Brian Flynn is a bit of an under-the-radar prospect. He wasn’t on our Top 20 Prospects list here on Marlin Maniac. He isn’t mentioned by Baseball America in their projected 2016 Marlins starting rotation. John Sickels didn’t rate him in his top 20 prospects, either, and graded him as a C+ prospect. He cracked MLB’s top 20 list…at number 19. So why do our first minor league profile on him? Quite simply, he’s flying through the system, and we may even see him this year.
Flynn came over in the Anibal Sanchez trade that also brought Rob Brantly and Justin Turner to the Marlins. Given the fanfare surrounding those two players, Not a whole lot was made of Flynn’s inclusion in the deal. Flynn is a big (6’7″, 240 pounds) lefty from Oklahoma, and as history has shown, the Marlins love pitchers from Oklahoma. The Tigers drafted him in the 7th round in 2011 from Wichita State University. He pitched well at his first stop in A ball, going 7-2 with a 3.46 ERA in 13 starts. 2012 was his first full professional season, and the Tigers started him off at High A, where he went 8-4 with a 3.71 ERA in 18 starts. As pedestrian as those ERAs were, his other statistics suggested that Flynn was likely nothing special. His WHIP at High A was a high 1.42, and at both of his minor league stops he was striking out about 7.5 batters per 9 innings while walking almost 3 batters per 9 innings.
After the trade in July, the Marlins assigned Flynn to AA Jacksonville. There was talk about Flynn refining his mechanics, and his stats told a very interesting story: the ERA (3.80) was around the same; the strikeouts per 9 dropped to 6.40; but the walks per 9 dropped as well, to 2.60. With some cause for encouragement, the Marlins sent Flynn to the Arizona Fall League. He performed well, with similar statistics to what he had shown in the minors (3.63 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) despite pitching against some of the game’s top prospects.
The Marlins decided to start Flynn out at AA again this year. Flynn tore it up, going 1-1 with a 1.57 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 9.78 strikeout per 9 ratio, and 1.17 walk per 9 ratio. Though the sample size is small – just 23 innings – the Marlins believe they have seen enough of Flynn at AA. On Tuesday, the Marlins promoted Flynn to the AAA New Orleans Zephyrs.
It’s unlikely that Flynn would have continued performing at that elite level in AA, and it’s even less likely that he’ll continue his performance in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. What the Marlins see, however, is a lefty starter who just turned 23 a week ago and is built like a brick house. He’s performed roughly the same at every level, making the necessary adjustments to obtain his desired outcomes. There’s no reason to think that success can’t continue at AAA and into the big leagues. If there are any further injuries, or if the Marlins trade guys like Kevin Slowey and Ricky Nolasco at the deadline, it’s entirely possible we could see Flynn get a cup of coffee in August or September. If history is any indication, he’ll perform.