As we move toward the 2016 season, let us take a look at each player on the roster and what a reasonably successful season would look like. We started with Aaron Nola. Our most recent entry was Cesar Hernandez.
Name: Jerad Eickhoff
Age: 26 in July
Experience: 8 starts
What we saw in 2015Jerad Eickhoff started the 2015 season as a mid-level prospect in the Texas Rangers' system, was dealt to the Phillies in the Cole Hamels trade and bolted through Triple-A and into the Major Leagues. And what a revelation he was in 2015! In eight starts, Eickhoff had two ten-strikeout games, twirled 51 innings and compiled a 2.65 ERA and 3.25 FIP. In the minors - and during his brief cameo in the big leagues - he has proven to be able to limit his walks and limit his hits allowed. His 7.4 whiffs per nine innings is solid, if not spectacular.
Important Goals for 2016Innings, innings innings: Jerad Eickhoff needs to toss at least 155 innings next year. Anything above that is probably a bonus, but also proof that the Hamels deal will work in the Phillies favor. Eickhoff pitched at least six innings in seven of his eight starts. In five of those starts, he reached the seventh inning. If he can toss seven or more innings in 10 starts next year, that will be very good for the Phillies and their 'pen.
Strikeouts: I'm just going to toss my bias out there, I don't think strikouts are as important as a lot of analysts, but that's another story for another day. That said, if Eickhoff is putting guys away, we're going to know he's pitching well. No one should hope Eickhoff will end up with nine or 10 whiffs a game, but he should be able to miss enough bats to get out of some jams.
Secondary pitches: Eickhoff's offspeed deliveries will fuel his success. His curveball can be investigating and his slider is effective. If he can't replicate what he did in 2015, hes' going to be in trouble.
Get lefties out: Left-handed hitters popped Eickhoff to a better than .800 OPS. He's got to get that below at least .780. How he attempts to do that will be interesting. His change-up isn't good enough to get the job done. Yet. Maybe that changes. Maybe tossing his slider inside so that it falls off the plate and toward the batters' ankles.
AnalysisThere is no player who is more important for the 2016 Phillies and the future of the franchise than Jerad Eickhoff.
That sounds crazy. But we're pretty sure we know what the team is getting with Aaron Nola and JP Crawford, not to mention Odubel Herrera and a few others. Eickhoff is the wildcard. If he pitches anywhere near what he did in 2015, the Phillies and their rebuilding process will take a huge step forward. It would basically mean the door to contending for a postseason spot would likely be there in 2017, if not 2018.
A two-armed tandem of Nola and Eickhoff would be the beginning of a very bright young rotation.
But here's what's interesting: Even if Eickhoff takes a small step back - say he pitches 140 innings because he misses a few starts, pitches to a 3.50 ERA and a 4.00 FIP - this team is still probably better than expected.
The fear for the Phillies is that Eickhoff is the next Mike Mimbs or Mike Grace. If you're too young to remember either of them, they had bright beginnings in red pinstripes then fell apart.