The first thing I noticed was that he’s strange hitter, in that he doesn’t look like most anybody else. He stands tall, not a lot of bend in the knees, and for many ABs, Flores will sort of shoot the ball into RF without much discernible hip-turn. Just an upper body swing and, in the best outcomes, a nice single into RF, hitting it where they ain’t. He does this, I think, skillfully. The bottom half stays unusually quiet.
Wilmer also often doesn’t finish his swing the way most hitters do. The hands aren’t high, above the shoulders. There are ABs, even when he pulls the ball, where it seems like he’s taking just a short, quick poke at it.
And then other times, less so, thus far, when he drives the ball deep with what appears to be a more orthodox swing.
I find it all a little puzzling, frankly.
As a Little League coach, you almost want to say, “Swing harder!”
I remember Ralph Kiner dismissively noting about Jay Payton: “He’s only got one swing.” It was an astute observation; there was nothing situational about Jay’s approach. No adjustments to the game situation or to the intent of the opposing pitcher. It’s a complaint I’ve had about Chris Young all season. The pull-everything approach, swinging for the fences, rinse and repeat and fail again.
Wilmer seems entirely different from that. A puzzle. He just turned 23, has had very little time in the MLB, so it’s much too early to judge. In fact, I doubt that we’ll get much meaningful info about his bat based on two months of rookie play.
Just this: It looks a little weird; he’s different. And it also underscores how few hitters arrive with what appears to be a personal style. The game teaches and promotes conformity. The right way of doing things. That’s why it was so entertaining last week to watch Hunter Spence play for the Giants. Everything he does is different, and basically nothing looks “right.” He runs weird, throws weird (the elbow is far too low), swings like a maniac. Most every baseball coach would yell, “No, no, no!”
And yet Spence killed the Mets across the entire series.
Rookie years are tough on most players, and I don’t think that Flores is the rare hitter who can succeed right out of the gate. If it’s going to happen, it could take a couple of years.
Do I think Wilmer Flores is a shortstop? I’d be shocked if he was. But I think the glove and feet can play second base. We’ve watched Daniel Murphy these past years. Flores is surely equal to that. In baseball, it always comes down to math: the offense-defense equation. All-hit, no-glove at one extreme; all-glove, no-hit at the other. The relative importance of the defensive positions factor into it, too. A brutal LF is not the same weight as a poor defensive catcher. Moreover, each team has its own dynamic. The ’86 Mets would have won with Ruben Tejada at SS — I think they just about did, since Rafael Santana is about as close a comp as I can conjure. That is, the defense only steady, never sensational. And the bat, well, forget the bat. They needed a guy to stand there.
Wilmer Flores is fortunate to follow such a below-average defender at SS as Ruben Tejada. I can’t remember Tejada ever surprising me by going deep into the hope to backhand a ball, plant, pivot, and throw somebody out a first base. It wasn’t in his arsenal. He wasn’t bad. He just wasn’t particularly good. Barely able. Wilmer strikes me, at this early hour, as a notch or two below that.
Yet I think Flores can probably step in and, overall, give the Mets more than Mr. Tejada did. Of course, Tejada was not a good baseball player, so that mitigates the accomplishment. It’s also possible that Wilmer is so inferior defensively that it’s unacceptable, regardless of his offensive performance.
It doesn’t look like he’ll hit like A-Rod. And even if he does hit like A-Rod, we’d move him to a less-demanding position. In basketball terms, Wilmer Flores just may be a tweener. A star power forward for Siena, say — a first-team, ALL-MAC talent — but too small for the NBA.
I also strongly suspect that come the winter, the Mets organization will be seeking a real shortstop to play the position. (But I thought that last year, so you never know.) I’ve said it dozens of times: If you are going to build a team around pitching, then you’ve got to provide solid defense, every day. Murphy at 2B is already a weakness; the club simply can’t double-down at SS with the same type of player. It’s not an option. I repeat: It’s not an option. They cannot possibly go below-average at SS and 2B. It’s a non-starter.
I’m rooting for Wilmer Flores. I’m very glad that he’s getting regular playing time. Like the baseball card says, I think he’s a second baseman. But right now, money aside, I like Murphy a lot better, and I’m much more hopeful about Dilson Herrera. After all these years, it’s still hard to see where Wilmer fits in with the Mets. But given that he can play 3B, SS, and 2B — and is a RH-bat on a team that sorely lacks one — I imagine that Wilmer could still be a nice component on the bench, and an insurance policy in case of injury. A step up from the Joe McEwing/Justin Turner types we’ve been seeing for years.
Super sub. It’s something, right?