"He's still so young," vice president of scouting and player development Paul DePodesta said. "He would be a sophomore in college right now."
For now, that is reason enough to believe.
Once billed as the organization's top position prospect, Flores should begin his fifth professional season at Double-A Binghamton, despite a difficult 2011 campaign when he repeated at high Class A St. Lucie.
Team officials were encouraged by his performance in the Venezuelan League this winter—he batted .301/.382/.391 in 133 at-bats for Margarita—but he remains a long way from reaching the potential that netted him a $750,000 bonus out of Venezuela in 2007.
DePodesta said that he tries not to put too much emphasis on how a player performs during winter ball.
"I actually think what he did last year in the Florida State League was fine," he said. "I think he'll continue to get better because he has a natural feel for hitting."
Flores connected for just eight extra-base hits in 41 games in Venezuela, though his plate approach appeared more advanced. He drew walks in 11 percent of plate appearances, more than twice as often as he did for St. Lucie.
"That was great to see," DePodesta said, "because that's another step in the maturation process."
Flores' OPS dropped by 50 points between 2010 and '11 as he repeated the FSL. He flashed opposite-field power last year but batted just .269/.309/.380.
Scouts scoff at the idea of Flores sticking at shortstop. His range is limited, and he may outgrow the position. He played mostly third base for Margarita, and Depodesta said he'll spend time at the hot corner this season, while still playing shortstop on occasion.
"I expect Wilmer to probably play at least two different positions during the course of this year," DePodesta said. "As time goes on, we'll determine where he spends more time."
• Though he put up a tepid .585 OPS for St. Lucie during the regular season, catcher Francisco Pena's bat came alive in the Dominican League. The 22-year-old batted .305 (18-for-59) in 26 games for Cibao, helping them to the playoffs.
• Righthander Dylan Owen logged 42 solid innings for Caracas in the Venezuelan League. He went 2-3, 1.73 with 39 strikeouts and 10 walks.