5/26/15

Tom Brennan - IS WILMER FLORES ON THE CUSP?

14 comments


Tom Brennan - IS WILMER FLORES ON THE CUSP?

Wilmer Flores encounters a lot of impatience involving his fielding and hitting from many in the Mets blogosphere.  So I wanted to think about that a bit and share some thoughts.

First, Wilmer is, as I write this, 23 years and 289 days old.  In major league terms, that is still very young. And he has 513 plate appearances under his belt already.  Mr. Flores debuted on his 22nd birthday.  Comparison can be helpful, so let's look at 4 current and former Mets.

By comparison, Jeff Kent was 24 years and 36 days old when he made his major league debut. Lucas Duda? 24 years, 210 days old when he first stepped into a major league batters box. Travis d'Arnaud?  24 years, 188 days. Edgardo Alfonso?  An early achiever at 21 years, 169 days.

Wilmer has played at a position he is not ideally suited for, at SS, similar to what Duda went through in his stint in left field.  It affected Duda's offense, my guess it also affects Wilmer's.

But how did these other 4 guys start out, and how did that compare with their performance a few years into their careers?

Well, d'Arnaud has not played that long, but comparisons and conclusions can still be drawn.

Flores, in his short career so far in his 22nd thru 24th years of young life, has hit .240, with a .276 OB%, and .373 slug %.  As a 24 year old, his slug % is .419, as a 22 year old in 95 at bats it was .295, so he is clearly improving. And a team-leading 7 dingers.

Jeff Kent, with 377 career homers and 1,518 RBIs, started his career briefly with Toronto, and was traded to the Mets in his rookie year in 1992 during that season.  He had 305 at bats, 11 homers, 50 RBIs, hit .239. Nice RBIs, but otherwise nothing special.

In 1993 -1996, as a 25-28 year old, Kent substantially improved.  The following 9 years, he averaged 110 RBIs.  Mets were not patient enough, and missed what would have been their best offensive player ever.

Lucas Duda struggled with insecurity as a young arrival being used in an uncomfortable fielding position.  He weathered a lot of criticism.  He had some real hitting droughts.  Was sent back to the minors.  Patience on the fans' part was quite limited.  Fans wanted him gone, Ike, Ike, he's our man, etc.

 Then a funny thing happened.  Duda won out over Ike last spring, got to play at 1B, turns out he fields darned well.

He also at the same time felt he belonged, and adjusted and improved. Especially since June 2014.  Since then, he has hit .278 in 517 ABs, 34 doubles, 29 homers, 88 RBIs in a little over 140 starts.

I believe that, like Jeff Kent, we've yet to see the best of Duda.  I believe he is on the verge of true stardom as perhaps one of the most feared hitters in the game.  Better than what we are seeing today.  But if fans had their way prior to early 2014, he'd have been traded in a heartbeat.

Travis d'Arnaud struggled mightily upon his arrival, .202 in 99 at bats as a 24 year old, then sub-.200 in his first few months as a 25 year old.  A brief exile to the minors was just the tonic for d'Arnaud, who hit substantially better upon his return in the second half of 2014.

 As a 26 year old, he started extremely well until a misplaced fastball disabled him after 11 games this year. He did not have to worry too much about fan impatience, considering the Mets had no starting catching alternatives in 2014, so in that respect, less pressure than Flores faces today.

Edgardo Alfonso, in the absence of Jeff Kent, was a fine Met 2B and 3B.  His first 2 years, he outshone Flores somewhat, averaging .268, but with a slug % of only about .360.  Just 8 homers in 763 at bats.  Another punch-and- Judy Mets hitter, or so it seemed.

 His next 2 years, his slug % averaged .430.  Nice. Patience is good.

Then at 25 and 26, in 1999 and 2000, that jumped to .520, with 52 homers and 202 RBIs in 308 games, hitting .313. He was never able to regain that extremely high level in later years, but did well enough the next 5 years.

Back to Wilmer.  Please carefully consider the growth patterns of the other 4 guys.  All got much better in their mid 20's, following their break in period. Wilmer has the added pressure of playing the one position in the infield he is least apt to do well at.

My conclusion? Wilmer's hide is getting tougher.  His confidence is growing.  Be patient, because I think we've only seen early Wilmer.  I think offensively, Flores is about to improve, and in a year or so, really show how darned good a hitter he really is.

So like a St Louis Cardinal fan, who love to cheer and hate to boo, I will cheer him, and patiently await a guy who (whether at SS, 2B, or 3B) will emulate the offensive growth patterns of Kent, Duda, and Alfonso.  In the rest of 2015, he will hit well.  In 2016, I'd not be surprised to see a .280 average, 25 homers, and a .500 slugging %.

If you agree, be patient.  And cheer him on, when he does well and especially when he struggles. He'll just get better faster if we do.

