Yankees Ramon Flores: Tweener

In scouting, the term “tweener” used to be more of a dirty word than it seems to be today. With advanced statistics, value is now viewed through a different lens which has allowed for a player like the Yankees Brett Gardner to post 5-win seasons at a position historically reserved for plodding power hitters. This development gives a prospect like Ramon Flores hope that his skill set may find a place in the Majors despite not fitting into the typical mold.

Video after the jump

At 19, Flores had a productive season in Charleston of the South Atlantic League at an age when many prospects find themselves in short season leagues. And while a .265/.353/.400 line will excite few, his wRC+ of 113 at such a young age makes the numbers even more impressive. However, contrary to opinion, his 11.4% walk rate in 2011 is both blessing and curse. On one hand, it’s great to see a young player with advanced plate discipline for his age and Flores certainly has it. On the other hand, that walk rate also forces me to wonder where the room for growth is?

If Flores is already able to identify pitches to drive and work counts to his favor, then his projection becomes much more dependent on physical development. Unfortunately for Flores, he’s listed at 5-foot-10, 150 pounds. With borderline average athleticism, he can probably carry an additional 20-25 pounds, but more than that would be difficult for me to envision. As he advances, pitchers will challenge Flores more with fastballs and force him to hit his way through the upper levels as opposed to drawing walks due to his simply not being viewed as a hitter who will do damage. With a good base of hitting skills to work from, Flores is off to a fine start, but walk rates in Flores’ case may not be quite as valuable an indicator of success as many will assume.

When discussing Flores’ swing, one has to mention a swing path which allows his bat head to remain in the strike zone longer than most leading to a strong feel for contact. And while he has more of a classically smooth, lefty swing, his barrel has plenty of snap allowing Flores to let the ball travel deep into the strike zone. A little wiggle late in his timing mechanism may be an area for improvement and a more “point A” to “point B” load should lead to more consistency. As with his batting eye, Flores’ spray approach and gap power is advanced for a hitter his age, but it makes projecting him out even more difficult.

On defense, Flores’ value will be limited. In game action, he was not really tested, but Flores’ overall lack of speed and athleticism showed through in other areas. It’s great to see him playing a some centerfield in box scores, but Flores’ development is a catch-22 in that added size and strength will enhance his value offensively, but will likely also leave him unable to man a premium position. However, Flores’ baseball IQ is high and he should be able to maximize the defensive value he does have by learning angles, positioning and how to better read balls off the bat.

In terms of speed, Flores is slower than his double-digit steals would indicate. With physical development, he is likely to slow even more, but Flores should be an intelligent baserunner with the ability to catch a pitcher or defender sleeping on occasion.

When scouting Flores, the name David Segui instantly entered my mind as a smooth left-handed hitter from my youth. However, with Segui having more natural size, Flores is more of a mini version. In terms of comps, this very well may be a terrible one, but it’s rare for me to so clearly envision a former big leaguer when scouting a young prospect. As an anecdotal observation, I considered it worth mentioning.

Ramon Flores is a fine under-the-radar prospect for the New York Yankees and fun guy to scout for people like myself who enjoy pure hitting ability. When so few hitters at the lower levels are able to work counts, fight off tough pitches and earn walks, Flores makes for a refreshing break from the norm. However, the same aspects of his game I truly appreciate are what keeps me from being able to project him as a big league regular in his prime as an overall lack of projection devalues a strong set of present skills.

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Mike Newman is the Owner/Managing Editor ofROTOscouting, a subscription site focused on baseball scouting, baseball prospects and fantasy baseball. Follow me onTwitter. Likeus on Facebook.Subscribeto my YouTube Channel.

15 Responses to “Yankees Ramon Flores: Tweener”

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  1. Always Sunny in CP says:

    Hope he turns out better than Marcos Vechionacci, who was another guy who had good eyes in the level where he was one of the younger (12.8% walk rate in sally as 19 yr old) but not much in the other facets of the game.

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    • Mike Newman says:

      Good example. I always use Nolan Arenado as my example of a guy with great contact ability, but not the best of approaches. He was dinged for his walk rates in the Sally, but anybody who actually saw him knew the bat control was special. The lack of walks was an area he could improve upon and he had the baseball IQ to do just that. My being able to project for improved plate discipline actually increased his projection.

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  2. Steve says:

    Minor nitpick: Gardner isn’t a “tweener”. He’s just a centerfielder on a team with another great CFer. The Yankees have another tweener though, in Chris Dickerson.

    Thanks for the article, good stuff.

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    • Mike Newman says:

      I think it’s safe to say at this point Gardner has wildly exceeded expectations of him coming up through the system. My recollection of him as a minor leaguer was that he was okay at everything, but not really a guy who truly fit anywhere. That’s pretty much the definition of a tweener. I was more referencing his receiving an opportunity in the first place instead of what he is now. The perception of Gardner has changed drastically from his fringe prospect beginnings.

