Nearly two years removed from his Tommy John surgery, how are potential Marlins trade partners currently valuing the left-hander?
There were 103 players selected ahead of Jake Eder in the 2020 MLB Draft. Within a month of his professional debut, he had emerged as one of the top 103 prospects in the entire sport. He tore apart Double-A competition with well-located mid-90s fastballs and an unhittable slider. His selection to the 2021 Futures Game was a no-brainer. Eder was ascending fast…until he got stung by the injury bug.
Because of the combination of Tommy John surgery and a fractured foot, it took 22 months for Eder just to make it back to the Double-A level. Even then, he was rusty. The Vanderbilt lefty’s velocity hadn’t returned and neither did his command.
But Eder has gradually rounded back into his old form in recent weeks. I came away encouraged by his July 15 start against Birmingham despite the five earned runs attributed to him. The following week against Rocket City, he was even sharper.
Then on Saturday night in Pearl, Mississippi, Eder pitched a masterpiece: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 2 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 10 K, 1 HR.
The 24-year-old’s fastball velocity touched 95 miles per hour several times. Eder consistently got ahead in the count and made his opponents take defensive swings at sliders just off the plate. He struck out nearly half of the batters he faced, allowed no hard contact outside of a solo home run and even fielded his position well.
However, the vast majority of Eder’s heaters were in the 91-93 mph range. And here’s the big caveat: he had the platoon advantage against six of the nine Mississippi Braves starters. Typically, opposing lineups only start two or three lefties against Eder. Because of these unusual circumstances, he barely had to incorporate his changeup.
This was Eder’s final “audition” in advance of Tuesday’s MLB trade deadline. Per multiple reports, including Craig Mish of SportsGrid and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, potential Miami Marlins trade partners have been eyeing him. Eder has re-established himself as one of the best prospects in the Marlins system, but I don’t think he’s shown enough yet to fully restore the value he previously had.
A start like Saturday’s further demonstrated why Eder has a high floor. He is a nightmare matchup for same-handed batters, striking out more than 40% of them during his minor league career. He will, at the very least, retire MLB lefties with ease in a relief role. Eder’s ceiling is more up for debate until his velo ticks up and/or his changeup steals strikes against righties with more regularity.
Baseball Trade Values estimates that Eder carries $8.6 million in surplus value. Flipping him for most rentals on the market would be an overpay, but his value is closely aligned with controllable veterans like Gleyber Torres (New York Yankees) and Tommy Edman (St. Louis Cardinals). That sounds about right. It’d be selling low on him.
Despite the sexy results in his last start, I’m skeptical of Eder contributing to the Marlins’ playoff pursuit. If the club is able to address it’s short-term roster needs without dealing him, the focus should be on refining his changeup and continuing to increase his workload. Continuing to start once a week in the Southern League through summer’s end and doing the same in the Arizona Fall League would give him the opportunity to surpass his pre-Tommy John innings total (71.1 IP) and enter 2024 spring training as a darkhorse rotation candidate.