Mets Want To Keep Wilmer Flores Comfortable





NEW YORK—Third baseman Wilmer Flores hit a career-high 18 home runs in 2012, finishing the year at Double-A Binghamton and leaving open the possibility of reaching the majors as a 21-year-old this season.

His biggest obstacle to playing time: finding a permanent position.

The Mets moved Flores off shortstop last season, and he divided his time between second and third base, home to Daniel Murphy and David Wright in New York.

The Mets have little interest in shifting Flores to a corner-outfield position—for now—because they do not want to hamper his comfort level as he heads into what could be a critical year of development.

"It's not like just because you have someone in place, you abandon the idea of developing players at their (natural) position," vice president of scouting and player development Paul DePodesta said. "Because you never know what could potentially happen.

"If he gets to the point where he's not just tapping on the door, but knocking it down . . . then we may look at it differently. But I think until that point, we're going to allow him to continue on the trajectory where he's comfortable . . . both offensively and defensively."

In that regard, Flores' development could mirror that of Jordany Valdespin in 2012, when the natural middle infielder learned to play outfield on the fly.

DePodesta cited Flores' increased comfort with his 6-foot-3 build as one reason for his breakthrough. He batted .300/.349/.479 in 493 at-bats last season, his fifth as a professional after signing in August 2007, then appeared in 51 games for Margarita of the Venezuelan League.

"He's starting to become a man," DePodesta said. "He's really starting to grow into that frame. I think he's going to start coming into some power, as he did this past year.

"That changes a pitcher's overall approach to a hitter. Once a hitter becomes that much more dangerous, (pitchers) pitch him a little differently. That can lead to some other categories changing for the hitter."

METAMORPHOSES

• The Mets handed out spring training invitations to five minor leaguers not on the 40-man roster: righthanders Cory Mazzoni and Rafael Montero, catcher Juan Centeno, first baseman Josh Satin and outfielder Matt den Dekker.

• General manager Sandy Alderson had not ruled out the possibility that recently-acquired catcher Travis d'Arnaud, the system's top position prospect, will have a chance to make the Opening Day roster.