There has been plenty of chatter over the last couple of years in regards to prospect Wilmer Flores and his eventual role with the organization at the MLB level. With the current state of the outfield, some fans have been asking whether it would be a good idea to move Flores out there, but Toby Hyde of Mets Minor League Blog has been saying from the beginning he’s not quick enough to be successful out there. MetsBlog reported yesterday the plan is to continue having the young prospect play third and second base in 2013, but as he continues to progress through New York’s minor league system, what will his value be to the Mets at the Major League level?
It’s tough to project exactly how Flores will continue to develop because he’s so young, but 2012 was his best overall season in the minors, as he spent significant time with both Single-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton. Between both levels, the Venezuelan put together a .300/.349/.478 line to go with 18 homers, 75 RBI, 30 doubles, 68 runs, 38 walks, and 60 strikeouts. Out of those statistical categories, five of them were personal bests (on-base, slugging, homers, runs, and walks), while three others (batting average, RBI, and doubles) ranked as his second-highest season totals.
Flores’ experience at such a young age is starting to show legitimate progress at the plate; since he was promoted to St. Lucie in the middle of the 2010 season, he’s seen his BB-rate rise from 3.1% to 7.3%, while his K-rate has continued to decrease from 13.8% to 10.9%. Wilmer decided to continue playing at home in the Venezuelan Winter League this year, and despite a hot start, he cooled off considerably to finish the season, as he hit .176 in his final ten games, posting a season triple slash of .272/.338/.410 with 5 homers and 20 RBI. He was a bit inconsistent down in the Caribbean, but I think that can be attributed to what has likely been the longest season of baseball he’s ever played, which spanned 182 games.
It will be interesting to watch is how Flores adjusts to a season where he splits time more evenly between second base and third base. If he’s not dangled in a potential trade for a player like Justin Upton, it’s very possible the organization may be grooming him to the be the next everyday second baseman at the Major League level. After playing his first four professional seasons at shortstop and posting a less than stellar .959 fielding percentage and 4.13 range factor, New York decided to move him to third base in 2012. If Sandy Alderson was unable to agree to a contract extension this winter with David Wright, we might have seen Flores stay at the hot corner full-time to continue getting a feel for the position. Now that Wright is blocking Flores’ path to the Majors, he needs a new path, which is where second base comes in.
He got a taste of the right side of the infield last season, and although it was a small sample size, his .991 fielding percentage and 4.30 range factor at second base (27 games played) is more encouraging than his performance at third (.947 fielding % and 2.07 RF/G). Toby Hyde doesn’t feel as though Flores won’t have enough foot speed to have significant range over an entire season at second base, but I disagree.
Obviously, we haven’t seen how he truly would adjust to the position, but at the age of 21 and the right kind of coaching, he could turn into an adequate fielding second baseman. Daniel Murphy is still a work in progress at the position, but he’s improved a lot over a year’s time; enough to be considered one of the MLB’s top-10 at the position right now. With enough work and feel for the position, a professional ballplayer should be able to adapt to something different; that’s why it was an easier transition for Murphy to go from third to second than from third to left field; he had no feel for fielding a fly ball. Flores may not have great range now, but with more reps and game experience, his instincts will improve, aiding his reaction time and first step.
So, although he’s likely at least a couple years away and we’d like to see how he responds to a his first full year against Double-A pitching and playing second base, I think the future is bright for Wilmer Flores to eventually be manning an infield position at Citi Field. He’s progressing nicely at the plate and may finally be finding himself a home at a position the Mets may need to fill in the near future.
What do you think the future holds for Wilmer Flores with the Mets? Will he be playing second base, another infield position, or the outfield in Flushing? Or, better yet, do you think he’ll eventually be traded if there is no room on the field for him at the Major League level?