One of the most intriguing players at spring training for the New York Mets this year will be Wilmer Flores. Just as he has for the better part of a decade, Flores enters the 2014 season as one of the Mets’ top 10 prospects. However, he has also entered every season of his professional career without the Mets having a long-term plan for him. After Flores made his big league debut last season and is on the doorstep of being a full time major leaguer, it’s time for the Mets to have a plan for him, so what is it?
Flores has spent most of his time in the minors the past couple of seasons playing second base. He’s put great effort into trying to improve his range defensively, which has always been a main concern with him. But with the Mets choosing not to trade Daniel Murphy after a modest effort shopping him this offseason, that position is spoken for, so Flores won’t be playing there unless Murphy is injured. The same is true for David Wright at third base, which may actually be the position Flores is best suited to play.
Flores could also be considered a candidate for the Mets’ open first base job, although first base is the position he’s played the least in the minors. Unless something unforeseen happens in spring training, Flores would only be a platoon player at first base, with either Ike Davis or Lucas Duda getting a majority of the playing time there, and the Mets may prefer to give Flores regular at bats in triple-A instead of putting him in a platoon.
Mets manager Terry Collins has said that he will pay close attention to Flores during spring training and give him playing time at each infield position. General manager Sandy Alderson has also insinuated that Flores’ presence at a strength, conditioning and nutrition camp in the offseason could improve speed and agility, helping him defensively at several positions, including shortstop. However, Flores has much to prove before the Mets trust him at shortstop, even as a backup, meaning it’s unlikely that he could be the team’s backup middle infielder heading into the season.
What all this means is that the Mets still don’t have a definite plan, which is a problem at this point in his career, as he’s already made his big league debut and has little left to prove in the minors after a line of .321/.357/.531 in triple-A last season. Without a defined role, Flores doesn’t have a good chance to make the team out of Spring Training, meaning he’ll return to triple-A and merely wait for a spot on the infield to open, which isn’t a good course of action for the Mets to take with one of the best hitting prospects.