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.
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.
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.