Kansas City Royals Brian Flynn Is Still A Long-Term Investment

Jun 27, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins relief pitcher Brian Flynn (35) throws during the fourth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 27, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins relief pitcher Brian Flynn (35) throws during the fourth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Brian Flynn looks the part of a lefty-specialist. He just doesn’t get lefties out.

As the Kansas City Royals enter Spring Training, Kings of Kauffman will release a series of articles on the 25-man roster. We will be going through each individual player, including the locks, bubble players, and a few prospects. We will progress through the roster from the top down, starting with the rotation.

So far, we have looked at Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Ian KennedyChris Young, Danny Duffy, Kris MedlenMike Minor, and Luke Hochevar.

Today, we will be looking at Brian Flynn.

All statistics provided by Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and Brooks Baseball

"2015 stats – 0-0, 0.00 ERA,  2 SO, 0 BB, 0.2 IP (Triple-A Omaha)2016 Steamer – 2-1, 3.64 ERA ERA, 24 SO, 9 BB, 29.0 IP, 3.91 FIP"

Projected Role – Middle Reliever/Spot Starter

2015 Results

Brian Flynn is one of the more intriguing players on the Kansas City Royals roster. With all but a few spots locked in or the 2016 squad, Flynn will battle for one of the last four or five spots.

Last season, Ryan Madson beat Flynn out for the final spot on the 25-man roster, which wound up being a way more productive decision than anybody could have every dreamed. Unfortunately for Flynn, he tore a lat muscle just two-thirds of an inning into his 2015 season.

At one point, Flynn was a legitimate prospect for the Marlins, before being shipped over to Kansas City, along with some mild expectations.

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Those expectations being that he would compete (and at the time, the thought was that he would likely win) for a spot in the Royals bullpen. That obviously didn’t pan out. However, long term, the Royals may just see him as a starter.

Jeff Zimmerman of Fangraphs did a write up on Flynn last winter, saying this.

"I would love to call him a LOOGY (Lefty One-Out GuY), but I don’t think he is dominate enough to get lefties out consistently. The best case is if the Royals can harness the sinker and curve, keep the change and then have a #4 or #5 starter."

I think it goes without saying that the best case scenario for every pitcher is to be a starter, with some being more likely than others. Flynn is no different, and he certainly has the build. At 6’7/250, Flynn is an imposing figure on the mound that also brings four pitches to the table, none of which he has thrown less than 8% of the time over his career.

At just 25 years old and a rotation full of long-term question marks outside of Yordano Ventura, it’s not unreasonable to believe he’ll get a shot at some point in the near future.

2016 Outlook 

It would be, however, unreasonable to believe that shot will come this season, unless the injury bug hits Kansas City. For 2016, he will definitely be coming out of the bullpen for Kansas City, if he makes the roster, with maybe an occasional spot start.

Out of the bullpen, Flynn looks like everything the Royals would want in a left-handed specialist.

It has been a long time since the Royals pen has a true LOOGY, and the presence of one would make Ned Yost‘s bullpen just that much better. However, Flynn is not going to be that guy unless something changes drastically, because he has not gotten left-handers out a high enough rate. Zimmerman alluded to that in the above quote, and the numbers back him up.

In 379 minor league innings, lefties have hit .260 against Flynn. It’s more likely that Flynn would step into a middle relief or long relief role, until he gets his shot at the rotation.

The question will be whether or not he is effective enough to win a job out of Spring Training, let alone a future slot in the rotation.

Here is more from Zimmerman on what Flynn brings to the table.

"The biggest issue I saw with him was his consistency in delivery, pitches and location. If a person just saw the 3rd inning, they would have a positive outlook on him. He was throwing his curve for strikes and his fastball showed some great late drop. The rest of the game, he was blah at best."

The inconsistent delivery is trouble some. Royals fans know first hand how important it is for pitchers to consistently repeat their delivery, especially in starting pitchers. We talked about this in yesterday’s post with Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis. When each of them moved to the bullpen, they both basically dropped two pitches completely. Why? They weren’t expected to throw 5-7 innings anymore. The Royals only need one, maybe two. They didn’t need 4-5 pitches to get through an inning.

As a result, their remaining pitches improved because it is easier to repeat a delivery when you’re only doing it for 15-20 pitches a night, and when you’re only executing 2-3 different pitches (more importantly, only one breaking ball). So if the Royals are hoping that Flynn will become a starter, the inconsistent delivery is definitely first on the checklist when it comes to what is needing to change.

Zimmerman also had some encouraging things to say about Flynn, including praising his curveball for being able to “throw it for strikes and get hitters to chase it.”

I wouldn’t expect a whole lot from Flynn in 2015, but I do expect him to get a look next spring for a starting gig, if he stays healthy.

As for 2016, I would look to Scott Alexander (who will be the topic of tomorrow’s preview) as Flynn’s main competition in the middle of the bullpen.

If Danny Duffy winds up in the bullpen, it’s likely that neither of them will pitch many significant innings this season.

However, Flynn has had mild success in the past and could put together a nice campaign out of the bullpen. If the injury bug hits, he may be asked to step into a more prevalent role.