Wilmer Flores: Not a Disaster at Shortstop Yet

Flores Fall Down

The footage embedded above comes from an August 22nd game between the Mets and the Dodgers and depicts Wilmer Flores acting out what is essentially the baseball equivalent of a first-day-of-school anxiety dream. With two outs and runners at first and second, Yasiel Puig batted a mostly harmless ground ball to Flores. Instead of converting said grounder into a routine out, however, what Flores did was first to (a) misplay the ball and then, after picking it up, (b) stumble forward unprovoked and fall to the ground in front of everyone.

That no one scored on the play (or the inning) is perhaps some consolation so far as this particular instance is concerned. Still, to the degree that just any one play can, this particular one doesn’t recommend Flores’ hands and agility.

Nor was this particular sequence of events probably very surprising to any number of talent evaluators who’ve watched Flores play defense ever. The presiding sentiment regarding the now 23-year-old Venezuelan has been — for a few years, if not longer — has been that, while he exhibited promise offensively, he was essentially a man without a position.

Consider this passage, for example, from the 2012 edition of Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook:

As he fills out his lean frame he could develop 20-homer power, which would be special for a shortstop — but scouts give Flores no chance to stay up the middle. He’s a well below-average runner with heavy feet and substandard range.

Not a glowing report, that. And yet, one finds that, in nearly 50 starts at shortstop this year, that Flores has produced commendably average — or at least not disastrously below-average — defensive figures, according both to UZR (+3) and DRS (-2).

That said data is the product of just a 430-inning sample is entirely noteworthy — and all relevant caveats regarding fielding data apply. However, given the myriad concerns regarding Flores’s defense, it’s probably also fair to regard anything better than abject failure an overwhelming victory.

Nor is it merely the shadowy math inherent to defensive metrics which suggest that Flores has converted batted balls to outs at something like the rate of an average shortstop. Here, by way of illustration, are the current charts courtesy of Inside Edge’s video scouts, both of Flores’s made and missed plays this season.

Flores Big Graph (2)

As the chart on the right shows, there have certainly been instances this season in which Flores has failed to record outs when other shortstops almost always would do. The Puig grounder (No. 3 above) is one example, of course.

From May, and marked No. 1 above, is this errant throws on a ground ball by Paul Goldschmidt:

Flores 1

From August 10, and denoted as play No. 2 above, there’s this combo package of awkward shuffling and poor throwing on a batted ball by Ben Revere:

Flores 2

And then from actually just two innings after the Puig grounder above on August 22nd, there’s this second error from that same game (No. 4), an inexplicably inaccurate throw to first:

Flores 4

Those plays all illustrate concerns expressed about Flores’s defense, and feature basically all the flaws — bad hands, poor footwork, inaccurate throws — an infielder can exhibit. That said, according to Inside Edge, those are the only plays Flores really ought to have converted this season and hasn’t. Indeed, one finds that Flores has also recorded outs in situations where other shortstops might not have done.

On August 16th (play No. 5), for example, Flores fielded this ground ball hit by Cubs catcher Wellington Castillo and made an accurate throw to first within about 4.5 seconds — which is to say, an interval of time in which at least some major leaguers run from home to first.

Flores Mostly Difficult

On August 18th (play No. 6), converted this ground ball in the hole within about 4.4 seconds, just getting Javier Baez at first base (and officially ruled an out following a challenge):

Flores Very Difficult

Finally, on August 31st (No. 7), Flores dove to his left and deftly gloved this grounder/liner-type hit up the middle by Ben Revere, and then successfully recorded an out after flipping to second base — a play Inside Edge’s scouts regard as one converted less than 10% of the time:

Flores Near Impossible

Even in some of these plays — like in No. 5 when Flores is lifting himself to his feet — there are instances in which Flores exhibits some manner of awkward movement. And it’s entirely possible that Flores’s weaknesses just haven’t been exposed yet. In most case, when a scout has suggested that a player’s actions aren’t suited to this or that defensive position, then that player really isn’t suited to this or that defensive position. In other cases, however — like the ongoing mystery that is Jhonny Peralta — there’s a disconnect between a fielder’s actions and his ability to convert batted balls into outs.

What appears likely, in any case, is that the Mets experiment of installing Flores as the (mostly) starter at shortstop has had relatively positive returns thus far — if only because those returns haven’t been disastrous. It’s also an experiment that probably deserves to be extended — because, as Baseball America noted in 2012, a player with Flores’ offensive upside does have a chance to be special if he’s also playing shortstop.



Print This Post



Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Chad
Member
Chad
1 year 8 months ago

Doesn’t seem like he has nearly the arm to play on the left side. Even when he sets his feet his arm looks sub-Eckstienian.

