We’re into the truly elite talent, any of whom Toronto would be very fortunate to grab, with prep right-hander Zach Eflin coming in at No. 4. Like we did last year, we’ll also be hosting a live chat throughout the entire first round again starting at 7 p.m. ET, so make sure to pop by.
The players on our list are not who are considered to be the “best” players in the draft, but rather who could realistically be around when the Jays take the podium and who we would like to see the Blue Jays go after, with an emphasis on the latter.
Other articles in the series:
No. 1 – Lucas Giolito
No. 2 – Max Fried
No. 3 – Lance McCullers
No. 5 – Corey Seager
No. 6 – Courtney Hawkins
No. 7 – Chris Stratton
No. 8 – Richie Shaffer
No. 9 – Nick Travieso
No. 10 – Lucas Sims
No. 11 – Andrew Heaney
No. 12 – Joey Gallo
2012 MLB Draft Preview
No. 4: Zach Eflin
RHP | 18 years old / 6’6″ 215 lbs
Born: April 8, 1994 in Chuluota, Florida
High School: Hagerty (Oviedo, FL)
College Commitment: Central Florida
Baseball America Rank: 31 (15th among pitchers)
ESPN/Keith Law Rank: 14 (7th among pitchers)
- Mother was an alcoholic when he was growing up and he used baseball as a constructive escape
- Resilient personality with a great work ethic and makeup
- Follow him on Twitter: @zeflin12
Warmup video of Eflin from 2011 via DiamondScapeScouting on YouTube:
No high school player in the 2012 draft class has generated as much helium (improved his draft stock) as Zach Eflin, a young right-handed pitcher with a great story.
After pitching poorly at Perfect Game’s National Showcase in June 2011 and failing to impress with a fastball that topped out at 89 mph, a key mechanical flaw was noticed in Eflin’s delivery: opening his front side far too early and losing the balance and downhill leverage that his body afforded him from his high three-quarter arm slot. In addition to negatively affecting his fastball, this flaw took all the power away from his then-73 mph curveball, leaving it flat and soft with little break.
“I used to fall off to the first base side (of the mound) a lot; I would drive my arm and that caused me to lose velocity,” Eflin told Perfect Game in April. “Me and Coach Griffith, we woke up at 8 o’clock every morning for about three weeks over the summer, and we went out and worked on mechanics, long toss, went in the weight room – we did a bunch of stuff that would help with my velocity.”
Two months later in August, when Eflin’s front side was staying closed much longer, a 92 mph fastball with late life and a sharper curveball emerged. When Eflin pitched for his high school squad in the spring, he was routinely hitting low 90′s with his fastball and touching 95 repeatedly, much to the liking of the 50-60 scouts that would watch each of his starts.
With good sink and excellent downhill angle, Eflin’s plus fastball is easily his best pitch. It has impressive late life, running in or away against right-handed hitters, and his above-average command of the offering down in the zone and to both sides of the plate is a big reason why he posted double-digit strikeout totals in games against some impressive Florida prep hitters. Given that Eflin has room to grow in his tall but already physical frame, his fastball, either a four-seam, two-seam or cutter, could very well become a plus-plus pitch and be a dominant tool for him in his pro career.
Complementing Eflin’s fastball is a very advanced 79-83 mph circle changeup with plus potential that he feels comfortable throwing in any count. Possessing solid command of it, Eflin already hurls his deceptive changeup from an identical arm angle and with the same speed as his fastball, with nearly identical movement. Even though his command of it could improve against left-handed hitters, Eflin’s changeup is considered one of the best among high schoolers this year and projects to be a plus secondary pitch.
Even though Eflin upped the velocity on his 77-79 mph curveball, it’s the pitch that draws the most criticism. The newest new addition to his repertoire, Eflin’s curve shows tight spin but is very inconsistent, graded right now as fringe-average. Called slurvy by Baseball America and a knuckle-curve that is nearly impossible to command by ESPN’s Keith Law, the pitch projects to be average to above-average.
Why the Blue Jays could be interested:
The Blue Jays love young, projectable high school power pitchers, and Eflin is certainly an intriguing one. He reminds me of current stud Blue Jays pitching prospect Aaron Sanchez, but instead of a plus curveball and work-in-progress changeup, Eflin has it the other way around.
Eflin has turned into somewhat of a first round wild card after missing almost the entire month of April with tendinitis is his right tricep. An MRI in his elbow came back negative and he resumed pitching, but no one knows how much of an effect the injury will have on his draft stock. That’s good news for the Blue Jays, who could snag the 18-year-old with the No. 17 overall selection, or quite possibly even lower at No. 22.
Keith Law hinted that given Eflin’s high three-quarter arm slot, a change to his breaking ball to a more traditional curve or slider would give him a No. 2 ceiling or higher. Law compared Eflin to Cardinals pitching prospect Shelby Miller — currently ranked as the eighth-best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America — in that he has all of the essential elements but just needs time and professional coaching, even going as far as saying that Eflin has a much better changeup and better command than Miller did at his age.
The Blue Jays have time and a fantastic group of professional coaches that could work wonders in Eflin’s development. If some of the more highly-regarded names on the list are off the board when it comes time for the Blue Jays to make their selection, Eflin would still be a great choice.