Kyle Gibson - SP, MIN
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At one point, Gibson was following the exact path Minnesota hoped he would. The former first-round draft pick arrived in the majors in 2013 after a successful rise through the minors (temporarily stalled by Tommy John surgery), struggling at first but improving in Year 2 and Year 3 to the point where, by 2015, he appeared to be settling in as a long-term rotation staple.
That season, Gibson threw 194 innings with a 3.84 ERA, finishing with the 10th-highest grounder rate in the majors. He wasn't an ace by any means, but Gibson was establishing himself as a rock-solid mid-rotation piece at age 27. The only thing missing was strikeouts, and even there one could see promise; his whiff rates had been trending upward and his hard slider seemingly had the makings of a put-away pitch.
But in 2016, everything went off the rails for the right-hander. He slogged through a miserable campaign, posting a 5.07 ERA over 25 starts while watching his encouraging progressions turn the wrong way. The strikeouts, the grounders, the improved control – they all went amiss.
At season's end, Gibson acknowledged he'd been battling physical discomfort, and during the offseason he adopted a new pitching program and altered delivery. The early signs were very positive, as the righty looked as good as ever in spring training.
Then, the season started and it all unraveled. Gibson's first-half was a nightmare. He recorded only three quality starts in 16 tries, spent time in Triple-A, and appeared to be pitching his way right out of the organization's plans.
Since the break, though, Gibson has quietly started coming around, and in his past couple turns he has put forth two of his best efforts of the season.
On Sunday, Gibson held the Blue Jays to two runs over 6 2/3 innings, striking out seven with only one walk. It comes on the heels of a brilliant effort against the White Sox: 7 IP, 1 ER, 8 K, 1 BB. In five August starts, he put up a 28-to-7 K/BB ratio over 27 2/3 innings with an exceptional 13% swinging strike rate.
There have been some serious bumps in the road, but Gibson finally appears to be turning back into the guy that Minnesota hoped would be a mainstay in their rotation. With no guaranteed contract for next year, and with the Twins in the thick of the wild-card race, he has every incentive to keep it up.
Chris Flexen - SP, NYM
Owned in 1% of Yahoo leagues
If not for a barrage of injuries striking the Mets rotation, Flexen wouldn't be up in the majors right now. He's a 23-year-old who had only seven starts of experience above Single-A when he first got the call in late July.
But the young right-hander earned the opportunity by taking full advantage of his brief time in Double-A, and while his first exposure to the big leagues hasn't been spotless by any means, there is plenty to like.
Flexen opened this season at High-A after getting a late start due to minor knee surgery, but quickly was bumped up to Birmingham just three starts in. Once there, he was absolutely brilliant, turning in a quality start in each of his seven turns while holding opponents to a .165 average and striking them out at a 28% rate.
It was a big step forward, and enough to convince the Mets that Flexen was ready for the big stage. And while the rookie struggled out of the gates, lasting only three innings in both of his first two outings, he's looked a whole lot better of late.
Flexen has won three of his past four starts, completing at least five innings in each. His control has been a real issue, evidenced by a 15-to-15 K/BB ratio, but he hasn't been getting hit all that hard, which would seem to bode well if he can start finding the zone more. And that's a reasonable expectation, given the massive gap between Flexen's 4% walk rate in Double-A and his 15% rate with the Mets.
Meanwhile, he can get strikeouts with his mid-90s fastball and solid breaking stuff, as he showed in the minors earlier this year. All of these factors come together to cast the young hurler in a light of considerable upside for the final month.