Pitching Spotlight: RHP Zach Eflin – 8.0 IP 3 H 0 ER 1 BB 5 K
Outside of the incredible stat line I want to talk about the reason for Eflin’s success so far which is his ability to generate ground balls. Over the course of his Sunday start Eflin threw a ton of strikes especially working his fastball in the zone. The go to pitch was his 2-seam fastball which he was able to run over the outside corner for a called strike or put low in the zone for some awkward swings. Eflin was able to work the harder 4-seam fastball low and in on batters for weak grounders to third from right handed batters. In addition to the fastball, Eflin worked his plus change down in the zone and it would fade out of the zone, it was his best swing and miss pitch. The slider is still well behind the top two pitches. The result of all of this is 18 groundouts in two AA starts coming from a 57% GB%. In 2014, Eflin was at a 53.7% ground ball rate in the Cal League, so while the strikeout numbers remain fairly low (7 strikeouts in 14 innings) much of what Eflin is able to do is not only sustainable, but should portend success going forward.
Hitting Spotlight: C Gabriel Lino – 5-8 2 2B 1 HR 2 BB 1 K
Lino seemingly has been around forever as 2015 marks his 4th season playing in the Phillies organization since being acquired for Jim Thome in 2012. He has had an up and down time in the organization as he was demoted to the New York-Penn League in 2013 where his numbers regressed, and then in 2014 he was forced to Clearwater where he flashed some talent and didn’t embarrass himself. He is now the primary catcher in Reading and he showed this weekend he still has plus raw power, and he also started to show the ability to work counts to get a mistake pitch to drive. He is currently batting .364/.423/.682 through 7 games and won’t turn 22 and until May. He still needs to polish up his catching and show some sustainability to his numbers, but he is well worth keeping an eye on.
Hitting Spotlight #2: RF Aaron Altherr – 3-9 2 2B 6 BB 3 K 1 SB
I am going to cheat in my first attempt at this series, and I am going to stick in Reading. Altherr is back from injury and his opening weekend could not have gone much better. He showed a great approach, working a deep count every time at the plate, he was able to fight off difficult pitches and lay off pitches on the edge of the zone. Altherr has some natural holes to his swing because of his long limbs, so he is going to need to work around those issues and get himself into a good position for hitting. Altherr will play in right field with Roman Quinn on the roster, but he still can play all three outfield positions. It will be interesting to see if Altherr is able to maintain the approach going forward.
Matchup of the Week: Ricardo Pinto vs TBD (Lakewood @ Greensboro)
This will mark Pinto’s first warm weather start of the year, and while he has been dominant so far, he has yet to necessarily have his best stuff. This will also be Pinto’s second straight start vs Greensboro so it will be interesting to see if they will pick up his changeup better in this start vs last time out where he was able to get 10 strikeouts in 7 innings.
Stat of the Week: Carlos Tocci has a 6 game hit streak and has 4 multi hit games in that streak and overall is 11-25 over that time period.
Injury Watch: Matt Imhof was placed on the Clearwater 7-day DL with an undisclosed injury. His velocity has been down so far this year but it has yet to be announced whether the two are related in any way.
Reading Rotation Watch: 47.2 IP 1.89 ERA 37 H 10 ER 10 BB (1.9/9) 33 K (6.2/9)