|The surprising Eickhoff looks like a long term mid-rotation starter|
At the 2015 MLB trade deadline, the Philadelphia Phillies shipped their ace starting pitcher Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers.
It was a crucial deal for the Phillies rebuilding program, coming as the team was dismantling the 2008 world champions and moving on from a core that had captured five straight NL East crowns.
In return for Hamels and hard-throwing reliever Jake Diekman, the Phillies received a package of five prospects. The Phils also agreed to take on the contract of injured pitcher Matt Harrison.
Those five prospects were the key to the deal for the Phillies. Those players were catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Nick Williams, and pitchers Jake Thompson, Alec Asher, and Jerad Eickhoff.
No disrespect at all to Eickhoff, but he was easily the least well-known of the prospects. But having turned 25 years old just weeks prior to the deal, he was also the closest to being ready to help the Phillies in the short term.
BREAKING INTO THE BIG LEAGUES
It wouldn’t take long for Eickhoff to begin contributing in Philadelphia. Called up to make his big league debut just three weeks later, he delivered six strong innings in defeating the Miami Marlins.
Eickhoff would remain in the Phillies starting rotation for the balance of that 2015 season, essentially replacing Hamels. He delivered Quality Starts in seven of his eight outings, allowing just 40 hits over 51 innings with a 49/13 K:BB ratio.
That performance virtually assured the right-hander of a rotation role at the outset of the 2016 season. Last year, Eickhoff went 11-14 with a 3.65 ERA and 1.160 WHIP in his first full season.
Over 33 starts, Eickhoff would allow 187 hits in 197.1 innings with a 167/42 K:BB ratio. In a season of inconsistency from most of the Phillies players, Eickhoff was both consistent and durable.
His performance wasn’t lost on Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, who was quoted early in spring training by CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury:
SLOW START TO THE 2017 SEASON
Eickhoff has yet to register a win in the 2017 season, but that is hardly the fault of the pitcher. Over his first half-dozen starts, Eickhoff has allowed just 32 hits in 36 innings with a 33/13 K:BB ratio.
In five of his six starts, the righty has given Mackanin at least 5.2 innings. He lasted five full in the other, allowing just two hits while striking out seven against the Atlanta Braves.
The Phillies snapped a six-game losing skid with a comeback victory over the Washington Nationals on Sunday. Following an off-day today, Eickhoff will climb back on the hill at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night.
That next start will come against the Seattle Mariners (15-17), marking the first time that he has faced a club from the AL West Division.
Eickhoff will be looking to get himself back on track after two straight rare sub-par outings. He allowed nine earned runs over 11.1 innings in his last two starts against the high-powered Dodgers and Cubs.
KEY PART OF THE PHILLIES FUTURE
Turning 27 years of age this coming July, Eickhoff still has two more seasons before he is arbitration eligible. He cannot become a free agent until after the 2022 campaign.
While Eickhoff is not a true ace-caliber starting pitcher, he is something that every rotation in baseball needs. He is a reliable workhorse. He takes the ball every time that his turn comes, and delivers a quality outing most times out.
Considering his age, contract status, and big league history to date, the Phillies appear to have gotten a steal in that Hamels deal. Eickhoff is already paying off solidly. He should still be figuring prominently in the Phillies rotation as some of the other pieces of that deal begin to join him in the coming months and years.