Filia tested positive for a second time for a "drug of abuse" and will sit out the first 50 games of 2018.
Eric Filia went from just another minor leaguer without a true position in the Mariners organization to a legitimate prospect with a chance to make the big leagues thanks to a brilliant 2017 season, followed by an outstanding showing in the Arizona Fall League. Rated as the No. 21 prospect in the organization by MLB Pipeline, he was ticketed for an non-roster invitation to Mariners’ big league spring training in February.
But all that progress and optimism has been put on delay. On Friday, Major League Baseball announced that Filia has been suspended for the first 50 games of the 2018 season following a second positive test for a drug of abuse. Per the minor league baseball testing program, a drug of abuse is classified as either a recreational drug such as marijuana or cocaine or a stimulant like amphetamines.
The Mariners released this statement: “The Seattle Mariners are disappointed that Eric Filia has violated the terms Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Our organization fully supports the Program and its efforts. Per the Basic Agreement, the Mariners will have no further comment.”
Filia, 25, was selected in the 20th round of the 2016 draft out of UCLA. He excelled in his first pro season, hitting .362 with a .946 on-base plus slugging percentage, 19 doubles, a triple, four homers and 46 RBI in 68 games for short-season Everett in 2016.
He carried that success to High-A Modesto in 2017, where he hit .326 with an .841 OPS, 28 doubles, five triples, five homers and 59 RBI in 128 games. He led the Cal League in on-base percentage (.407) and walks (65), while finishing in a tie for second best batting average (.326). He had 49 multi-hit games. He also helped lead Modesto to a perfect 6-0 record and Cal League title in the postseason, hitting .333 with a double, three homers, five RBI and seven runs scored.
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His success earned him an invitation to play in the prestigious AFL, where led the league in hitting (.408), on-base percentage (.483) and OPS (1.088), along with totaling four doubles, four triples, a homer, 13 RBI and 15 runs scored. He reached base in each of the 22 games he played in. It earned him the AFL’s Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award.
Most scouts believe that Filia’s approach at the plate will eventually carry him into the big leagues despite not being particularly adept defensively in the outfield or possessing enough power to play first base. But his ability to work counts and hit right-handed pitching made him a candidate for a bat off the bench in the future.
But this suspension could delay or hinder that projection. Filia was already behind in terms of development. After helping lead UCLA to a College World Series title in 2013, notching four hits in the title series as a sophomore, Filia injured his shoulder in the Cape Cod League that following summer and underwent labrum surgery and missed the entire 2014 season. In the summer of 2014, while taking classes at UCLA, he was caught plagiarizing a paper and was suspended for the remainder of the year, including the 2015 season.
During his absence from school, he worked a series of jobs, including in-house butler at the Playboy mansion. He was reinstated by UCLA in 2016 and hit .295 with an .826 OPS.