Terry Collins told reporters that he fully intends to stick with his six outfielder configuration after the All Star break even if it means not carrying a true backup shortstop.
Since going with this unorthodox roster, Ruben Tejada has started 19 games in a row at shortstop and has batted .266 with a .382 on-base during that span.
Collins says he values the offensive flexibility afforded by carrying an extra outfielder and being able to play matchups like getting left-handed hitters Bobby Abreu and Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the same lineup against righthanded pitching.
“We’ve got two lefties that have been swinging pretty good, so I’ve got them both in there. So it’s helped us out to where you can get them some at-bats now and then to try to keep them sharp.”
Playing the 40-year old Abreu at the same time as Nieuwenhuis in center also means Juan Lagares rides the bench, and that’s exactly where he’s been for two of his last six games despite three multi-hit games in July. The 25-year old Lagares is batting .293 with a .734 OPS this season and is off to a hot July batting .326 with five runs and five RBIs.
The key casualty to carrying six outfielders was the Mets 5th ranked prospect Wilmer Flores who is hitting .356 with a .380 on-base percentage and .726 slugging percentage in 18 games since his demotion in June.
In 187 at-bats, the 22-year old Flores has 11 doubles, 12 home runs and 53 RBI. He has the highest HR/AB and RBI/AB rates in the organization.
Many thought this would be a breakthrough season for Flores after making his debut in 2013. But it never happened for Flores and the playing time never materialized for him.
My guess is that if Flores ever does become the offensive force many have projected him to be, it won’t be with the Mets who simply don’t view him as highly as many minor league scouts and experts do. My guess is that he’ll be traded this offseason as part of a package for a right-handed bat.