There are a number of things that make Wilmer Flores interesting. There's his advanced hitting ability. There are his excellent contact skills. There's the awesomely terrible/terribly awesome hairstyle.
But what makes the 22-year-old Flores most interesting to me is that he's perhaps the first Mets prospect whose tenure syncs with my own. Specifically, I've been writing about Mets minor leaguers just about as long as he has been one.
It's something of a sobering situation as I'm forced to admit that I'm approaching old man status. However, the neat by-product is that I have a whole host of commentary more or less chronicling the career arc of the Mets youngest new player. So let's look at it!
Below I've compiled snippets from nearly every story, update, spotlight, meter, etc where I made mention of Flores over the past few years. I've organized everything chronologically, meaning that you'll be able to re-live the ups and downs as they happened while you scroll.
Now let's harken back to those halcyon days of early 2010, shall we? A time when each game wrap was accompanied by a poem and blaming Beltran wasn't something you did just to be ironic. Cut to May of 2010; an 18-year-old Wilmer Flores is fresh off his first full season as a professional -- yet finds himself in the midst of a repeat performance in Class-A Savannah:
May 18, 2010 - Is It Time to Promote Wilmer Flores?
"As I write this Flores leads the Low-A South Atlantic League in average (.364) and OPS (1.008) and ranks 2nd and 3rd in slugging (.589) and on-base (.418), respectively. He also just broke a 10-game hit streak which saw him bat .489/.589/.778 with 2 bombs in that span. Oh and did I mention that Wilmer won't turn 19 until August in a league where the average age is around 21?
Another catalyst for this discussion was the couple of intentional walks he took Sunday, making five total on the season which also leads the circuit and paces the rest of his team who hasn't drawn one, combined. Beyond that, sometimes shortstop Reese Havens was recently promoted from High-A St. Lucie up to Binghamton, seemingly leaving a Wilmer-sized hole at the keystone."
November 1, 2010 - 2010 Mets Minor League Season in Review: St Lucie Mets
"I know I personally take it for granted sometimes but it's really remarkable to think what he's doing at such a young age. In hindsight commentators question FMart's previous superstar rankings as he was merely surviving as an extreme youngster yet never flourishing. Well, Flores not only has age on his side but proved this year that he can flourish as well. Despite a lack of any one plus-plus raw tool, his advanced hitting skills (namely, the ability to not just make contact but consistently make hard contact) at such a young age against advanced competition is what gives him the potential to be special. Carlos Beltran probably hit on it best during his rehab with St. Lucie, stating "When I was 19, I had no idea of the things [Flores] knows."
March 18, 2011 - 2011 Amazin Avenue Top 50 Mets Prospects: Top 10
"Addressed ’09 concerns about power and plate discipline in the first half with Savannah, held his own in Hi-A as an 18-yr old in the second half with St. Lucie. Incredibly advanced hit tool and youth warrants high rankings but positional uncertainty precludes him from elite status."
May 2, 2011 - Mets Top 25 Prospects Performance Meter - April
"Contact-driven AVG is nice but with just five XBH's and six walks -- vs. 14 strikeouts -- we need to see some more secondary skills."
September 14, 2011 - Mets Prospect Mailbag: Josh Satin, Gilbert Gomez and More
"Now nine homers from a teenager in the FSL isn't bad but for the most part his offensive development stalled this year. His power regressed, his plate discipline has taken a step back and frankly, for a kid with no position who is lauded for his advanced hitting ability he has got to bat a lot better than .270 with a sub-700 OPS going forward."
October 31, 2011 - Mets Winter League Hitters Update - Halloween Edition
"However, the interesting thing is in the field, where he's not only played a lot of third -- his probable long-term home -- but suddenly he's been seeing some time at second base, which is something completely new for him as a pro. That in itself makes it interesting. However, I must point out that this is probably less about the Mets than it is the Bravos, who now have four 3B -- and just one 2B -- on the roster. It's no coincidence that Flores shifted over the same day Arizona's Sean Burroughs showed up. But hey, can't hurt to let him try a new position since we know shortstop isn't gonna work."
