With eight games remaining in the 2013 season, Wilmer Flores has 96 PA here in his MLB debut. His production has been nothing to write home about; however, the fact that he’s in the majors at such a young age is certainly enough for us to sit up and take notice. Let’s take a look into Mets’ history and see which players came up and produced 100 PA or more in their rookie season at age 22 or younger.
There have been 30 seasons in franchise history to meet these parameters, by 28 different players. Some of the biggest names in franchise history, like Jose Reyes, Darryl Strawberry and David Wright, came up and saw significant time at a young age. But it’s not all sunshine and lollipops, as Kevin Collins, Fernando Martinez and Billy Murphy area also on the list.
Let’s break them up into five groups of six, sorted by their OPS+:
1988 Gregg Jefferies (178), Strawberry (134), Wright (119), John Milner (119), 1982 Wally Backman (115), 1980 Backman (115)
Ron Hunt (110), 1989 Jefferies (106), Ron Swoboda (103), Reyes (102), Mike Jorgensen (93), Ken Boswell (93)
Lenny Dykstra (89), Alex Trevino (88), Lee Mazzilli (88), Nick Evans (85), Edgardo Alfonzo (82), Bud Harrelson (80)
Lastings Milledge (78), Murphy (71), Brian Giles (63), Ruben Tejada (62), Tim Foli (59), Ed Kranepool (57)
Wayne Garrett (56), Carlos Gomez (55), Collins (54), Jose Oquendo (42), Martinez (38), Amos Otis (13)
We see that the players we think of as being the team’s biggest stars – Reyes, Strawberry, Wright – all landed in the top two groups. Flores currently has a 53 OPS+, which would put him in the last group.
People will undoubtedly point out that the Mets traded away Group E players Otis and Gomez and both went on to star for other clubs. That’s a fact. Also true is that the Mets gave up on Collins and Martinez and did not regret those decisions.
With Flores, one of the keys to his value as a prospect has always been how he was young for his level. You can only advance to the majors and at some point you stop being young for that level. Flores has not reached that point yet. However, it’s hard not to notice how other Mets prospects at similar ages really out-produced Flores in their rookie seasons.
Barring a trade, Flores likely will be eligible for this list a second time, joining Backman and Jefferies as repeat performers. Both of those players had better debut seasons for the Mets and while both went on to lengthy MLB careers, neither made an All-Star team.
Ultimately, it’s impossible to draw any definitive conclusions from this list. However, this should be included as a piece of evidence. Yes, Flores’ youth still works in his favor. But in my eyes a 53 OPS+ in the majors is a bad sign. Yes, he’s playing with a sore ankle and it wouldn’t be surprising if that has hurt his production.
But as we saw earlier this month, Flores’ production at Las Vegas was merely average among the players who played for both Triple-A and the Mets this season. His numbers are both PCL and Las Vegas boosted and a lot of air needs to be taken out of them to properly evaluate his Triple-A numbers in a major league context.
And when you come down to it, what little major league context we do have has not been kind to Flores, even when you factor age into things.