So what do you think, folks? Patience is a virtue.

14 comments:

holmer said...

I agree 1000% but patience in the "Big Apple" is not considered a virtue. I wish sometimes I was a Cardinal fan rather than a Mets fan because it is so much easier to tolerate that fan base than the fan bases in the eastern cities. Oh, well.

Thomas Brennan said...

Holmer: 1000% agreement isn't bad! St Louis fans are a 10th man in the field. Fan support helps, while the weight of panicky fan criticism has to inhibit performance.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, our society today is largely incapable of "delaying gratification" (i.e. showing patience).....it has only gotten worse since the dawn of the internet and "instant" everything. It extends to the job that Sandy has done, which I think has been special. Results have been slow, but in the next few years, you will see the strategy bear fruit in the form of playoff appearances, etc.

Excellent article, Thomas..........I think Wilmer will be a special hitter in time. He has always reminded me of a "poor man's" Miguel Cabrera. Great bat, questionable defensive player. I think Wilmer will be better then Miguel defensively (in time) and he will be an above average run producer for a middle infielder (minus MIggy's 40 homer power).

Just to clarify, I am NOT saying Wilmer will be the next Miggy! Just that they share some qualities and a good bat can offset an average glove.

Mike


Mack Ade said...

Today is a Wilmer-Fest

One thing about playing shortstop... there is no room for error or delay. Very few plays even allow for a double pump. You have to pick up the ball, shift your weight accordingly, and get the damn ball over to first base.

THIS has been Wilmer's worse problem, not the throws or bobbles that earn him an error. It's the balls he fields and just doesn't execute fast enough either for an out or an error.

Ruben Tejada at shortstop will solve most of those problems.

Putting Flores on third (remember... I was 'too slow' for short but considered a very good defensive third baseman) gives him less time to execute the play. In his case, that would be a huge positive.

bob gregory said...

I'm all for patience with Wilmer Flores.
Let's just be careful not to generalize this lack of patience thought too far.
The Cardinal fan base has also had reason to be patient.
Their ownership and management group has given them reason to be patient.
The way they have run their organization from minor league to major league lead to production at the major league level consistantly.
Even when there may be a bad year, winning years soon follow.
Their fans do not have many chances to feel that their team/management/ownership is doing anything less than their best in the short term and long term.

Thomas Brennan said...

Thanks, Mike. Flores was an extra bae hit machine spanning 2012 and 2013 in AA at age 21, he was an extra base hit machine, so I won't be surprised if he might just surprise everyone with big homer years down the road. 40 in a year in Citifield is very unlikely but I could see 30-35 out of him a few times.

Mack, I am with you on a move to third if Wright is done or becomes a sub due to his back (still seems impossible to think that way, but Mattingly's career nosedived from hall of fame level due to his back. Happens.)

I think he'd be good there at 3B after an adjustment period.

St Louis does give fans little to boo about, you're right, Bob. That always helps!

Hobie said...

Thomas-

If you're talking 2016 & beyond, then likely Wilmer is your 3B--he could very well excel there with prototypical corner power.

For 2015, as long as Murphy is still around, HE should by permanently installed at 3B.

Michael S. said...

Yep, forget Tulo:

1B - Duda
2B - Herrera
SS - Cecchini
3B - Flores

Anonymous said...

Disagree with Mack on Tejada, who is not the answer. Team can't win with another #8 hitter in the lineup. He's a black hole, proven, case dismissed.

Lazy, inactive management needs to provide a better option than the guy they inherited five years ago.

Thomas Brennan said...

I'd try Reynolds if Wright will be out for a long time. I guess they are trying to wait until Super 2 for him? I agree that someone other than Tejada is preferable...he represents ongoing mediocrity.

He hasn't hit much of late.. Everyone they bring up hot goesglacial. Maybe they bring him up and he heats Up. Even with a 2 week slump, he is at .286, 27 RBI and 32 runs.

Mack Ade said...

Tom, Anon -

Re: Tejada - I'm just trying to get to the playoffs and taking a denfensive stance down the middle infield is, in my opinion, a safe way to go.

I have no ETA on Herrera, but, when he comes back, start him at second, move Murphy (and his productive bat) to third, and play Flores at short. His defensive looks better every day.

Mack Ade said...

Thomas -

I now agree with you on Reynolds. He deserves at least a utility spot before Cecchini passes him in the pecking order.

A very sad case of never making the cut, but I've NEVER heard anyone say or write a positive thing about Reynold's defensive game in AAA. Is it bad?

Steve from Norfolk said...

Everything I've seen about Reynolds says not a lot of range, but he makes the plays he gets to

Thomas Brennan said...

Wilmer had the game tying and game winning RBIs and also got robbed on a liner to 3rd base. He is on the cusp.

Mack's Mets © 2012