December 27, 2011 - Mets Winter League Update
"However, despite the hot streak as well as a couple of recent homers he's still not showing the kind of pop that will make him a player regardless of what glove he's holding. We all know he's very good at making solid contact but his current .389 SLG -- which resembles his .380 mark with St. Lucie in 2011 -- isn't going to cut it for a guy that won't stick in the middle infield."
January 14, 2012 - BP's 2012 Mets Top 20 Prospects
"I know that Flores actually wasn't awful in 2011 if you look hard enough but at some point he's got to give us a reason to get excited -- at least if he's going to hang around the top ten -- and IMO he hasn't done that since '09; maybe I'm being overly gun-shy but smells a little too much like FMart."
May 24, 2012 - Prospect Spotlight: Wilmer Flores
The former top overall prospect in the Mets system is currently batting .330 in May with an OPS well over .900 (.310/.347/.497 overall). And the key has been the development of his power game. He's currently sitting at seven home runs through just 42 games for St. Lucie. For reference his career high is 11 in 133 games back in 2010.
Interestingly enough, Flores is rapidly approaching his 1000th career at bat with the Hi-A St. Lucie Mets, a mark that few top prospects hit at any one level. Now don't get me wrong, this is certainly not a damning bit of information; players develop at all different rates.
Just for kicks, let's take a look at the longest -- contiguous -- stays with a minor league affiliate for a few other current Mets:"
June 11, 2012 - 2012 Amazin' Avenue Midseason Mets Top 50 Prospects
"Elite bat is back as power development finally kicked into gear, enough so to quell concerns about defensive home"
"Overall the 20-yr old infielder was batting .289/.336/.463 at the time of the call-up, nothing earth-shattering but a definite improvement from his underwhelming 2011 totals (.269/.309/.380). However one has to wonder if this improvement is a function of real development or familiarity with his context. As we pointed out last month, this represents his third go around with St. Lucie. He's now logged over 1100 pa's at this level, far more than you typically see any prospect spend at any one level."
"After facing questions about his long-term defensive home and worse, a stalling bat Flores has rebounded in a big way this season, batting .289/.336/.463 before being promoted to Binghamton last night. The 20-yr old is one of only two players in the league in the top ten in both K% (11%) and SLG. And despite the fact that he was in his third season in the Florida State League, he was still the thirteenth youngest player in the circuit."
July 4, 2012 - Minor League Ball Updated Top 120 Prospect Rankings
"Very nice to see Wilmer Flores get back onto this list at #76 after barely making Honorable Mention the first time around. Despite the continued loss of positional value, the increased value of his bat now that he's developing real power has him back among the blue chip prospects."
August 28, 2012 – Prospect Spotlight: What Position Will Wilmer Flores Play?
"It's clear that Wilmer won't win any Gold Gloves, but with that in mind I do think he possesses the kind of athleticism to play a similar second base to Daniel Murphy. That is, poor range, probably positioning himself very deep to cut down angles, etc. Again, it's a bad second base but considering his offensive profile it's at least a trade-off worth discussing.
Next is the idea of third base. Again, I agree with Goldstein's assessment that he'd be below average. The other day I used the phrase "big build begets slow feet" with Wilmer, meaning more poor range. However, what he does possess is soft hands and a good arm, both more integral for a serviceable third baseman. But with less range requirements comes the expectation of more pop."
September 5, 2012 - Flores, Montero Top List of Mets 2012 Sterling Award Winners
"After spending the first half of 2012 in Hi-A St. Lucie, the 21-year-old Flores made a huge splash in his first season at Double-A, batting .311 with an .855 OPS through 66 games. Though his defense was still a question mark as he bounced around the infield, mounting questions about his stalled offensive game -- especially his in-game power -- were effectively put to rest."
October 25, 2012 - Mets Winter League Update
"the bat looks primed for a big season at Double-A, which would have him knocking on the door shortly. The only question -- as always -- is the glove. He's been featured exclusively at third thus far, however he's already made three errors. Expect him to continue slotting in wherever he fits around the Bingo infield in 2013, a strategy the big club could very easily borrow to get his bat into the lineup at some point late next season."
