Post-Hype Sleeper, Wilmer Flores

What exactly it a post hype sleeper? If there is a standard definition, I don’t know it. To me, a post hype sleeper is a player who was once highly regarded, tapered off, and then bounced back. In some leagues, deeper draft leagues for instance, one expects a post hype sleeper to be taken. To obtain him will likely take a trade and he is never the centerpiece. If you ask a competitor for a single prospect they’ll quickly be aware something is up. In shallow formats I’m a big fan of packaging my elite prospects for good young major leaguers. In leagues where you are allotted a certain amount of minor leaguers, the elite prospects are taken but post hype sleepers may have been dropped. On to a name worth targeting…

Wilmer Flores

It seems like the 20-year-old Venezuelan has been around forever but after five minor league seasons he is still young for Double-AA. In fact, he is one of five players who was twenty or younger in the Eastern League this season. His company? Manny Machado, Nick Castellanos, Tommy Joseph and teammate Wilfredo Tovar. Not too shabby. Flores could spend another year at Binghamton and his age would still be appropriate for the level. Despite posting a 136 wRC+ in upstate New York, it’s possible the Mets leave Flores in Double-A after being kicked out of Buffalo. Sadly, the Mets were forced into a two year deal with Triple-A Las Vegas after the Blue Jays agreed to a deal with the Mets’ former Triple-A affiliate. Why would Flores repeat Double-A? Because Las Vegas and the rest of the Pacific Coast League is an insanely friendly hitting environment and tends to hinder development.

At the plate Flores is known for ability to make consistent quality contact, however, until 2012, Flores had yet to develop any power. But, between Binghamton and the Florida State League Flores connected for 18 home runs and raised his isolated slugging per permillage nearly seventy points. This new found power and his contact ability (consider his 10.9% strikeout rate against an 18% league average) are great indicators of future success. Moreover, he has seen a steady increase in his walk rate over the years as well.

Hit tool? Check. Power? Developing. Plate discipline? Developing? As a fantasy owner what’s not to be excited about?

The issue with Flores – and the point you’ll need to target if you’re going to acquire him in a trade – is that he’s currently positionless. He spent 2012 bouncing between second and third base but his ability at both are questionable. Furthermore, David Wright, the team’s current third baseman, will likely be locked up in a long term contract by ownership at some point between today and next July. If Wright isn’t extended the Wilpons should watch out. After the Reyes debacle the fan base is ready to explode. So, third base is taken. What about second? First, it’s a waste of his arm strength but secondly, Flores doesn’t have the foot speed for the position. As his body continues to develop his foot speed should continue to decrease.

That leaves a few options. A corner outfield position, first base, or a trade. Of course, both positions have a higher offensive standards than third base and decrease Flores’s value. Additionally his inability to steal bases will put increased emphasis on his bat too. Like second base, Flores doesn’t have the foot speed to be an average outfielder. With that said, the Mets thrust Lucas Duda into the outfield so it’s not far fetched that they would consider experimenting with Flores there too. But, it will just be a train wreck. (Again, see Duda, Lucas).

The uncertain defensive home hurts Flores’s value enough that you should be able to pry away a very strong and underrated bat. He didn’t even make it on Jason Catania’s corner infielder list.  That’s an exhaustive list of over twenty players. Keep this in mind, the third name on that list is Nolan Arenado. Flores is younger, strikes out less, walks more and hit for more power in 2012. That’s pretty underrated. But, don’t be fooled. His combination contact ability and power (potentially) is really only found is elite hitters. If the price is fair, target Flores this off-season.

Prospect Video of the Week: Chris Blessing got great footage of a monster Mike Zunino home run and wrote a great piece about how to get the slugging catcher out.

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Formerly of Bullpen Banter, JD can be followed on Twitter.

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Don’t forget the Mets have already experimented with Flores at 1st base as well.