It’s prospect list season and this year LL is doing our own in-house rankings of the top 50 prospects in the organization. You can find further explanation and our methodology at the hub for the series. The whole list so far is there, but if you missed any, here are links to 50-47, 46-43, 42-39, 38-35, and 34-31. We’re into the Top 30 now, so if you’ve been struggling to keep up with some of the names, this is where things should start to get more familiar. We’re also shifting into profiling two prospects per day rather than four. Check out 30-29 here, and 28-27 here. Today’s prospects include a new strikeout king to fill the JP Sears-sized hole in our hearts and an old favorite facing a make-or-break year.
Following a four-year collegiate career spent entirely at Eastern Michigan University splitting time between the rotation and bullpen, the Mariners saw something they liked in the slight-of-frame right-hander and took Delaplane in the back nine of their choices in the 2017 draft. After struggling to command the strike zone throughout his college days—he posted a 2.1 K/BB ratio over 198.2 innings—he instituted some modifications to his mechanics and approach upon joining the organization that have drastically improved his prospects.
When asked about any changes he instituted that have led to his success since making the jump to the professional ranks, Delaplane first referenced the emphasis the organization has placed on getting ahead of hitters. He also mentioned that he’s been more consistent within the strike zone with his arsenal, which has allowed him to get into counts to put guys away. The San Jose native also credited then-Clinton pitching coach Doug Mathis for encouraging him to learn from his outings and talk with coaches about how he generates outs and what he does well as a pitcher, something he feels has helped him develop a plan he can feel confident in toeing the rubber with. Clinton catchers Nick Thurman and Ryan Scott were also referenced as sources of constructive feedback.
All of the changes came together to produce a massive breakout for Delaplane in 2018, a season in which he topped the system with a 15.1 K/9 strikeout rate and slashed 1.96/2.43/1.79 over nearly 60 innings of work out of the Clinton bullpen. Checking in at just 5’11”-175 with a somewhat funky delivery, he should pale in comparison to bulky first-round sluggers like Nolan Gorman. Instead, here he is gassing him up for the final out of a two-inning, 36-pitch save for the former 23rd-rounder.
Delaplane’s advanced age relative to his level and ability to mow down the opposition for multiple innings at a time—like when he pulled off back-to-back immaculate innings in a game on August 25 of this year—make him a strong candidate to move quickly and contribute at the big league level well within the oft-noted upcoming window of competition. However, he’ll face the challenge in 2019 not only of moving to High or even Double-A, but also of implementing the instruction previously received by the now-departed Doug Mathis, who has joined Toronto’s system as their Triple-A pitching coach.
After two very strong seasons in Everett and Modesto to begin his pro career and obliterating the Arizona Fall League in 2017, Eric Filia had his share of struggles and missteps last year. His Double-A debut was delayed until May 30th due to serving a 50-game suspension for a positive weed test (yeah, yeah, it’s absolutely a dumb rule, but it’s still a rule you gotta follow). That didn’t stop him from getting off to a torrid start, as he bashed a homer in his first plate appearance and notched at least one hit in each of his first thirteen games en route to a .426/.508/.537 slash line. Despite this outburst, though, he was shipped off to Boston to finish off the Roenis Elías re-acquisition on June 12th, but was sent back just a few days later due to concern about his medicals, his shoulder in particular.
Unfortunately, Filia’s production dropped significantly after being returned to Seattle, slashing just .240/.340/.306 in his last 282 plate appearances. He finished the year with a .274/.371/.348 line, good for just a 100 wRC+ and a paltry .074 ISO. His plate discipline was still excellent, with a 12.8% walk rate accompanying an 8.7% K-rate, but it’s generally not a good thing when your on-base percentage is almost twenty-five points higher than your slugging percentage. He also isn’t getting any younger, and has always been old for the level he’s played in, turning 26 last July.
The clock may be ticking on Filia, but he did receive an invitation to big-league spring training this year. With a jam-packed Arkansas outfield, it seems likely that he’ll get his first crack at Triple-A, and could see a bit of power come back thanks to playing in the PCL. In any case, though, we’ll be seeing more of the fabled shimmy in 2019...
...and if Filia can bounce back with a strong season, it’s not out of the question that it could make an appearance in Seattle. -CD