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      • Steve says:

        Gotcha. I was thinking more of the definition of tweener as “not enough bat for a corner, not enough glove for CF”. My point was only that Gardner certainly has the glove for CF, but I get what you are saying now.

        Thanks for the response.

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      • rotofan says:

        Your recollection is correct only in part.

        It’s true a lot of prospect gurus missed the boat on Gardner and he was generally projected as a 4th OF or marginal starter.

        But it is patently incorrect to say he was okay at everything, but no more, so essentially a tweener.

        Gardner was always an excellent glove man in the OF with the range and reliability to play a string CF. He was consistently a good on-base guy who drew walks with a decent to good average, He was always an excellent base stealer both in quantity and SB percentage.

        The reason he was viewed without much enthusiasm by many was because he had little to any power along with a lack of elite contact skills (as well as a below-average arm) Also, he shuffled up the system, struggling a bit with each promotion, though he made steady progress.

        I thought then he was quite underrated. I saw him as a top-of-the-order table-setter who would get on base and cause havoc on the base paths while contributing as a defender in the OF. As per his history, he struggled when he came up, which should have been expected given his track record, but instead re-enforced the belief of those who had been underrating him.

        In any case, Gardner is in no way, shape or form a tweener as that is typically understood. An outfielder tweener is typically someone who lacks the defensive skills to play centre and lacks the power to play the corners. As someone else pointed out Gardner is a CF playing a corner to allow a big-contract Granderson to play centre.

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    • Shane says:

      They likely have their centerfielder playing left and their leftfielder playing center. At least that is my opinion. But that is nothing new for the Yankees as for years they had their shortstop playing third and their thirdbaseman playing shortstop.

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  3. Jerry says:

    On Yankees blogs that I’ve read, it’s been reported that Flores has gotten a little bigger (6 foot 2, 200 pounds) but that sites like bballref and MiLB haven’t updated the size listing on him.

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    • Mike Newman says:

      A little bigger? From 5’10”, 150 lbs. to 6’2″, 200 lbs. is a HUGE change. I did not see a guy who was that size last summer.

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      • Preston says:

        I had read that too. So I was a little confused by this article. If he’s now 6’2″ 200 lbs. he has plenty of projectability to get excited about.

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      • Mike Newman says:

        I can only go off of what I see – and I did not see 6’2″. For arguments sake, if you said 5’11” or 6′ and 170 lbs., I probably wouldn’t protest, but as a habit, I’ll generally work from the listed height/weight at Fangraphs unless I see something wildly out of the ordinary. For example, when I scouted Hector Sanchez with the Giants, he was listed at 6’2″, 200ish. He was closer to 230 and I commented his listed height/weight was light. I very well could have said Flores seemed a little bigger than his listed height/weight and almost did, but his size didn’t strike me in a way that would compel me to write about it.

        If you need a frame of reference, check out the Flores video versus the video of Braves Edward Salcedo. Salcedo is listed at 6′ 3″, 195. Look at his development versus that of Flores. Then, look at both of them in their stance/load versus a catcher in a deep crouch. The top of the catcher’s helmet comes to the base of Flores’ letters. As for Salcedo, the top of the catcher’s helmet comes to Salcedo’s belt. For the record, the catcher behind the dish for Flores is 2″ taller than the catcher for Salcedo so it’s a slightly imperfect comparison, but I’d still say Salcedo has at least 3-4″ on Flores.

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    • Greg says:

      Who knows, but prospects’ listed heights weights can stay with them for a while, and and it can get misleading when they’re signed at such a young age. Extreme example: Pineda was listed at 6-5 180 til like last year, when those were probably his measurements at 16, and he was obviously at least 80 pounds heavier. Manny Banuelos is listed at 155, but you can tell by looking at him that he’s likely a good 30 pounds heavier than that.

      And to repeat: baseball inches. A lot of these guys are just as tall as they feel. I’ve always noticed that 6’3″ Derek Jeter seems to tower over players supposedly his height or an inch shorter. 4 inches seems like a big jump, but I’m sure a lot of these 6 footers are really 5’10 to begin with. Looking at Flores in that video though, there’s no way in the world he’s 200 pounds. Still a thin kid.

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      • Mike Newman says:

        In the Sally, a 6’2″, 200 lb. teenager is a presence with a frame to dream on. Bogaerts, Salcedo and others had that frame, Flores did not. If he’s a legit 6’2″, then he’s the most unassuming player of that height I’ve ever scouted.

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  4. jhering51 says:

    He reminds me as the type of player who could become a James Loney type. Not exactly a compliment, but not an insult.

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