Minor League Prospect Report: Wilmer Flores, 3B, New York Mets
It seems like he's been around forever, but New York Mets prospect Wilmer Flores is still only 21 years old. He's also completing a breakout season in 2012, living up to the potential he showed when the Mets signed him for $750,000 in 2007.
The Venezuelan began 2012 with a .289/.336/.463 mark for St. Lucie in the High-A Florida State League, hitting 10 homers in 64 games. Promoted to Double-A Binghamton at mid-season, he's remained effective against better pitching, hitting .321/.369/.504.
Overall, in 125 games this year, Flores has hit .305/.352/.483 with 30 doubles, 17 homers, 37 walks, and 59 strikeouts in 476 at-bats. He will set career-best marks in batting average, OBP, and SLG. Although he doesn't have enough plate appearances to qualify, his .873 OPS for Binghamton would rank second in the Eastern League.
Flores is listed at 6-3, 190 pounds, a right-handed hitter and thrower, born August 6, 1991. Previously a shortstop, he's split 2012 between second base and third base, showing defensive promise at both positions. He doesn't have spectacular range, but his arm is decent and he's been quite reliable so far, in terms of avoiding excessive errors. Flores has below average speed and is no threat to steal bases.
Flores' cachet as a prospect has depended on his bat. Scouts have always liked his swing, but until this year he didn't hit for much power or draw many walks. On the other hand, he always made contact well,and has shown the ability to deal with both fastballs and breaking stuff, even when he's overaggressive. The hope was that he would show more power as he gained strength and physical maturity. That has happened this year: he's driving the ball more effectively to all fields, while maintaining his proclivity for contact.
If Flores remains on his current path of development, he should hit for average with at least moderate power while providing steady defense at either third base or second base. I had him as a Grade B- pre-season and would move that to a strong Grade B at this point. There is still enough risk and uncertainty here to preclude a higher grade, but overall his outlook is brighter than it was a year ago.