Toby Hyde, Mets Minor League Blog:
The Las Vegas 51s started Wilmer Flores
at shortstop and Eric Campbell
at second on Sunday and Monday.
Flores is listed at 6’3″, 203 lbs, while Campbell goes 6’3″, 207 lbs. Combined, that’s 12’6″, 410 lbs of middle infielder. If only they could set picks while turning double plays, or block baserunners going first to third, the Mets might really be onto something.
In both cases, Danny Muno finished the game at second for defensive purposes.
The Mets have promised for over three weeks now that when Flores began his season in Triple-A, he would play shortstop. This is a pretty dramatic reversal for the Mets and Flores and a dramatic condemnation of the team’s options at short in the big leagues and upper minors.
Flores has not been a shortstop in the minors for over two full years — playing third, second and first base instead. Before playing at shortstop for Las Vegas on Sunday, his last game as a professional shortstop in American professional baseball was September 3, 2011 with advanced Single-A St. Lucie. Let’s put it another way: Over two years ago, the Mets decided that Flores did not have the range to play shortstop. They have spent the last two seasons trying to find him a position. Now, he’s back at short.
Flores spent much of the winter working out with Mike Barwis at his Michigan gym. He’s in better shape now at age 22 than in previous years. He’s still not going to play anything like a league average shortstop. I asked a pair of scouts, one of whom had seen Flores this spring, and one who has seen him many times over the last few years, what they thought of him playing shortstop. One laughed and the other shook his head. One, an American League evaluator, believed the only spot for him, given his slow feet was first base.
However, the Mets’ inclination to return Flores to shortstop makes sense given that there are really no other viable alternatives in the organization anywhere close to helping the big league team. Flores did hit .321/.357/.531 in Triple-A last year with 36 doubles and 15 homers in 107 games at age 22. And yes, he struggled in the big leagues. And yes, he should learn to be more selective as he walked under 6 percent of the time in both Triple-A and MLB, where the world’s best pitchers exploited his aggressive approach. In a world where Ruben Tejada gets injured or repeats his 2013 performance, Flores just might be the Mets’ best upper level option to get something from shortstop. The calculation would have to be that he provides enough with the bat to make up for his defensive shortcomings.
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#5 Wilmer Flores
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 190
Acquired: NDFA (8/6/07)
Born: 8/6/91 (Valencia, VZ)
2013 Rank: #4 (12: 17) | Stats
Why Ranked Here: At age 22, Wilmer Flores hit his way to the big leagues. He still has some of the best hands at the plate I’ve seen in a decade of minor league baseball. He is still searching for a position to play defensively.
That Flores put up gaudy numbers (.321/.357/.531) in the Pacific Coast League in 2013 was not a surprise. His numbers were driven by an increase in his batting average on balls in play from .326 in AA in 2012 to .342 in AAA in 2013 and a slight increase in his extra-base hit rate from 10.2% to 11.9%. That last number is not totally a desert mirage: he’s growing into his power. His winter working out in Michigan
However, and this is crucially important, his walk rate slipped from 7.3 in AA to 5.4% in AAA. Basically, Flores’ simple aggressive approach worked extremely well in the minors. It will be trouble in the big leagues and in fact was a problem in his first exposure to big league pitching when he fanned in 22.8% of his plate appearances with walks in just 5%.
Now, about that defense problem. Despite the fact that the Mets returned to Flores to shortstop in Spring Training, 2014, and plan to play him there in Las Vegas in the regular season, I still do not think he will have adequate range to play the position. His hands work fine, and he has more than enough arm for the left side of the diamond. This is about feet and quickness. The 2014 Mets might do better with Flores playing shortstop over Ruben Tejada if the difference in value between their bats is larger than the difference in their gloves. That does not mean that Flores is a longterm answer at short. He’s not. I’ve seen enough from him that I think aggressive positioning and shifting will allow him to be adequate – like a few runs below average, to maybe even average in his best years – at second base.
Flores’ bat is certainly an asset at three infield positions: shortstop, which he can’t play, third, which he can’t play because of David Wright, and second, which he will play eventually. If he has to slide all the way down the defensive spectrum to first base, is his bat still an asset? I don’t think it is, unless he finds more plate discipline and more power (and yes, often those come together).
It’s worth pointing out that Flores has modest platoon splits – a .799 OPS against righties in 2013 and a .889 against lefties against whom he bopped .313/.358/.531 in 162 PA. Flores is more than ready to step in to crush lefties if the Mets need an extra infielder. He’ll return to MLB after the next infield injury.
2013: After 107 games in AAA Las Vegas, Flores made his big league debut on August 6 in a 3-2 win over the Rockies.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Really good 2B, with some All-Star games in his future.
Debbie Downer Says: First baseman without enough pop to make a big impact.
