The second installment of the prospects series revolves around the 19-year old Venezuelan bat with a position TBD, Wilmer Alejandro Flores.
Get it? I'm off to drink some arsenic for doing this.
Report after the jump.
DOB: 8/6/91; Height/Weight: 6-3/175; B-T: R/R
Flores was signed out of Venezuela in 2007 by the trio of Sandy Johnson/Ismael Cruz/Robert Alfonzo and was immediately named the 4th best Met prospect by Kevin Goldstein without a single minor league at-bat:
One of the top international prospects this summer, Flores signed with the Mets for $700,000. He has a huge frame and the potential for plus-plus raw power to go with the hitting skills to make consistent hard contact. Defensively, he has soft hands and an above-average arm. He's an average runner.
However, Flores will almost certainly outgrow shortstop, as he's already big, just 17 years old, and has a thick lower half. Looking forward, he has the hands and arm to profile well at the hot corner.
Flores has impact potential with the bat, but with an optimistic MLB ETA of 2011-12, there's still a long way between the current and the potential future. The Mets have no expectations for Flores in 2008 beyond him getting acclimated to professional baseball and getting some at-bats in the Gulf Coast League.
Flores began his age 16 season in the Appalachian League with Kingsport and was quite good in his 59 games in rookie ball with a .310/.352/.490 split in 265 PA with 8 HR, 24 XBH, and 12 BB/28 K. His fielding was respectable for a 16 year old shortstop with a 93.4% fielding percentage and a 4.67 range factor. He concluded the season with an unimpressive 8-game stint in Brooklyn along with 1 game in Savannah ending the season with a .307/.347/.468 split.
Based upon this impressive debut, Baseball America named him the 44th-best prospect in baseball prior to the 2009 season. He received a 4-star rating from Kevin Goldstein that came with the following caveat in addition to the scouting report:
[The question of whether (Fernando) Martinez or Flores should be number one haunted me for a while, but in the end I saw Flores as what Martinez was a few years ago, except that Martinez has since accomplished something at the upper levels.]
This high-profile Venezuelan signee had a stunning pro debut, slugging seven home runs before his 17th birthday. Where his offense is concerned, Flores' potential is through the roof. His bat is nearly as fast as Martinez' and he has more power potential and as much plate coverage as anyone in the system. He worked well with coaches, making significant defensive improvements throughout the season.Flores' bat is tremendous, but it's also his only plus tool. He's a shortstop in name only, and has nowhere near the speed or range to play the position as a professional. He'll be moved to third base initially, but with his thick build likely to limit his mobility as he matures, many think he'll end up at first base or in left field.
The Mets do not have any issues with rushing young players if their talent justifies it. Flores will begin the year as one of the youngest players in the Sally League at Low-A Savannah, where he'll likely stay at shortstop for now.
Flores spent the entire 2009 season in the Sally League as a 17-year old, and while the numbers did appear unimpressive one must consider the age and competition when looking at his .264/.305/.332 splits in 125 PA at Savannah. Yes, the strikeouts increased by virtue of a larger sample size, but perhaps the most disconcerting offensive stat was that he had the same number of XBH (25) and only 9 more walks as he had the year prior with 226 more PAs. Home runs dropped from 8 to 3, but he did post his best defensive season as a pro thus far (97.4%, 6 FRAA) despite declining range.
As a result of the somewhat underwhelming 2009, Baseball America rated him the 88th best prospect in baseball (2nd best Met prospect) prior to the 2010 season, though KG kept him at 4-stars:
The top young hitter in the system didn't impress statistically in his full-season debut, but scouts still liked what they saw. Flores has big offensive potential. His bat speed ranks with anyone in the system, and he already has an excellent feel for contact. He projects for above-average power as his frame fills out and he learns how to drive balls more consistently. His arm is well above average.
