Tom Eshelman wore a jacket and tie during a trip to Citizens Bank Park in September to pick up the Paul Owens award as top pitcher in the Phillies system The next time he comes to Philadelphia, he will likely be wearing red pinstripes.
The 23-year-old Eshelman epitomizes general manager Matt Klentak’s ideal of controlling the strike zone. Eshelman’s strike-throwing ability at Cal State Fullerton made him a second-round pick of the Astros in 2015 and could take him to the majors with the Phillies in 2018.
The Phillies acquired Eshelman from Houston in December 2015 as part of the package for Ken Giles in Klentak’s first and most high-profile trade. While other pitchers in that deal—Vince Velasquez and Mark Appel—have struggled with injury and ineffectiveness, Eshelman has advanced.
He went 13-3, 2.40 in 23 starts between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2017. He pitched 150 innings and gave up 128 hits while striking out 102 and walking just 18.
The knock on Eshelman is that he doesn’t throw hard by today’s standards. Dusty Wathan, who managed the 6-foot-3 righthander at Lehigh Valley, scoffs at that.
“He might not light up the radar gun, but there’s a lot to be said for a guy who can throw the baseball where he wants to throw it,” Wathan said. “Those guys tend to have success.
“And it’s not like he’s throwing 85 (mph). He’s in the low 90s. He has enough velocity to get by with the command he has. He’s a smart kid and he’s a smart pitcher. He can adjust his game plan on the fly—whatever helps him to get deep into games. And the biggest thing is he pitches inside. He broke more bats than anyone I saw all year.
“I wouldn’t put anything past him. He’ll prove people wrong. He’s a huge character guy. Great makeup.”
Eshelman was honored to win the Phillies’ pitching award and will use it as motivation to continue his rise in 2018.
“It’s really humbling to get, but it’s, ‘What can I do to get better,’ ” he said. “That’s the attitude I need to have this offseason in my workouts and with my pitching plan.”
• Oft-injured outfield prospect Roman Quinn is scheduled for a full slate of winter ball in Latin America after missing three months at Triple-A with an elbow injury.
• Lefty Aaron Brown, drafted as an outfielder out of Pepperdine in the third round in 2014, pitched in instructional league after converting during the summer.