Wilmer Flores has been with the Mets for what seems like an incredibly long time. He started his career as a shortstop, where he played until the beginning of last season. Ater it was determined that Flores wouldn’t be able to handle short, he was given time at both third base (87 games) and second base (27 games) last year for High A St. Lucie and AA Binghamton.
What’s important to note, is that Flores is still only 21 years old. He’s played the majority of his minor league games as one of the youngest players in each respective league (he actually appeared in a game for Low A Savannah when he was 16 years old). With David Wright entrenched at third base, the Mets are attempting to find out whether Flores can be adequate defensively at second base. Flores is the one bat in the minor league system that is both close and potentially of the impact variety. Here’s what John Sickels had to say about Flores’ 2012 season:
"Flores’ cachet as a prospect has depended on his bat. Scouts have always liked his swing, but until this year he didn’t hit for much power or draw many walks. On the other hand, he always made contact well,and has shown the ability to deal with both fastballs and breaking stuff, even when he’s overaggressive. The hope was that he would show more power as he gained strength and physical maturity. That has happened this year: he’s driving the ball more effectively to all fields, while maintaining his proclivity for contact."
Over 130 games last season between High A and AA, Flores hit .300 with a .349 OBP, to go along with 18 home runs, 30 doubles, and 75 RBI’s. Mets fans have yearned for the team to move Flores to the outfield, but every scout has stated that Flores is simply too slow to be even passable out there. If Flores is going to make an impact with the Mets, it’ll most likely be at second base. Last night, most Mets fans got their first glimpse of Flores at the position.
July 8, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; World player Wilmer Flores throws to first base during the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
On the first ball that came to him, Flores fielded a grounder near the bag and made a perfect flip to start a double play. On the second play that involved him, Flores gloved a poor throw from David Wright at the bag and threw on to first for another double play. He displayed some range on his third play as he ran to his left, made a sliding stop, spun and threw to first for the out. He showed decent range going to his right and unleashed a strong flat footed throw during the fourth play that involved him, but the throw just missed getting the runner at first base.
Flores played only 27 games at second base last year, and last night was his first taste of second at the big league level. It’s impossible to draw conclusions from one game. Last night, however, is all most Mets fans have to go by, and what Flores displayed was all positive. His hands looked soft, his arm was strong, and his footwork and instincts around the bag both looked good. Throughout his minor league career, Flores has been viewed as someone who would make all the defensive plays he got to. So, it appears his ability to stick at second base may come down to whether he has enough range for the position.
As of now, the Mets are saying Flores will split time in the minors (likely AAA Las Vegas) between second base and third base this season. If I were the Mets, I’d scrap that and allow Flores to play second full time.
Flores is not ready to play second base in the majors, but he just may be able to if he gets some more experience at the position. If Flores can simply be adequate at second in the majors, it has the potential to change the entire dynamic of the team. His bat has always been viewed as special. If you put him at second base, his bat becomes that much more valuable.
Daniel Murphy is the second baseman of this team, and there’s no chance Flores could or should take that from him before the season begins. The Mets, however, would be doing both Flores and themselves a disservice if they didn’t give him every opportunity to prove that he can play second base. If it turns out that he can, a decision will have to be made. Until then, we wait.