LHPSU
Guest
LHPSU
1 year 8 months ago

The MLB may be the only league where throws from shortstops are expected to hit the 1B-glove without hitting the ground. Unfortunately this is the league he wants to play in and defensive standards for shortstops are high.

Kevin Mitchell
Guest
Kevin Mitchell
1 year 8 months ago

Tell me about it.

db
Guest
db
1 year 8 months ago

Actually, if you watch him, he has a slightly plus arm, which has helped him be pretty effective at turning the double play. He is a bit slow of foot and not particularly smooth, but he does seem to pass the eye test for “adequate”

Brian
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

He was graded to have the “Best Infield Arm” in the Mets system twice by BA. His arm is plus. That’s just a fact.

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
1 year 8 months ago

When I saw him play for the first time, I thought he had a very strong arm. I was surprised a little bit, because I didn’t expect it – although it seemed like he took a while to get rid of the ball, which offset the arm strength.

In the GIFs above, it does look like his arm is pretty weak though. I thought maybe I just saw him on a good day, or I misremembered.

LaLoosh
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

this is why you can’t draw conclusions from one play.

Brian
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

That is why you always leave a note.

ZenMadman
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

He doesn’t have a weak arm. He just throws the ball into the ground a lot. Maybe he needs to work on his release point? Perhaps he has a strong arm but not a good arm. The good news there is that maybe this is something that can improve with reps.

JAMill
Guest
JAMill
1 year 8 months ago

His arm seems really weak and his bad foot work makes you appreciate how easy some of the better defensive shortstops make it look.

As he ages he may not be able to handle the position, but given he makes the routine plays perhaps he can fake it for another year or two.

whynot
Guest
whynot
1 year 8 months ago

He’s got utility guy written all over him.

Nadcfws
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

That’s exactly what I was thinking.

Ben Zobrist
Guest
Ben Zobrist
1 year 8 months ago

Hey now, don’t say that like an insult!

Marc
Guest
Marc
1 year 8 months ago

He’s got 9 xbh in September against 2k’s. Small sample size aside, he can hit – how many MLB teams have no room to start an average defender that hits for power and doesn’t strike out?

just me
Guest
just me
1 year 8 months ago

Really? I’m no Mets fan, but the last thing I see Flores becoming, is a utility guy. Utility guys are normally little guys that have reliable gloves, quick feet, average arms… and lousy bats. So you can plug them in all over the field and at least get reliable defense out of them.

In what way does that describe Flores?

He’s a tall lanky guy. Glove seems OK. Range looks good, but feet are not quick. Arm seems below average. I could see him becoming a “bat first” SS, and (as noted in the post) he’s showing that he might be able to pull that off… and kudos to the Mets for trying it. Its the best way to maximize his value.

Failing that, he doesn’t appear to have the footwork for 2B, nor the arm for 3B. So I don’t see him as a traditional utility guy at all.

I could see him in LF if he can’t cut it at SS. And if the bat comes through, and he fills out a bit… he could be very good there. I think he’d be average (or better) there right now.

Tejada looks like the utility guy to me.

whynot
Guest
whynot
1 year 8 months ago

Yeah, I meant utility guy in a good way, not to infer scrub/defensive replacement. Someone who you can use to give the other infielders a semi-frequent breaks/platoon days & not miss too much offense.

george
Guest
george
1 year 8 months ago

he looks horrible. even the good plays he seems slow to get to his feet, and has a long release on sort of weak throws….at least peralta is smooth; he does everyting perfectly expect move fast.

george
Guest
george
1 year 8 months ago

except*

Brian
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

We’re not selling jeans here.

BrooksRob
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

comments seem to be from people who haven’t seen a Mets game. Flores has been *much* better than advertised at SS… to the point of actually being acceptable there, when everyone who ever pretended to be a scout told us it would never work. Guess what? It’s kinda working.

The Inquisitor
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

I watch a lot of Mets games.

Dovif
Guest
Dovif
1 year 8 months ago

Then you are not very smart

Go Nats
Guest
Go Nats
1 year 8 months ago

Mets have a very good defensive SS who is great at drawing walks in Tejada, but his lack of speed and power make him unsuited to play everyday. Perhaps a P/T Tejada and a P/t Flores would make a darn good starting SS combined.

Wilben Florjada
Guest
Wilben Florjada
1 year 8 months ago

I’M A MONSTER!!!

Brian
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

How about Rumer Tejores?

Also your comment made me laugh out loud for a full minute and is the second Arrested Development reference in the thread, so I’m having a good day.

