4. Chris Flexen, RHP
Height: 6’3”, Weight: 250 lbs.
DOB: 7/1/94 (23)
Acquired: 14th round, 2012 Draft (Memorial High School, California)
2017: St. Lucie (High-A): 3 G (3 GS), 12.2 IP, 12 H, 6 R, 3 ER (2.13 ERA), 3 BB, 13 K / Binghamton (Double-A): 7 G (7 GS), 48.2 IP, 28 H, 10 R, 9 ER (1.66 ERA), 7 BB, 50 K / NYM (MLB): 14 G (9 GS), 48.0 IP, 62 H, 44 R, 42 ER (7.88 ERA), 35 BB, 36 K
After returning from Tommy John surgery in 2015 and posting excellent numbers, Chris Flexen took a slight step backwards in 2016. Though he crossed an important hurdle in eclipsing the 100-innining plateau for the first time, his numbers trended in the wrong directions and his stuff looked a bit less crisp. After having his 2017 season debut pushed back due to surgery to remove bone chips in his right knee, the 23-year-old Flexen put any and all reservations in the rearview mirror, dominating the Florida State and Eastern Leagues. Thanks to numerous injuries at the major league level, Flexen was called up to the Mets during the dog days of summer in 2017 and pitched miserably, retaining his prospect eligibility status by just two innings.
Flexen’s fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s, though the velocity does not always hold, and sometimes even backs up from the first innings on. It has late life, gets good arm-side tailing action, and can be commanded to all four quadrants of the strike zone. A key reason why Flexen was able to dominate High-A and Double-A batters was his development of a slider. Thrown in the mid-to-high 80s, the pitch was reminiscent of the “Warthen Slider”, with sharp, sudden bite. The emergence of his slider put less pressure for him to throw his mid-to-high 70s curveball perfectly, as his ability to command it and keep its 12-6 shape suffered since returning from Tommy John surgery. Rounding out his arsenal is a below-average changeup.
Greg Karam says:
We obviously can’t forget about his disastrous MLB debut that he clearly wasn’t ready for, but it’s worth remembering he only 48.2 innings in the high minors before making that debut. And they were dominant innings. He still has the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter in the majors, with his floor being a useful bullpen arm.
Lukas Vlahos says:
The 2017 MLB performance was ugly, but if he hadn’t been rushed due to the Mets’ shredded roster and total lack of depth, I think Flexen would be first or second on most lists. He blew away the Eastern League with a dominant two pitch mix, tossing almost seven innings per start to quiet some of his durability concerns. Those questions returned in the majors of course, but I think with some more seasoning, Flexen can be a solid starter or dominant reliever if the stamina and changeup never improve.
Steve Sypa says:
Flexen had a pretty rough time in his MLB debut, but so did Sandy Koufax. Obviously, Chris Flexen is not Sandy Koufax, but the point is that if you gave up on a guy after a handful of innings, there’d be a lot of wasted potential in that discarded talent pile. I feel like I was a little down on Flexen last year, but I’m high on him going into 2018. The tools are there to have an impact on a major league ballclub in some capacity, be it in the starting rotation or bullpen.