A week after the Arizona League Fall Stars game, two Mariners prospects took hold of the opportunity to show their stuff in a nationally televised game. Despite strong AFL performances, neither Eric Filia nor Art Warren were selected for the Fall Stars roster; tonight, they endeavored to show viewers at home what they missed in a wild shootout of a game that saw Peoria come away victorious, 11-10. Tonight was a battle between Royals prospect Nicky Lopez and Eric Filia, who are 1-2 in average for the AFL (Filia also has the highest OBP, the third-highest SLG, and the second-highest OPS).
Filia got the start, batting cleanup and playing right field. In the first inning, he would ground out on two pitches to end the inning; he also grounded out in his plate appearance in the ninth. He would get on base every other time he came up to bat, leading off the inning three times and getting on base each time. He led off the third with an infield single that pulled second baseman Luis Sosa off to his left, showing some good hustle to get down the line. The big story of the game is top prospect Ronald Acuña, who had homered in the first inning as Peoria jumped out to a 4-0 lead; Acuña homered again in his next at-bat, scoring Filia.
With a 6-0 lead and Braves prospect Max Fried pitching a gem—who some have compared to James Paxton, and with good reason—it looked like Peoria would be uncatchable. But after Fried came out after the third inning, once again Peoria’s bullpen proved to be its downfall. Padres prospect Jerry Keel got lucky with a double play erasing the leadoff single he’d given up, but then allowed the next four batters to reach, allowing two runs. Keel struggled to throw strikes and allowed some loud contact when he did get into the zone, and was replaced by Braves prospect Corbin Clouse, who had an appearance he’d probably like to forget, throwing ten straight balls to start the inning and walking in a run before giving up a grand slam to Royals prospect Nicky Lopez, a shortstop who’s having a strong AFL season. Josh Graham, another Braves prospect, would then allow another two runs on an RBI triple, and then a passed ball on ex-Mariner prospect Alex Jackson scored another to make it 10-6 Surprise.
Meanwhile, Peoria’s high-powered offense struggled to plate runs. Eric Filia led off the fifth with a line drive single and walked to begin the seventh, but the lower part of the order couldn’t get it together to score him either time. That changed in the 8th, when the Blue Jays’ Lourdes Gurriel (who is Yuli’s little brother, nine years younger, and boasts similarly impressive hair) led off with a double, and came around to score on a Jonathan Davis home run, a surprising feat for the lithe center fielder who is known more for his glove. Michael Chavis then walked on four pitches, bringing up Eric Filia, who proceeded to do Eric Filia things:
Eric Filia with his third hit of the night extends Peoria's 8th-inning rally, sending Chavis to third. pic.twitter.com/X1vZq27lgX— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) November 12, 2017
There are question marks about where Filia fits defensively and questions about his power, but there are no questions about his ability to consistently deliver a professional at-bat. Maybe it’s because Filia, having lost two years of his baseball career, recognizes how precious each of those at-bats are; whatever it is, he does not give away a plate appearance. Filia would come around to score when Alex Jackson was hit by a pitch, tying the game at 10.
Partly due to the struggles in Peoria’s bullpen and partly thanks to his own strong performance, Art Warren has emerged as the Javelinas’ best high-leverage option. More than that, he’s also shown that he can be relied upon to deliver multiple innings, which is why Warren is the lone reliever tied for the most wins in the AFL. Warren entered the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after jamming his first batter into an easy pop-up, gave up a single to Nicky Lopez, who was having himself quite a day. Lopez would then steal second as Alex Jackson’s throw was just a second too slow after Warren struck out Oscar Mercado, denying a potential inning-ending strike ‘em out/throw ‘em out. Not a problem for Warren, who came right back to strike his next batter out on a foul tip.
After Peoria took the lead in the ninth, Warren would be entrusted with outs 25-27. Warren’s strength is that, as a converted starter, he has a starter’s arsenal, and rather than abandon his secondary pitches to focus on fastball/slider, he prides himself on his power curve and changeup. After showing mostly fastball/slider in the eighth, Warren opened up his toolbox in the ninth, striking out the side to earn Peoria the win.
(If that link won’t show up for you, I threaded the pitches on Twitter here.)
I mean, any time you have a batter reacting like this, you’ve got your good stuff:
Another view of #1, because it contains my favorite batter reaction, the "how you gonna do me like that" pic.twitter.com/7eiqwn77tP— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) November 12, 2017
M’s prospects missing from today’s action: Darin Gillies (who pitched yesterday), Matt Festa, and Braden Bishop. Bishop had been a little busy, though, with the Phoenix Walk to End Alzheimer’s that morning. His teammates and others from the organization came out to support him:
Speaking of Bishop, it was announced tonight that he’ll be the subject of an hour-long special airing on MLBN next Thursday at 7 PM Eastern. It’s been a great AFL for the Mariners prospects, both on and off the field. If Peoria can hang on to their three-game lead in the West, we’ll have one more chance to see them in the AFL Championship game next weekend. Go Skunk Pigs!