Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 17, 2011
BASEBALL: Wilmer the Kid
While he's an interesting story in his own right, Wilmer Flores will be an intriguing guy to watch to see (1) what the short-term impact of Sandy Alderson replacing Omar Minaya is on the Mets' player-development philosophy and (2) what the Mets think of the future of the vaunted left side of their infield.
As to the former, while this is his fourth year in pro ball, Flores doesn't turn 20 until August (assuming his birthdate in Venezuela is correctly reported), so there is no immediate rush to promote him, and like the early years of Fernando Martinez' prospect career there's a tendency to grade Flores' offensive output on the curve on grounds of being young for his leagues. After a strong year at age 16 in rookie ball and a weak one at 17 in the Sally League, Flores had a classic F-Mart season last year, hitting .289/.333/.424 between low and high A ball, belting a strong 36 doubles (with 11 homers) but otherwise doing nothing on the basepaths (4 steals in 9 tries) and struggling with the strike zone (32 BB, 77 K), both patterns throughout his minor league career.
In other words, a guy who will need a good deal more seasoning to move from a live young bat - .289 and 50 extra base hits is nothing to sneeze at from an 18-year-old - to a productive hitter. Minaya's philosophy was to keep pushing guys like that up the ladder to challenge them, but sometimes being challenged all the time prevents you from developing enough mastery to expand your skills. I tend to think Flores should be allowed to become a star in the low minors before he gets fast-tracked.
Apparently the Mets plan to promote Flores to AA this season, and Terry Collins is drooling over his ability to advance swiftly as a shortsop. That's not actually that encouraging, but it may be part of a broader team effort to motivate Jose Reyes to have a good walk year (or a tacit recognition that the post-Madoff Mets may not have the money to sign Reyes). The problem with Flores is that he's projected as either a SS or 3B, and of course the Mets are set at 3B, and moving Reyes to 2B was already tried disastrously once before.