Modesto, California —— When play ended on May 1, Eric Filia was hitting just .195 and slugging .244. Nearly two full months later, the Seattle Mariners prospect is a different player, thanks to an absurd May (Filia slashed .376/.460/.523 over 28 games that month) and a nearly-as-good June (he’s hit .346/.409/.474 through his first 22 games this month, too) with the Modesto Nuts. If Brendan Rodgers didn’t have the most ridiculous first half in all of minor league baseball, Eric Filia would have deservedly earned considerably more praise for his efforts.
Better still, as @MiLBMariners pointed out this morning, Filia hasn’t struck out in nearly three full weeks. In June alone, the outfielder has walked nine times against that single strikeout. Across the full season, he’s walked 33 times over 267 at-bats with only 19 strikeouts. Just go to his splits page and look at some of his exceptional first-half work for yourself rather than have me drop it; again, if Rodgers is the gold standard in the Cal League this summer, you’ll find that Eric Filia isn’t far off.
It’s one thing to hit for average, another to hit for power, and it’s impressive to do some of both in your first try at full-season ball, as is the case for the Seattle Mariners outfielder this year in Modesto. But the strikeout-to-walk ratio tells the bigger story here about a player who has an approach far more advanced than any of the pitchers he’s facing: first summer of full-season ball or not, I don’t think Eric Filia is going to be in the California League much longer.
What do the Seattle Mariners have in Eric Filia?
We’ve been fortunate enough to get about 20 of Filia’s at-bats on tape early this year. Watch those clips below for a good, long look at the outfielder—who is a fascinating cross between Craig Counsell’s high-handed setup and Tony Batista’s wide-open stance with some athletic, muscular raw power to boot:
I’ve seen him hit quite literally everywhere in the lineup already this year, from last, to leadoff, to middle-of-the-order, and he’s got the combination of great contact skills, good pop, decent speed, and a professional approach to make things work almost anywhere. And just like one of his Modesto outfield mates, Filia is trying to do damage every time he swings the bat. He doesn’t have much to show by way of power on the stat line yet (seven career homers in 141 minor league games), but his swing plane, bat speed, and big, strong frame with broad shoulders and thick thighs all tell the story: over-the-fence pop will soon come.
And yet the most impressive part of it all remains his contact ability and strike zone discipline while developing that power. Virtually every one of the low-strikeout, contact heavy guys I profile are slash-and-run types with limited long-term offensive profiles. Guys like Michael De Leon are able to keep strikeouts down and put the ball in play by sacrificing power and shooting holes in the infield; then, they must rely on plus speed and situational awareness to live at the bottom of a batting order while carrying themselves through the minors on plus defensive ability at a premium position. That’s a respectable, viable path to the big leagues, and De Leon in particular could exploit that path to play in the Majors for a very, very long time.
But that’s also why Eric Filia is such an outlier here: he’s been matching the bat-to-ball skills and employing the same strike zone discipline while also showing off a legitimate line drive swing with mechanics that put the ball hard in the air. You don’t get that combo every day. I’d like to see Filia play a few more times in Modesto before I try to project out his long-term value, but frankly, I’m not sure I’ll get the chance. Now, don’t go anointing him the Seattle Mariners’ next big league star-in-waiting just yet—he is 24 years old in High-A with a long way to go across some tough leagues in the high minors before Seattle will be in his sights—but the contact skills and exceptional strike zone discipline will play at any level and should give him a fighting chance in the upper minors very, very soon. Until then, if you get an opportunity to watch Eric Filia hit this summer, sit back and enjoy the show. (Conversely, if you aren’t able to see Filia—or most any other prospect—in person this summer, subscribe to our YouTube channel and we’ll happily supply you with hundreds and hundreds of prospect videos.)