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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

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Everything's Coming Up Flores

I didn’t know much about Wilmer Flores before his promotion last week, primarily because I cultivate a state of plausible deniability where the Met minor leagues are concerned. I remain mostly blissfully ignorant about Met prospects because, quite frankly, I don’t want to know. With a handful of exceptions at the Harvey-Wheeler level, I figure the kid — like the notoriously tardy Baby Buck — will get here when he gets here.

Well, Wilmer Flores has gotten here and he’s been worth however you long waited for him…which in my case wasn’t at all, making him a nice personal surprise in the vein of Juan Lagares (about whom I will admit I knew nothing upon his callup). Together Flores and Lagares drove in all four runs in the Mets’ 4-1 Saturday night victory over the Diamondbacks, a game won by fellow rookie Zack Wheeler and preserved in great part by another recent Las Vegan, the perpetually youthful Pedro Feliciano.

Lagares homered. Wheeler didn’t walk anybody as he pitched into the seventh. Feliciano negated threatening lefty Gerardo Parra with the bases loaded in the eighth. Flores, however, is the new toy and thus the one to which the eye is drawn most immediately.

Wilmer’s playing third out of necessity because of David Wright’s injury and batting sixth because he’s too good to waste further down the order. His five-game major league career has been promising enough to make one wonder where he’ll eventually fit into the lineup and defense — which is where I get twitchy.

Flores has collected eight RBIs in his first five games. Actually, they’ve come in his second four games. We spotted him his first night’s ohfer to let him get his feet wet. His small sample size since is extraordinarily large enough to get us excited at the thought that once he’s stationed at his permanent position, he could really…uh…

Say, what is his permanent position? He just turned 22. Surely we know where his future lies.

Don’t we?

Even if I had been paying attention to his minor league activities, I don’t think I would know, since nobody else seems to. He was drafted as a shortstop, but it’s been agreed he’s not really a shortstop. He’s played second base more than anywhere else, but we’ve seen that second base is not easily conquered. It’s taken Daniel Murphy close to three seasons to appear natural at second — and, hey, we have Murph at second! Wilmer’s also played a little first, the province of Ike Davis, a recent inductee into the Hall of .200, so who wants to rewrite that kind of success story?

You’re not going to keep a run-producing, franchise-changing stud out of your lineup so as not to disturb a Davis or a Murphy, but Flores is only that in our dreams right now. Mike Vail was that. Gregg Jefferies was that. Rosters were unhinged and defenses were realigned because finding those young men places to play became paramount after a few hot August nights.

Vail. Jefferies. Alex Ochoa. Victor Diaz. Mike Jacobs. Lastings Milledge. You know the drill. A stream of intoxicating at-bats. A few dreamy weeks. The future arrived. Then the future got hurt playing basketball or failed to mature fully or was swapped for Brian Schneider and Ryan Church before the future’s trade value completely disintegrated. In the shadow of all those disappointments that linger in the subconscious, Wilmer Flores rose to the major leagues with a name even I recognized on contact and is getting us going in the short term while on the verge of overheating our hopes and dreams for the long term.

But y’know what? Let him. That’s what 22-year-olds who drive in eight runs before they’ve been here a week are supposed to do.

10 comments to Everything’s Coming Up Flores

  • Chip

    My plan is simple. David Wright gets the rest of the year off. (We don’t need his career impacted by a hamstring like Keith Hernandez was. Not with the long contract, and not with me living with a 10-year old girl who asks everyday when “David” (eyes fluttering) is coming back.

    Let’s see Flores hit for two months. Next year in camp. Call Mr. Duda, Mr. Flores, and Mr. Davis in a room. (presuming we have not already dumped Lucas and/or Ike in a trade) and inform them that the first base job is for one of them to win, outright. Loser(s) go to Las Vegas.

    Would send a powerful message to those who have already not received it this year. Who plays is based on production, not perception.

    And can someone tell me what Tejada did to earn banishment – while we are celebrating that Ike Davis has redeemed himself and gotten back to hitting .200? And don’t tell me Q is that much better. He is pretty much the same player, just 8 years older, and “hits” from the other side of the plate. Sure Tejeda was terrible for six weeks. But he seems to have a shorter leash than Davis, and I am not sure why.

    Ike Davis is the second coming of Kevin Maas. Time for Wilmer Flores to be the second coming of… yet to be determined.

    • open the gates

      I kinda thought of Ike Davis as the second coming of Mike Jacobs.

      And that’s what’s killing the Mets at first. All those Mike & Ikes.

  • I maintain the website for a 20 team Strat-O-Matic league and being a die-hard Mets fan I periodically profile Mets players for the other members. Just today I posted this.

    It now looks like the 3B job is Wilmer’s for the next few weeks or possibly until the end of the season. The team is not saying whether David Wright will return this season from his hammie injury.

