It seems ever since the New York Mets lost long time shortstop Jose Reyes to costless agency in 2012 it just has been a train wreck for them at that position. For two and a half years the Mets stuck with Ruben Tejada who never seemed to mature and progress like the organization had hoped. Finally fed up with the lack of production from Tejada the Mets turned to young Venezuelan shortstop Wilmer Flores half way through the 2014 season and look to keep him as the incumbent heading into the 2015 season.
Flores, who is 23 years old, made his major league debut August 6th, 2013 against the Colorado Rockies and finished the remainder of the season with the team hitting only .211 with one home run and thirteen RBIs. Not once though during this stint did Flores play the shortstop position.
After starting the 2014 season in the minor leagues Flores got the call-up midway through the season and was solidified as the starting shortstop for the time being.
He played in 78 games while hitting .251 with six home runs, twenty-nine RBIs, and a .664 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). With the MLB batting average for shortstops being around .262 in 2014 Flores didn't even play half a season and hit .251, having his best month in September.
Not a natural shortstop, there has always been a huge question mark surrounding Flores and his ability to play the position defensively. Wilmer played 51 games in 2014 at the position hoisting a .979 fielding percentage and committing four errors. Flores, when he was called up in 2013, committed two errors in 26 games at third base, his natural position. In just a short time Flores has progressed and become more adept to playing shortstop.
"You gotta make sure you make the routine plays," Mets' General Manager Sandy Alderson said on Flores' defensive liability. "The plays that are expected, that the pitcher on the mound expects to be made. And then hope they can keep you close enough so that offense maybe from that player at shortstop is going to make the difference."
Flores has been praised throughout his young career for showing flashes of a solid power-hitter. He had a .378 SLG (slugging percentage) which if he qualified for enough games would have finished 12th in the league among shortstops. In the month of September alone Flores hit four of his six home runs on the season, giving the organization and Mets' fans hope that “hey maybe this kid is it.”
“I know there are fans out there that don't want to hear it but if we had to go into the season with Flores as our shortstop I'm certainly not in a panic mode at that point,” Mets' GM Sandy Alderson.
After six straight sub-.500 seasons and eight years since they have tasted October, the New York Mets' fans are starting to become restless and impatient. The Mets have a very young and talented core of players and it seems it is only a matter of time now before they all hit their stride. Fans saw it with Matt Harvey in 2013, with Jacob deGrom, Travis d'Arnaud, Juan Lagares, and Lucas Duda in 2014, and now could possibly see it with Wilmer Flores in 2015.
Alderson still feels reluctant to split up that core of young players in order to improve the shortstop position. With a weak costless agent market for shortstops and young Matt Reynolds not yet polished for Opening Day 2015, it seems Wilmer Flores is the man to atleast start off the season.
Maturity and consistency is key to the progression of a young player. Flores began to show both these aspects last season. With an organization who wants to desperately move past the Tejada saga, Wilmer Flores could be the key to the Mets' success in 2015.