The annual tradition has returned. Leading up to Opening Day, Fish Stripes will be previewing the 2020 Marlins season, one player at a time. Find every article of the series here.
Where Did He Come From? The Marlins acquired right-hander Tommy Eveld from the Diamondbacks at the July 31, 2018 trade deadline in exchange for right-hander Brad Ziegler.
Triple-A: 7.71 ERA | 8.55 FIP | 5.77 xFIP | 1.59 WHIP | 23.1 IP
Double-A: 2.77 ERA | 2.72 FIP | 2.21 xFIP | 0.88 WHIP | 26.0 IP
Eveld entered his age-25 season as a sleeper candidate to earn a job in the Marlins Opening Day bullpen. He didn’t hurt his case in Spring Training game action, retiring 10 of 12 batters faced. But under-the-radar pick-ups Nick Anderson and Austin Brice also impressed, which meant Eveld—the youngest and least experienced of the bunch and the only one who wasn’t already on the 40-man roster—was sent down to New Orleans.
He was installed in a high-leverage, closer-like role, and immediately, the wheels came off. Eveld converted his first save opportunity, but allowed a run in the process. He blew the next one and took the loss in extra innings, then lost again courtesy of a Dixon Machado walk-off home run (Machado had been teammates with him in Marlins spring camp).
Here's a look at Dixon Machado's Walk-off Home Run to win against New Orleans today 5-4.— Iowa Cubs (@IowaCubs) April 11, 2019
In a single week, Eveld surrendered four homers; he had been taken deep only twice in his entire professional career up to that point. It took another two months of poor results for the Marlins to reassign him to Double-A Jacksonville, where he had thrived at the end of the previous campaign.
Aside from a rough patch in early July, Eveld dominated in Jax for the rest of 2019. He eventually became their closer, frequently treating fans and teammates to his “Touchdown Tommy” save celebration:
He was named the Southern League Relief Pitcher of the Month for August.
What made the difference? Getting away from the Triple-A baseball certainly helped. Beginning last season, the highest MiLB level adopted the same “lively” ball that contributed to record-setting home run totals in the majors. Meanwhile, Double-A continued using their traditional ball. Eveld was victimized by a ghastly 36.0 HR/FB% while in the Pacific Coast League, far and away the highest rate for any pitcher at any level of the Marlins organization (min. 20 IP).
He contained fly balls in the yard three times better for the Jumbo Shrimp (11.5 HR/FB%).
So this was seemingly related to his pitching environment and the caliber of his competition, but credit Eveld on making adjustments, too. His pitch sequencing with Jacksonville kept opponents off balance, inducing more pop-ups and fewer solid line drives. Most importantly, FanGraphs showed his swinging strike rate made a huge leap from 10.0% to 17.6%.
The right-handed Eveld has consistently performed well against lefties in his career. That held true in 2019 (.188/.274/.359 slash line, 34.2 K%) as he struck out extraordinary hitters like Yordan Álvarez, Kyle Tucker and Drew Waters in head-to-head matchups.
Off The Field
Eveld married Erica Nunn in November 2018, herself an accomplished athlete (softball). They both attended the University of South Florida.
Crazy story—Eveld was a quarterback on the USF football team, but got derailed by knee injuries. He stay occupied during rehab by playing slow-pitch softball and showed enough promise that his brother, Bobby Eveld, encouraged him to refocus on baseball (which he had some experience with as a kid).
Follow Tommy Eveld on Instagram (@7ommyeveld) and Twitter (@teveld).
I’m excited and grateful to be invited to major league spring training again this year #touchdowntommy #miamimarlins pic.twitter.com/C4gukk94ur— Tommy Eveld (@teveld) January 21, 2020
Eveld has gone from slightly overrated to seriously overlooked. Even with the pending addition of Brandon Kintzler, this Marlins bullpen has a soft underbelly. To improve upon 2019’s abomination, they’re hoping for big-time rebounds (Adam Conley, José Quijada, etc.), mid-career transformations (José Ureña) and good health (Drew Steckenrider). Anything short of a best-case scenario, there will be opportunities for organizational depth to get their feet wet in The Show.
This is a pivotal year for Eveld. Although he may be “raw” relative to most of the other Marlins pitchers in major league camp, the quality of his stuff may never be better than it is right now at age 26. His window to contribute in Miami could close rapidly as the farm system’s surplus of starting pitching prospects force their way up, with several of them inevitably turned into late-inning specialists. Plus there will soon be the financial flexibility for the Fish to bid on experienced free agents rather than making themselves too reliant on internal options.
By MLB reliever standards, Eveld’s fastball velocity—sitting in the 92-96 mph range—is close to average. Can he still overpower batters with it thanks to the extension he gets off the mound, or will he need to trust his secondaries more in putaway situations? Another question: how does his body respond on limited rest? Last season, he was only tested once on back-to-back days.
Eveld should be warmly received by the fanbase of the newly created Triple-A Wichita Wind Surge. But at some point in 2020, expect to see him get (at least) a cup of coffee with the big leaguers.
Will Tommy Eveld make his major league debut in 2020?
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