So, the news is mixed. On his 22nd birthday, Wilmer Flores is a member of the New York Mets. He’s scheduled to hit sixth today, and play third base. That’s good. Bobby Parnell has a herniated disk in his neck, is on the disabled list, and surgery is an option. That’s bad.
So today, let’s accentuate the positive, and think about the new talent on the team.
Here’s what we know about him.
Offensively, he’s had a very good season in Las Vegas, with an OPS of .887. But that, frankly, doesn’t mean much, with Las Vegas stats really meaningless for both pitchers and hitters. If you’re so inclined, he’s .955 home, but just .821 away. Still, even that is in a league filled with plenty of hitter-friendly parks, and it is just hard to know what to make of it. My personal take on hitting in Las Vegas is this: if a guy does it, great, it’s a barrier to entry. If he doesn’t, that speaks volumes, and is a huge problem. Well, Flores doesn’t have that problem.
Add in that he’s been young for every league he’s played in, and posted better than .800 OPS at both high-A and Double-A in 2012, and there’s ample reason for optimism about his hitting. He doesn’t walk much, but he also hasn’t struck out much at his last three stops, so he makes a lot of contact. Asking a player to come to a new level and hit as well as he did at his old level is unfair, but hoping for league average offensive production right off the bat seems about right.
The real problem with Flores as a prospect is projecting him at a defensive position. The Mets have, rightfully, been shooting for the moon with Flores, playing him at second base. Interestingly, offense at second or third, his two best-case positions, is more similar than the reputations of the two positions would lead you to believe. In the NL this season, for instance, third basemen are at .720 OPS, collectively, and second baseman are at .703. Much of that edge, by the way, is David Wright.
Which brings us to where Flores fits in. As long as Toby Hyde believes Flores isn’t a second baseman, at least one who doesn’t give back more in range at the position than he does at third base, that leaves him with two options: third base, occupied for the next seven years once Wright returns, or first base, where his offense needs to be much better than at second or third. First basemen in the NL are at .770 OPS this season, and Ike Davis probably does more than his share to deflate that number. Still, if Flores becomes a .900 OPS hitter in the big leagues, that’s worth trading off quite a bit of defense at second base.
So does this next few weeks qualify as a big showcase for a Flores trade this winter? Is it seeing whether Flores can hit enough to take over for Daniel Murphy at second next year, or Ike Davis at first? It could well be any of these things. My advice is to enjoy the graduation of a solid hitting prospect to the big leagues, who fits a need right now, and to worry about the details later, at which point we’ll have more information, anyhow.