Name: Heath Fillmyer
Height/Weight: 6’1’’, 180
How Acquired: Selected in the 5th round of the 2014 MLB Draft
Heath Fillmyer shook off a bad first half in 2015 to finish that season strong and then carried that momentum forward into a breakout 2016 season. Can Fillmyer reach the big leagues in his age-23 season?
http://www.scout.com/mlb/athletics/story/470233-oakland-a-s-top-50-prosp... Oh what a difference a year can make. Midway through the 2015 season, Fillmyer sported an 8.24 ERA and an 0-8 record for the Low-A Beloit Snappers. One year later, Fillmyer had a 2.82 ERA and 76 strike-outs in 76.2 innings for High-A Stockton at the All-Star break. During those intervening 12 months, Fillmyer rebuilt his throwing motion, tightened up his secondary pitches, asserted himself as a leader and established himself as one of the top pitching prospects in the A’s system.
Unlike Fillmyer’s roller-coaster 2015 season that saw him go from being on the verge of a mid-year demotion to posting an ERA under 2.00 for the final six weeks of the season, the right-hander found success throughout the 2016 campaign. In 95 innings with the Ports, he posted a 3.60 ERA and an 89:31 K:BB. On July 21st, Fillmyer earned a promotion to Double-A Midland, and he helped to lead the RockHounds into the post-season thanks to a 2.54 ERA and a 29:8 K:BB in 39 innings. For the year, Fillmyer had a 3.29 ERA and a 118:39 K:BB in a career-best 134 innings.
Heath Fillmyer Stats
Fillmyer experienced arm fatigue at the tail-end of the season and wasn’t available to pitch in the post-season, but the A’s were confident enough in his overall health to make him a non-roster invitee to spring training this season. At 22 years old, Fillmyer will be the second-youngest pitcher in A’s camp this spring (A’s 2016 top pick A.J. Puk is one year younger), but it isn’t out of the question to think that Fillmyer could be in the running for a major league call-up in September.
How Fillmyer got to this point just two-plus years removed from junior college is a testament to his work ethic, his athleticism and the effectiveness of the A’s minor league coaching staff. When the A’s selected Fillmyer in the fifth round in 2014, they were taking a flier on a pitcher who had spent more time as a shortstop than as a hurler. Fillmyer flashed raw potential in his brief pitching career at Mercer Community College, hitting 95 MPH on the radar gun, but he was a project.
Fillmyer threw only a handful of innings in Rookie Ball in his pro debut season, but he was the talk of spring training the next year, flashing a promising fastball-breaking ball combination. The A’s jumped Fillmyer to Low-A Beloit to start the 2015 season despite his lack of experience on the mound. When he got to the Midwest League, that inexperienced showed, and he struggled to get out of trouble early in games. With Fillmyer’s ERA skyrocketing, the A’s decided to take the drastic approach of revamping his throwing motion – a step usually reserved for the off-season. Thanks to Fillmyer’s coachability, the risk paid off.
“Him being as athletic as he is, he was able to take to it really quickly,” A’s minor league pitching coach Steve Connelly – who worked with Fillmyer in Beloit and Stockton – said. “We simplified his delivery, made him a little more directional towards the plate. Before he would get east-and-west a lot. He would spin out of his delivery.
“Him being able to take ownership of that allowed him to turn his year around in Beloit and he carried that into Instructional League. This year, coming into spring training, he was right where he left off in Instructional League and he carried it through the season.”
Fillmyer was a completely different pitcher with Stockton than he had been early in the 2015 season with Beloit. He was able to spot his pitches effectively and could work in the lower-half of the strike-zone. Fillmyer also had a better approach when dealing with runners on base. A’s minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson says Fillmyer’s growth in 2016 was as much mental as it was physical.
“His attention to detail and game-planning is outstanding. I remember Cons telling me that instead of Cons running the pre-game meeting, Filly would jump in, saying: ‘this is what I want to do to this guy. This is what I want to do to that guy,’” Patterson said.
Connelly says that Fillmyer’s pre-game and in-between start routines are among the best in the organization. Connelly also believes that Fillmyer’s experience as a hitter has helped him be a more effective pitcher.
“The big thing with Heath is that he was a shortstop in college and he has a good idea about hitting,” Connelly said. “He knew exactly what he wanted to throw to each hitter, and he would tell the catcher, ‘in this count, I’m going to throw this pitch and this is how I’m going to do that, and this guy has an arm-bar, so I’m going to do this to him.’ He went in with a game plan every day. He knew what he wanted to accomplish and it was great to see the success that he had.”
At 6’1’’, Fillmyer doesn’t have a big frame, but he uses his lower-body well and is able to get leverage on the hitter. His fastball has plenty of life, topping out at 96 on the gun and he is able to locate the pitch to both sides of the plate. His change-up is firm, sitting in the 86-88 MPH range, and acts more like a split-finger fastball at times. When he is getting the late downward movement on the pitch, it is a very effective secondary offering. Fillmyer’s breaking ball gets plenty of spin and he is able to throw it for strikes in most outings. A good athlete, Fillmyer fields his position well and is able to repeat his delivery. Fillmyer has a high baseball IQ, and he has shown a capacity for making in-start and in-season adjustments.
“He’s so prepared and he is beginning to understand and read hitters and read swings,” A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman said. “He’s a student of the game along with having good stuff.”
Heath Fillmyer Scouting Video (video by Chris Lockard)
With only five weeks of Double-A under his belt, Fillmyer is likely to start the 2017 season back with the RockHounds, but he could be the first in line to move to Triple-A once the mid-season roster shuffle begins. He will turn 23 in May and is a strong candidate to make his major-league debut before his 24th birthday.