Somewhat forgotten piece of a rising Philly puzzle
I didn’t set out to cover a Philadelphia Phillies prospect just because of the Eagles Super Bowl upset, it just kind of happened. When I search for a sleeper prospect or post-hype player to watch, I pretty much do it at random. A concentrated random.
It’s like throwing a dart at a board of 20 to 30 names I’ve been pondering and then looking at numbers and intriguing storylines before deciding who to write up.
Thomas Eshelman caught my attention for this edition.
Drafted by the Houston Astros in 2015’s second round from the California State Fullerton baseball factory, Eshelman put up some truly dizzying college numbers.
Or as John put it in his 2016 Phillies Top 20, “pornographic.” (You can click that, it’s his list. I promise.)
In three years at CSF, Eshelman’s numbers were as follows: 1.58 ERA, 139:7 K:BB in 137 innings, 105 hits allowed. Even Master Yoda would weep at the control.
Control is seriously no problem for Eshelman and has translated to the pro level. In 281 minor league innings so far, he’s walked just 51 batters. Only a brief adjustment to Double-A competition proved difficult for the 23-year old.
Traded from the Astros to the Phillies in 2016 along with fellow pitchers Mark Appel, Vince Velasquez, Brett Oberholtzer and Harold Arauz (whose brother Jonathan was sent back to Houston in the deal—not quite Pau for Marc Gasol but still), Eshelman wasn’t the prospect Appel or Velasquez was but came with probably the third-best outlook of the five pitchers received.
Former top overall pick Appel is stepping away from the game for now, while Velasquez had a great 2016 and a stressful 2017 for the Phillies, all the while the control freak Eshelman got his first taste of Triple-A.
That taste was oh so good and has Eshelman on the verge of a big league contribution in 2018. For Lehigh Valley, he went 10-3 in 18 starts with a 2.68 ERA and .942 WHIP. His dominating 80:13 K:BB ratio was everything that gets evaluators so excited about him.
The accuracy and command of the young pitcher is obviously noteworthy. But he’s always come with caution tape due to his lack of fastball velocity.
He seldom tops 90 mph on the radar gun and in an era where most of every pitching staff can flirt with a high 90s fastball or better, he’s certainly not the modern prototype.
But his stellar results and historically great authority over opposing hitters cannot be ignored. It will be very interesting to see how his atypical arsenal translates to the majors.
The Eagles are Super Bowl champs, the 76ers have been processed and the Phillies are on the rise. My colleague Clinton Riddle is running a “New Look Phillies” special, as well. Be sure to check it out.