Today it was announced that Mariners outfielder Eric Filia will be suspended for the first fifty games of the 2018 season for testing positive for “a drug of abuse,” which sources say is marijuana. This was Filia’s second positive test; the first was when he was with Everett in 2016. Filia’s suspension will begin on the first day of the MiLB season, April 5, so he should be eligible to return around the Texas League All-Star Game, June 26th—a game he might be playing in otherwise.
Filia had a breakout season in his first full year of pro ball, posting a wRC+ of 131 at High-A Modesto and helping lead the team to a Cal League championship. He then followed that up with a dramatic Arizona Fall League performance, where he led the league in hitting, earned the batting title and the Dernell Stenson sportsmanship award, and then capped his season with a dramatic highlight-reel catch in the championship game:
The suspension further sidetracks a baseball career that’s already been interrupted by factors both outside of and within Filia’s control. Filia will be creeping up on his 26th birthday when he’s eligible to return, and instead of being able to jump from Double-A to Triple-A, will have to put in the time to prove that his success in the AFL wasn’t a fluke by punishing tough Texas League pitching. No journey to the majors is easy, and Filia has just made things much harder on himself.
There’s no positive spin to put on this. It’s disappointing to Mariners fans, who have precious few high-profile prospects to get excited about. It’s also disappointing to Filia’s teammates, who look up to him as a leader and a role model. Just the other day on the podcast, Art Warren raved about how much he admires Filia. And it’s disappointing on a personal level, to see someone who has made mistakes and moved forward from them, make this kind of mistake again. Whatever your feelings on marijuana legalization (legal in both Washington and California, where Filia lives and works), or MiLB’s drug policy—minor leaguers are tested for pot, major leaguers aren’t—the rules are the rules, and a decision made in a moment can alter the shape of a career. Hopefully Filia will spend his suspension preparing to demolish Texas League pitching so he can get back on track as quickly as possible, and we will still get to see him in Tacoma at some point this year. But there’s no denying that an already difficult task just became exponentially more difficult. However, Filia has succeeded against the odds before, and there is a good chance he can do it again.