ReneNYM1
Guest
ReneNYM1
1 year 7 months ago

The only reason he draws walks is because he’s batting eight and pitchers want to get to the pitchers.if he bats anywhere else he wouldn’t get those walks.

Nadcfws
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

“But, really, outside of his bad hands, poor footwork, and inaccurate throws he’s a heck of a shortstop. Well, mostly.”

Dovif
Guest
Dovif
1 year 8 months ago

The guys is a 23yo former top prospect, having his first cup of coffee in ml. His def skills has been average so far. What he will be is basedon his hitting and when he can have more 2hr 6rbi days. He remind me of his double play partner who had the same issues 4 years ago

Spa City
Member
Member
Spa City
1 year 8 months ago

Apparently we can have fun with small sample sizes when discussing defense, too.

The Inquisitor
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

Since when does small sample size apply to scouting tools?

Spa City
Member
Member
Spa City
1 year 8 months ago

Since September 16th 2014 at precisely 10:05 pm. Didn’t you get the memo?

Brian Petti
Guest
Brian Petti
1 year 8 months ago

If they keep Murphy at 2nd, that middle infield has the potential to be spectacularly bad at defense.

LaLoosh
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

they won’t be keeping Murphy at 2B.

Next.

Senor_Met
Member
Senor_Met
1 year 8 months ago

Yes, his defense is extremely shaky, BUT he hit two home runs last night, and he’s somehow managed to be a 1.6 WAR player in his 63 games.

Senor_Met
Member
Senor_Met
1 year 8 months ago

I meant 1.2

FeslenR
Guest
FeslenR
1 year 8 months ago

From the small sample over the overall games he played at Ss….Wilmer is sub-par, which is okay by me(since he can hit). That said, he probably is a 2b guy in the near future.

The Inquisitor
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

2B? He appears to be incapable of the footwork that the position requires.

LaLoosh
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

not true again, mon frere. He can actually turn a double play quite deftly, which is something Met pitchers can benefit a lot from going forward and which they haven’t had much of the past few years.

Ultimately, I think Flores ends up being the super IF role player who can be spotted at all 4 positions but they will get a defensive upgrade at SS, probably a LHed hitter, making it a nice complement to Flores (Miller, Drew, Didi). And Herrera probably ends up the 2Bman and Murphy getting dealt.

Dovif
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

Herrera is the mets 2b of the future and he is playing ok for a 22yo, the fact that Flores is 23 and seemed to have been around forever

ZenMadman
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

Herrera is only 20, Dovif.

just me
Guest
just me
1 year 8 months ago

As we’re talking SSS stats anyway… might as well dive a little deeper. And when you do, you see he’s hitting about his “normal” vs RHP, while hitting very poorly vs opposite handed (LH) pitchers.

This is unlikely to continue (in a good way for Flores).

Assuming his current struggles vs LHP are just random SSS fluctuation, then you can easily see him as a .270+ batter, with decent to good power… playing OK shortstop… at age 23.

Ken
Guest
Ken
1 year 8 months ago

Considering his offensive potential, I think Wilmer deserves the chance to continue at SS. His range may be limited and he may boot the occasional ball, but the nice thing is — any errors there have limited magnitude since the result is simply the same as a single.

There’s far less potential for bad outcomes than there is in playing someone in the outfield who is ill-suited for that role (see, e.g., Lucas Duda in 2012).

Jack Strawb
Guest
Jack Strawb
1 year 8 months ago

A thing it only took the Mets four+ years to figure out. Sweet jesus.

Bob
Guest
Bob
1 year 8 months ago

Honestly – is #7 really a 10% play? Maybe if there isn’t a runner on 1st. Does UZR or DRS take into account where baserunners are when determining fielding runs saved?

mattmaison
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

Was this article written just to spite Dave Cameron for his comments about Flores on the Podcast the other day?

Jack Strawb
Guest
Jack Strawb
1 year 8 months ago

So can anyone even begin to explain why the Mets–granted, it is the Mets–moved Flores off SS entirely during his age 20 and 21 seasons?

AndrewY
Guest
AndrewY
1 year 8 months ago

We moved him off SS for the same reason Murph couldn’t play 2B. Usually when finding a position for a player, especially in the minors, they find where he would be best able to play league-average defense and declare that his “natural” position. Murph couldn’t play 2B at a league-average rate, and so he was deemed a 3B/IF.

The fact is, Wilmer has played SS enough as a professional that his instincts are decent enough there. Lindor and Russell are shortstops that would be excellent at the position if they played shortstop for the first time tomorrow because they maximize their excellent tools. Flores has a good arm, decent glove, and fringy range. Our friend Murph has proven that fringy range can be improved with practice.

wpDiscuz