When Zack Wheeler hit the disabled list yesterday, many assumed that he would be replaced in the New York Mets’ rotation by rookie right hander Tyler Pill. Pill was promoted to the big leagues to take Wheeler’s roster spot, but the Mets threw everyone a curveball by announcing that Pill would work out of the bullpen. Instead, the Mets chose to tap right hander Chris Flexen to take Wheeler’s spot in the starting rotation. Flexen, who is the Mets’ 10th best prospect, will make his major league debut on Thursday against the San Diego Padres.
This is an interesting choice for the Mets, although they thought highly enough of Flexen to put him on their 40 man roster over the winter. Flexen was the Mets’ 14th round draft choice in 2012 and saw his path to the majors hit a road bump when he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014. After rehabbing for a year, Flexen returned in 2015 and pitched well before getting bumped to High-A St. Lucie last season. Flexen performed well enough to earn some trade interest and was reportedly part of the original trade that brought Jay Bruce over from the Cincinnati Reds. That deal was re-worked, however, potentially due to some concern on the Reds’ end over Flexen’s medical records. Flexen thus stayed Mets’ property, and he has taken another giant leap forward this season.
After getting three starts in St. Lucie, Flexen was promoted to AA Binghamton and he has dominated the Eastern League, going 6-1 with a 1.66 ERA in seven starts. Flexen has thrived on pinpoint control, walking only seven batters in 48.2 innings pitched, while striking out 50 and pitching to a 0.72 WHIP. The Mets clearly are intrigued by Flexen’s potential, as he has a decent repertoire of pitches featuring a fastball that can hit the mid-90’s along with a solid curveball and changeup. Flexen may not have the upside of a Thomas Szapucki or Justin Dunn, but he could be a decent back of the rotation starter.
The Mets have nothing to lose here since they are clearly trying to sell. With the last two months not mattering a ton in terms of the standings, the Mets owe it to themselves to bring up some of their top prospects to see if they can contribute next season. Promoting Flexen is a good first step, and hopefully the Mets will have Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith in the lineup shortly.