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Originally selected by the Houston Astros in the 2nd round of the 2015 MLB Draft, right-handed pitching prospect Thomas Eshelman was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in the Ken Giles/Mark Appel deal in December of that year, and since then has steadily rose through to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2017. Named by the Phillies as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year at the end of this summer, Eshelman finished 13-3 with a 2.40 ERA and three complete games over 23 starts. Across 150 innings in that span, he allowed just 128 hits (.233 opponents’ batting average) and 18 walks while striking out 102 batters. Set to turn 24 years old in the middle of next year (DOB: June 20, 1994), Eshelman is on the doorstep of the big leagues and coming off the best season of his professional career at exactly the right time.

All that said, and even with above-average control and nearly pinpoint command, Thomas Eshelman doesn’t do it with even average velocity on his fastball. Because of that, he’s fallen through the cracks in terms of recognition from a broader audience outside of the Philadelphia Phillies. But while he may not have the natural stuff to be a frontline starter or future ace, Eshelman’s consistency will get him to the big leagues and should establish him once there as a workhorse back-end rotation arm. Below, we have a full Thomas Eshelman scouting report that includes game video, tool grades, pitch breakdowns, and some notes on future projection for the Philadelphia Phillies farmhand.

Thomas Eshelman, Philadelphia Phillies — 2017 Scouting Report

Dates observed in 2017: July 17

Four-Seam Fastball (50)
Average to slightly below-average working velocity. Pretty straight and standard offering out of high three-quarters/nearly overhand release. Pinpoint command. Will dot the four-seam early in the game and early in counts. Not overpowering but effective enough when commanded, especially with moderate downward plane. More of a get-over to begin a sequence that’ll end with the two-seamer, cutter, or off-speed. When he needs to, not afraid to throw four-seamer in, even off the plate, to his arm-side to make RHH uncomfortable. Very good extension and feel for both sides of the plate. Velocity: 90-92, T 93.

Two-Seam Fastball (50)
Very late, very tight arm-side run with some sink. Would be below-average in terms of raw pitch life, but Eshelman dots it extremely well corner to corner; pinpoint command with just enough late life allows him to miss barrels and draw weak contact. Like the four-seamer, occasional tendency to use it arm-side both as a brushback look to RHH and on the black as a strike to set up off-speed to glove side. Velocity: 88-90, T 91.

Cut Fastball (45)
Like the two-seamer, Eshelman’s cutter has very subtle, but very late arm-side cut with some sink. And like his two-seamer, it’s not a swing-and-miss pitch as much as it accounts for last-second movement to weak contact off the barrel. He likes to throw the cutter a lot, and he can carve up both sides of the plate with it. Pitch plays up because of impeccable command and overhand release with downward plane; good wrinkle for him to use in on LHH in particular as a way to keep them from diving over the plate. Velocity: 87-90, T 91.

Changeup (45)
Average feel for the changeup on both arm-side and glove-side. General control of it down at the knees, but lacking in nuanced feel for plus tumble and sink; modest arm-side run with a little bit of fade. Like the cutter and two-seamer, not so much an above-average pitch as it is merely adequate, meticulously controlled, and with just enough late life to get off the barrel and draw weaker contact. Feels like it lags a step behind the rest of his stuff, but could have just been an off day for the changeup in my view. Velocity: 76-79, T 80.

Curveball (50)
12-to-6 break on overhand curveball. Trusts it a lot, will throw it early and late in counts, as well as when ahead and when behind when he needs a called strike pitching backwards in a fastball count. Not a true hammer and hasn’t proven to be a strikeout pitch, but — do I sound like a broken record yet? — enough late life with consistent knee-level command to get just off the barrel and draw weaker contact. Velocity differential will get hitters out in front, too; good arm speed and action helps sell it at release over the top. In my look, Thomas Eshelman immediately went to his curveball the second time through the lineup and started to pitch backwards off it. Advanced ability to get it over and down early in counts, and also throw it to both sides of the plate to both LHH and RHH. Velocity: 71-73, T 74.

Slider (45)
Slider showed a tendency to flatten out some in my look; sometimes very good with definite depth and 10-to-4 movement, sometimes shorter, tighter, and too similar to the cut fastball. When on, distinct enough to have value as a second breaking ball, especially to RHH. As with everything else he throws, late life gets it off the barrel; some speed differential compared to two-seam/cutter combo can provide another way to get hitters off balance. Won’t miss as many bats as the curveball, but he can bury it on occasion as a good two-strike pitch, and back-foot LHH when ahead in the count. Velocity: 81-82, T 83.

