Wilmer Flores played second base yesterday in a Spring Training game for the Mets. Flores did not embarrass himself defensively and looked to have an idea offensively. So after roughly six innings it is safe to christen a man with 0 AB above Double-A with the starting second base job?
No. Nope. Nah. Negative. Not Yet.
Flores has even less MiLB experience at 2B than Daniel Murphy did when he tried a similar transition, and even at that point Murphy had significant innings at first base (same side of the infield, similar reactions). Wilmer Flores saw his first minor league action at new positions this year with seven games at first base, 27 games at second base and 87 games at third base. For a man who played 300+ career MiLB games at shortstop to not even take one inning at the position shows where Flores will wind up in the grand scheme of things.
The biggest knock has been movement in general, but specifically lateral movement and Flores ability to compensate for lack of speed with efficient footwork. In yesterday’s game, Flores made a few solid plays and no miscues in his four chances to handle the position. Just for an analysis, we will look into each chance.
1. Man on first, groundball hit directly at Flores, runs in front of the runner and shovel-passes the ball to Brandon Hicks (SS) covering second, turning the double play.
Thoughts: Flores got to the ball which wasn’t hit very sharply, got rid of the ball smoothly and did it in one fluent motion. This play shows more awareness and body control but did show Flores’ soft hands.
Thoughts: This was the most challenging play Flores would have all day and shows why he may still need some more reps to get smoother. Wright gives Flores an average to solid feed, although it was thrown directly into Flores numbers and not off to a side where Flores could easily avoid a baserunner. Flores had to stand tall, and due to the throw handcuffing was forced to throw flat-footed to Ike Davis and still got the runner by half a stride. Flores exhibited a strong arm and turned that play. The footwork around the bag was a bit rough as he could have taken the slide-step to the outfield-side of the bag to avoid contact but instead did an odd shuffle and stayed on the base
3. Ball hit to Flores left (glove side) hard, Flores goes down, gets the ball, spins and throws to Ike Davis for the out.
Thoughts: The reaction play will always be a great way to test a second baseman and this shot was a decent test. Though hit within Flores vicinity, the reaction to drop and get it with a slide and spin was a good move. If Flores goes for an outright dive, he runs a higher risk of booting the ball. By spinning as he catches it, he puts himself in the best position to throw and uses more of his body to block the ball in the event it doesn’t wind up in his glove.
4. Ball hit directly at Flores, gathers and throws to Ike Davis
Thoughts: This is a standard play regardless of which base a player would be covering. Scoop, regroup, throw. Flores didn’t look hesitant or worried and knew he had time to throw out the runner.
5. Ball hit on a big bounce near the plate, Flores rushes in but has almost no chance to throw out baserunner
Thoughts: This was the toughest play but not the most challenging for one reason. The player running on the play notched three infield hits, and not one was a bunt. Flores was forced to charge and throw from where he reached the ball which was above his head. For what it’s worth, Flores missed getting the runner by about a full stride, but on first watch it appeared to be a bang-bang play.
Conclusion: For his first six innings in a spring training game, Flores didn’t look bad with the glove. He made the routine plays, made a few difficult ones and was both the feeder and the pivot man for a double play. Wilmer looked confident and not like he was afraid to make mistakes. Just for reference, Reese Havens has been playing second base for nearly his entire MiLB career. He made two miscues yesterday in half the innings. Is Flores the savior? No. Can he be a useful MLB player with the glove? Useful in terms of adequate…sure lets go with that. Flores will probably see a fair-share of reps at both second and third base now that David Wright will be leaving for the WBC.
*side note – Flores went 0-2 at the plate, both fly-outs to the right fielder. Flores hit them both the opposite way and I do not know if that was a product of hitting the ball where it is pitched, or a specific game plan to go opposite way.