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Rays place Zach Eflin on IL, promote top prospect Taj Bradley to start Wednesday

We’ve got the latest updates for when Zach Eflin could return to the Rays rotation and Taj Bradley’s MLB outlook.

Zach Eflin of the Tampa Bay Rays throws against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning of a baseball game at Tropicana Field on April 7, 2023 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

One of baseball’s best starting pitching prospects will be making his MLB debut a bit earlier than anticipated. The Tampa Bay Rays announced on Tuesday that Zach Eflin, who was scheduled to start against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, will instead be put on the injured list with lower back tightness.

The team has yet to announced a timeframe for Eflin’s return, although the hope is that he’ll only have to miss a couple of starts. In the meantime, the baseball world will get its first look at Bradley in a big league uniform — and someone who could carry

Taj Bradley fantasy impact

A fifth-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft out of Georgia’s Redan High School, Bradley wasn’t thought of as much of a prospect until 2021, when he emerged from Minor League Baseball’s pandemic hiatus sporting improved fastball velocity and not one but two plus breaking balls. He soared through two levels of A-ball that season, then dominated Double-A in 2022 at the age of 21, posting gaudy strikeout totals every step of the way.

He entered this spring as MLB Pipeline’s No. 20 overall prospect but with a cloudy path to Major League playing time given the Rays’ starting pitching depth. Then injuries struck both Tyler Glasnow (oblique) and now Eflin, and all of a sudden Tampa finds itself in need of some rotation help.

Bradley’s long-term fantasy outlook is tremendous; his strikeout potential gives him SP2 upside, and he should be added in an 12-team and deeper leagues. Don’t expect too much from his debut on Wednesday — he hasn’t thrown more than 55 pitches in a start at Triple-A this year, so he’s not fully stretched out — but if Eflin’s back injury lingers he could be a difference-maker for fantasy teams.