October 29, 2012 - Wilmer Flores, Better Than Avisail Garcia
"We already discussed the difference in athleticism, leading to Garcia's big advantage in stolen bases, doubles, and triples. But the real key to this discussion is the elephant in the room: plate discipline. Flores maintained his excellent contact rate in 2012 (11% strikeout rate), while boosting his walk rate to a career high at approximately 7%. Garcia featured a strikeout rate near 20% while his characteristically low walk rate hung around 3%.
Many successful players rise above poor plate discipline to have a lot of success. Hell, Garcia did just that over the final two months of 2012. But the model for sustained success looks a lot more like Flores' approach."
November 5, 2012 - Trading Wilmer Flores
"First off, after batting a resurgent .311 with an .855 OPS in his first run at Double-A in 2012, the 21-year-old Flores clearly declared that he's almost here. His current .857 OPS in the Venezuelan Winter League doesn't hurt, either. It's not unrealistic to suppose he'll be ready to help the Mets at some point in 2013 — maybe before September.
As has always been the case with Flores, however, his defensive value is less than ideal. He never morphed into the shortstop we hoped he'd become a few years back. He's passable at third base, though, so the idea that he'll only survive at first base or DH isn't accurate."
November 19, 2012 - 2012 Mets Minor League Season in Review: Binghamton Mets
"The 21-year old Flores was outstanding in 2012, completely revitalizing a prospect stock that was beginning to sag before the season began. He once again demonstrated one of the most advanced hit tools in the entire minors, let alone the Mets farm system, while showcasing the power game we've long awaited. After some attributed his early-season success to a third try at St. Lucie, Flores performed even better in Binghamton as one of the very youngest players in all of Double-A.
The re-emergence of Flores' outstanding bat couldn't have come at a better time as it helped to counteract the continued decline of his defensive value. Finally moving off of shortstop for good, Flores shifted all over the Binghamton infield getting reps at first, second and third. However, his extreme lack of foot speed minimized his range and consequently his value at second base and to a lesser extent third, where he proved serviceable. The good news is that his bat looks like the real deal no matter where he plays. What he lacks in athletic ability and defensive upside, he makes up for with one of the most advanced bats in all of minor league baseball and it's not a stretch to imagine him as one of the club's best offensive threats by this time next year."
December 15, 2012 - Thoughts on Baseball America's 2013 Mets Top Ten Prospect List
"What first caught my eye was how low -- relatively speaking -- they placed Wilmer Flores despite his big 2012 in Double-A. Obviously they're dinging him for the lack of any positional value -- which I get -- I'm just not sure I buy one of the handful of best bats in all of minor league baseball as the third-best positional prospect in the Mets farm system. I don't get the continued apprehension about his power either; he's a big kid who was projected to grow into it -- and did in 2012."
January 17, 2013 – Mets Winter League Update - January
"Let's start with Wilmer Flores, who began the winter hot as a pistol but didn't necessarily finish that way. In fact, on November 3rd, he was batting .313 with an .849 OPS. Unfortunately, he cooled off down the stretch, batting .176 in his last ten games as his Bravos did not make the cut for the Venezuelan Winter League playoffs. Regardless, he continued to showcase solid plate discipline and a burgeoning power game and looks primed to make his case as an offense-first third baseman in Double-A come spring."
January 18, 2013 - 2013 AA Mets Top 50 Prospect List: #1-10
"In 2012 the 21-year-old demonstrated one of the most advanced hit tools in the entire minors, let alone the Mets farm system, while showcasing the power game we've long awaited as one of the youngest players in Double-A. He continued to make outstanding contact (11% strikeout rate) which, when paired with strong walk rates (7%), consistently put him in good spots to drive the ball. In fact, of any player in Double-A with as low a strikeout rate, Flores ranked second in ISO (.174), trailing only Cardinals uber-prospect Oscar Taveras. The re-emergence of Flores' outstanding bat couldn't have come at a better time as it helped to counteract the continued decline of his defensive value. Finally moving off of shortstop for good, Flores shifted all over the Binghamton infield getting reps at first, second, and third. He'll never offer much in the way of defense, but the good news is that his bat looks like it will play regardless. It's not a huge stretch to imagine Flores as one of the club's better offensive threats by this time next year."
