Two Guys Talking: Wilmer Flores, Future Third Baseman?

Jimmy:

This is exciting. Wilmer Flores looks to be the best Mets hitting prospect since Victor Diaz. Remember him? But seriously, folks, the (barely) 21-year-old Flores does appear to be the best Mets hitting prospect in the system. According to the records I’m looking at, in 2008 he played in Kingsport as a 16 year old and mashed. Is that even possible? Since then, he has learned how to shave and, with some ups and downs, progressed steadily through the system.  In 2012, Wilmer (I keep hearing Fred Flintstone’s voice when I type that, btw, “Wilmer!”) solidified his skills at St. Lucie, then made a successful leap to AA ball, posting an impressive slash line of .311/.361/.494 in half a season. He appears to be that rarest of Mets prospects: a genuine bat. Unfortunately, for a guy who started out as a SS, now we are reading multiple reports about “heavy feet” and a lack of mobility that makes 3B seem to be his best option. Flores appears on target for a 2014 debut.

Mike:

I am not down on Flores but cannot call myself excited yet. He has hit enough as he progressed through the system to show that we might be finally growing ourself a hitter.  However, reports are that he cannot play a position, except “maybe” third base or first base. If he can play third, great, if not he has to really be able to hit to rationalize first. I keep hoping he can play a decent second base and was pleased to see him moved there in the late summer. I saw him play second at Binghamton but unfortunately only one routine ball was hit to him that day, and there were no double play opportunities. A big bat playing at second would be so valuable, I hope they really work with Wilmer at that position in 2013.

Jimmy:

David Wright is a very good player who has struggled at Citifield, and seems to play best surrounded by established stars — neither of which will change any time soon. In fact, a long-term, expensive contract to Wright prohibits bringing in another star player under current ownership.

My take is that Wilmer does not have the foot speed to play second base, so it’s not at all a desirable option. He’s reportedly too slow for the outfield, yet has soft hands and a strong arm. Thus: he’s a third baseman. And it’s reasonable to believe that he could play 3B for the cash-strapped New York Mets beginning in 2014. He could be part of this team’s future. Obviously, that’s a key evaluation issue — it’s a matter of our guys making the right call on this kid. But my sense is that he’s a legitimate bat. Meanwhile, instead of investing in a risky long-term contract with David Wright to the tune of $130 million balloons, the Mets could flip Wright, receive a couple of players in return (maybe a guy to put on the field right away, plus a prospect), retain Dickey and Niese, build around pitching, and enjoy the financial flexibility to begin to address weaknesses at C, OF, and bullpen. Flores is only an asset if we use him correctly. Even if he turns out to be only 80-90% of Wright, he’ll still represent a savings of $18-20 million on the payroll for years to come. Wright’s best years were 2005-2008, isn’t it time — after four consecutive, 4th-place seasons — for this team to start the rebuilding process for real?

Mike:

No. You can ask me on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and my answer will remain the same. The Mets should absolutely not trade David Wright. Now back to Flores. I agree he needs to be used correctly. He was at shortstop until last year, I am not about to abandon the idea that he can play a passable second base. He is much more valuable as a second baseman, period. If he proves beyond a shadow of a doubt he cannot play second, only then would I look at him as a corner. That also allows him more time to mature as a hitter, his Double A numbers were solid, not jaw dropping.

In a system bereft of hitting prospects Flores looks great. In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. I see a good prospect here, not a great one, and another year in the minors for Flores will benefit everyone.

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5 comments

  1. Alan K. says:

    The Mets have three options with Wright that all have downsides:
    1. Overpay him and be stuck at the back end of the contract when he’s less productive.
    2. Trade him to a team that may not want to sacrifice top talent for a player in his walk year
    3. Let Wright walk and settle for the draft picks.

    I think the Mets have to pay him. If they lost him, I think the fallout, especially at the gate, would be severe enough to compromise the Wilpons ability to hang on in the short term.

    Also, if the Mets trade Wright, they’ve essentially conceded they’re in a full rebuild mode. At that point, I don’t see the point of keeping Dickey.

  2. Again, this is an uncomfortable position for me to take, since I believe that any financially-sound organization should sign this terrific player. And I believe the Mets will do that. However, I don’t think this return to the status quo is going to make things better — and, in fact, I suspect that this contract could prohibit the Mets from addressing several other needs now and far into the future. I do understand the PR aspects, and I guess I’m tired of the Wilpons making decisions based on fear of fan backlash and the pursuit of the short-term ticket sales. I think if they traded Wright they could get the catcher of the future plus . . . something. And then they’d likely have the financial flexibility to address the outfield and bullpen. By retaining Dickey and Niese, to go along with Wheeler and Harvey, they’d have four solid pitchers locked up for the next several seasons at less than $25 million annually. That’s the surest path to winning. On that foundation, I think they could build a competitive team — even without Wright’s “face.” It’s time to try something new. Fourth place, four years in a row. You’ve seen this ownership with long-term contracts. And Wright’s decreasing numbers over the past four seasons. I just don’t see that marriage ending well, which would be the saddest thing of all. (To conclude, I think Wright will sign with the Mets, fans will rejoice, we’ll devalue Flores in the process, and probably trade the wrong pitcher. It’s an expensive road and we’ll pay for it in the end.)

  3. Alan K says:

    Even with that pitching staff, I’m not sure how this team is going to score runs without Wright in the lineup. And without Wright and Hairston, I think lefties are going to feast on a predominantly left hitting lineup. And as I said before, I believe the fact that David is in his walk year will depress his trade value to the point that the Mets may not get a blue chip prospect in return. Finally, just once I’d like to see a homegrown Mets star play his entire career here, which has never happened. I really don’t want to see Wright leave.

  4. Excellent points. Sandy has a lot of work to do. But he’s had a two-year rest, so maybe he’s up for it!

  5. Michael Geus says:

    Time to officially begin working Flores out extensively at second base. Agility training, Wilmer, agility training!

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