Projected 2014 Start: AAA Las Vegas
MLB Arrival: Happened already, and will happen again in 2014.
MLB.com moves forward with their position-by-position prospect rankings, and yesterday, put Wilmer Flores at #10 among all Major League second-base prospects.
He slots in behind Kolten Wong (Cardinals), Rougned Odor (Rangers), Mookie Betts (Red Sox), Arismendy Alcantara (Cubs), Devon Travis (Tigers), Jonathan Schoop (Orioles), Taylor Lindsey (Angels), Eddie Rosario (Twins) and Micah Johnson (White Sox). I’ve seen four of those guys play live.
Here’s the comment on Flores:
Flores has a knack for putting his bat on the ball and has begun to realize his power potential. Though he played almost exclusively at third base during his brief time in New York, he profiles best at second base and is nearly ready for a full-time spot in the big leagues.
The question remains whether he has the foot speed and agility to play second. I am far from sold on this point. He’s quite likely to outhit many of the players in front of him on the list, but he also has to prove that he can play second base.
Almost there… we can finish the infield by looking at Mets prospects by position with third base. It’s thin here.
It’s a much shorter list than the compilation of shortstops. We began with catcher, first base and second base. So, off we go to the hot corner…
1. Wilmer Flores
2. Aderlin Rodriguez
3. Pedro Perez
4. Jhoan Urena
1. I could have made Flores the Mets top first base prospect. However, I placed him here because I think his value would be maximized by playing third, which he began doing regularly stateside in 2012.
Flores was not great at third in 2013, but I think a team can play him there everyday. He should have enough arm for third, and the hands for the position. However, his relatively slow feet will put him out of position occasionally, and put him at a higher risk of throwing errors. It’s possible he winds up playing mostly first base in the big leagues.
Flores, who will be 22 on Opening Day 2014, can hit. He’s hit at every minor league stop. However, in 2013, he posted a career-best .210 isolated slugging percentage in Las Vegas and a walk rate of 5.4%, his lowest since his Florida State League in 2010 and 2011. Once in the big leagues, his walk rate slipped to 5.0%. That is below average. It is extremely difficult to be a valuable offensive player with a walk rate that low. A quick flip through Fangraphs’ “Offense” stat, suggests that no player in the Top 30 in baseball had a walk rate that low until we get to Starling Marte at #31. Flores has been better in the winter, running walk rates of 8.2% and 9% in the last two winters in Venezuela and 7.3% in 2012 in the AA Eastern League.
Anyway, Flores won’t play third base for the Mets, unless David Wright is hurt. So, he will likely begin 2014 in Las Vegas working largely at second, with games at both first and third to stay sharp at both in case the Mets need help at either.
2. Rodriguez hit .260/.295/.427 with 14 doubles and nine homers in 62 games for St. Lucie in an injury-shortened campaign. He followed that up with a .194/.205/.222 line with zero walks and 18 strikeouts in 19 games in the Arizona Fall League. There’s real power here, but maybe nothing else.
3. I saw the best game of Pedro Perez’s life, when he smacked two home runs on July 4th. He’s a big kid who hit .264/.314/.365 at age 18 in the Appalachian League where he picked up all but nine plate appearances against pitchers older than himself.
4. Urena, who the Mets signed for $425,000 in 2011, hit .299/.351/.376 in 47 games in the GCL in 2013, while turning 19 on September 1. He drew nice reviews from
1. Baseball America’s Ben Badler “Switch-hitter who can drive the ball from both sides … he’s made a lot of strides with his pitch recognition and hitting approach and the raw power is definitely in there. He’s a big-bodied guy so he’s going to have to work to stay at third base, but the bat potential there is very intriguing.”
2. Jeff Moore (now at BP): “Urena stood out on the field because of how he moved for a guy his size. Listed at 6’1″ 200 lbs., he’s probably put on a few additional pounds since then. The additional size helps him generate a powerful swing, but he handles it well, especially at third base. Despite his size, he shows good range at the position, and while he still has the inconsistencies that come with being 18, his hands are soft enough to become a good, consistent defender there. He has a plus arm that fires the ball across the diamond with easy action.”
- Wilmer Flores (Bravos de Margarita – VWL) – The 22-year-old played in three straight games for the second straight week. This time, he was 5-for-10, with a double, a homer, a walk, a strikeout and a caught-stealing. He’s now hitting .372/.451/.488 with six walks and four strikeouts in 12 games.
- Juan Lagares (Aguilas Cibaenas – DWL) - DNP last week. Still resting his knee, which is scheduled to keep him out for three weeks.
That Bullpen Battle
- Joel Carreno (Escogido - DWL) – Just one appearance in the last week (1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1.1 BB, 0 K). He’s allowed three runs, two earned on six hits in 14 games).
