This sleeper post feels like it’s been three years in the making. I first started getting the vapors for Zach Eflin coming off his 2018 season, when he had 8.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 in 128 IP. What always kept me recommending Zach Eflin, while not going full-throated with a sleeper post on a giant megaphone like The Mouth of the South, Jimmy Hart, was his strikeouts seemed maxed out at 8.5 vs. having real promise for more. The command was never an issue, as far as I was concerned. He had 1.5 BB/9 in Triple-A in 2016, and rarely scrapped above a 3 BB/9 at any stop in pro ball, usually hovering around 2.5. To make a 2.5 BB/9 work, you only need about 8.5 on Ks, but that’s a number four/five fantasy starter range, and that borders on yawnstipating. Not much excitement for sleepers, or nada mucho enthusiasmo en dormirs, for my Spanish-language readers. Hey, I’m worldly, deal with it. So, what’s changed from a guy giving me the snooze button to a full-on sleeper? Last year his K/9 and BB/9 were 10.7 and 2.3. Hello, beautiful, I’m glad you could join us. Allow me to shower you in spa accouterments that I’ve seen on TV shows. Perhaps a rub of the shoulders? Maybe some thinly-sliced cucumbers for your eyes? A hot towelette? I’m showing my love for you, Zach Eflin, don’t push me away! So, what can we expect from Zach Eflin for 2021 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
Psyche! Before we get into the Zach Eflin sleeper, just wanted to announce all my rankings are currently available on Patreon for the price of a Starbucks coffee, if you get one of those extra grande frappuccino jobbers. Don’t wait for the rankings to come out over the next month, and get them all now. So II, the Zach Eflin sleeper:
Let’s look at Zach Eflin’s ERA, xFIP and yadda. His 3.97 ERA through 59 IP last year with a 3.23 xFIP. Hmm, that’s weird. OR IS IT?! Mr. Reversal Question, you are scarier than a cat jumping out of a closet! Eflin’s .344 BABIP was effin miserable. His BABIP is the equivalent to a grounder going to 2nd base for a sure out and a squirrel running through, grabbing the ball, holding it up to the sky, and a UFO beaming the squirrel up with the ball dropping ninety feet away for a double. These kind of things usually normalize. Like when you stopped wearing overalls, that was you normalizing. The exit velocity and Launch Angle on his BABIP was 87.4 MPH and 7.9, respectively. Let’s just grab another pitcher to compare him to…hmm…what’s a acronym I can make-up for a pitcher to be named later…Oh, I know — PTBNL! Did I just make up that acronym? Cool. A PTBNL’s marks were 7.9 and 87.8, that PTBNL is Clayton Kershaw. Oh, that chestnut.
With a ground ball rate that was 38th best in the league, Zach Eflin is a bit prone to bad luck, but I’d much rather a guy who keeps the ball on the ground, especially in his home park. Speaking of dinkers to 2nd base (I was. Earlier. You’re not reading any of this, are you?), Eflin had the fifth lowest Hard Contact Rate, top four was Maeda, Wheeler, Fried, and Ryu. As a man once said on a beach in the 1930s when they were all wearing one-pieces, “There’s nary a bum in sight!”
My biggest concern with Zach Eflin is he will throw too many strikes, and reduce his strikeouts, because hitters will just aggressively ground out. Aggressively grounding out isn’t the worst of outcomes. At 26 years of age (turning 27 in April), there might even be a bit more upside. I don’t see it with his strikeouts or walks from his previous year marks, but a low-3 ERA with a low-9 K/9 is easily in the “all hands on deck, let’s ‘ship with him” category of pitchers. For 2021, I’ll give Zach Eflin projections of 11-9/3.47/1.21/174 in 169 IP with a chance for more.