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Jerad Eickhoff is the most interesting pitcher in spring training

The Phillies young right-hander will be one of the pitchers to watch this spring.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Are you excited about Jerad Eickhoff? I'm excited about Jerad Eickhoff.

Even though he spells his first name backwards, I am pumped to see more of the young right-hander who was acquired as part of the Cole Hamels trade last summer with the Texas Rangers.

Why? Why indeed.

That was Bryce Harper that Jerad Eickhoff made look like a dadgum fool, kids.

After joining the Phils last season, Eickhoff was far better than anyone could have expected, and far better than his minor league numbers would have suggested.

Rangers (AA) 2 10 2.7 4.3 12.6 2.7
Rangers (AAA) 17 101.2 4.25 4.4 8.23 2.92
Phillies (AAA) 3 21.2 2.49 2.42 7.89 1.25
Minor Leagues 100 578.1 4.14 N/A 7.4 2.7
Phillies 8 51 2.65 3.25 8.65 2.29 1.2 1.8

After posting a 4.14 ERA and striking out 7.40 batters per nine during 100 minor league career starts, Eickhoff put up a dazzling 2.65 ERA, a 3.25 FIP, an fWAR of 1.2 and an rWAR of 1.8 in just those eight starts.

Here is where that fWAR ranked among all Phils starters in 2015.

Cole Hamels 3.64 3.27 3.28 2.8
Jerad Eickhoff 2.65 3.25 3.6 1.2
Aaron Nola 3.59 4.04 3.58 0.9
Aaron Harang 4.86 4.83 4.99 0.8
Adam Morgan 4.48 4.88 5.12 0.4
Severino Gonzalez 7.92 4.5 4.26 0.2
Chad Billingsley 5.84 4.81 4.77 0.1
Dustin McGowan 10.8 4.33 5.66 0
Kevin Correia 6.56 5.19 4.29 0
David Buchanan 6.99 5.33 4.74 -0.1
Phillippe Aumont 13.5 13.38 7.99 -0.3
Jerome Williams 6.13 5.42 4.38 -0.4
Alec Asher 9.31 6.75 5.66 -0.5
Sean O'Sullivan 6.08 6.18 5.37 -0.8

Eickhoff's fWAR was second on the entire team last season, with only the man he was traded for, Hamels, ahead of him. And that was in just eight starts.

And in several of those games he was brilliant, especially his last two starts of the year against the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets.

He went seven innings against the Nats and gave up two runs on five hits and struck out 10 batters while walking just one. Five days later he went seven innings against the eventual NL champs, gave up no earned runs on four hits, once again striking out 10 and walking just one.

In those last two starts, Eickhoff did something pretty special.

So it's pretty easy to see why manager Pete Mackanin is guaranteeing the lad a spot in the starting rotation, barring an injury or a nightmare spring in Clearwater.

Of course, his performance with the Phils was far better than anything he did in his minor league career and caught everyone by surprise. Is it sustainable?

One good thing he has going for him is his control. His career 2.70 walk rate means he isn't going to give out a ton of free passes. And there is no doubt that hammer he throws is a knee-bender. But there are some things to watch out for.

Among pitchers who threw at least 50 innings last year, Eickhoff's 34.0% hard-hit rate was tied for 15th-highest in MLB last year. And batters only had a BABIP of .257 against him (the league average was .299). He also gives up a lot of fly balls, 40.0% (part of the reason his BABIP is low), and a low number of ground balls (37.9%), which could mean more balls leaving the yard this summer.

And he's not a hard thrower, averaging 91.0 mph on his fastball last year, so he needs to have good control and improve on his other secondary pitches, especially since hitters have gotten some tape on him now.

But his cameo with the Phils last year was definitely eye-opening, and there is hope the team may have found a diamond in the rough here.

If the Phillies are going to become a playoff contender again sometime soon, a little luck wouldn't hurt.

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