Monday, August 24, 2009
Since squaring off in the Appapachian League, the question keeps coming up over and over again. If you had to choose one, would it be Tim Beckham or Wilmer Flores? The answer is much more difficult than two lines in a baseball chat box allow.
In seeing both play this season, I'm not even sure I know the answer. Neither Flores nor Beckham have performed like the elite prospects they were billed to be. Do they both have strengths? Absolutely, but both have glaring weaknesses as well. Instead of simply saying which I prefer and why, I wanted to break each down based on tools and projection and give readers an opportunity to weigh in.
Age - Advantage Flores: At a year and a half younger than Beckham, Flores is playing the 2009 season as a 17-year old. Beckham is young for the league as well at 19, but Flores' moderate success in full season baseball is much more impressive than the raw numbers indicate.
Bonus - Advantage Mets: With Flores receiving less than 15% of the bonus awarded to Beckham, the Mets have much less to lose should Flores not pan out. I've discussed Beckham's bonus in a previous piece, and simply don't see his being worth ten times what other shortstop prospects in the league have received.
Physical Projection - Advantage Flores: At 6'3", Flores has shed weight over the course of the season leaving what is essentially an empty canvas for the Mets organization to develop. At a listed 175 lbs., he's a player who can gain 30+ pounds on his way up the Mets organization ladder. Beckham, with his already fully developed lower body, doesn't have the frame to handle more weight. He may even be a guy who needs to redistribute some of the weight he has gained in his lower body to remain agile enough to man a position in the middle of the field.
Maturity - Advantage Beckham: While Wilmer Flores' approach has improved leaps and bounds this season, Beckham handled his business as professional should. If one did not know who Beckham was, he or she would have had no idea Beckham was a former #1 overall pick from the way he carried himself on the field.
Contact - Advantage Flores: At 17, a K% of 14.1% is pretty obscene. Beckham's K% sits a full ten points higher and he showed an inability to make solid contact versus breaking pitches when I watched him in person. Beckham's contact issues are correctable, but Flores' contact ability is simply uncanny for a player of his age who is still so raw.
Power - Advantage Flores: At present, Beckham is showing more power than Flores. However, if you consider the age difference and Flores' room to fill out, power projection favors Flores considerably. Beckham may become a 12-15 home run player in the bigs, but Flores has the potential for 20+ or more annually.
Fielding - Advantage Beckham: Better foot speed and athleticism gives Beckham the range advantage and the nod on footwork. He's also a much more fluid fielder. However, Flores does very well with balls in front of him and I'm impressed with the way he charges everything to cut down the distance on his throws to first base.
Arm Strength - Advantage Beckham: While Flores' arm grows stronger as the year continues to progress, Beckham already posesses a plus arm from what I've seen. Flores' arm will never be more than average at best.
Speed - Advantage Beckham: Flores, nicknamed "Tortuga" or "Turtle" by his teammates is a true 20 runner on the 20-80 scale. Beckham has slightly above average speed which he hasn't been able to translate into more than mediocre stolen base percentages which may not improve as time goes on.
With both players having very different skill sets, they grade out to be near equal on paper. What tips this showdown into Flores' favor for me is the bonus Flores received. Beckham may very well have a higher floor, but at less than 15% of the bonus given to Beckham, Flores not panning out would be a drop in the bucket compared to the amount the Rays invested in Beckham.