Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores won admirers last season for his impressive showing in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, in which he participated as a 16-year-old. A year older and wiser, the young Venezuelan hasn’t received quite the same fanfare this season as he competes in the low Class A South Atlantic League. Let’s view them side by side:
|WILMER FLORES, SS, METS|
Flores, 17, has maintained his lofty contact rate and his mediocre walk-to-strikeout ratio even as he’s moved up a grade. His average and power production, though, have trailed off significantly as he grinds through his first full season of pro ball. He signed with the Mets for the ninth-highest bonus, $700,000, of the ’07 international signing period.
A scout for an AL club took note of those hitting qualities while seeing Flores in action this season.
"Flores grew on me. He can hit," the scout said. "I don’t know how much power he’s going to have—and he’s a legit 25 runner with well below-average athleticism—but he has a knack for putting the barrel on the ball. And he shows plate discipline and pitch recognition at a young age.
"His hands are really good and they allow him to manipulate the barrel and adjust to pitches in all parts of the zone. They help his defense, too. But he’s not a good athlete and he can’t run at all."
Viewers of the Futures Game already have some familiarity with Flores’ lack of footspeed. It seemed to take him days to run out an infield grounder during that prospect showcase, and he again showed well below-average speed in Sunday’s Sand Gnats game at Greensboro, a contest attended by a number of BA staffers. Flores went 1-for-4 with a double, but twice he grounded out sharply to third, the second time as part of a game-ending double play.
In each at-bat, Flores worked the count to his favor, and of the 15 pitches he saw in four at-bats, he swung and missed only once, at an 86 mph fastball on the inner half. He fouled off one other pitch, but in every instance he was working ahead of the pitcher—2-1, 3-1, 1-0 and 2-1. In the first inning, Flores lined a 89 mph fastball, middle-in, from righthander Tom Koehler over the center fielder’s head for a double. The defense had been playing him slightly to pull.
As Flores fills out his lanky 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame, scouts will be looking for increased power production from the righthanded hitter.
"I think learning when he gets his pitch to really attack it will help him (hit for more power)," the scout said. "But now, he just lays the barrel on the ball and throws it in the alley or in front of a outfielder for a single or double. I think as he gets more experience, he’ll learn to really attack it when he gets his pitch.
"He’s a big leaguer, I think, but not a shortstop for sure. And the approach has to improve, and he has to develop a lot more power if he’s going to be everyday on a corner."
But Flores is a unique case. Not many prospects, not even those from Latin America, compete in full-season minor leagues at age 17-18. Some recent examples:
|AGE 17-18 LATIN AMERICAN BATTERS IN LOW CLASS A|
|’06||Fernando Martinez, of||17||SAL||NYM||211||5||.333||.389||.505||81.3||.161||.42|
|’06||Jose Tabata, of||17||SAL||NYY||363||5||.298||.377||.420||79.3||.119||.44|
|’06||Elvis Andrus, ss||17||SAL||ATL||478||3||.265||.324||.362||79.2||.087||.38|
|’07||Carlos Triunfel, ss||17||MWL||SEA||164||0||.309||.342||.388||84.9||.066||.17|
|’08||Angel Villalona, 1b||17||SAL||SF||500||17||.263||.312||.435||74.6||.172||.13|
|’08||Jesus Montero, c||18||SAL||NYY||569||17||.326||.376||.491||84.2||.164||.42|
|’09||Wilmer Flores, ss||17||SAL||NYM||375||3||.280||.317||.360||87.3||.075||.34|
|’09||Michael Almanzar, 3b||18||SAL||BOS||203||3||.207||.261||.293||71.8||.085||.17|
|’09||Jefry Marte, 3b||18||SAL||NYM||431||6||.239||.282||.354||74.6||.103||.20|
Seven Up, Seven Down
It’s Tuesday, so that means it’s time to present the top seven and bottom seven full-season minor league clubs through games of Monday, July 27. The caret (^) indicates a team that did not appear in our last ranking.
|TOP 7 MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS|
|4||Brevard County||58||34||.630||Florida State||HiA||Brewers||L1||7-3|
Dropped Out: Akron, .602.
|BOTTOM 7 MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS|
Dropped Out: Lancaster, .392.
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