COMMENTARY | There's good reason to be excited about Wilmer Flores. While his prospect status is not of Zack Wheeler's, Flores could have a bright future in the New York Mets' infield for years to come.
The infielder seemingly proved that his bat was too strong for Triple-A in 2013. In 463 plate appearances, Flores posted a .321 batting average, .887 OPS and 15 home runs for Las Vegas. But that production has disappeared since getting the call in early-August.
Given the dearth of Mets' hitting prospects, both the organization and Flores himself need substantial proof -- in September-- that he can contribute beyond 2013.
Below are five areas Wilmer Flores will have to improve, debunk or reinforce during the month of September:
Was Las Vegas Just an Aberration?
It goes without saying that organizations like seeing their prospects produce great statistics in the minors. But since the Pacific Coast League (PCL) -- and Las Vegas, specifically -- is a hitter's haven, Flores' .321 batting average and 15 home runs are likely a bit inflated.
By comparison, over his first 79 plate appearances in the majors, Flores has done little to make skeptics think otherwise. Since joining the Mets on August 6, the infielder has posted a .219 batting average, park-adjusted 60 OPS+ and one home run. Even though it's a small sample size, Flores has yet to really exhibit the offensive prowess he boasted in Triple-A.
Too Many Strikeouts
Wilmer Flores was able to handle minor league pitching, but, so far, he's been whiffing far too often in the show. Despite owning a reasonable 12.5-percent strikeout rate in the minors, Flores has seen that metric spike to 22.7 percent with the Mets.
In addition, according to FanGraphs, 38.9 percent of the pitches Flores has swung at have been outside the strike zone. Flores needs to either quickly develop a better eye, or at the very least produce more hits with the non-strikes he swings at.
Not Enough Walks
The rule of thumb in regards to striking out often is that a player has to compensate by either hitting a lot of home runs or drawing a ton of walks. See: vintage Adam Dunn.
But in the case of Wilmer Flores, it appears as though he doesn't do much of either -- especially the latter. In 2,996 career minor-league plate appearances, Flores has walked at a mere 5.2-percent rate. Interestingly enough, Flores' walk rate has spiked to 6.3 percent in the bigs, but it's still not enough to justify a 22.7-percent strikeout rate.
Does Flores Have a Future at Second Base?
The big knock on Flores has always been his defense. In six minor-league seasons, the infielder played shortstop, third base, first base and, most recently, second base.
The Mets' front office seems to like Flores' bat at second base, but he's only played one game there since begin recalled. Instead, the Mets have used Flores at third base due to David Wright's season-ending injury.
Assuming the Mets still believe the infielder has a future up the middle, Flores has to prove that he can handle an active position like second base.
Could Flores Replace Daniel Murphy in 2014?
For many people, Wilmer Flores needs a good September for one main reason: to replace Daniel Murphy at second base.
The Mets desperately need good, starting outfielders in 2014. Assuming the team in unable to land Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury via free agency, general manager Sandy Alderson will likely make a trade for corner outfielders
The trade bait could be Daniel Murphy -- that is, if Flores proves to be a viable starting option. A good September from Flores could insure the Mets with enough depth to deal a productive player like Murphy for a greater need.
Ben Berkon is a freelance sports, humor, and tech writer/blogger from New York City. Berkon's work has been featured on The Huffington Post, The Onion, Bleacher Report, Bloomberg Sports, SB Nation, Medium and Rising Apple. He's [unfortunately] been a Mets follower his entire life.
Follow him at @BenBerkon.
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