Throughout the minor league season, I will be writing about a prospect every Monday who has reached the AA level or higher that could be on your fantasy roster by season's end, and what you should know about them. With Wilmer Flores heating up at AAA Las Vegas, could we see him called up to take the place of either Ike Davis or Daniel Murphy in the Majors?
Weight: 190 lbs.
On 40-Man Roster: Yes (Added 11/2011, 2 options used)
Age as of 7/15/13: 21 (Turns 22 on August 6th)
Flores was signed as a shortstop by the Mets out of Venezuela at the end of 2007 for a bonus of $750,000. Due to his birthday being in August, he couldn't sign at the standard July 2 deadline, but this also came with the bonus of the fact that he was young for a J2 signing. He debuted in the United States in 2008, sent to the Appalachian League, and even got time in the South Atlantic League and the New York Penn League. In 68 games between all three stops, he hit .307/.347/.468 with 8 home runs, 42 runs batted in, and two stolen bases as a 16 year old. After that performance, Baseball America ranked him as the #47 prospect in the minors.
The organization sent Flores to full season ball for 2009 as a 17 year old, and he responded in Savannah with a .264/.300/.332 with 3 home runs, 3 stolen bases, and a 72:22 K:BB ratio in 125 games. While the performance wasn't exactly amazing, he still was just a 17 year old against players who were on average 4+ years older than him. Baseball America dropped him to #88 after that season.
The team returned him to Savannah for the 2010 season, still just 18 years old. I actually was able to see him that year a couple of times, although back then I didn't know nearly as much about prospects as I do now. That said, with the level of talent in these games, it was pretty clear that Flores stood out amongst his peers. He spent 66 games in Savannah before being promoted to the Mets' High-A affiliate in St. Lucie. On the season, he hit .289/.333/.424 with 11 home runs and 4 stolen bases across 133 games. He moved up on BA's ranks, to #59 overall
He returned to High-A in 2011, and the performance was decent by still not what was expected from a top prospect. He spent the whole season there, but hit .269/.309/.380 with 9 home runs, 81 runs batted in, and 2 stolen bases. At this point, the luster fell off a bit for Baseball America, as he fell out of their top 100, and from #2 to #10 within the Mets' system. The biggest issue at this point seemed to be the fact that most reports moved his defensive future away from shortstop, to the point where some thought he would have to move to first base or a corner outfield spot long-term.
The Mets did move Flores for the 2012 season, leaving him in High-A and moving him to third base. The expectation had been for a long time that he would need his bat to carry him, and the performance finally matched up. In 64 games at High-A, Flores hit 10 home runs to go with a .289/.336/.463 slash line. He also showed an improved walk rate (up to 6.6%) and strikeout rate (11%). He was promoted to AA after winning the FSL All-Star game most valuable player, and continued hitting there. He hit .311/.363/.494 with a 7% walk rate and 10.9% strikeout rate and added 8 more home runs. Unfortunately, the reports on his defense at third base were not good either, and with David Wright signing an extension in December 2012, his path to the Majors at third was completely blocked.
The Mets promoted Flores to AAA for the 2013 season, and gave him another position on the diamond in second base. I wrote briefly about Flores when I saw him on Opening Night here in Sacramento, and the thing that stood out to me on defense was the fact that his actions were awkward. Not really a big surprise, given this is his first season at the position. He has been absolutely crushing the ball at the plate, hitting .321/.357/.528 with 12 home runs and 33 doubles in just 93 games so far. As you would expect with a home park in Las Vegas, his home/road splits are pronounced, but he is still hitting well on the road (.288/.333/.440, 4 home runs).
The Scouting Report - Scouting reports are gathered from other internet sources and written reports, unless otherwise noted.
Flores has always been considered a top prospect for his potential to be an above average hitter in the majors. He is expected to provide a solid batting average (.280+) with a decent amount of power (12-15 home runs). His ability to stay at second base will determine just how valuable he is for fantasy purposes, as that line plays substantially better there than at first base or a corner outfield spot for most leagues. He isn't expected to provide speed other than a token stolen base here or there, but should be at least a solid producer for runs and runs batted in given that position.
What's Keeping Him From Contributing Now?
Honestly, it seems to be just based on when the Mets would like to bring him up. He is already on the 40-man roster, so it won't take much to bring him up, and it really depends on how long they are wiling to let Daniel Murphy and Ike Davis struggle at the plate. They've already called Davis back up from his stint in AAA, so it seems like barring an injury Flores is waiting on Daniel Murphy.
When Could He Arrive?
I'd be shocked if Flores wasn't up at some point this season, although it could be after the AAA season ends in early September.
What Could He Do For Fantasy Owners Once He Gets There?
If given full-time at bats, I think .275 with 12 home runs is a solid baseline, with the potential for 15-17 in a great year.