    Let’s start with Wilmer’s defense. Not very good. Manager Collins rushes to put Justin Turner in his place late in games with a lead. To the naked eye Flores might be a 3B-4 but the usage pattern suggests that SOM will be slapping him with a 5. Part of his problem is a total lack of speed. Of course, Brooks Robinson was slow but was a superlative defender at 3B. I think his running speed will be 1-8, maybe 1-9. As you know strat grades on a scale of 8 slowest, 17 fleetest.

    And now onto more pleasant aspects, his offense. Wilmer’s a big boy already and at just turned 22 he might have some growth left in him. Right now he is mostly a RH’d batter who hits with authority to RF and right center. I recall saying something similar about a young fellow named David Wright once upon a time. One can learn how to pull the ball (unless your name is Daniel Murphy).

    The announcers swoon over his swing but I am not seeing why. It seems to me that his approach comes from his arms and top half. He does not have the drive in the legs to suggest someone who will consistently hit 20 or more HRs per season. The swing itself is quick and relatively level. Overall I believe he can be an above average major league hitter.

    The big question is what his future position is. He has played mostly 2B at AAA this season. With his lack of footspeed I can’t imagine he could ever be better than a 2B-4. Some people, I’m thinking of Dan Uggla and Jeff Kent, have made nice careers playing the keystone with limited range. Maybe that’s Wilmer’s future. But I suspect that sooner or later he’ll settle in a 1B or even DH.

    What the Mets do with him is tied up with their plans for Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis, and perhaps Lucas Duda. And the Mets make their calls on the basis of how much people cost to be retained. If you see an offseason trade of Murphy then Wilmer will get first shot at second base. If it’s Ike who’s tossed – maybe even nontendered – then Flores will go to spring training vying with Duda and perhaps Josh Satin for the first base job.

    As for this November’s draft I doubt Flores will be or should be selected in the first three rounds. How usable his card will be is still to be determined. There is time for him to get the magic 200 ABs to be a CBL starter.

  • Dave

    Why is it that whenever the Mets have a “position player” prospect, he has no position? But scouts have loved his bat since the Mets first signed him, which, if Flores is 22 now, must have been when he was about 7, because I feel as though we’ve been hearing about him forever. Find a place for him to play, otherwise I fear this is an Amos Otis or a Kevin Mitchell…very productive hitter who could have helped the team quite a bit had they kept him for more than a half an hour.

  • vertigone

    Meanwhile, the greatest day of Travis d’Arnaud’s life impatiently mutters about the stubborn uterus of John Buck’s wife.

  • Andee

    Flores was drafted at age 16 out of Venezuela, and he just turned 22. It’s easy to forget those kids whose first professional innings in the organization took place in another country, because they were drafted so long ago. And of course, when you draft a kid that young, you just don’t know what you’re going to get. But nobody ever said he wouldn’t hit, just that they didn’t know where to play him.

    For the remainder of the season, they might as well try him at 2B and 1B and see how he does there; if he really doesn’t have the range to play 2B, as some scouts have said, then by default he goes to 1B. Which is currently manned by one of the strangest players ever, for this or any other team. I mean, how do you get a handle on the utter weirdness that is Ike Davis? How can anyone possibly project what he’s going to do next year? It’s good that he’s stopped fishing for trash, that was a battle royale in and of itself. But who is this guy? Someone who’s going to be pretty expensive next year in second-year arb because of his slugging past, but doesn’t seem to be much of a slugger anymore, someone who had a great defensive rep coming up but seems to be channeling Todd Zeile in the field now. Certainly, he’s no more of a known quantity than Wilmer, and might even be less of one.

    And if it turns out that Wilmer can play a passable 2B, I’d think that Murphy (also second-year arb) could be offered around as trade bait. He has more trade value than Davis, because what you see with Murph is what you get: mostly passable but unspectacular D, and an extremely streaky hitter who has trouble hitting lefties, but since 2B is a position that it’s hard to get decent hitting from, someone will probably bite.

  • open the gates

    Funny – when you mentioned the “notoriously tardy Baby Buck,” I first thought you were referring to one Travis D’Arnaud.

    Personally, I’d rather D’Arnaud turn out to be a Baby Piazza.

  • Mike M

    Flores’ defense isn’t really as weak as it is made out to be. Reports say that he has very soft hands and a strong arm, with his weakness being his limited range due to plodding size.

    Frankly that seems accurate to me given the very SSS eyeball test at the bigs, but more importantly the fact that he has been able to shift around the diamond in the minors and hold his own at every spot he’s played.

    In other words, those immediately pegging him as a future DH are selling him short.

    Don’t get me wrong; I get that we’ve been trained to expect the worst when it comes to finding a position by the Lucas Duda types in the past, but Wilmer Flores is not Lucas Duda.