Flores just isn't a shortstop. He's big and not especially athletic, with average speed at best and poor instincts. His profile will likely fit best in right field, but some would like to see him at third base before getting moved further to the wrong side of the defensive spectrum. Like many young hitters, a more patient approach could lead to a major step forward.
Because of his youth, the Mets are comfortable with Flores returning to Savannah if necessary, with the hope that he can earn the promotion to the High-A Florida State League as opposed to just being handed one.
Flores returned to Savannah to begin the 2010 season, and performed better (though not dominant) with .278/.342/.433 spilts with 8 HR, 27 XBH, and 23 BB/37 K in 307 PA. earning a promotion to St. Lucie in June at age 18. In 67 games and 290 PAs in the FSL, Flores hit .300/.324/.415 with 4 HR, 23 XBH, and a concerning 9 BB/40 K. He made 26 errors in all last season (12 and 14 at respective stops) and his range continued to decline, though with so many projecting him as anything but a shortstop, I'm unsure how much credence to give to the current defensive numbers. I guess they're proving the scouts right. For the year, he was .289/.333/.424 with 11 HR, 50 XBH and 32 BB/77 K in 597 PAs, a vast statistical improvement over his his 2009.
However, KG demoted him to three stars coming into this season:
Best/Worst Tool: Bat/speed
The best pure hitter in the system proved himself at both A-levels as a teenager. Flores can hit, period. With plenty of bat speed, strong wrists, and outstanding hand-eye coordination, he consistently puts the fat part of the bat on the ball and uses all fields. He projects for average-to-plus power down the road, and showed some signs in 2010 of learning how to recognize pitches he can drive. He has very good defensive fundamentals and an above-average arm.
It's impossible to find any talent evaluator who believes Flores can remain up the middle. He's already a below-average runner, and his lower half continues to thicken. He has the tools to play third base, but will need to fill out his power projection to be an above-average player there. His hitting ability gets the better of him at times, as he can become an inpatient hacker at times.
He's going to hit, but where he ends up defensively will ultimately define his future value. Still just 19, there's no need to rush Flores. He'll return to High-A in 2011, but could move up once the weather warms if he's still hitting.
Baseball Prospectus: 3-star Prospect, 98th in Kevin Goldstein's Top 101
Baseball America: #2 Met Prospect, 46th best prospect in John Manuel's Top 50, 10th best prospect in Florida State League,
Flores began fine-tuning his skills at an academy near his home at age 13, but his parents only allowed him to pursue a baseball career upon early graduation from high school. Signed for $750,000 on his 16th birthday, he reached high-A St. Lucie last June as an 18 year old. Flores has always shown natural aptitude for hitting, something that cannot be said for his running or fielding abilities. He puts a charge into the ball with quick wrists and a loose, easy stroke. He doesn't swing and miss much, making rapid adjustments and excelling at barreling the ball and driving it to all fields when he gets extension. The results began to manifest in games last season when he smacked 50 extra-base hits, double his total from 2009. Flores' ability to hit for average and power will be crucial as he moves down the defensive spectrum. His hands work at shortstop, but his lack of first-step quickness and range won't allow him to play up the middle in the majors. He throws well enough to play third base, though his well below-average speed would make an outfield post an adventure. As he fills out and improves his selectivity, Flores could grow into a middle-of-the-order presence. He'll reach Double-A at some point this season, probably before his 20th birthday.
John Sickels: B+
Wilmer Flores began tapping into his immense offensive potential in 2010, performing decently against older competition in the South Atlantic (+11% OPS) and Florida State Leagues (+7%), not awesome numbers but quite respectable given the circumstances and better than his -8% mark in 2009. He still needs to tighten up high strike zone judgment, but overall it was a good season, especially with improved power development. I'm confident in his bat at this point, but the glove remains an issue. He played shortshop all year, but his range is heading into below average territory as me keeps maturing physically. His arm would fit at third base, but even there scouts doubt he'll be more than a mediocre fielder. He probably won't run well enough to play right field at maturity. I don't know how the defense will pan out, and even the bat could use a consolidation season. It will be interesting to see how quickly the new Mets front office is willing to push him. He still has a shot at being a star or a solid regular, so I don't see any reason to change his grade from last. Grade B+
*The Hardball Times: #1 NYM prospect
Wilmer Flores / 3B/SS / His 36 doubles and relatively low strikeout rate are great signs for Flores, a talented teenager holding his own wherever he goes. He is the Mets' unquestioned No. 1 prospect.
