In a wholly forgettable season for the New York Mets, the team’s injury-ravaged pitching staff has been perhaps the biggest issue it will look to leave behind in 2017 as the Mets focus their attention on next season. The Mets currently have four starting pitchers on the disabled list, including the staff ace Noah Syndergaard, and as a result twelve different pitchers have made at least one start for the team this season.
The Mets tried remedying this problem earlier in the season, first trading for Tommy Milone and Adam Wilk in early May, and then calling up Tyler Pill in late May, with both attempts failing miserably. After Zack Wheeler landed on the disabled list for the second time in a month on July 23rd, the Mets were left with no choice but to call up pitching prospect Chris Flexen.
The team’s 16th ranked prospect, Flexen was pitching incredibly well at Double-A, posting a 6-1 record with a 1.66 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 48.2 innings. His 0.72 WHIP is an outstanding stat for a starting pitcher, and with only seven walks to his name, the Mets hoped that he would be an adequate and efficient fifth starter until one of the team’s regular starters could return from the disabled list.
Unfortunately, it has become increasingly clear that Flexen is not a major-league caliber pitcher at this point in his career. He had barely 60 professional innings pitched prior to being called up, and while he was dominant at Double-A, the hitters he has faced so far in the majors have fared much better. Through three starts, Flexen has a 1-1 record with an 8.49 ERA, and his eight walks in just 11.2 innings have contributed to a horrendous 2.14 WHIP.
Flexen would be much better off back at Double-A, where he can continue to hone his skills, but the Mets are so depraved of healthy starting pitching options that he will likely be with the team through the end of the season, potentially moving to a bullpen role once rosters expand on September 1st. The only other healthy starting pitching option on the Mets’ 40-man roster is Marcos Molina, the team’s 8th ranked prospect, but he is in his first season back from Tommy John surgery and is struggling at Double-A.
To his credit, Flexen has shown some signs of improvement in his brief time in the majors. In his last start, he pitched 5.2 innings of three-run ball en route to his first career win, and although he issued three walks, he showed great composure in working out of several jams with runners in scoring position. Still, he was called up much earlier than anyone in the organization could have possibly anticipated heading into the season, and his performance to this point is indicative of a player who is not quite ready to face major-league opposition.
Fortunately for the Mets, both Wheeler and Matt Harvey have begun rehab assignments, meaning that it might not be long before Flexen is no longer needed in the starting rotation. However, for the time being, it would appear that the Mets have no problem starting Flexen every fifth day, despite how difficult of a time he has had to this point. This is by no means an encouraging situation for a team looking to vie for a postseason berth in 2018.