This time last year, many Mets fans viewed Wilmer Flores as a symbol of ineptitude. They wanted a splashy free-agent signing or a Troy Tulowitzki trade, not an inexperienced shortstop with a shaky glove and sub-par plate discipline. Even if he didn't exactly put those doubts to rest, a show of humanity turned him into a folk hero along the way.
In his first full major league season, he notched a .295 on-base percentage with 17 unintentional walks in 510 plate appearances. Every defensive play became an uneasy adventure, as he committed 10 errors with minus-10 Defensive Runs Saved at shortstop. Yet 2015 will forever be defined by Flores crying his way into fans' hearts after hearing about a trade that never happened.
He made the most of his second chance, hitting .295/.329/.460 after July 31. However, he'll enter the season without an everyday opportunity to transfer his hot finish into 2016. After acquiring Neil Walker to man second base, the Mets signed Asdrubal Cabrera to take over at short.
Although currently the odd man out, Flores won't wear out a seat in the dugout. After earning a .401 wOBA against southpaws last year, he's a natural platoon candidate alongside the left-handed Walker, who owns a career .291 wOBA against same-handed pitchers. Sandy Alderson set 130 games as a hopeful estimation for David Wright, establishing plenty of opportunities for Flores and Ruben Tejada to see the field. Since they don't have a backup first baseman, he is also being groomed to spell Lucas Duda against lefties.
"I have moved around my whole career so I will be ready for whatever they want me to do," Flores told Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. "I haven't played much first, but I know I can learn."
Someone with a 87.2 contact percentage and 6.2 swinging-strike percentage should record a batting average higher than .263. Unfortunately, it's hard to project an uptick given his 16.0 infield-fly percentage, the ninth-highest mark among all qualified hitters. His career .270 BABIP is no fluke, but rather a result of weak contact.
Flaws aside, he belted 16 homers to earn a .408 slugging percentage last season. The defensive metrics were much kinder to his brief time at second, helping him produce a 1.9 fWAR. For the eye-test enthusiasts out there, he showed gradual progress at both middle-infield positions, offering hope of further progression into a passable fielder.
The projection models anticipate results similar to 2015, but they vary drastically on playing-time estimates. As the primary reserve for four infielders 30 and older, he'll likely return to the starting lineup at some point this season. If not, most other teams have a spot for him, so the Mets could pull the trigger on another tearful goodbye.