Prospect Profile: RHP Chris Flexen

One thing with the Mets that you can always count on is that they are excellent at developing projectable arms. They did it with Jacob deGrom, Robert Gsellman, Michael Fulmer, and they continue to with guys like Thomas Szapucki and many others. Often times they find parts of a delivery to tweak, the arm slot to move up, quicken, a new grip on the slider that will allow better deception. The Mets development staff for pitching is excellent, and Flexen may be another product.

RHP Chris Flexen

R/R, 6’3″ 235 lbs, 7/1/1994 (22), Drafted in the 14th round of the 2012 Draft, 440th overall out of Memorial HS. Signed for $374,000 ($274,000 overslot)

2012 17 -3.5 Kingsport Rk 5.62 7 6 32.0 38 23 20 2 14 26 1.625
2013 18 -2.5 Kingsport Rk 2.09 11 11 69.0 53 18 16 6 12 62 0.942
2014 19 -2.7 Savannah A 4.83 13 13 69.0 75 41 37 5 37 46 1.623
2015 20 -1.6 3 Teams A-A–Rk 2.42 12 9 52.0 45 17 14 0 16 51 1.173
2015 20 -0.4 Mets Rk 0.00 3 2 6.0 2 0 0 0 1 5 0.500
2015 20 -1.3 Brooklyn A- 5.11 3 2 12.1 15 8 7 0 8 13 1.865
2015 20 -1.9 Savannah A 1.87 6 5 33.2 28 9 7 0 7 33 1.040
2016 21 -2.1 St. Lucie A+ 3.56 25 25 134.0 125 62 53 6 51 95 1.313

Instead of doing what I usually do when it comes to prospects, which is give snippets of their success, I’m going to show the growth. The results are as shown above in the table that I provide for every player, courtesy of an awesome tool that is provided by Baseball Reference. Chris Flexen was drafted in the 14th round of the 2012 draft. As many players go who are drafted in later rounds, there is a lot of fanfare to plenty of them but they often state that they are going to college. For some, it’s a leverage type of move. “Pay me more, I’ll join ya.” Others feel that they can benefit from college coaching, and often get drafted in higher rounds for more money in three years if they improve into a high-tier college player. Here was the report on Flexen from Baseball America prior to being drafted:

Still just 17 years old, Flexen already has an impressive body at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds. He sits in the 90-91 mph range and tops out at 93 mph. Mostly a two-pitch guy right now, he scrapped his curveball in favor of a slider this spring and it shows flashes of being a plus pitch with nasty life at times. Flexen has some effort to his delivery and scouts say his arm action could be smoothed out, but they love his competitive fire on the mound. Flexen could be pushed up draft boards because it will likely take second-round money to buy him away from his Arizona State commitment.

Flexen was an example of a guy they were able to pay more and sign, as they gave him $274,000 more than the slot bonus for. Actually, they got him on a bargain, since Second Round money can be anywhere from 900 to 700,000 dollars.

During his first couple of years, Flexen was up and down, fluctuating on his control and having trouble curbing hits and the long ball. His second go-around in Kingsport was much better than his first and earned him time up in Savannah. He struggled in A-ball with control and missing bats. It turned out he had both a torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament that needed repair (Tommy John Surgery), but he also had an issue with bone chips in the same right elbow, which halted his season after 13 games. He came back with a vengeance in 2015 after TJS, and after being shaky in Brooklyn, he was pretty dominant in Savannah. The reports coming out about Flexen showed a jump in velocity, sitting in the mid 90’s and hitting 97 miles per hour at max. This development had people turning heads and starting to pay attention.

I chose him as a breakout candidate in 2016, but he didn’t perform the way I thought he would in 2016 at St. Lucie, being inconsistent from start to start, and striking out 6.4 batters per nine innings while walking 3.4. While still holding similar velocity, he didn’t miss too many bats as a starter whose arm is healthy after Tommy John Surgery. To make matters worse, Flexen was in the original deal for Jay Bruce, but a health issue shown with Flexen made the team switch the deal from Max Wotell, Brandon Nimmo, and Flexen, to Dilson Herrera and Wotell (darn you, I actually liked Dilson). Rumors were that one of Flexen’s knees showed up as an issue, and that may be something to look out for going forward. Despite the injury rumors and the so-so year, Flexen was added to the 40-man roster this year, which means an automatic invite to Major League camp. This was mainly done to protect him from being taken in the Rule V Draft in December.

Flexen still carries his fastball in the mid-90’s. He has a tendency to get a bit of nice late movement on the fastball. It looks like Baseball America jumped the gun in their pre-draft profile, because Flexen’s best pitch has become his curve, which has grades of above-average to plus, and can fool a hitter pretty darn well. He has feel for a changeup, but hasn’t thrown it too often, and the slider that Baseball America mentioned he throws on occasion. His main trouble has been command, with the unexpected bouts of wildness and then in other starts, he has brilliance. His walks rose a bit as well, and he just didn’t seem like he was in complete control right now. He definitely has the starter’s build, with good height and broad shoulders. He doesn’t have a completely effortless delivery however, making some scouts skeptical that he’s going to stay as a starter. If he fails at staying a starter, his overall hard fastball/plus curve combo could make him a great late inning reliever.

He’s still relatively inexperienced to pitching, and performed a huge jump in innings from 52 last year to 134 innings this year. This was right after recovery and rehab from Tommy John Surgery, so St. Lucie could be an aberration, but he can still use some improvements in his delivery. We should also keep in mind there was a reason the trade didn’t go through with him in it.

Thankfully, he will get some time with Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen in spring training, who has been extremely successful at developing pitchers, and teaching them how to throw a nasty slider and a pretty good change as well. He will also get a lot of time with Glenn Abbott, who has been known to h  Flexen will likely be a starter at Double-A Binghamton this coming season, and I’m pretty sure we’ll see an improvement from this very interesting pitcher.

(All three photos were shot by Ed Delany, who does fantastic photos of the St. Lucie Mets. Follow him on twitter at @ed880)

To see more for Binghamton Profiles, please go to Prospect Profiles and Binghamton Rumble Ponies in the top or side bars. We have also added a bar to separate the prospects by position.

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  1. Matlack

    I wasn’t aware that Flexen was so thick. Legs look Seaveresque. Disappointed that I won’t be able to observe him today.

  2. Jeff Lemon

    Interesting to see the comment about his knee because he just had knee surgery in spring training

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