*Fangraphs: #1 NYM prospect
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.5
Notes: Flores didn’t have a huge season at the plate but he spent much of the season playing A-ball at the age of 18. The right-handed hitter batted .278/.342/.433 in low-A and then moved up to high-A where he produced a line of .300/.324/.415. Flores was overly aggressive in high-A and saw his walk rate plummet from 7.5% at the lower level to 3.1%. His 36 doubles on the year hint at the raw power he possesses. His strikeout rates have been impressive (14.4% in high-A) given his age; hopefully he can maintain them as his power numbers spike. Flores hits with an open stance and is susceptible to balls on the outer half of the plate. He has a habit of pulling his head off of breaking balls. He also has a lot of movement in the hands, which he clearly uses as a timing mechanism. Flores is at his best when he maintains a level, line-drive stroke and avoids the upper cut. He has enough bat speed that he doesn’t need to generate loft by dropping the head of the bat. Look for his power numbers to spike when he buys into the approach. Flores doesn’t play with as much energy as you might expect from a top-of-the-line prospect and his lack of range will eventually move him off shortstop. He has good arm strength and could end up at third base or an outfield corner.
Diamond Futures: Grade A; #2 NYM prospect
2) Wilmer Flores, SS/3B (2010 – Power 62; Discipline 73; First Base Rate 48; Speed 34)
We were tempted to rank Flores #1 in the system, but in the end he is surrounded by nearly as many questions as is Mejia. Splitting his time evenly, in 2010, between the South Atlantic League (SAL) and the FSL, Flores posted the #2 Performance Score in each League. From a hit standpoint, there is tremendous potential, with lightning quick wrists and a sweet swing, Flores shows plus power potential, precocious strike zone management skills and above average contact. The questions surrounding Flores have to deal with his defensive position. He has soft hands and a strong arm, but lacks the footwork or the quickness for shortstop. The logical move is to third base, and there has been some discussion of even left or right field. We believe his bat will play at any position, but his value drops as he moves to third and even further if he goes to left. Our ranking assumes he won’t be a Major League shortstop. With nearly 300 FSL plate appearances, it is possible that Flores opens 2011 in AA—as a 19yo.
Call to the Pen: 83rd-best prospect in minors
#83.) Wilmer Flores, SS, Mets (High-A)—A conflicting character among prospects, Flores has quite a bit going for him, but quite a bit going against him, and it’s thus harder to rank him than many other prospects. He hit .300 in High-A at age 18, which is extremely impressive, as I mentioned with Choi. Further impressive is the fact that, unlike Choi, Flores did it in a pitcher’s environment over a large sample.
But from there, the problems emerge. Flores isn’t likely to stay in the infield, so the whole "18-year-old shortstop" thing is tempered by his likely position switch (most think right field is his future home). He also walked just nine times in 67 High-A games, which catches up to prospects eventually (see Vitters, Josh). It wasn’t like he was slugging, either, slugging just .415. Flores could certainly develop into an All-Star caliber hitter, but his lack of plate discipline could also catch up to him. He wouldn’t be the first prospect to have that happen. His super-accelerated timetable also makes Flores somewhat hard to judge against his peers. Oh well; just accept that any number of things could happen to him based on the positive and negative signs, and be aware he’s someone to watch, as Flores certainly could be an elite MLB player if things break right.
Deep Leagues: 90th best prospect in minors, 10th best SS prospect in minors.
