Back in 2014, while playing for Division-II junior college Mercer, shortstop Heath Fillmyer moved to the mound to become a full-time pitcher. His instant success earned him a 5th-round draft selection from the Oakland A's that summer, and he set about developing his game in the pro ranks. Just two years later, the 22-year-old has already reached the upper minors, making his debut start for the Double-A Midland RockHounds on Thursday. His final line included 5 ip, 2 runs, 4 Ks, 1 BB.
It's been a quick rise for the right-handed Fillmyer, though of course this is the same organization that turned Sean Doolittle from an injury-plagued first baseman into a big league reliever in under a year (and an All-Star closer in under three). Fillmyer has some zip on his fastball (92-96 mph) to go with a curve and a change, but just as important as his stuff is his increasing experience just being on a mound regularly and attacking a pro lineup. He had this to say in May, via Michael Peng of MiLB.com (click thru for more quotes):
"Earlier in my career, it was about developing a routine and something that I can work on every day," he said. "I had to learn how to trust my body, know which parts of my body I need to maintain and carry that on. I think I have an advantage in a way in being able to read hitters and knowing a lot about swinging the bat, and I thinking knowing both sides of the plate is underrated for most pitchers. Before, I was just throwing, now I'm more of a pitcher and I'm just trying to really learn as much as I can and as quickly as I can."
The A's have shown no shyness toward aggressively promoting their best starting pitching prospects, whether up to the next level or all the way up to MLB, from guys like Daniel Mengden and Daniel Gossett this year to past names such as A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily. It's no surprise, then, that Fillmyer's excellent first half was rewarded so quickly. His overall numbers for Stockton were the result of consistently strong outings, as in 18 starts he allowed 0-1 runs more times (6) than he allowed more than three (4) while rarely walking more than two batters in a game. In a hitter-friendly league, he served up just four homers in 95 frames.
With Fillmyer moving up for his next test, the A's are quickly restocking their upper minors with new, exciting pitching prospects. They have already graduated two starters from Triple-A (Manaea and Mengden) with a third on the brink (Overton), and before you know it they'll be hoping to reach down for the next wave. It might be next year or it might be 2018, but the need will inevitably arise. With the dynamic arms of Gossett and Fillmyer, plus lotto tickets like Joel Seddon (2.15 ERA in last 7 starts), Corey Walter (2.19 ERA in 13 starts), and Raul Alcantara (7 ip, 0 ER, 0 BB in Triple-A debut Fri.), there is plenty of hope that there will be some fruit on the tree when Oakland's rotation gets hungry again down the line.
No. 1 prospect Franklin Barreto is hurt, though it doesn't sound serious.
RockHounds middle infielder Franklin Barreto (hamstring) will miss his third straight game. Ryan Christenson says he's day-to-day. #Oakland— Christopher Hadorn (@chris_MRTsports) July 19, 2016
He's missed three more games since that update, running his total to six. But that's the way hamstrings go, and all you can do is wait it out. It's just too bad this setback had to come right as Barreto was heating up, with a 1.043 OPS and more walks than strikeouts in 14 July games. It's eerily similar to last year, when Barreto hurt himself in the midst of posting a 1.093 OPS in July and missed the final six weeks, although this time you have to assume he won't miss much time and can resume his hot hitting (unless we receive word that it's something more serious than a pulled hammy).
Hitters (thru 98 games)
Between Marincov and Chapman, one of them seems to be hot at any given time. Right now it's Marincov, who has a .932 OPS in July with four homers and steadily improving plate discipline. On the bases, Barreto leads in steals but at a low success rate (23-for-33, 70%); Sportman is second (12-for-17, 71%).
|... Bullpen ...|
Earlier I referenced Seddon's last seven starts, but check out his last five outings: 1.06 ERA, 34 ip, 21 Ks, 11 BB, 20 hits. He is dominating right now, which is quite a turnaround from his atrocious April and May. Meanwhile, Cochran-Gill has allowed just one run in his last 13 games (24⅔ ip), for a 0.36 ERA (17 Ks, 7 BB).
All five affiliates are in action.
Triple-A Nashville: 5:05 p.m., Chris Smith vs. Omaha
Double-A Midland: 5:05 p.m., Daniel Gossett vs. San Antonio
High-A Stockton: 7:00 p.m., James Naile vs. Visalia
Single-A Beloit: 5:00 p.m., Boomer Biegalski vs. Fort Wayne
Low-A Vermont: 3:05 p.m., Heath Bowers vs. Hudson Valley
A few things to watch here. Most notably, Naile makes his High-A debut after his recent promotion. Gossett is Midland's best pitcher, so that's always worth watching. Biegalski is one of the two best remaining starters in Beloit.