- Jeurys Familia (Gigantes del Cibao – DWL) – No appearances in the last week for Familia who has a 12/6 K/BB ratio in 10.2 off-season innings between the AFL and the DWL.
- Gonzlez Germen (Toros del Este – DWL) - The 26-year-old has not appeared in a game since November 30.
See You in Sin City (Projected Las Vegas 51s on Opening Day 2014)
- C Juan Centeno – (Gigantes de Carolina – PWL) – Four games in the last week for the 24-year-old in which he hit a combined 7-for-11 with two doubles. He’s up to .275/.333/.392 in 19 games in Puerto Rico.
- LHP Chase Huchingson (Aguilas del Zulia - VWL) – The 24-year-old did not throw this week.
- OF Cesar Puello (Toros del Este – DWL) – After a really bad start to the winter season, Puello is almost back to hitting .200 after a week in which he played four games, going 3-for-12 (.250) with zero extra-base hits, two strikeouts and a walk, his second in 33 games. He’s now at 25 strikeouts against two walks with two extra-base hits, both homers and is four of five stealing bases to go along with a .198/.238/.260 line overall in the Dominican.
- SS Wilfredo Tovar has not played since November 21 for Navegantes del Magallanes in Venezuela.
- RHP Ryan Fraser (Leones de Ponce – PWL) – After a 5.63 ERA and a 25/26 K/BB in AA this year, Fraser has allowed two runs on eight hits in 7.1 innings in five games in Puerto Rico. Fraser actually has some work to do to break camp in AAA, and his Opening Day assignment will also depend on how many reliever types the Mets bring in for their big league bullpen and AAA and the subsequent cascade down through the system.
Bingo Bound/Hoping to break camp in AA
- INF TJ Rivera (Indios de Mayaguez - PWL) – The 25-year-old was 1-for-3 with a homerun last Monday in Puerto Rico to push his winter line to .308/.357/.538 with a homer, a walk and one strikeout in nine games.
… The non-drafted free agent has worked his way up the Mets’ system in the last year culminating in a .289/.348/.351 line with two homers for St. Lucie while playing 111 games at second base and backing up 15 games at shortstop. He’s a pretty safe bet to begin 2014 at NYSEG stadium.
- C Xorge Carrillo (Aguilas de Mexicali – LMP) – The 24-year-old extended a five-game hitting streak in Mexico with a 3-for-5 game that included a double and a homer and four RBI. He’s up to .283/.351/.384 in 43 games this winter for Aguilas. He has never played in 43 games in an US-based professional season, topping out at 36 this past season with Binghamton and St. Lucie. He’s a thick 6’1″ who has He will be fighting with Cam Maron in Spring Training for the right to break Spring Training with AA Binghamton as Kevin Plawecki’s backup.
-RHP Miller Diaz (Leones del Caracas - VWL) – A starter in Brooklyn in 2013, Diaz will likely open 2014 in the Savannah rotation. In 8.1 innings over 11 games out of the bullpen in Venezuela, he’s walked seven and fanned six.
And Our Player of the Week…
Wilmer Flores. He hit .500 with a homer. That’ll do. He still has more walks than strikeouts in his brief Venezuelan season. He does not have a position yet for the 2014 Mets, but he’s hitting.
Late Monday night, the Mets announced that they were giving Wilmer Flores, who turns 22 on Tuesday, the best gift a ballplayer could ever want: his first big league callup.
Flores has had a strong season in the hitter-friendly environment of Las Vegas, hitting .321/.357/.531 with 36 doubles, four triples and 15 homers and 25 walks against 63 strikeouts in 463 PA over 107 games. His isolated slugging percentage is a career-best .210 as is his 11.9% extra-base hit rage. He’s walked in 5.4% of his plate appearances (too low) and fanned in 13.6% (wonderfully low). He’s 8th in the PCL in batting average, #2 in doubles, fourth in hits, tops in extra-base hits and second in total bases. Using wOBA, which (EDIT: does not) adjust for park environment, he’s 12th in the PCL (.385).
The previous paragraph pretty much covers what Flores does well: he hits. He makes consistent line drive contact. He might have had the best hand-eye-bat coordination I have ever seen in a-ball. He’s not an elite bat speed guy, but he has more than enough to catch up to any fastball. He’s not a major power in the sense that he won’t put on show at 5 pm in batting practice (or he did not used to), but he has plenty to make a pitcher pay for a mistake. He just makes barrel contact and lots of it. He has a balanced swing and handles velocity and breaking stuff. His strikeout rate of 13.6% is actually his highest of his minor league career. His walk rate has bounced around, peaking stateside at 7.3% in double-A in 2012 before slipping to 5.4% in AAA this year. If he has a flaw as a hitter, it is his knowledge that he can handle any minor league fastball, and swing at it, and probably put it in play reasonably hard somewhere. He will need to be a little more patient in the big leagues.
