A good friend of mine who owns Tyler Flowers in a fantasy baseball league I participate in believes Flowers' breakout AFL campaign is the beginning of HUGE things to come. My advice to him was to keep his expectations for Flowers at pre-AFL levels since winter ball standouts don't always turn out to be as good as the numbers indicate.
Yes, a .387/.460/.973 is insane for little league, let alone the AFL, but is a twenty game sample ever enough to truly determine Flowers' worth going forward? My answer is no!
Instead of focusing solely on twelve home runs in twenty games, I prefer to use it as a piece of a much bigger prospect puzzle. Does a 6'4" catcher who shows a stretch of monumental power deserve a bump in prospect status? Yes, but not nearly as much as some are making it out to be.
To truly assess Flowers' prospect value, one simply can't ignore the following information:
- Shortly after the calendar turns to 2009, Flowers will be 23 and will not have an at bat above A+ ball. In comparison, Delmon Young is four months older than Flowers and has logged well over 1300 big league at bats.
- While Flowers currently plays catcher, from everything I've read, I would put the odds of him remaining behind the plate at 70/30 against. A move to first base means the power isn't a bonus, it's a must sapping much of his additional perceived value.
- The Braves traded him QUICKLY after the end of the AFL! This is huge as the deal reeks of the Braves selling high and jumping at an opportunity to land a 200 inning workhorse without dealing Freeman, Heyward, Hanson, or Schafer.
- Flowers STILL ranked in the bottom quarter of Baseball America's top 20 AFL prospects.
- I have not read a single analysis of Flowers' performance saying his stock has significantly risen post AFL as he was, and still is a borderline top 100 player.
- AFL statistics can be misleading as Eugenio Velez and Sam Fuld were two of the breakout performers from the 2007 AFL season. While both are not the prospects Flowers is, it's a good indicator of how misleading AFL output can be.
When combining his .291/.400/.488 career minor league line, AFL performance, and anecdotal information, I'm left agreeing with most prospect analysts who consider him a borderline top 100 player even after his dominating fall. At this point, too many question marks surround Flowers to consider him an elite talent.
Going forward, I would recommend Flowers owners to copy the Braves blueprint and strike while the iron is hot on Flowers. His perceived value to some will never be higher and if Flowers can land you a top 50 guy or solid veteran, I'd make the move. Flowers' situation is a lot like Jarrod Saltalamacchia's in that his power potential is elite for behind the plate, but average for a first baseman. With Flowers unlikely to stick at catcher, no time is better than the present to cash in on his value.