Mets All-Star Praises Wilmer Flores' Hitting Acumen





NEW YORK—Mets all-star center fielder Carlos Beltran spent three weeks in Port St. Lucie, Fla., rehabbing from offseason knee surgery and getting into playing shape for the second half.

But when Beltran came back to the big league squad in mid-July, one of the first things he wanted to talk about was the player he left behind with high Class A St. Lucie.

Shortstop Wilmer Flores earns nearly unanimous praise as the organization's top prospect, and Beltran concurs.

"He is a hitter," Beltran said. "He's, what, 19 years old? (Note: Flores turns 19 on Aug. 6.) He knows how to hit. He has a plan, an approach. When I was 19, 20, I had no idea of the things he knows."

Considering Beltran's pedigree—1995 second-round pick, '99 American League rookie of the year—that's saying something.

At times, Beltran tried to offer advice to Flores, but just as many times he found himself listening to the young shortstop and shaking his head at the approach of the prospect.

"He has a nice, easy swing and he hits the ball hard," Beltran said. "He doesn't miss pitches. Every day it seemed like he had two hits."

Through 93 at-bats for St. Lucie, Flores batted .376/.389/.473 with a home run and six doubles. He spent the first three months with low Class A Savannah.

But it was more than just the results in the game.

"In batting practice, most kids would be up there trying to pull everything," Beltran said. "You watch him and in the first session in the cage he would hit every ball to the opposite field. Then the next time through he would hit everything to center field. Then he would pull the ball the third time in."

"He would bring that to the game, too. He would say to me before he went to the plate, 'I'm going to wait for a curveball and hit it the other way.' You'd see, he'd let a slider go by and then get the curveball and line it to the opposite field.

"He has a great read of pitchers, how they are approaching him. You just don't do that at that young of an age."

Beltran did wonder, as scouts have, where Flores would ultimately play. He said that Flores didn't have great speed or range and projects as an outfielder, a third baseman or maybe a second baseman.

But Beltran didn't wonder if he would hit. That he could see as well as any scout.

METAMORPHOSES

• St. Lucie righthander Jeurys Familia sat in the high 90s at the Futures Game but still managed to serve up two runs on three consecutive doubles. He recorded only one out.

• Outfielder Lucas Duda cracked nine home runs, and went deep in five straight games, in his first month with Triple-A Buffalo. He batted .340/.400/.723 through 94 at-bats.