The Miami Marlins' search for a fifth starter has been troublesome up to this point. Jacob Turner, Randy Wolf, and now Anthony DeSclafani have not been able to give the Marlins a reliable fifth option behind Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi, Tom Koehler, and now Andrew Heaney. Those four seem to have solidified spots and are at least pitching with some level of consistency. Turner is now in the bullpen, Wolf was designated for assignment, and DeSclafani is still in the rotation even after some very poor recent outings. Other than the sudden lack of offense the end of the rotation is the area Miami most needs to shore up if they hope to stay in contention for a playoff spot. If DeSclafani continues to struggle, where should the Marlins turn next? If they want to stay within the system, they might turn to lefthander Brian Flynn.
The 6 feet 7 inch 24 year old out of Wichita State was drafted in the 7th round by the Detroit Tigers in 2011 MLB draft. Flynn was acquired by the Marlins in the same deal that brought Jacob Turner to Miami, for Anibal Sanchez, and Omar Infante. After about a year in the Tigers system he started his Marlins career in the middle of the 2012 season with Double-A Jacksonville. After getting hit hard during his only start in Double-A in Detroit’s system he pitched fine, but not dominantly, after being traded to the Marlins system. With Jacksonville, Flynn posted a 3.80 ERA and a 3.72 FIP in only 45 innings to close out the season. The next season he started the year by remaining in Jacksonville and pitched extremely well in his first four starts leading to a quick promotion to Triple-A. In New Orleans Flynn continued to perform well and ended the year with his best full season strikeouts per 9 innings at 7.96, and his ERA finished at 2.80.
That success earned Flynn a September call-up and a few starts with the big league team. In the majors Flynn struggled. In 4 starts his ERA was 8.50 and his walks per nine innings skyrocketed to 6.50. This was only over an 18 inning sample, but nevertheless Flynn seemed to lose his control once he arrived in Miami.
Those struggles led to Flynn starting the 2014 season back in Triple-A New Orleans. So far this season the best word to describe Flynn’s performance would be mediocre. His ERA is 3.56 and his strikeout rate has dropped to 15.6 %. He certainly has not pitched poorly, but it is a bit of a letdown after how strong his 2013 Triple-A performance was.
Before the season, Marc Hulet of FanGraphs rated Flynn as the number 7 prospect in the Miami Marlins system. He also offered a scouting report on what Flynn has to offer.
"The Scouting Report: Flynn, 23, is a big strong dude that struggles to keep his long levers in check at times, which hurts both his command and control. He has good stuff for a lefty to an 88-93 mph fastball and a slider that projects to develop into an above-average pitch. Both his curveball and changeup need work to become average offerings. Flynn has compiled more than 300 innings over the past two seasons and should be good for a lot of innings in the back-end of a big-league rotation."
The drop in strikeout rate is concerning, but Flynn has not pitched horribly this season, and it may be time to give him another look at the big league level. Flynn is not as polished or ready to contribute as Andrew Heaney, but he is a pitcher with potential and certainly worth taking a chance on to see if he can bring some sort of stability to the 5th starter’s role. If Flynn can become just a league average pitcher, that will be a significant improvement on Turner, Wolf, and DeSclafani. To avoid the troubles that plagued him during his first taste of the major leagues Flynn will need to throw strikes, and not let walks turn into big innings like he did last September.
DeSclafani will likely be given the chance to hang onto the job for the time being, but if he continues to struggle over his next few starts it is time to see if Flynn can overcome the control problems that haunted the beginning of his brief major league career. If the Marlins cannot find consistency from someone within the organization the only other option is to explore the trade market, and that might require parting ways with young assets the Marlins have little desire to move. There is no guarantee that Flynn will be any better than he was at the end of 2013, but at this point there is no harm in giving him a shot.