Michael Flynn

Arizona athletics

Editor’s note: The Star’s Zack Rosenblatt is counting down the 50 best athletes on the UA campus right now, with help from athletes, coaches and those close to the program.

No. 48: Michael Flynn

Sport: Baseball

The details: Flynn is a 6-foot-3 right-handed pitcher from Los Alamitos, California, who came to the Wildcats as part of coach Andy Lopez’s final recruiting class at Arizona before he stepped down, and was replaced by Jay Johnson before last season. Flynn was a spot starter and Arizona’s most consistent pitcher out of the bullpen this season, and Johnson called him the “go-to guy” out of the pen.

The numbers: Flynn didn’t pitch much as a freshman, appearing 14 times across 15º innings, managing a lackluster 5.17 ERA with 14 strikeouts and six walks in 2016. As a sophomore, he was 5-0 with a 3.29 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 52 innings, with a team-best .216 batting average against.

Flynn’s value: The Wildcats pitching staff was short on consistency in 2017, and Arizona is set to lose its staff ace (J.C. Cloney) and its next-best starter in Cameron Ming, who was selected in the 14th round of the MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles. The Wildcats will need Flynn to transition from a bullpen role to full-time starter next season, and it’ll be some combination of Flynn and Cody Deason heading Arizona’s pitching rotation.

Why Flynn? Arizona’s coaching staff has talked about Flynn’s ability to become a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, citing his athleticism and mental make-up along with his improving pitching oeuvre. His arsenal includes a low-90s fastball and a hard slider, and he gained confidence this season to pitch both his curveball and change-up for strikes. Next season, talent will meet opportunity.

Proof he’s good: Flynn showed flashes in 2017 of what his potential could be as a starter. In relief against McNeese State, he went six innings, allowing one hit and no walks while striking out seven. In a start against Hartford, he only allowed one earned run in five innings of work and in his last six games, across 13ª innings, Flynn held a 3.38 ERA and struck out 18.

What Flynn can accomplish: He’s locked in as the likely No. 2 starter, and he has the potential to emerge as the staff ace on what should be a competitive Arizona baseball team. A good season as a starter could get him drafted next year, too.

They said it: “The athleticism, the clean arm, you could always see them. You could see them the first time he pitched in the fall of 2015. I think the confidence, concentration, effort and competitiveness have really elevated all through his time here. We saw flashes of it last year. We saw flashes of it early this year. Now he’s pitching at a really high level.” — Jay Johnson in May

He said it: “That’s what I live for… coming in with a couple runners on. I love getting out of those big pressure situations. I just feel like that’s the spot I need to be in. Those innings I come into, they can turn into big innings so I just try to give my team a chance and get ’em back into the dugout as quickly as I can.” — Flynn to SB Nation

Contact:zrosenblatt@tucson.com or 573-4145. On Twitter: @ZackBlatt