I Didn’t Know We Had Zac Efron (It’s Zach Eflin, Mom)
No, my mom didn’t say that to me. But she might. (If I ever bothered to call her).
Did you know Zac Efron is a Dodger fan? I mean, I guess he is. Getty shows him at a Dodger game once, wearing a Dodger cap. Though it was hard to resist him standing with Barry Bonds on the Red Carpet for High School Musical 3. Anyway, Efron’s a Dodger guy, and so, for a minute, was Zach Eflin.
Eflin came through LA on his way from San Diego to Philly in the Jimmy Rollins/Matt Kemp maneuvering the Dodgers pulled off in late fall 2014. It remains to be seen whether the Phils long-time shortstop played his last big league game last week. But the young righthander who was the primary return for a year of his services will make his big league debut today for The Phils, and it should be a night to remember, except it’s the early afternoon getaway day game at Toronto today, (wait, what time is it? Oh, 12:37 EST), as The Phils and Jays do their annual Home and Home 2×2 series which should probably have a name and a trophy like College Football. “The Blue Jay Trophy” would be appropriate, except it seems to weight to The Present Day Jays. We’ll come up with something.
So who is this young man, and what are we to expect from this debut, his start of something new?
Expect control and some Ks. Though he’s not a dominant strikeout pitcher, he has been pitching to a 5:1 K to BB ratio this year. His walks have come down from his full-season debut at lo-A in 2013 (6.2%) to 4.3% last year and 4.2% so far this year. And when his Ks were tacking down last season, he didn’t stick to the status quo – he added a curveball back into his arsenal and went more with the 4-seamer, (you should read Matt Winks’ write-up of Eflin from Spring Training time) and his Ks went up as the year was waning. His 2016 rate sits at 20.9%, for a really nice K%-BB% of 16.7%. With results like that, he’s bopped to the top of the AAA Depth Chart, ahead of Jake Thompson.
Speaking of that 4-seamer – expect radar readings in the mid 90s for the most part. He came into 2015 as a guy I expected to sit in the low 90s almost exclusively, but that 4-seamer coming back into the mix means he’s been trending upward, and sometimes he can make it scream all the way up to 97. And with the curve improving, and 2-seamer still working, and a changeup and slider regular offerings, we should see a nice variety as the game goes on.
And as the season wears on, expect to see a guy who is still young, still figuring it all out. Eflin very well may be up for just a few turns and then back down to AAA when Vincent Velasquez returns from what’s been described as a mild biceps issue. If so, one would hope that Eflin’s chance to taste the big leagues now should help him progress even more as he returns to Lehigh Valley. I haven’t seen any question of his mental makeup – the guy keeps his head in the game. I’d bet on it.
And even if this is a quick two or three start assignment, don’t worry, it certainly won’t be his last chance. We’ll see Eflin again soon enough. He and Jake Thompson are both beating down the door. Jeremy Hellickson might not make it past the trade deadline, and Adam Morgan has been inconsistent at best. There will be starts for Eflin and Thompson later this year and beyond. And hopefully all these guys will work off of each other to improve. After all, they’re all in this together.
So get after it today young man. The moment only comes once, and as the poet said, “It’s Now Or Never”.