Fantasy Baseball 101: 91st best prospect in minors
Project Prospect: 100th best prospect in minors (4 is his ceiling, 1 is his floor...es.)
100 Wilmer Flores SS 19.5 NYM A+ 4 (C+/C) 1 (D+) Moderate
Prospect Junkies: 67th best prospect in minors, 8th best SS.
MILB Prospects: 6th best NYM prospect, 5th best prospect in Florida State League
Jonathan Mayo (MLB.com): 6th best SS prospect in minors
6. Wilmer Flores, Mets: The Mets sent Flores to full-season ball in 2009, at age 17, and while he wasn't terrible, he didn't stand out. So they sent him back to the South Atlantic League to start the 2010 season and he earned a midseason promotion to the Class A Advanced Florida State League. His best tool is his bat and he started to show some of the extra-base pop he'll continue to grow into. He may not stay at shortstop long-term, but he might hit enough to be a fine third baseman.
Bullpen Banter: #2 SS prospect in minors (as if this shit didn't have enough opinions, the report has 4 of them)
MH: Wilmer Flores was ranked much higher by some of my colleagues than he was on my list. I really can't see any scenario where he plays SS at the major league level, in fact I'm not sure he could really handle 3B or an outfield corner either. He looks like a future 1B to me, and while his bat has the potential to play there he's still far from a sure thing. He excelled in 2010 between the Sally League and the FSL, but his walk rate leaves much to be desired. I buy him as a top 100 prospect because of the potential his bat holds, but for me he's a back half guy not a top 50 or higher type.
JR: I was much lower on Flores than the remaining members as well. Playing a position that he definitely cannot stay at long term has made predicting his future a bit cloudy. I generally agree with Mike's assessment, but I do not want to write him off at third base until scouts get a look at him playing the position. If he cannot remain at third base, his value takes a major hit. Flores has an excellent hit tool, but the power potential is only average, and he will need to do more than just hit for a high average to work at first base. If Mike Newman is correct in saying that he can play an average third base in the majors (http://scoutingthesally.com/?p=2194), he is quite the prospect. As a result, his ultimate value is extremely volatile, and I will be very interested to see in which direction his career advances.
AS: I think of Flores in the same light as I did Miguel Sano. Really like what I see. Need to see more. Very difficult to know where this is going right now... but the talent is obviously there. I do have some serious concerns about his athleticism and speed, too.
JS: I guess I'm the Flores lover in the group then. I think the poor reviews of his defense early in his career have snowballed out of control. After signing at 16 years old, he didn't have a lot of seasoning, but roughly two years later, Mike Newman of Scouting the Sally has a starkly different view of Flores, "I’m confident he can at least play an average third base at the big league level once his time at shortstop comes to an end. With excellent hands, a strong arm, and enough bat to project a high average and twenty or so home runs annually, he’s a much safer play than most give him credit for." (10/25/2010, link above in Jeff's comment). I don't get too concerned with walk rate until AA, but Flores will need to improve that aspect in his game. For what it is worth, it seems that Wilmer thinks he can be a shortstop. Seems crazy, but I like the confidence. In 17 games this winter he is hitting .373/.386/.588 with 5 2B and 2 HR, which leads Los Bravos de Margarita.
Scouting the Sally report:
Wilmer Flores struggled through his full season debut leading many to back off the lofty expectations originally laid out for him. Miguel Cabrera comparisons quickly faded and any discussion about Flores morphed into his not having enough bat to play a corner position (infield or outfield). It seems nobody let Flores in on the conversation as he raked to the tune of .341/.388/.560 in April quieting many of his doubters, and once again making him a Mets darling. As Ike Davis powered his way through prospect eligibility, Fernando Martinez fell to yet another injury, Jenrry Mejia threw garbage innings in New York, and the big three (Kyle Allen, Jeurys Familia, and Robert Carson) in Port St. Lucie floundered, Flores was busy cementing himself as the top prospect in the organization.
