Welcome to the 2023 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2023. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
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No. 37, Chris Flexen: -0.2 rWAR
On July 14, the Rockies were 35-57 and 18 games out of first place in the NL West. They already used 13 different starting pitchers. The rotation was shot. Colorado was desperate.
It made me wonder if the front office was daydreaming about out-of-the-box solutions like I was.
Is it too late for Russell Wilson to pick baseball?
Could Nikola Jokic make a spot start?
Can someone in the Coors Field crowd give the Rockies a better chance to win?
None of those things came to fruition. Instead, the Rockies signed Chris Flexen. The 29-year-old RHP had a wild few weeks before finding a new home with the Rockies. He was designated for assignment by the Mariners on June 27, went to the minors, got traded to the Mets on July 3, and then was released by New York on July 6.
Once he was in the Rockies organization, he was sent to Triple-A Albuquerque to build up his arm to join the Rockies rotation. He’d been coming out of the bullpen in 12 appearances since the end of April and needed more innings. By the time he was called up on July 29 to start vs. Oakland, Flexen was the 15th pitcher to make a start for the Rockies.
It didn’t go great, but the Rockies just didn’t have many options. Flexen gave up two homers as part of five earned runs (six total) in 3 2/3 innings with six walks and four strikeouts in an 11-3 loss to the A’s.
By the end of the season, Flexen made 12 starts for Colorado, which ended up being the sixth most on the team in 2023. He posted a 6.27 ERA with a 1.541 WHIP, 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings (45 total), and 2.1 homers per nine (14 total) while posting a 2-4 record.
Flexen was originally drafted by the Mets in 2012, but struggled in bouncing back and forth from MLB and the minors. He headed to Korea and played well for the Doosan Bears in the KBO and earned a two-year, $4.75 million deal with the Mariners.
It turned out to be a good investment for Seattle in 2021-22. He posted a 22-15 record with a 3.66 ERA in 64 games (53 starts) with a 1.289 WHIP, 6.2 strikeouts per nine innings, and one homer per nine.
Those numbers triggered an $8 million vesting option for Flexen in 2023. When Seattle traded Flexen, the Mets took on the remaining $3.8 million. Thankfully, the Rockies only signed Flexen to a one-year minor league deal for $720,000.
In his final start of the year, Flexen got his second win — largely thanks to a 14-run explosion by the Rockies — as he held the Dodgers to three runs on six hits (two homers) with two walks and three strikeouts in six innings.
When the World Series ends, Flexen will become a free agent. The Rockies are still hurting for pitching and we know they like to re-sign pitchers to minor league contracts. Flexen could certainly be back in 2024, but if he pitches like in 2023, it will mean the Rockies are in trouble.