Ernest Dove - Is Mets Wilmer Flores Ready to Be 'Super Utility Guy"?


  I continue to be on the fence with this..... I really do.  I love Wilmer Flores. I want Wilmer Flores to keep being a Met.  I want Wilmer Flores to get at bats. I believe in Wilmer Flores ability to adequately play defense.  But I keep trying to figure out if 'utility guy' is the best role for the young man.

 Wilmer Flores is STILL only 24 years old.  The kid is not eligible for free agency until the next decade starts. And he will enter 2016 seemingly in the same position he's been in throughout his recent professional career, which is wondering where he will play, how long he will play there, and how often.
  As a major leaguer, from 2013-2015, Wilmer has played 154 games at SS;  58 games at 2B and  27 games at 3B.  He's made 18 errors as a shortstop, and only 3 total errors as both a SS and 3B combined during this span.  He then, obviously, has also never played a major league game as a first baseman.  As a minor leaguer, Wilmer has played 1B in 20 games, 19 of them starts. 118 games at 2B and 98 games as a third baseman. So conceivably, no position Wilmer is projected to play in the coming season will be new to him.  But I'm wondering about everything that has gone on with Wilmer in the past 3 seasons.
  Wilmer has continued to work extremely hard, in ever aspect of his game, to succeed as a major league defender.  We've had many arguments about his abilities, range, arm strength, wildness of throws, and possibly strength in turning double plays from 2B rather than SS.  But in the end the main possible argument was that Wilmer seemed to never get comfortable from the start of his career as a major leaguer because there was no stability in his specific role and place with the team and the organization. 
  Let's not forget that Wilmer was a career .292 hitting minor leaguer with a  .774 OPS.  Over three years now as a major leaguer, Wilmer has accumulated 837 career major league at bats, and sports a .253 BA and a .673 OPS.  We would see glimpses of solid hitting from Wilmer at times, and many might see that succeed being tied in with stability and health playing one position. Wilmer will now be asked to possibly play 4 different positions, on any given night, and possible start in many of those games, for a playoff contending team with World Series aspirations. I guess at this point I'm wondering when the real Wilmer Flores will please stand up.
  There were times throughout Wilmer still beginning career in which the kid seemed to always find a way to put the ball in play and rack up RBI's and be clutch while doing it.  And obviously we may all never forget the post trade/emotional outcry Walkoff that will live on for centuries for us fans, but the playoffs in 2015 concluded with Wilmer hitting a combined .195 and going 1 for 17 in the world series. So now what?  Do we chalk it up to experience and lessons learned?  Was it the pressure again that may have been felt, this time knowing that Tejada, who had earned the respect of the organization and the fans during the run had been knocked out and unable to share the load on the baseball world's biggest stage?  Or was it maybe the pressure of a young man battling through an ending of the season in which he struggles to accumulate any RBI's and heard rumblings even publically from his own coaching staff that he was 'tired' during that stretch.  I guess maybe I can look into a few other things in play here.
  In his 837 career major league AB's the young man has struck out 117 times.  I'm sure we can all throw a ton of names of guys in the majors who've struck out a ton more, is less at bats, per year.  The fact has also been that Wilmer Flores makes contact. My buddy Scot has pointed out numerous times that last year it appeared that Wilmer may have started really being pull happy, and even though we enjoyed all kinds of April and early May homers, the season continued and Wilmer seemed to possibly have trouble with pitches on the outside, instead of his sweet spot which seems to always been down and in. But again, adjustments can always be made.  His age can still have been a factor. The pressure, even with finally having a form of consistency in a position, can remain a factor.  But 2016 is a season of positivity within the entire organization, its fan base and the players alike. This team can and should competing to win each and every night, and be favored to win on most of these nights. Can Wilmer help lead this team back to the playoffs while having no consistency, yet technically a form of consistency in the form of possibly regular at bats?
  Well, anyway, here's another random factoid for ya.  Wilmer is listed as being 6ft 3in tall.  Lucas Duda is listed at 6ft 4in tall.  I believe the weight of each might be little different on these guys but lets not forget that Wilmer was always 'tall' for a middle infielder, and so first base should not be considered out-of-position for him. 
  And, in reality, think about it another way.  Wilmer Flores, in my non expert opinion, has always been pretty sure handed, and many agree that he can make the routine play.  These skills can fare him well at first base, can continue to fare well at second base, and I believe his arm, minus the concerns for his accuracy, remains plenty strong enough to hold down the fort at third base.
  And perhaps shortstop at this point is now actually a comfort zone for him, so let's count that as a positive.  Which brings back and forth on my own question, which is how do we all really feel about this possible for him? 
  Can Wilmer continue his solid contact rate?  Can Wilmer perhaps make more effort to go the other way on outside pitches, cut down on the 'pop fly swings' and continue to use his natural power to go back to being the solid doubles and homer guy that we have seen flashes that he can be? 
   And lets not forget that above all else, Wilmer Flores can hit lefties.  I've said this before and I'll say it again, even during the magical run of 2015 I was stating my own personal preference to actually have Wilmer bat CLEANUP against lefties for this team, especially and obviously from April to July of that year. And for the season, Wilmer batted .310 with a .950 OPS against opposing lefties.  So regardless of position, I believe this is the kid of split that has to seriously come into play during the upcoming season when also choosing times to play him and where to play him.
  All in all, as usual, I've come up with a post posing a question, and I end up talking around it and possibly taking both sides of said argument.  But hey, that's kind of my thing.  I argue with myself on my own posts, and I beg and plead with the Mack's Mets readers to jump and do the same.

 So let me have it...............What does everyone think?  Is this the perfect role for Wilmer Flores? Does everyone still want him on our favorite team?  Will some continue to cringe every time he steps foot on the diamond to play SS? Can he consistently hit as a major leaguer and improve upon his lifetime BA numbers because he is contact oriented and possibly make the right adjustments as a just STILL 24 year old?  Let me know.


Thomas Brennan said...

Wilmer will do great in his active utility role, and his hitting will improve in all aspects in 2016. That's my view.

Mack Ade said...

Flores has had the entire off-season to get his head straight with the deals that took his job away. I hope he can mentally deal with it.

Adam Smith said...

I have a feeling that Wilmer has now been through enough that the bouncing around on defense won't bother him too much. I have high hopes for his season offensively, particularly since a a not-insignificant percentage of his 400+ AB's will come against lefties.

Dave Schulps said...

I have to agree with Thomas and Adam. I'm optimistic about Wilmer's prospects for this season. He should get a lot of ABs under almost any circumstances. Where he plays may be tied to three things, Wright's health and how Duda and Walker perform against lefties. Duda was terrible against them in 2014, but made major improvements in 2015. If he reverts, Wilmer could see a lot of time at first. Walker, the opposite of Duda: not too bad against them n 2014, but decidedly mediocre last year. It all points toward lots of playing time for Wilmer -- I'm guessing more AB's than the Cap'n this year. My gut tells me he's up to whatever they throw at him.

Mack Ade said...

David -

We all hope you are right.

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