His surge continued into mid-May before the wheels fell off seemingly overnight. Over the past month, a prolonged slump has brought Flores’ gaudy early numbers crashing back to earth. His overall line of .291/.361/.456 remains very strong for an 18-year old in the South Atlantic League, but his April led many to believe Flores was not only worthy of any and all hype received since his signing, but might actually be better!
Physique & Athleticism: Much stronger than in 2009, Flores has put on 10-15 pounds of lean muscle and now has visible muscle definition through his forearms. Some of the awkward movements discussed in my earlier report have also ironed themselves out as Flores is now a more fluid player. However, he still projects as a below-average athlete at full physical maturity. His athleticism should not affect his offensive game as it has, and will continue to come much more naturally to him.
Hitting: Wilmer Flores has a stronger set up this season as his stance has his hands back in a stronger hitting position than last year. His weight is also shifted more on his back leg allowing for better weight transfer. When going well, Flores’ body language speaks of supreme confidence. His load and swing are fluid and his wrists generate excellent bat whip. Seeing him turn on an inside fastball can be a thing of beauty as he keeps his hands inside and drops the barrel on the baseball peppering line drives down the left field line. When Flores trusts his hands, his ability to hit for power up the middle and to right-center field also increases dramatically as he lets the ball travel deep in the zone before exploding on pitches middle-out. Flores also rarely swings at a first pitch when things are going well and tends to work much deeper counts. This has led to his nearly doubling his walk rate in the early going as teams have consistently worked around him since his hot start.
However, Flores either runs VERY hot or VERY cold. When struggling, Flores’ hands become "herky jerky" in his pre-swing and this can throw off his timing mechanism. His feet also inch closer together leading to a more exaggerated stride which may alter his eye level. Additionally, he will sometimes feature a double-tap in his load which does not seem nearly as natural as the simple "walk-away" step he employs when hitting well. Flores is slow to make adjustments leading to prolonged slumps. While this is normal for young hitters, his contact skills and quick hands are those of a high-average hitter. With his power projections being above average, but not elite, hundred at bat cold spells are simply not going to cut it long term for a player whose value will be heavily tied into his hit tool. Flores’ body language also changes and he becomes visibly antsy at the plate. He swings at anything near the strike zone and will take himself out of at bats. He rarely strikes out, but his being over-aggressive on bad balls early in counts leads to weak contact and easy pop outs.
Defense: Flores’ increased athleticism has led to slightly better range this season. His hands are still excellent, and his arm is playable on the left side of the infield. He slows the game down, does a great job of charging the ball and has the ability to make very difficult adjustments on bad hops. However, he will not stay at shortstop long term and will need to find a new home. In 2009, word spread of his being an albatross defensively to the point where his glove would have to be hidden in left field or first base. This opinion is now posted all over the Internet and has been challenged, not only by myself, but by every scout I have spoken to this season. Flores has the hands, reactions, and arm to play at least an average third base, if not a tick above. To assume less would be underestimating his abilities.
Speed: Still well below average, Flores has cut his home-to-first times by two-tenths of a second from last season. I have clocked multiple 4.6 second times to first and believe his times will stabilize in the 4.6 range. Flores will never be a base stealing threat, but he is legging out more doubles than last season which is a huge plus for his overall value.
At this point, I have seen upwards of 300 Wilmer Flores plate appearances and continue to be impressed by his offensive abilities and unheralded defensive prowess. His overall stat line is tremendous when considering his age and the level of competition and he saves his best at bats for highly ranked prospects. This season alone, I have witnessed him take excellent swings off of Braves prospect Arodys Vizcaino, Astros prospect Tanner Bushue, Rockies prospect Tyler Matzek and others. The Mets organization has done the right thing by slowing down his time table and forcing him to dominate for a period of time prior to a potential promotion. This new philosophy will do wonders for his development and make him a much stronger player long term.
Flores video from Scouting the Sally:
(* Sites that do not consider Jenrry Mejia a prospect when doing team reports)