Can Wilmer Flores play second? It’s the question I focused on as I watched a very spring training-ish 6-4 Mets loss on Monday night. Matt den Dekker made a ridiculously good catch to rob Anthony Rendon of a homerun that ended up on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays. Still, we knew he could go get it. How about Flores?
The former shortstop moved to third last year, and then started mixing in time at second base for AA Binghamton. He’s played at the keystone the last few winters too.
Monday, he looked just fine. He initiated a double-play in the first inning. In the second inning, he made a nice turn on a 5-4-3 double play, reaching back towards first to corral a slightly off-target David Wright throw. In the third inning, he handled a chance ranging maybe five or six steps to his left, before going into a half-slide to make the pickup. A batter later, he tracked down a chopper up the middle, but by the time he reached it, he had no chance to get the speedy Eury Perez.
All in all, it was a nice night for Flores. After the game, Terry Collins seemed pleased, “He’s adapted to secondbase,” the skipper said. “Being a middle infielder by trade, secondbase should be a fairly easy spot for him to play. He’s done a very, very good job over there. I just want to get him some playing time and take a look at him under some different [conditions]. I’ve been very impressed by Wilmer. He came here a month ago, to get ready for spring training, and I’m very impressed by that.”
Earlier in the day, when discussing Flores and his range at second, Collins pointed out that Dan Uggla has made a living playing the position. In the 2010-2012 period, Uggla is second among MLB second baseman with 88 homeruns, trailing only Robinson Cano (90) and is sixth in wOBA and wRC+. However, he gives back some of that value when he’s not at the plate. By UZR, he’s ranked 32nd of the 35 qualified second baseman at -17.8 runs below average, or nearly two wins for the last three years. Despite a career-best +2 in 2012, he’s averaged -4.6 runs below average in his first seven seasons. Total Zone Rating, also saw improvement from Uggla in 2012, giving him a career-best +9, but takes a similarly dim view of Uggla’s overall career-long defensive value, measuring him as averaging -8 runs/year through his first six years.
Again, playing second at the Uggla-level is an extremely low standard and Collins knows that. (The Robert Andino level is Major League average by UZR in the last three years.) Uggla’s defense is palatable because he puts the ball over the wall. The comparison suggests that Collins knows playing Flores at second will to some degree, involve trading defense for offense.
PS: Big thanks to Amazin Avenue’s Chris McShane for passing along the audio from Terry Collins. I made the Spring Training mistake of staying in the seating bowl until the last pitch of the ninth inning and missed TC’s brief media session.