Wilmer Flores (Ownership rates: Yahoo N/A, ESPN 0%, CBS 4%)
I must say, I was shocked to discover that Flores isn’t even in the player database on Yahoo. It’s not like he’s some under-the-radar prospect whom no one expected to see the majors this year. The 21-year-old has been on three Baseball America Top 100 Prospect lists in his career and finished last season in Double-A, where he hit .311/.361/.494.
This year, Flores actually has improved on that line, hitting .318/.352/.519, this time at the Triple-A level. What we have here is a guy with very little left to prove, at least offensively, in the minors. The big knock on Flores as a prospect is his fringy defensive ability. He has spent most of this season at second base, where he hasn’t exactly shone:
Mets like Wilmer Flores' bat, but have no idea where to play him. Evaluator who has watched him says Flores is extremely challenged at 2B.
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) June 23, 2013
Fortunately, defense doesn’t matter in fantasy, as long as it’s not so bad that it keeps the player off the field. Considering how well Flores has hit at Triple-A, it certainly seems like his bat would help the Mets, who are 13th in the National League in OPS.
With the Mets removed from any reasonable chance at playoff contention, there’s really no reason to keep Flores in Triple-A any more. The Mets can afford to put up with some sub-par defense to let the kid show what he can do at the major-league level. The only real problem is finding him a position to play.
Flores originally was a shortstop, but he was moved off that position before last season and hasn’t played an inning there since. He plays some third base, but the Mets have some guy named David Wright hogging all the playing time over there.
The Mets probably could stomach his poor defense at second, but Daniel Murphy is having a solid season at the keystone. However, Murphy is capable of playing several positions and easily could be moved off second base if the Mets want to give Flores an opportunity there. Also, with the trade market for middle infielders being especially thin this year, it would not surprise me if Murphy is traded before the deadline to strengthen the Mets’ farm system.
One spot Flores could play without having to worry too much about defense is first base, where the Mets currently have a platoon of Ike Davis, who is doing his very best not to hit baseballs this year (.175/.270/.272), and 28-year-old rookie Josh Satin, who has hit quite well (.329/.454/.494) but clearly is playing well above his head.
Long story short, the Mets can, and likely will, find a way to get Flores and his hot bat into the major-league lineup some time soon. Once he gets the call, it shouldn’t take long for him to hit his way into fantasy relevance. It’s always difficult to project minor-league production to the majors, but the fact that Flores hit very well in Double-A last year and has been even better in Triple-A makes him a pretty safe bet not to trip over his own shoelaces in the bigs.
Scouts have given plus grades to both the hit tool and raw power on Flores for years, and he’s shown excellent development in both areas over the last two seasons. His batting average last year (.311) and this year (.318) are the two best marks he’s ever had at any level, and his isolated power has jumped considerably both of the last two years (.110 in 2011, .179 in 2012, .202 in 2013).
Flores may not show up on recent top prospect lists, but that doesn’t mean he’s not an excellent fantasy prospect, as his defense and awful baserunning (he’s been caught stealing in over half of his minor league stolen-base attempts) hold down his overall prospect status. He’s not going to steal any bases for your fantasy team, but he shouldn’t hurt you in any other categories.
As I’ve said before, the later we get into the season, the harder it gets to find quality options on the fantasy waiver wire. Flores is eligible at third base on CBS and at shortstop on ESPN and likely will gain eligibility at first base, second base or both once he gets the call. He should hit for a solid average and has 15-20 home run potential. Stash him now before someone else does.