The Miami Marlins made a series of September call-ups yesterday following the team's 4-3 win over the Chicago Cubs, and the most interesting player brought up by far was lefty starting pitching prospect Brian Flynn. Flynn arrived in Miami in last year's Anibal Sanchez / Omar Infante trade, and while Jacob Turner and fellow promoted minor leaguer Rob Brantly have gotten the most attention, Flynn has quietly made a name for himself with decent play in two different levels for the Marlins.
It is hard to predict what we might get out of Flynn this year, but here is at least a preview of what you can expect from the tall left-hander.
We have yet to see much of Flynn in the majors, and because he was never a highly-touted prospect, we do not hear much about him among the minor league sources. Here is what John Sickels of Minor League Ball had to say about him last year after the Marlins acquired him:
At his best, Flynn pumps 93-96 MPH fastballs and a nasty slider, dominating with his intimidating frame. His velocity can be erratic and he’ll drop down to 88-90 at times, but there is a lot of promise in his arm. His curveball and changeup need work and his command isn’t consistent, but he’s made enough progress with his secondaries that the Tigers were willing to promote him. He’s still fairly raw for a college arm, but lefties with his arm strength don’t grow on trees and I like his potential. He was a good pick for the Tigers in the seventh round and I like his chances to surprise with the Marlins, though it may take another year or two.
Sickels believes Flynn is worth a look after another solid performance this season, and that seems like a reasonable thing to say for a player who succeeded in Triple-A to a similar degree as he has at lower levels.
As for the arsenal, one feels like it is very similar to that of Nathan Eovaldi's. Here is what Baseball Prospectus had to say about Flynn from before this season.
Selected by the Tigers in the 11th round of the 2011 draft and shipped to the Marlins in the Sanchez-Infante trade, the towering southpaw found a repeatable set of mechanics last year and saw his fastball tick up into the mid-90s. Flynn’s off-speed offerings remain a work in progress, but if he can maintain the strides he took in 2012, he’ll project as a back-end starter or setup man. Refinements to his changeup and slider, on the other hand, could turn Flynn into a middle-of-the-rotation horse. His plus makeup bolsters the glass-half-full outlook on his future.
Flynn boasts a low-to-mid-90's fastball with a decent slider and very questionable third pitches. Nathan Eovaldi has done the exact same thing this year in the majors, featuring one of the best fastballs in the game and mediocre other offerings. The difference is that Flynn is a left-hander, making his 93 mph velocity more intimidating and rare, and he is doing this with a 6-foot-8 frame that makes it seem like he is throwing harder or on a "downward plane."
Here is a scouting video on Brian Flynn, created by NotGraphs's Carson Cistulli, in which kitty sounds are interjected. Despite that, it does feature Flynn's pitches in a game for Triple-A New Orleans.
The one thing that Flynn has done to make it easier on people like us to project him is that he has performed consistently throughout multiple levels. In most full seasons in a given league, he has struck out between 19 and 21 percent of batters faced and walked between seven and eight percent of those batters. Provided that he is Major League-ready for this promotion, one could expect slightly worse numbers than that, giving him a likely ERA in the low-to-mid-4.00 range. You could expect a little worse if he seems completely unready, but it should not surprise anyone to see Flynn post a modest 4.35 ERA in this call-up.
It is worth noting that Flynn's 2013 season was his best year in the minors. He is coming into the big leagues with his highest swinging strike rate (10.9 percent in New Orleans) and best ground ball rate (45.6 percent) of his career. It is slightly possible that these are improvements that could translate to the majors and give him better odds to stick his Triple-A numbers.
Is that worth watching this year, and will that help him carry into next season? Flynn is the most likely candidate to take a starting role in the back end of the rotation next year, as Tom Koehler will likely be returned to a bullpen role after this mediocre 2013 year. Flynn appears more than ready to take on the majors, but his three- or four-start audition in September will go a long way towards taking on that future job. Koehler is still the incumbent and the option who has done decently in the majors, so Flynn's next few starts are critical in helping him get a chance next year.