A funny thing happened to Chris Flexen on the way to reestablishing himself as a starting pitching prospect following Tommy John surgery in 2015 and a rough 2016 return: a late July call from Double-A Binghamton straight to the show. Flexen quickly proved himself far from ready for prime time, to the tune of a 7.88 ERA—clearly and painfully earned as indicated by his 1.03 K/BB and 2.06 HR/9 rates.
While his debut might be hard for fans still paying attention in late 2017 to forget, Flexen was put in the position of facing major league hitters after only 48.2 innings of exposure as high as Double-A. And he was downright dominant in his minors tour last year, with a combined 1.76 ERA over his 61.1 innings. He remains a promising 23-year-old starting pitching prospect—as indicated by his #4 ranking on Amazin’ Avenue’s 2018 Mets Top 25 Prospects list, after maintaining his prospect eligibility by a scant two innings.
The recent signing of Jason Vargas realistically pushes Flexen down to around tenth on the Mets’ starting pitching depth chart. Barring a disaster of, well, Metsian proportions, it is unlikely that Flexen will play a prominent role on the 2018 parent club. Projection methods that once showed Flexen recording 40-55 major league innings this season now foresee only cursory 2018 major league action for Flexen since the Vargas signing, with Steamer forecasting 9 whole innings over two starts to a 4.88 ERA and PECOTA 26 innings over five starts to a 4.80 ERA.
Perhaps Flexen doesn’t even see those major league innings at all. A healthy 2018 for the Mets starting staff would not just be ideal for the parent club. It would allow Chris Flexen to get back to continuing his development in the minors until the next call comes at a time when he is closer to ready.