Player Profile: Chris Flexen

by Jim Maggiore

Chris Flexen, a 14th round draft pick out of Newark Memorial High School in California in the 2012 amateur draft, has largely flown under the radar as a pitching prospect for the Mets. Though he was added to the 40-man roster in the 2016 offseason and is currently ranked as the #22 prospect in the organization (by MLB), his work had not generated any buzz among evaluators of the Mets farm system. That is changing this year, however, as since his promotion to Binghamton in June, Flexen has gone 6-1 with a 1.66 E.R.A, striking out 50 batters in 48 innings while only walking seven, compiling an incredible 0.72 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched). Injuries have slowed Flexen’s progress in his 6-year minor league career, as he had Tommy John surgery in 2014 and had chips removed from his knee this spring.

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The number 46 has served Flexen well with the Rumble Ponies. 

His injuries and the fact that Flexen does not have a dominating fastball in an organization that grows giddy over flamethrowers (e.g., Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, etc.) account for the lack of buzz about Flexen’s work. If Flexen sustains his performance for the rest of the year, however, he will shoot up the prospect rankings, as this year is turning out to be a breakthrough year for him.

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Flexen fires his fastball against Akron during his 2-1 complete game win on July 19th.

Flexen is using a four-pitch repertoire this year to dominate Double-A hitters; he pitches with a 93 mph fastball, a sharp-breaking slider that is in the upper 80s, a curve in the upper 70s, and a changeup that arrives in the low 80s. He throws his fastball about 60% of time and the key to his success with the Rumble Ponies has been his ability to command his fastball throughout the strike zone. His slider has been excellent this year as well, and its improvement is directly tied to his dominance on the mound in 2017. His curve is inconsistent and a bit “slurvy” at times, but shows signs of becoming an average-to-above average major league pitch. Throughout this season he has spotted his changeup to get some weak swings from lefty hitters, as he has it breaking low and away to lefties. He gets good action on his pitches when he keeps them low in the zone and rarely gives a hitter the same pitch selection twice in a row.

Right now Flexen profiles as a 3rd or 4th starter who looks like he can pitch a lot of innings as his thick thighs and large frame (6’-3”, 235 lbs.) reflect a pitcher with stamina. He has averaged seven innings per start with the Rumble Ponies. All he needs is more innings to refine his changeup and curveball to get to the big leagues. I’d anticipate his arrival at Citi Field sometime in 2018.

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A key play in the 2-1 win against Akron was Tomas Nido tagging out Akron’s Bobby Bradley at the plate in the 4th inning. 

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Jerry Coleman and Juanita Crabb are the 2017 Inductees into the Binghamton Baseball Shrine

By Jim Maggiore

Jerry Coleman, longtime baseball broadcaster and former infielder for the Binghamton Triplets and New York Yankees, and Juanita Crabb, the Binghamton mayor who led the movement to bring baseball back to Binghamton in 1992, will become the newest members of the Binghamton Baseball Shrine on Friday, September 1st. Coleman will be posthumously inducted while Crabb will return to town from her current home in Washington, D.C.

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Jerry Coleman signs autographs for some young fans in Binghamton (circa 1965) during a return visit for a “hot stove” dinner. Elston Howard, left,  looks on.

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Veteran Rosa Leads Bowie into Binghamton

The Bowie Baysox come into Rumbletown for a three-game series (6/20-6/22) with a 33-36 record, good for fourth place in the Western Division of the Eastern League, five games behind the first place Altoona Curve. Second baseman Garabez Rosa returns for his fourth year in Double-A, sporting a .336 batting average with 8 homers and 49 RBIs.

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Bowie manager Gary Kendall watches the action on the diamond during a game last year against Binghamton. 

According to Baseball America, Bowie has five prospects ranked within the top 30 of the Orioles organization, with three pitchers and two outfielders making the list (organizational rank shown in parentheses):

Tanner Scott (#11): Scott will not turn 23 until July 22nd and was a sixth-round draft pick of the Orioles from Howard Junior College in Texas in 2014. He is primarily a fastball-slider pitcher and is being used as a starter this year, after being a reliever in 2016. He has hit triple digits with his fastball and the Orioles are hoping he can refine his control enough to be a future closer. While Scott has struck out 48 batters in 39 innings in 2017 and carries a superlative 1.38 E.R.A., he has also walked 26 hitters, showing his control/command is a work in progress.

Jesus Liranzo (#13): Liranzo turned 22 on March 2nd and is pitching out of the bullpen, relying on a fastball-slider mix. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012 and pitched in 11 games for Bowie in 2016, striking out 20 hitters in 19 innings. Liranzo is still adjusting to Double-A ball, as he has walked 17 hitters in 25 innings this year. He comes into Binghamton with a 1-3 record and 6.04 E.R.A.

