The pitching staff of the Detroit Tigers has received a lot of attention over the past season; almost all of it because of their mega ace, Justin Verlander. Despite the enormous talents of Verlander, Detroit has a lot of great pitching throughout their organization, stretching all the way up from the minor leagues. One of their prospects who is poised to break out in 2012 is Brian Flynn, a 2011 seventh round draft pick.
At 6’8, the left-handed Flynn is one of the tallest players in professional baseball. He enjoyed great success at Owasso High school in Owasso, Oklahoma, and won state baseball championships his junior and senior years. Flynn’s contributions were particularly noticeable his senior year, as he went 9-1 with a 0.79 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 70.2 innings. He was drafted by Boston in the 18th round in 2008, but decided he needed to hone his game further.
Flynn attended Wichita State University, contributing immediately as a freshman, but blossoming as a sophomore, going 6-4, with a 4.63 ERA and 77 strikeouts. After he was taken by Detroit in the draft, he decided to forego his final two seasons and start his professional career.
Because Flynn signed so quickly after the draft, he was able to get a good initial taste of minor league experience in 2011. He was assigned to Class-A West Michigan and more than held his own, posting an impressive 7-2 record and 3.46 ERA in 13 starts. He also struck out 57 in 67.2 innings, while allowing just 58 hits. More information on his statistics is available here.
While Verlander figures to head up the Detroit pitching staff for quite some time, there are four other spots in the rotation, and the way his career has started, Flynn looks like a good bet to nab one sometime in the near future. Find out more about him by following him on Twitter and of course check out the interview he did with me this off-season.
Brian Flynn Interview:
Who were your favorite team and player growing up and why?: I was always a Yankees fan when I was growing up. I wasn’t really a die-hard fan and I wasn’t upset when they lost because I think it was more from being young and rebellious. Everyone loves to hate the Yankees, so naturally I cheered for them. Being from Oklahoma everyone loves either the Sooners or Cowboys, so naturally I cheered for the Longhorns. It was just one of those things, and I’m glad to say I’ve grown out of it. As for my favorite player, no question its Randy Johnson.
Can you run through what your draft experience was like?: It was pretty hectic. I put a ton of pressure on myself this last season at Wichita State and I think it definitely showed. I didn’t have the year I had hoped for and worked for, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect in the draft. I was extremely relieved when I heard that a franchise like the Tigers selected me, and I wanted to sign very quickly to get out there and show them what I knew I could do.
How did you determine that you would bypass signing with the Red Sox after the 2008 draft?: It was really an easy decision for me. I was extremely raw as a pitcher in high school and I relied heavily on a fastball that I couldn’t command well at all. I was smart enough to know that I needed a few years of instruction before getting started In pro ball so that’d I’d be ready to hit the ground running.
What are contract negotiations like after being drafted?: Contract negotiations were very simple for me. They made an offer, I weighed my options and decided it was in my best interest to take that offer and get on the field ASAP. Everyone would like to negotiate and milk as much money as possible, but I think that it is important to keep your long-term goals in mind and not let little things turn into speed bumps. I was making my first start in West Michigan within two weeks of the draft I believe.
What pitches do you throw, and which one is your strongest and which one needs the most work?: I work with a fastball, slider, changeup, and curveball. I attack hitters with my fastball and like to let my downhill leverage work to my advantage. Midway through this last college season I started messing with a slider because the curveball I have been using since high school just hasn’t been an effective pitch for me. I made extreme leaps with that pitch (slider) in a very short time and I would consider it my best pitch. I can’t wait to build off of the success I found with it during this upcoming 2012 season. My change up needs the most work and I have been working excessively on it this offseason. I am really feeling good about the direction it is heading and can’t wait to polish it up in spring training. I keep my curveball as a show-me pitch that I will drop in on get me over counts and I will most likely keep that in my arsenal and tweak some things to improve it.
After you signed, what is something you did or bought for yourself or your family/friends to celebrate?: I am extremely close with my mother and she is the reason I am in this position. So to try and give her a small payback, I took her on a vacation down to Florida to get her away from work and spend time with her. We love roller coasters and theme parks, so we spent a week down there hitting up all the parks. The only other thing I bought was an engagement ring that I gave to my long time girlfriend, Kacie. It is something I had planned on doing for a while, so it was great to be able to take that big step in life.
After the 2011 season was over, how did it feel to have done so well?: It was extremely bittersweet for me. I was definitely happy with what I had accomplished in my first half season of pro baseball, and my arm was feeling the fatigue of a long combined season. So it was very satisfying to look back at my debut in pro ball and be able to have a positive feeling going into my first offseason. At the same time we were so close to making the playoffs, and I would have liked to have kept throwing because I was only getting better and improving with every outing. I want to pick up where I left off last season because the momentum that I had going made showing up to the field every day a blast.
What are you thinking about as you prepare for your first spring training?: I want to show up and show the Tigers that I see this as a serious investment. I am going to show up in the best shape of my life and ready to work. I have been dieting hard and lifting even harder, and I am excited about my first full season in pro ball. The biggest thing to me is focusing on showing up fresh physically and mentally, so that I can show them my value and help whichever team I am with win a lot of games.