So far, the Top 10 Mariners players right now list has been dominated by pitching. Paul Sewald is the only reliever so far, and he came in at number 10. Kyle Lewis has been the only position player so far, and he was at number 9. Logan Gilbert and Marco Gonzales came in back to back and now we have a third straight starting pitcher, and that is right-handed pitcher Chris Flexen.
Top 10 Mariners Players Right Now: #6 Chris Flexen
Chris Flexen came to the Mariners last year after being a failed Major League pitcher. He started as a 14th round draft pick back in 2012 by the New York Mets. He then made it up to the big leagues and was up and down for a few seasons before going to Korea for the 2020 season. He got more innings over there because they played more than a 60 game season, and he was very impressive.
In Korea, Flexen had a breakout campaign. He pitched 116.2 innings, had an ERA of 3.01, and struck out 20% of the batters he faced. This drew the attention of the Mariners, who were looking for someone to give them innings after a shortened MLB season. Due to his contract situation, before he left for Korea, he is under club control by the Mariners through 2026 and is cheap for the next few years. He won’t hit arbitration until 2024.
Chris Flexen was a huge reason that the Mariners won 90 games in 2021, and that was because he took the ball every fifth day. He made 31 starts last season, totaling just under 180 innings. He was the definition of dependable, and that was huge since he was the only starting pitcher to be that dependable for the M’s in 2021.
He came out of the gates well, then had a rough May and it looked like the league might have figured him out. Then he turned it around and got better as the season wore on. He had his best month in terms of ERA in August, but he was overall super consistent after May, with an ERA of 3.71 in the second half.
The reasons that Flexen ranks ahead of Marco Gonzales and Logan Gilbert are because he was better last year and more dependable. He came back from Korea and after one year was a really solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher. Many believe that he is going to regress this year, and that is very possible. If he does regress, he will almost certainly not be any worse than a good #4 or #5 starter.
There is still reason to believe Flexen could be even better in 2022. He will be 28 this year, and he could still find another gear. His strikeout numbers dipped way down, over 10% when he came over to America. If he can keep the same command and not walk more people, and get more strikeouts, he could be even better in 2022.