Wilmer Flores, Pure Hitter

Posted: August 15, 2013 in by Freddy Berowski

For the last six years, New York Mets fans and Bowman Prospectors alike have been hearing the name Wilmer Flores.  The young slugger’s star has shone brightly, faded darkly, and once again is burning strong.  Once compared to a young Manny Ramirez, Flores signed as a 16 year-old international amateur free agent out of Venezuela and big things were expected of him from the start.  He received a $750,000 signing bonus and immediately reported to Rookie League Kingsport.  After breezing through Low-A Brooklyn he completed the 2008 campaign at Class-A Savannah, finishing with .307/.347/.468 line on the season.

Entering the 2009, Baseball America ranked the sweet swinging young shortstop as baseball’s 47th best prospect.  Flores struggled mightily throughout 2009, posting a .264/.305/.332 line resulting in a repeat at Savannah the following season.  Following-up on the disappointing 2009 campaign, Flores entered 2010 ranked 88th on Baseball America’s Top 100.  Flores’ numbers improved across the board slightly, but his power was still lower than what was expected of him.  It was around this time that scouts and the front office began to believe that his future may not be at shortstop, as Flores body continued to change.  The range just wasn’t there to be an every day big league shortstop, but there were still believers in the swing.

Flores remained at short for the 2011 season where he ranked 59th on Baseball America’s Top 100.  This is the last time Flores would appear on Baseball America’s annual pre-season rankings.  Flores put up similar numbers at High- A St. Lucie, but his meager power output actually decreased in his age 19 season, with his slugging percentage bottoming out at a mere .380.  After the 2011 season, there were many question marks relating to the kid’s future.

The Mets placed Flores for the third time in High-A St. Lucie to start the 2012 season, and in the process, moved him to third base.  Something seamed to click in the 20 year-old as he posted a .289/.336/.463 line in 64 games, earning a promotion to Double- A Binghamton.  Another position switch followed as he was shifted to second base, where he continued to rake.  Flores put up an even better .311/.361/.494 line in 66 games to finish the 2012 season.  But while he starting to show the promise with the bat that was expected of him when he signed four years prior, with average-at-best defense he was starting to earn the reputation of a hitter without a position.

The Mets started Flores in his age 21 season, at Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League.  Flores did not make the Bowman Top 100 or Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospect list to start the season, but he did nothing but rake from day one.  In 107 games for the 51’s, Flores posted a .321/.357/.531 line, with a league leading 86 RBI and an .887 OPS.  Playing primarily second base, Flores performed adequately enough with the glove that when David Wright went down with a leg injury, the Mets felt confident that he could competently fill the role of Mets’ third baseman.  In his first seven big league games Flores posted a .259/.310/.407 line with a home run and nine RBI.

Unfortunately, the other day Flores twisted his ankle running the bases and there remains a strong possibility that it could land him on the disabled list.  It is clear his long-term position with the club is not third base – as that space is occupied by the team captain – but second base and first base are distinct possibilities.

I see Flores long-term as the New York Mets second baseman, where he will provide average defense and a plus bat.  It has been some time since the Mets system developed an All-Star quality bat and regardless of what position Flores ultimately settles at, he has certainly displayed the tools needed to be a plus big league hitter.  Earlier this year, when asked what position Flores would play, Mets Assistant GM and VP of Player Development and Scouting Paul DePodesta said “hitting in an RBI spot.”


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