 10 arms the front office picked up by mostly moving their Glory Day stars and only a young flamethrower by general manager Matt Klentak.

After aging regulars decline, organizations prefer avoiding the dreaded restructuring if they can. But they get a boatload of unproven talent for players in the twilight of their exemplary careers. Realistically, franchises receive mostly prospects they hope one or two will pan out.

What did the red pinstripes expect from the best 10 hurlers they swapped for? Well, they hoped for one or two rotation pieces out of those 10 because other clubs don’t deal their top talent except for a Cole Hamels or a  J.T. Realmuto.

Winning a trade depends only on the exchange. Basically, moving aging stars for prospects to rebuild is the totality of the transactions: It’s different. Plus the Phils wanted to pick up and develop at least one mid-rotation piece to eventually join Aaron Nola.

Of the 10 best hurlers, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are the top three. And only Eflin isn’t a long shot to successfully accomplish the Fightins’ goal of a three-slot starter. Rule of thumb: A player makes an impact in or after his third year (60-120 starts), and the tall righty has made 74.

While some fans have decided the fates of Velasquez as a reliever and Pivetta as a former Phil, Eflin draws mixed reviews from these critics. Some see a 4.13 ERA and conclude he’s a five-slot arm, while others noticed a number of solid outings last summer that have even bested Nola (3.74 ERA).