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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If Velasquez can’t win the Phillies five slot and provide decent outings with the Price’s help, he’ll be a late-game reliever. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images. /

Top five:       

While Phillies pitching coach Bryan Price works again with Zach Eflin to hone his slider, fans will talk about right-hander Spencer Howard and third sacker Alec Bohm making the 26-man roster. But Klentak won’t easily burn a 40-man slot for either because he looks at more than just stats. Like, how will they handle adversity?

Jake Thompson showed promise, but he lacked average control (70 percent) and didn’t have a mid-90’s heater. In ’19, he made four starts with two relief chances for a 1.90 ERA and a 1-0 record for the Detroit Tigers’ Single-A+ club. The prior campaign, he had a 4.96 ERA with two Phils’ saves in nine relief opportunities.

Jerad Eickhoff signed as a non-roster invitee with the 2020 Padres and will probably try for a 26-man spot when activity resumes. But after he had logged an 11-14 mark with a 3.65 ERA for the 2016 Fightins, injuries plagued him. And he finished for Philly at 3-4 with one save and a 5.71 ERA over 12 appearances (two relief) in 2019.

Among the final three, Pivetta is hoping to improve his rotation chances with more changeups. The idea is the hitter thinks he’s getting the express, not the local. In ’19, he made 13 starts with 17 relief opportunities and went 4-6 with a 5.38 ERA, a save and a hold.

Velasquez recorded a 7-8 mark and a 4.91 ERA with two holds: 33 performances with 10 in relief. Basically, his record is deceptive because Gabe Kapler had a quick hook due to pressure to make the playoffs. But if Price is working with Eflin’s slider and Pivetta’s changeup, is the coach having Velasquez hone his slider or curveball?

The top five arms were promising, but only Eflin has earned a spot on the five-man staff. To excel, if you aren’t a flamethrower, you’ll need pinpoint control: 75 percent or more. But a fireballer can miss with two or three mid-90’s fastballs down the heart of the plate during a start; however, a finesse pitcher can’t.