Scott Effross isn’t particularly big (6-foot-1, 200 pounds), he doesn’t have a blazing fastball (92-94 mph), and you won’t find him at the top of any prospect lists. But you will find him atop the pitcher’s mound more often than not. And if he keeps up the same consistency that led one college scout to nickname him “Every Day Effross,” you’re going to be hearing a lot more about him in the future.
Selected by the Cubs in the 15th round of the 2015 draft, Effross pitched a combined 21 innings between Mesa and Eugene in his first professional campaign. He opened the 2016 season at South Bend and closed it at Myrtle Beach, logging 64 total innings. He bumped that total up to 79.1 innings in a full season with the Pelicans this past season, displaying the same steady growth that has been his trademark since college.
Despite some hiccups along the way, mainly early in each season and/or when adjusting to a new league, Effross has maintained remarkably similar numbers. His walks were up a little bit in 2017, but his strikeouts have trended up ever so slightly since that first season as well. What’s really impressive, though, is a 0.2 HR/9 mark that comes from allowing only three dingers over 164.1 innings.
Actually, you know what’s maybe even more impressive?
The righty reliever is spending his offseason in Pittsburgh, taking college courses while prepping for the 2018 season. A teammate of Kyle Schwarber’s at Indiana University, Effross left school after his junior year when the Cubs drafted him. He’ll earn his degree in political science and journalism — pretty timely, huh? — this December, after which his focus will shift solely back to schooling hitters.
“I truly value the offseason, I feel like it’s a great time to kind of get your head away from the game and do some other things,” Effross said when I caught up with him prior to one of his final classes. “My whole goal with my workouts is to be able to be as fresh and as strong from Day 1 of spring training when I show up in Mesa to Game 160-some when we end up with my team – whichever one I’m on – winning a championship.”
Effross knows a little something about winning championships from his days in Bloomington, where he was an integral piece of a Hoosiers squad that won the Big 10 regular season and tournament titles and advanced to the College World Series for the first time in school history. As I’ve said before, if you can make baseball relevant at IU, you can accomplish just about anything. That experience has proven valuable to him in his young professional career.
“Being thrown into the fire right away my freshman year — I pitched a lot of big games and got to pitch in the College World Series — kind of benefited me because I had no other option, really,” Effross said. “It was either learn and do well and react or get left behind with the amount of talent we had on our team.
“That definitely helped me in pro ball. The Cubs organization when I got drafted was full of prospects, but it’s kinda the same thing [as in college]; you perform or you get left behind.”
Though he morphed into more of a starting role as he matured in college, Effross has worked almost exclusively as a reliever since joining the Cubs organization. It’s a role he says he feels more comfortable with, largely because he relishes being a guy who can take the bump anywhere at any time.
“My whole thing is I just like pitching, so whenever I’m on the mound it’s a great time,” Effross explained. “I do feel more comfortable as a reliever just because I’ve done it more. I had two starts this year and the first one was just a different type of feel, but the second one I felt much more comfortable and enjoyed getting the ability to lengthen it out a little bit and hit different hitters different ways. So I really don’t have a preference, but I really just enjoy pitching and being out there whether it’s the 1st inning or the 9th for the save.”
It’s often said that closers have a different mindset, that they need to feed off of the adrenaline of a close game. Or maybe they’ve just got a screw loose. Effross isn’t really buying that, though. He worked as both a starter and closer — and pretty much everything in between — last season and his focus is on maintaining the same mindset no matter the situation.
“You know, it’s funny, because if you had asked me maybe a year ago, I’d have said, ‘Yeah, you have to get more hyped up to slam the door,'” the do-everything pitcher admitted. “But this year, at the beginning of the season especially, I kind of struggled a little bit and I got worked more toward the beginning of the game as opposed to the end. As the season progressed, I kind of learned from myself and got back to the end of the game.
“I think it’s a combination of you know you’re the last guy out there so you’ve got to have the confidence that you’re going to get the job done but also not putting too much into the situation. You’ve got to stay in the moment and not think this is an end-all, be-all for every outing”
In keeping with his down-to-earth approach, Effross isn’t looking to light up the radar gun or add some crazy new pitch to his arsenal this offseason. Rather, he’s concerned with starting the season strong and dialing in the offerings he’s already got to make sure that he’ll be able to retire hitters whether it’s at high-A or AA.
“For me personally, I know what I have to improve on and I feel that’s just getting off to a good start,” Effross said. “The last couple seasons I’ve kind of had to find my footing a little more and I’ve finished strong. I think the more seasons I get under my belt, the better I have to start from the get-go and having a consistent season overall.
“Everyone wants to throw harder. Everyone wants to have just a bit more break. I just want to keep refining each pitch. Obviously, I would like to get a couple more miles per hour and I’ve been working pretty diligently this offseason to see if I can get more out of my arm or out of my body. But I think for me it’s refining each pitch and make them pitches that can get guys out at high-A and then moving up, get guys out at AA. Really not focusing too much on the velocity aspect, but just tightening everything up.
“I’m a pitcher who works down in the zone with fastballs that have some sink and some run to ‘em. So I’m good with 92, 94 with that run. The breaking ball for me has always been kind of the mystery pitch; sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. So to have one in the bag that’s always going to be nasty like that would be pretty cool to have.”
The one word that kept coming up throughout our conversation was “consistent,” and it was obvious that it was more than just a crutch. This is who Effross is. Think about our conversation now, I can’t help but liken him to Andy Dufresne, the lead character from The Shawshank Redemption. The even, measured demeanor and the willingness to take his time and perfect the little things really struck me.
Effross isn’t knocking down walls with a massive sledge, but he’s got a decent hammer and a helluva work ethic. And though he won’t have to crawl through a river of filth, he did grow up near Cleveland as an Indians fan, so that’s pretty close.
In all seriousness, this is a young man Cubs fans should be paying attention to, as much for the way he carries himself as for how he pitches.
“I want my team and other teams to know that whether it’s a Thursday day game or a Saturday night back-to-back or whatever, I wanna be there every day and have the ball in my hand every single day,” Effross stated emphatically. “I truly pride myself in being consistent and being healthy and being ready at a drop’s notice. Back to back, three nights in a row.
“If there’s one thing I hang my hat on as a pitcher, and as a person too, it’s just being consistent and being there. I’m a guy that wants the ball in every situation, every single day.”