Defensively, he has soft hands and plenty of arm for any infield position, including third or short on the left side of the diamond.
Now for the negatives: 1. he’s slow and 2. because of that, he’s still looking for his everyday home on the diamond.
The table below tracks Flores’ games by position by year as a professional.
When the Mets initially moved Flores off of shortstop to thirdbase in 2012, reviews from scouts were downright hostile. As the season wore on they became slightly more tempered to the point that his supporters felt his bat could carry him at third although his glove would likely always be below average. Flores, who had played some second base in winter ball in Venezuela, began playing the keystone stateside in 2012 to similarly poor reviews. The issue is not hands. It is simply range. He a big guy with slow feet. His bat plays best at second, but he will give back some of his value at the position to grounders that leak by him into the outfield. Blocked in the big leagues at third once the Mets re-signed David Wright, Flores played second base exclusively for Las Vegas except for one game at third on April 15, until he mixed in a game at first on May 12. He played first once every two or three weeks until early July when he played first base six times in 10 games from July 7 through July 24, sandwiched around a sprained ankle. Flores shifted back to third base Saturday and Sunday and played first and third on Monday night.
Defensively, I think the Mets would be best off in the near term with Flores at third base and Daniel Murphy at second. There’s a tradeoff between the fact that Flores’ footspeed works better at third than at second, and that he has played very little third base this year while Murphy has made himself into a solid second baseman and seen relatively little work at third. He’s going to field most of what’s hit to him where ever he plays. The question is how many balls he can reach.
I’m eager to see how Terry Collins deploys Flores defensively. I’m also looking forward to watching him hit, just because he can.
Baseball America notices that Wilmer Flores is hitting well for AAA Las Vegas and pegs him as one of the prospects “surging” into the second half:
Flores has cracked 16 extra-base hits (five HR, 10 2B, one 3B) in the past 26 games for Las Vegas. With an uncharacteristic 22-4 K-BB ratio in that time, he appears to be making a concerted effort to hit for power, and so far it’s been working. Only Albuquerque outfielder Nick Buss has more extra-base hits (17) in this sample. The 21-year-old Flores has played four of his past eight games at first base, suggesting he may be auditioning for a look at that position in New York this summer.
AAA: @ Tacoma Rainiers (SEA) 2, Las Vegas 51s 0
Vegas collected just three hits total against Mariners’ prospect Danny Hultzen and three relievers. Hultzen, the #2 overall pick in the 2011 draft, was excellent: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K.
2B Wilmer Flores was 1-for-4 with a double, his 25th, and a strikeout. The 22-year-old is hitting .311/.348/.510 overall and .359/.396/.609 in 92 AB against lefties.
Against Hultzen and friends, 1B Ike Davis was 0-for-4. His second straight o-for dropped him down to .283/.433/.660 in 15 games in AAA. He’s actually 6-for-18 with a double and two homers against lefties in AAA, SSS and all.
AA: The B-Mets were rained out for the second straight night.
It’s like a rain cl0ud is following that affiliate around the North-East.
AAA: @ Tucson Padres 5, Las Vegas 51s 3
Hey, remember that power-hitting 1B the Mets used to have? Also, remember that guy who hit .161/.242/.258 in 55 games this year in New York? Well, he’s hit safely in five straight games in AAA, and has back-to-back two homerun games. In 11 games in AAA, he’s hit .333/.480/.744 with four doubles and four homers, to go with nine walks and seven strikeouts. Everything is good there. Ike Davis is hitting for power, he’s walking and not striking out too much.
It’s almost like it’s easier for a player to learn something and iron out their kinks at an easier level. Remember this next time you wonder why a player has not been promoted.
2B Wilmer Flores also homered, his eighth of the year. The 21-year-old is hitting .309/.349/.504 with 23 doubles, four triples and eight homers (that’s 35 XBH total) in 71 games.
Chris Schwinden (3-7, 6.37) was Schwindeny: 5 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR
AA: Erie Seawolves (PIT) 5, Binghamton Mets 2
Who didn’t play? RF Cesar Puello had his second-straight night off. According to Press & Sun Bulletin beat man, Lynn Worthy, Puello had a sore foot. One of the dangers of leading the Eastern League in HBP is the cost of missing a few games with nicks and bruises.
RHP Logan Verrett (8-3, 3.97): 7.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, 2 HR. Verrett threw a silly 78% of his pitches for strikes which explains the 11k/1 BB, but the hits and homers are the result of so many below average fastballs in the zone. In a league where the average ERA is 4.04, Verrett, at 3.97 is basically average. He’s fourth in walk rate, fourth in innings pitched, and has allowed the second most HR in the League (13).