We’re now seven games into the career of Wilmer Flores. But the overriding dynamics of how he can help the Mets haven’t really changed much.
He looks like he can hit major league pitching, but I conclude that more on the strength of his minor league numbers in total than on 29 big league plate appearances. He’s been playing third base, but the Mets have that David Wright guy. And projecting Flores’ hitting to be worth playing him at first base is sufficiently questionable that I probably wouldn’t do it, especially with Ike Davis around, and a floor like Lucas Duda’s production available as well.
But second base: that’s an interesting case.
Daniel Murphy, early this season, appeared to have locked down the position. Not only had his adequate offense held steady, but he’d managed to turn poor-but-passable defense at the position in 2012 into plus defense there, through two months, in 2013.
But Murphy’s defense, in my view, has deteriorated badly as the season has progressed. And UZR has him back down to even, roughly, so he’s been well below average since the end of May. The hitting is right around league average, too. Overall, the picture is of a guy who is a slight net positive at the position, but only slight.
What it also means is that the bar for Flores to be the team’s best possible option at second base in 2014 has been lowered. If Flores is league average offensively, like Murphy’s been this season, he simply needs to be league average defensively to match Murphy’s overall value, or somewhere below league average if Murphy’s two strong defensive months were the outlier.
And every bit of offense Flores provides above league average is a little less effective he needs to be defensively at second base to equal Murphy’s production, while Flores will be doing it for a lot less money, thanks to his pre-arbitration status.
The complication here may be that Flores hurt his ankle again last night, further compromising his range. And range is apparently the major limitation to Flores’ ability to play second, or third, or anywhere else.
But Murphy’s production of late, at bat and in the field, has altered just how risky it would be for the Mets to try Wilmer Flores at second base, and see if it can work.