DJ Stewart (#19): Stewart, the former Florida State star, signed for a $2M bonus after being drafted in the first round in the 2015 amateur draft by the Orioles. The 6’-0” outfielder is projected as a left fielder in the majors, as he possesses average speed and has an average arm.  Stewart comes into Binghamton with a .251 average, with 8 homers and 31 RBIs. The Orioles like his strength and bat speed.

Cedric Mullins (#26): The 5’-8” outfielder was drafted in the 13th round out of Campbell College in 2015 and will not turn 23 until October 1. Entering the 2017 season, he had a .270 (517 at bats) career minor league batting average, with 47 stolen bases. Mullins comes into Binghamton hitting .313, with six homers and 16 RBIs. He has good speed, is an excellent bunter and is seen as a top-of-the-order hitter, though he needs to improve his on base percentage (only 8 walks this year).

Jason Garcia (#29):  Garcia will turn 25 on November 21 and has already had a season in the big leagues, posting a 1-0 record with a 4.25 E.R.A. in 21 games in 2015. The 17th round draft pick of the Red Sox in 2010 was a Rule-5 pick in 2015, as the Orioles snatched him from the Red Sox. Garcia throws 92-93 mph and mixes in a slider and a changeup with his fastball. Garcia’s 6.03 E.R.A in 34 innings indicates he is battling his command at the mid-point of this season.

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Player Profile: Marcus Molina

Marcus Molina made his  debut for the Rumble Ponies in a 7-4 loss to the Reading Fighting Phils on Saturday, June 17th. The 6′-3″ righthander is the 11th ranked prospect in the New York organization, according to Baseball America. Molina did not pitch in the 2016 season, as he recoverd from Tommy John surgery in September 2015, and in 2015 he only logged 41 innings, as he was plagued by elbow problems throughout the season. Molina had a superlative season for Brooklyn in 2014, as he went 7-3 and posted a 1.77 E.R.A., striking out 91 batters in 76 innings. Molina turned 22 on March 8, so he still is one of the younger pitchers in the Eastern League, though his arrival has been delayed due to his elbow problems.

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Molina in action during the first inning of Saturday’s game. 

Against Reading, Molina gave up four earned runs in six innings of work, while striking out eight hitters and walking two. He hit 93 mph on the radar gun, which is down one or two MPH from his days in Brooklyn. Molina relies on a fastball and slider, and both have good movement, especially down in the zone. Molina also throws a changeup as a regular part of his arsenal.

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In the above photo, Molina’s three-quarter arm slot is on display. He finishes his delivery by falling off  to the first base side of the mound.

In five starts for St. Lucie this season, Molina was outstanding, posting a 1.26 E.R.A.

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The Second-Place Fightin’ Phils Come Into Binghamton from 6/16-6/18

 

The Reading Fightin’ Phils took over second-place in the Eastern Division of the Eastern League earlier this week and come into Binghamton (a.k.a. Rumbletown) with a 37-25 record, two games ahead of the Rumble Ponies. According to Baseball America’s 2017 Prospect Handbook, Reading has five prospects ranked within the top 30 prospects in the Philadelphia organization:

Scott Kingery (#9): The 5’-10” second baseman turned 23-years-old on April 29 and is back for his second tour of duty with Reading, as he hit .250 in 156 at-bats for the Fightin’ Phils in 2016. Kingery was a second-round draft pick out of Arizona in 2015, as he was signed to a $1.2M bonus. Kingery’s double-play partner at Arizona was Kevin Newman, who was a first-round pick of the Pirates in 2015 and is now playing for the Altoona Curve.  Reading should be “home” to Kingery for only a few more weeks; he is off to an outstanding start, and his 18 homers and 14 doubles are signs of his developing power. He is hitting .302 in 249 at-bats.

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Kingery fouls off a pitch last year at NYSEG Stadium. 

Victor Arano (#17): The right-handed reliever, who turned twenty-two on February 7th, was signed out of Mexico in 2013 and features a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and can touch 97 mph. He is back at Reading after a short stint there last year, where he went 1-1 with a 2.16 E.R.A. in 17 innings.  Arano supports his fastball with a slider and developing curveball and changeup. Arano has thrown only seven innings this year, posting a 1.23 E.R.A.

