#20 RHP Chris Flexen
Ht: 6’3″ Wt: 235 Level: Advanced-A St. Lucie Mets
B/T: R/R Age: 7/1/94 (22) Age Dif: -2.1
Acquired: Drafted in 2012 (14th round) from Memorial HS in Newark, California
Last year: 17
2016 Statistics: 10-9, 3.56 ERA, 25 G, 25 GS, 134.0 IP, 1.313 WHIP, 6.4 K/9
If you look not just at the top prospects in any organization, Mets included, you see a number of guys who have all the tools to not only make it to the majors, but also excel in the majors. Unfortunately, many of these same players have one or more issues that will prevent them from realizing their full potential. In those circumstances, the hope is the prospect is in the organization which will best let them reach their full potential.
Look at Flexen, he may not only be in the right organziation, but he may be heading to the exact level he needs to be at in order to reach his potential.
Now a year and a half removed from Tommy John surgery, Flexen has showed he is no more than a two pitch pitcher, but those pitches have promise. Towards the end of the St. Lucie season Flexen was sitting in the mid 90s with the ability to ramp up his fastball into the high 90s. He has a promising curveball with a sharp late bite. Both pitches are difficult to hit. A player with this fastball/curveball combination catches the eye of all organizations, and it goes a long way to explain why the Mets added Flexen to the 40-man roster.
The obvious question here is if the above is true, then why did Flexen have such pedestrian stats for St. Lucie last season. The answer is his command. While Flexen has a good fastball and curveball, he has difficulty controlling it. When you have difficulty controlling your two best pitches, you are going to walk too many people, fail to generate strikeouts, and you are going to have high pitch counts. This was exactly what MMN‘s Ernest Dove saw:
My eye ball test showed numerous working off the counts by opposing batters, leading to the high pitch count by Flexen on the night even while only allowing one hit all game. For me the key for Flexen will be consistency around the strike zone with his curve going forward. Physically he looks strong and solid, and showed ability to get out of jams due to walks and utilizing his defense behind him to make the plays. Not a lot of hard contact was made off Flexen during the game I attended.
This start wasn’t an outlier for Flexen. It’s been the norm for him during his professional career, and if he doesn’t address these issues it’s eventually going to stunt his career. With that said, a pitcher with Flexen’s fastball and curveball needs to be given every opportunity to succeed.
The main thing Flexen is going to have to do is harness these pitches. Likely, both can be addressed by fixing Flexen’s delivery. At the moment, he tends to throw a bit across his body thereby causing some of his control issues. By fine tuning his stride to the plate, he could very well improve his command. Fortunately, this is an area where Binghamton Rumble Ponies pitching coach Glenn Abbott has helped Mets pitchers in the past.
The next thing Flexen needs is another pitch. While his change-up has shown some promise, it still does not have the downward movement it needs to be an effective pitch. It is possible a new grip could help, but more likely than not Flexen is going to have to develop a slider, a pitch he has dabbled with and throws infrequently. Fortunately for him, he happens to be in an organization that specializes in helping pitcher learn the slider.
Predominately because of the organization he’s in, there is legitimate reason to be bullish on Flexen’s development. With better command and a slider, he projects to be a middle of the rotation starter. If he can truly harness that slider like many in the Mets organization have and/or make his change-up an effective pitch, he could turn out to be more. It should be noted Flexen has been noted as a hard worker who is willing to learn. It’s just time for the hard work to start turning into results.
With all the positives noted, Flexen still has not developed the command you would hope, and he is still working on a third pitch. At this point in his career, he looks to be a reliever with a high upside.
2017 Outlook –
After pitching in St. Lucie for a full season, Flexen should begin the 2017 season with AA Binghamton. Where he goes from there is anyone’s guess. If the Mets pitching staff faces the same number of injuries they did in 2016, there is a clear and definable path for him to make it to the major leagues in a similar fashion that Robert Gsellman did last year. However, this is going to depend on Flexen learning to both command his pitches and develop a third pitch.
2017 MMN TOP 100 PROSPECTS