Friday, April 8, 2016

Philadelphia Phillies @ New York Mets, 1:10 PM ET
PHI: Jerad Eickhoff (2015: 3-3, 51.0 IP, 2.65 ERA, 3.25 FIP, 1.04 WHIP, 8.6 K/9)
NYM: Jacob deGrom (2015: 14-8, 191.0 IP, 2.54 ERA, 2.70 FIP, 0.98 WHIP, 9.7 K/9)

Kirk Irwin/Getty Images North America & Mitchell Layton/Getty Images North America

Kirk Irwin/Getty Images North America & Mitchell Layton/Getty Images North America

Coming out of NJCAA Division-1 Olney Central College in Olney, Illinois in the 15th round of the 2011 MLB Draft, Jerad Eickhoff began his professional baseball career at 20 years old with the Texas Rangers organization. In his draft year, Eickhoff shined, putting together a 2.37 ERA in 19.0 innings as a reliever between Rookie and Short-Season A ball. In 2012 and 2013, Eickhoff moved to the starting rotation, and in 271.2 innings between Low-A, High-A, and Double-A, posted a 4.44 ERA with 6.1 strikeouts per nine and 2.6 walks per nine.

Eickhoff spent all of 2014 with the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders of the Texas League, making 27 appearances (26 starts) and tossing 154.1 innings to the tune of a 4.08 ERA. Eickhoff’s strikeout numbers jumped that season however, and he fanned 144 batters for an 8.4 K/9 while walking 3.0 per nine. In 2015, he kept up with this pace, striking out 126 batters and walking 39 in 133.1 innings (8.5 K/9, 2.6 BB/9) between Double-A and Triple-A. One of the many prospects sent to Philadelphia from Texas in the Cole Hamels trade, Eickhoff was called up to the Phillies in mid-August, where he would remain for the rest of the season.

In eight major-league starts, Eickhoff looked sharp, notching quality starts in seven of those games. The 6-foot-4 right-hander earned a win in his major-league debut, tossing six scoreless innings with five strikeouts against the Miami Marlins. In his final four starts of the season, he tossed a combined 28.0 innings (exactly seven innings each), allowing just three runs (all earned) on 17 hits and seven walks, picking up 33 strikeouts along the way, including ten apiece in his final two games against National League East rivals Washington and New York. Eickhoff displayed a versatile four-pitch mix, with his fastball averaging 91.0 mph according to PitchF/X, as well as a low-80s slider, mid-70s curveball, and mid-80s changeup.

The pride of his hometown Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, Jacob deGrom burst onto the MLB scene as a 26-year-old rookie in 2014, starting 22 games for the New York Mets with a 2.69 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 140.1 innings pitched en route to winning the NL Rookie of the Year award. In 2015 he built upon that success and established himself as one of the game’s top right-handers, tossing 191.0 innings over 30 starts, notching a 2.54 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 205 strikeouts against just 38 walks. Through two major-league seasons, deGrom owns one of the more impressive stat lines in baseball, featuring a career 2.61 ERA, 2.69 FIP, 1.05 WHIP, 7.2 H/9, 0.6 HR/9, 2.2 BB/9, and 9.5 K/9.

deGrom’s impressive statistics are backed up by an equally impressive arsenal of pitches. He features a four-seam and two-seam fastball (some call it a sinker, PitchF/x disagrees) that each averaged over 94 mph last year according to PitchF/X, as well as a trio of off-speed pitches. His wipeout slider, averaging nearly 90 mph last season, is his favorite secondary offering, with his mid-80s changeup a close second. He also features a 1-to-7 curveball that sits in the low-80s as a fifth weapon in his repertoire. According to Brooks Baseball, all of deGrom’s secondary pitches generated over a 13.5 percent swing-and-miss rate last season, with his changeup inducing a whopping 23.5 percent whiff rate.

With the Phillies currently focused on rebuilding their team for the future, the performance of young pitchers like the 25-year-old Eickhoff, as well as 22-year-old Aaron Nola and 23-year-old Vincent Velasquez, will be a huge key to a successful season. Nola was impressive in his season debut, striking out eight Cincinnati batters while walking none and allowing just four hits and one run over seven innings on Wednesday. Now it becomes Eickhoff’s turn to try to match Nola’s success in his first start of the new season. For deGrom, he simply looks to continue the success he has had over the last two seasons alongside a strong Mets rotation that includes a host of impressive young hurlers including Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz.

Honorable Mentions:

New York Yankees @ Detroit Tigers, 1:10 PM ET: Luis Severino vs. Jordan Zimmermann – Former top 50 prospect and current flamethrower Luis Severino begins his first full season in the majors after notching a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts and 62.1 innings with the Yankees last season. Jordan Zimmermann makes his Tigers debut after signing a five-year, $110 million contract with the club this winter.

Boston Red Sox @ Toronto Blue Jays, 7:07 PM ET: Rick Porcello vs. Marcus Stroman – Coming over from Detroit in the Yoenis Cespedes trade, Rick Porcello disappointed Boston fans last season, posting a 4.92 ERA in 28 starts with the club. 2016 marks the first season of his four-year, $82.5 million deal with the club, and a bounce-back season from the 27-year-old righty will be pivotal to the Red Sox success in 2016 and beyond. Marcus Stroman takes the hill for the Blue Jays for the second time this season following a strong eight-inning, five-strikeout start in the season opener versus the Tampa Bay Rays.

About The Author

Matt Wojciak is a 20-year-old senior at St. Joseph's College of Maine, studying for a degree in Accounting. He is a lifelong Red Sox fan, born and raised in southern New Hampshire, with much of his extended family residing in South Boston. If you're a fan of quantity and not quality, be sure to give him a follow on Twitter @mwojciak21.

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