In this week's 2023 Dynasty Baseball Trade Target article I will be discussing a player who is quietly among the league leaders in a variety of stats: Zach Eflin.
Some guys are seemingly just born into the hype. They are born with the natural talent to throw 100 or to steal a ton of bases. Other guys naturally receive hype based on the team they play for, such as the Yankees or Dodgers.
However, other players aren’t as fortunate. While they may be as or even more productive than the players in the spotlight, we don’t hear about them as much. While they may be overlooked in real life, this allows them to become great trade targets in fantasy. This is the case for our next 2023 Dynasty Baseball Trade Target: Zach Eflin.
2023 Dynasty Baseball Trade Target: Zach Eflin
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Eflin has always just sort have been there in a rotation. He’s never been the ace of a staff, even on a struggling Phillies squad in the late 2010s. He’s also never been the worst pitcher in a rotation, with fans clamoring for him to move to the bullpen or the minors.
Guys like Eflin are needed in every rotation. On the surface, he’s a dependable middle-of-the-rotation starter. He won’t win you a ton of games, much less Fantasy Baseball matchups.
However, while I was scrolling through the league leaders of different stats this year, I was shocked to find that Eflin was in the top ten of many different stats. This led me to take a deeper dive into the player that is Zach Eflin and found out that he is much more than an uninspiring middle-of-the-road player.
From 2018-2022, Eflin seemed like a perfectly average starter. He’d post around a .500 record each year, with an ERA hovering around four. While he had some injuries, Eflin would still manage to log over 100 innings most seasons. While he was solid, he wasn’t notable in any way.
What the Rays did to turn Zach Eflin into one of the better SP's this year was nothing crazy.
- Essentially scrapped the 4-Seam and CH
- Made him throw his 3 best pitches (Sinker, Curve, Cutter)
- Cutter usage from 15.25 to 27.5%
- Added negative ivb to curve
- more sink! pic.twitter.com/KtRuQsPDku
— Jack Steele (@steelejack12) August 14, 2023
Atop The Leaderboards
However, Eflin has taken the next step forward in 2023. Among the MLB leaderboards, he is second in wins (13), second in WHIP (1.026), second in BB per nine (1.236), and seventh in FIP (3.17).
The majority of these stats reflect the ability to limit base runners. This is indicative of Eflin’s game, as that is undoubtedly his biggest strength. Eflin is great at limiting walks, evidenced by his great walks per nine.
Throwing strikes has never been a problem for Eflin. Throwing too many hittable strikes has usually been the issue. From 2016-2021, Eflin had never had a season where he allowed less than 9.2 hits per nine innings, which is more than a hit per inning.
This seems to have taken a turn for the better for Eflin. 2022 saw him post 8.3 hits per nine, and he has only improved on this number in 2023.
Furthermore, the quality of strikes is also evident in Eflin’s strikeout numbers. Eflin’s low velocity has usually resulted in some poor strikeout numbers, with his career average being under eight punchouts per nine innings. However, Eflin has also improved on this number in 2023, with almost a strikeout per inning (8.8 per nine).
Yet another incredibly impressive, 9 strikeout outing by Zach Eflin.
9 K pic.twitter.com/4zc9JSt8oB
— Tricia Whitaker (@TriciaWhitaker) June 7, 2023
Not Just A Strike Thrower
A large improvement from a career average in one year suggests that Eflin has gotten lucky throughout the season. However, a deeper dive into the stats proves quite the opposite.
Eflin’s wOBA and ERA are both very solid, at .278 and 3.58, respectively. However, the expected totals for Eflin are at .270 for wOBA and 3.00 for ERA, both in the top eight percent of the league.
The ERA difference between expected and reality is very noticeable, as it is more than half of a run difference between the real and expected total. This means that Eflin has been getting unlucky on a lot of soft contact, and has a very high BABIP. However, these things usually even out over time.
The rest of Eflin’s baseball savant page is a gold mine too. Eflin has a 98th percentile walk rate, 91 percent chase rate, 82nd percentile average exit velocity, and very solid hard hit and K percentages. This proves that Eflin is throwing more strikes than ever, but also making these strikes very tough to hit.
Strikeout number nine for "Big Game" Zach Eflin tonight.
— David Esser (@DavidEsser_) September 24, 2020
What will it take to get Eflin?
Not many people have Eflin as a top-of-the-line pitcher in their minds. However, this is exactly what the numbers show he is turning into. You can likely get a steal on Eflin, not giving up many young players.
Zach Eflin is genuinely one of the most underrated players of 2023. He won’t beat himself with the walks and routinely goes deep into games to give you a lot of fantasy points. The lack of a weakness in Zach Eflin’s game makes him a no-brainer to be our next 2023 Dynasty Baseball Trade Target.