Blue Jays Opposing Pitcher Report: Zach Eflin
Friday, May 25, the Blue Jays will begin a tough three-game interleague series against the young, up-start Philadelphia Phillies. The young left-hander, Zach Eflin will take the hill for the Phillies, while the Blue Jays will counter with Sam Gaviglio.
Zach Eflin, who is just 24 years old, has an interesting transaction history for a young pitcher. Originally drafted by the San Diego Padres 33rd overall in the 2012 draft, Eflin was traded to the Dodgers in the Padres package for Matt Kemp. However, Eflin never played a game in the Dodgers system, he was quickly traded to the Phillies as part of a package for Jimmy Rollins.
Eflin was optioned to the triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs out of spring training this season. However, Eflin was called-up from the IronPigs after Ben Lively injured his back.
Eflin has pitched 17 1/3 innings over three starts this season. His longest outing came against the San Francisco Giants, in which he went 6 2/3 in a blow-out, 11-0 victory for the Phillies. Overall, Eflin has been worth 0.5 fWAR while posting a 1-0 record, 1.56 ERA, 0.923 WHIP, 5.2 H/9, and an insane 250 ERA+.
Eflin, listed at a massive 6 foot 6 and 215 pounds, is an imposing presence on the mound. As his frame would suggest, the big righty works off his fastball for the most part. However, Eflin will also mix in a slider, sinker, change-up, and curveball.
The right-hander offers his heater 50.4% of the time while averaging a quick 95.56 mph. The four-seamer has jumped almost 2 mph from its average velocity last season. The fastball has given hitters fits this year, posting a minuscule .080 BAA and .120 SLGA. Eflin’s four-seamer achieves outs through fly balls—an outcome the pitch has produced at a good rate of 42.86% of balls in play.
The young right-hander uses a quick 85-86 mph slider 25.6% of the time. Despite the good velocity, the slider has limited movement. The slider has glove-side cut with some drop, but it is barely more movement than a cutter. Interestingly, the slider has allowed the only home run against Eflin.
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The big righty has thrown a sinker 10.2% of the time this year. The sinker averages a good average velocity of 93.91 mph. Elfin’s sinking fastball is a good change from the four-seamer, creating about twice as much vertical drop than the heater. The sinker has produced a perfectly even split (50%) between groundballs and fly balls when put in play. As well, despite producing whiffs at a pretty good rate of 30.77% of swings, it has produced no strikeouts.
Eflin offers a change-up, that averages a hard 87.3 mph, 7.1% of the time. The change has less vertical drop than the sinker and has produced whiffs on just 22.22% of swings. As well, it has produced line drives at a bad rate of 50% of balls in play. As a result, hitters have accumulated a .750 BAA and 1.000 SLG against the off-speed pitch.
The right-hander completes his offerings with a curveball that he throws 5.6% of the time. The curve averages a slow 77.4 mph but it has a good 12-6 drop. As a result, the hook has produced whiffs on33.33% of swings, the most out of all of Eflin’s pitches.
Eflin has produced fly balls at a startling rate this year, currently holding a fly ball percentage of 53.5%. For reference, anything above a 35%+ fly ball rate is extreme. Somewhat amazingly, despite producing so many fly balls, Eflin has only allowed one home run in three starts.
For the season, the big righty holds a tiny 0.52 HR/9 and 4.3% HR/FB rate. This is an extreme departure from previous seasons, in which the young righty had produced a 1.71 HR/9 and 2.24 HR/9 in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Therefore, it seems an extreme regression lies in Eflin’s future. While he has had excellent numbers preventing the long ball in the minors, big league hitters are much bigger and better than A- and AA-ball hitters.
For a more realistic view of how Eflin’s pitching skill has truly been, one can look to his FIP and SIERA. His FIP stands at almost double his low ERA—1.56 versus 2.93. His SIERA—a metric that calculates pitching skill assuming a 10.5% HR/FB rate—is an even worse 4.16. Therefore, while Eflin has been hot recently, it’s unrealistic to expect a young pitcher to maintain this level. As well, his BABIP sits at an unsustainable .205. Thus, the regression will likely result in more home runs, more hits, and, obviously, more earned runs. It’s up to the Blue Jays to either capitalize on this impending regression or fall victim to the hot streak Eflin is currently riding.
Past numbers suggest good things for the Blue Jays against Eflin. In very limited experience (13 at-bats), five Blue Jays hitters have combined for a massive .769/.800/1.923 slash line with four home runs, three doubles, and two walks.
Josh Donaldson, Kevin Pillar, and Russell Martin are all perfect in three, two, and one at-bat, respectively. Donaldson has two doubles, one home run, and five RBIs in three hits; Pillar has one solo home run in his two hits; Russell Martin has one single in one at-bat. Curtis Granderson has three hits—one double and two home runs—in 6 at-bats against Eflin. Devon Travis has one single in two at-bats against the Florida native.
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The Blue Jays are desperate for some type of momentum after dropping six of seven games in a rough homestand. Maybe teeing off against a young pitcher will be the exact spark the offence needs. However, there is no guarantee that Eflin won’t stay hot and shut them down—it could truly be a boom or bust type of game.