March 25, 2013 – Mets minor league park factors
"Spotlight Performance: Between 2010 and 2012, Wilmer Flores posted a .282/.319/.409 line with St. Lucie. Accounting for their +9 percent park factor, Flores would have hit something like .259/.292/.375 in the hypothetical "average FSL stadium." That's not quite as impressive."
April 4, 2013 – Mets Minor League Roundup: Flores, Valdespin, and den Dekker
"If you've listened to the latest Amazin' Avenue Audio podcasts you've heard Jeff and I opine at length on the idea of Flores at second (Spoiler for those who — shame on you — haven't listened: Jeff's not a fan). However, to the surprise of many, Flores has actually looked quite capable at the position thus far in spring training.
Now the soft hands from a career shortstop aren't a surprise; however the nimble footwork around second base is. For all of the talk about lack of range from the 6'3", 190 lbs infielder, I don't know that enough thought has been given to the idea of his execution around the bag — something that represented perhaps the largest hurdle for Dan Murphy in his own second base re-education."
April 22, 2013 – Mets Prospect Wilmer Flores: Still a really good hitter
"While he's yet to truly break out the power bat thus far in 2013, this level of plate discipline in conjunction with a burgeoning power game is definitively rare at the minor league level. How rare? Reverting back to the 66-game sample he played with Double-A Binghamton in 2012, Flores was one of two players in all of minor league baseball under the age of 26 with at least 250 plate appearances, with a strikeout rate as low as his (11.1%), and an ISO as high as his (.186)."
April 29, 2013 - Prospect Performance Meter – April
"Still hasn't blown up in the high air of Vegas but the 1:1 BB-to-K rate and the lowest strikeout % amongst Triple-A hitters (under league average age) are harbingers of good things to come."
May 16, 2013 – Mets Prospect Performance Meter – Mid-May
"Just keeps doing the damn thing. Still batting about .270 with almost as many walks as strikeouts; but hit a couple bombs since we last checked. Is it unfair to expect an offensive tear from one of the league's youngest players?"
May 22, 2013 – Can Wilmer Flores Replace Ike?
"Flores has successfully navigated the long, slow climb to Triple-A. There were most certainly some ebbs and flows along the way. On the one hand, a hit tool that scouts labeled 'advanced' back in Kingsport remained so at nearly every rung, while his power game went from 'developing' to 'developed'. On the other, he's not the long-term shortstop or the Miguel Cabrera clone we hoped he might become back in those salad days of rookie ball. But, all told, the journey has been a good one…In 2,715 professional plate appearances, Wilmer Flores has faced a pitcher younger than himself just 14 times."
June 3, 2013 – Prospect Performance Meter - May
"As one of the five youngest players in the league the 21-year-old now leads the circuit in doubles and batted .385 over his last ten games."
July 10, 2013 – Prospect Performance Meter - July
"Flores is the only player in the top 15 in the PCL in OPS under the age of 24. In fact, the 21-year-old is actually the fourth-youngest player in the league and while we have to remember it is Las Vegas, he's starting to showcase the kind of dynamic offensive profile to make us a lot more forgiving about his lack of defensive value."
July 17, 2013 – 2013 Mid-Season Top 25 Mets Prospects
"The 21-year-old Flores has put on a show with the bat in his first season at Triple-A, pacing the Pacific Coast League in RBIs and doubles while proving tolerable at second base. He's posted numbers equal to that of nearly any top prospect in Triple-A, though to be fair -- based on a healthy home-road split -- he's enjoying the hitter-friendly confines of Las Vegas. However, even the .288/.333/.440 road line is pretty impressive for one of the five youngest players in the circuit."
August 7, 2013 - Prospect Mailbag: What did Wilmer Flores's stats in Triple-A mean?
"Wilmer Flores possesses a very advanced bat -- one that will more than likely play at an average level in the majors with the potential for much more. Poor defense or not, this description is more than we've been able to say for a Mets prospect in quite a while so some excitement is most certainly in order."
So there you have it - the minor league career arc of one, Wilmer Flores.
It's been quite a ride -- and the best part? The kid is still only 22. There's a lot left to write about the talented young hitter before he goes the distance with the Mets.