Elniery Garcia (#27): The 6’-0” lefty pitcher is coming off an outstanding year at Clearwater, where he went 12-4 with a 2.68 E.R.A. in 118 innings. Signed by scout Jesus Mendez out of Venezuela in 2016, he has moved down a few slots in the prospect rankings from last year, where he was ranked #24. Currently he is on the restricted list and he has not pitched for Reading this year, so Binghamton fans will not get to see him this weekend.

Carlos Tocci (#29): Though the 6’-2” outfielder hit .284 for Clearwater last year, he dropped in the prospect ratings, falling from the #10 spot in 2016. Signed as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in 2016, Tocci does not turn 22 until August 23rd. Regarded as a slick-fielding center fielder, Tocci lacks the arm strength and outstanding speed to reach the elite level on defense. Failure to develop his power has also caused him to slip in the prospect ratings.  He comes into Binghamton hitting .286 with no homers and one stolen base (220 at-bats).

Drew Anderson (#30): The 6’-3” right hander has recovered nicely from his 2015 Tommy John surgery. He was added to the Phillies 40-man roster last offseason as the Phillies were impressed with his 2-1 record and 1.93 E.R.A. in 33 innings at Clearwater last season. Anderson comes into Binghamton with a 5-2 record and 3.77 E.R.A. in 12 starts.  He touches 97 with his fastball and uses his curve as his primary offspeed pitch, while spotting his slider and changeup.

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Nido Celebrates Being Named May’s Player of the Month with a Home Run

Just thirty minutes after Tomas Nido was named the Binghamton Baseball Boosters’ Player of the Month for May, the Rumble Pony catcher hit a home run off of Richmond’s Matt Gage in the bottom of the first inning. Nido went on to go 2-4 for the night, which turned out to be a 6-3 loss to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. In the month of May Nido hit .312, with 2 home runs and 15 RBIs, statistics just good enough to edge out right fielder Kevin Kaczmarski for the award.

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Before hitting his homer, Nido fouled off a ton of piches in an lengthy at-bat agains Matt Gage, Richmond’s southpaw starter.

Nido has been with Binghamton since the start of the season, coming off a great year in St. Lucie, where he led the Florida State League with a .320 batting average. Entering this season Baseball America ranked him as the tenth best prospect in the entire Mets organization.

Between the lines of the diamond, Nido is aggressive as they can be and is a man in perpetual motion. Whether he is trying to pick off a baserunner or running out to the mound to chat with his pitcher, Nido is a take-charge player on the diamond.

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Former New York Met Tim Teufel, now a minor league instructor for the Mets, threw batting practice before the game.

June 8th Game Notes: Starter Cory Oswalt, who has pitched superbly this season, left the game in the top of the second inning with discomfort in his arm. Lefty Kelly Sechrist replaced him, but was ineffective, as he gave up six runs and seven hits in the second inning. After Nido’s homer, the Rumble Ponies scored two runs to make the final score 6-3. The Flying Squirrels retired the final 20 Ponies in a row; ironically the Ponies bullpen outdid the pen of the Flying Squirrels after allowing the six runs in the second inning. The Pen for the Ponies retired the final 22 batters for the Flying Squirrels!

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Matt Gage, a product of Siena College, which is only about two hours from NYSEG Stadium, went 7 innings, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits against the Ponies.

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Chris Flexen Shines in Double-A Debut

June 7th. Chris Flexen threw a five-hit shutout in his Double-A debut for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, striking out six and not walking a batter. He starred for Binghamton as the Rumble Ponies won the second game of a doubleheader, 3-0,  against the Richmond Flying Squirrels after losing the first game.

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Flexen, at 6′-3″, is a commanding presence on the mound. 

Flexen needed only 83 pitches to complete his seven-inning shutout. His pitches ranged from 74 mph (curveball) to 94 mph (four-seam fastball), with 63 of his pitches being strikes. His fastball had good movement low in the strike zone, resulting in 11 ground ball outs, with very few balls being hit hard against him.

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Colton Plaia and Flexen celebrate their team’s 3-0 win against the Richmond Flying Squirrels. 

Flexen, a 14th-round selection in the 2012 amateur draft, entered the season as the 22nd prospect in the Mets organization, according to Baseball America.  His repertoire agains the Flying Squirrels included a fastball, slider, and curve. Tonight was only his fourth start of the season, as he had been rehabbing a knee injury for the first six weeks of the season.

Before his promotion to Binghamton, Flexen had started three games in a rehab stint at St. Lucie, going 0-0 with a 2.13 E.R.A. Flexen spent all of 2016 in St. Lucie, winning 10 games and striking out 95 hitters in 125 innings.

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Former major league All-Star pitcher Al Downing threw out the first pitch of the doubleheader. The Rumble Ponies lost the opener, 8-2.

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