All too often in 2014, the Mets had questions regarding the middle of their infield. Not often enough, the answer to that problem was Wilmer Flores. With starting shortstop Ruben Tejada proving to be ineffective at the plate for the second straight season and Daniel Murphy seeing his future with the Mets remain in doubt, Flores showed enough when given the chance to warrant a more serious audition in 2015.
Flores' season got off to a surprising start in Queens. No, his 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in game two of the season against the Nationals wasn't much of a surprise. The interesting part was that he was on the field at all. Flores was slated to begin in the year with Triple-A Las Vegas, but Daniel Murphy went on paternity leave at the outset of the season, inciting the rage of local media.
Anyway, Flores was sent back down when Murphy returned, but he came back up in May when the club had had enough of Omar Quintanilla. During May and June, Flores saw sporadic playing time, once starting four games in a row, but otherwise just being used as an extra bat. Over the two months he hit just .237/.266/.316 and was sent back down at the end of June when the Mets decided they'd be better off with an extra outfielder.
Fortunately for Flores, though, he kept slugging away in Las Vegas and the Mets continued to get nothing but inconsistency out of the shortstop position. With a slash line of .323/.367/.568 in Triple-A, it was hard to keep the man down for long, and he reappeared in the majors at the end of July for an extended cameo.
With the Mets floundering in the National League East standings, Flores was allowed to start pretty regularly for the final two months of the campaign. Although the 23-year-old showed much of the same for most of August, in September he finally started to show some power at the big league level. Flores hit .278/.313/.500 for the month, with the big highlight coming on September 16 against Miami.
A double and two home runs isn't too bad for a guy who had yet to show that kind of pop. Perhaps even more exciting were Flores' defensive figures for the year. Playing mostly shortstop for the Mets, he saved 4.8 runs above average, according to UZR at FanGraphs. It's a small sample, sure, but it's nice to see from someone who had previously been written off as a major league shortstop.
On offense, Flores proved to be the same contact-oriented player that he's been in the minors. Although he only walked 4.4 percent of the time in the majors in 2014, Flores posted an impressive 11.3 percent strikeout rate. That combined with a .265 BABIP make a .251 batting average seem like a fluke.
Base on Flores' career minor league figures, he'll never be much of a walker, but if he can keep his strikeout rate down and work on his power, he may be a valuable middle infield contributor in the not-too-distant future.
Desired 2015 Role: Full-time shortstop with an above average bat.
Expected 2015 Role: Part-time middle infielder whose bat and glove are still developing.