Control/Command (80/70)
Undoubtedly the best control/command combo I saw in 2017; arguably the best command profile in all of the minor leagues. Thomas Eshelman legitimately makes other pitching prospects with above-average control look like amateurs. Of course, he requires impeccable command to survive because of what he lacks in velocity and pitch life. In my look, Eshelman made one mistake over the plate to Atlanta Braves prospect Ronald Acuna and the young outfielder hit it 450 feet. Anecdotal, of course, but a cautionary tale in how critical command will be for Thomas Eshelman at the next level with the Philadelphia Phillies. Fortunately, he has double-plus command of everything in his arsenal. 

Short, sweet, and to the point. Quick step and turn to balance, with a very short arm swing on the back side and near fully-overhand release point to the plate. Hides the ball very well on the back side. Works very quickly, pushing the pace on hitters and visibly disrupting timing and pre-pitch rituals. Keeps mechanics out of the stretch; doesn’t leak out forward to the plate, and has short and quick enough arm action to consistently stay on top and through the ball from the stretch. Easy, free, and repeatable mechanics; relatively stress-free arm action. Ideal easy effort and simple physicality for a starting pitcher expected to eventually take 30+ turns in the rotation.

Undoubtedly one of my favorite pitchers from 2017. What Thomas Eshelman lacks in ‘sexy’ projectable stuff, he makes up for it with nearly flawless, elite command. Very unique pitcher to watch work. Extremely polished and composed on the mound; obvious understanding of advanced sequencing and, more importantly, consistent ability to execute on those sequences. Bulldog-type mentality out of necessity, lacks power stuff but still manages to challenge hitters and miss his fair share of bats by consistently getting ahead and staying ahead. Thomas Eshelman is going to out-perform every public evaluation of him. Bet on it.

Thomas Eshelman Scouting Report — Philadelphia Phillies — 2017 Game Video

Thomas Eshelman Scouting Report — Notes & Analysis

One of the more polished college arms when he entered pro ball, Thomas Eshelman will prove to be a total steal for the Philadelphia Phillies — one that’ll somewhat redeem the ill-fated Mark Appel add in that 2015 trade. Most upper 80s/90 mph starters get pretty quickly found out once they reach the high minors without the stuff to miss the bats of better hitters, but most of those pitchers don’t have Eshelman’s command profile. Very, very few guys across pro ball have the ability Eshelman does to dot both sides of the plate with his entire (and deep) arsenal, and while he’ll always pitch to contact, you’d be wise to bet on Eshelman exceeding expectations. Kyle Hendricks is a best-case scenario comp, but he and Eshelman do a lot of the same things, have similar arsenals, hide the ball very well, and survive on plus-plus command. Let’s not go so far as to predict the Philadelphia Phillies have the second coming of Hendricks here, but, seriously: Thomas Eshelman will far exceed expectations with what appears to most to be pedestrian stuff.

Thomas Eshelman Scouting Report — Future Projection

Barring something unforeseen, Thomas Eshelman will be pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2018, perhaps even to start the season depending on how winter and spring training shake out. Realistically, I think he settles into a back-end rotation role with the consistency and command profile to start 30+ times a year with exceptional competitiveness, if lacking in power stuff. If he does fall short of that, Eshelman’s arsenal and attacking ways make him a natural lock as a low-leverage long reliever.

Overall Future Potential (Future Value): Consistency, command profile, and polish to settle in as successful back-end rotation arm in the big leagues (50)

MLB ETA: 2018


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Bobby DeMuro

Bobby DeMuro is the founder of Baseball Census. A former college and independent league baseball player, he now watches more than 200 games a year working full time for the site. You can follow him on Twitter @BobbyDeMuro for more.

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  1. […] even with pinpoint command, lacks velocity such that hitters can still get on the barrel. Something of a poor man’s Thomas Eshelman though; battles with command while living exclusively in the lower third of the zone without power. […]

  2. […] to miss bats, but plays up significantly with command and attack profile. In a way similar to Thomas Eshelman and Brandon Gold, what Nathan Bannister lacks in velocity he makes up in command; remains to be […]

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