Why Wilmer Flores is the future at second base

Wilmer FloresOutside of 3B, where David Wright will be manning the hot corner for the next several years, 2B is the most stable position in the franchise. Not only are there three capable starters at second on the 40-man roster (Daniel Murphy, Wilmer Flores and Eric Young Jr.), but there are also multiple bench players who can sub in for the starters (Justin Turner, Ruben Tejada, maybe even Josh Satin). There is also excellent depth at the position in the minor leagues (Jordany Valdespin (unless he’s dropped from the 40-man roster), Danny Muno, Dilson Herrera, LJ Mazzilli), making it one of the few position player spots on the team that is a strength of the major and minor league system.

Saying that, the decision about who will man 2B next year, and what to do with the personnel who do not, is a major decision for this front office this offseason. With that in mind, let’s sum up the candidates for who will be starting at second on Opening Day in April:

Wilmer Flores 50%
Daniel Murphy 40%
Eric Young Jr. 9%
Anyone Else 1%

If you couldn’t guess by my percentages, I feel that 2B will be handled from inside the organization, for all of the reasons I mentioned above. There is no need for the Mets to go outside of the organization at second. The 1% was only put on there for two reasons:

1. You never know and so I always give a 1% chance that anything can happen in the game of baseball
2. There have been a plethora of rumors surrounding multiple 2B that are reportedly going to be on the market this offseason.

So, let’s nip this now. The Mets aren’t signing Robinson Cano. The Yankees are going to end up giving him something like an 8-year contract for 200 million. If it’s less than that, it will only be because they give him fewer years, like five years and 125 million. The point is, the Mets aren’t spending that money on Cano, and I don’t think he’d come to them if they did. The Yankee’s will not let Cano go to any team in the AL East, nor the Mets. So even if the Mets came in offering six years, 180 million, I could see the Yankee’s saying, “We’ll give you a seventh year” or “We’ll give you the same amount of years, but 200 million”. Look, Cano is a great player, but he will be a Yankee next year, so let’s just move on from him.

Omar Infante? No. Good player, but not any better than what we already have.

Brandon Phillips, Howie Kendrick and Ian Kinsler? All players still in their primes, but towards the tail end of those years. All make a lot more money than the Mets in house candidates and all have flaws that make them not much of an improvement over what we have. To me, the only reason that the Mets should go out of the organization for a position would be if the upgrade is going to be major. 2nd Base doesn’t require that. Shortstop does, the outfield does, even first base arguably does (although, as you saw in my last post, I don’t think the Mets will go out of the organization in that position), but not second base, catcher or third base.

So, onto the in house options:

Young’s really only on this list as a starting candidate because I think there is a chance that both Flores and Murphy are traded this offseason. The only way that would happen is if both are included in a major deal for a corner OF. If the Mets wanted to a take a chance on Matt Kemp, I could see the Dodgers asking for Murphy and Flores to man two holes on their infield (2B and 3B). If the Marlins are willing to deal Giancarlo Stanton in the division, they have so many holes that Flores and Murphy would make a ton of sense as a part of that equation.

Saying all of that, I don’t see it happening. I like the idea of Kemp, but I’m also really scared of his ankle injury, which will also scare off Alderson & Company, due to his huge contract. I also don’t believe that Stanton is getting traded in the division. I’m not even sure he’s getting traded at all, but if the Marlins do, I think they’re shipping him somewhere much farther away than their own division, or even their own league.

I get that Young’s stats don’t look great. He appears to be a speed guy only and it seems like the Mets are intent on using him as a bench speed guy who can play all three OF positions and 2B. I’ m fine with that, as I think Flores and Murphy are better players, but Young intrigues me as a leadoff hitter for several reasons:

1. His speed is elite. He’s not Billy Hamilton, but there are very few players in the majors that are better and, to me, speed is an undervalued talent in this league.
2. In leadoff situations, he’s shown tremendous success. Young had 418 PA’s as a Met, of which 168 of them were either leading off the game or leading off an inning. In those 168 PA’s, Young hit .313 with a .387 OBP. Those are big time lead off numbers. When you look even further, his career numbers in those situations are also good. In 492 career PA’s either leading off a game or an inning, he’s batted .288 with a .362 OBP.

The problem with Young is the rest of his ABs. Although he was somewhat product with RISP, batting .250 as a Met, he was abysmal in most other situations. So, although he does have a talent in lead off situations, as the above numbers attest, that talent doesn’t translate elsewhere. The question of how good he would be defensively is also an issue. He was brought up as a 2B in the minors, and showed improvement there, but was never a prospect that one would say was a plus fielder. His range would be better than Murphy, due to his speed, but that doesn’t mean he’d make the plays.

However, if I’m the Mets, I don’t know how much money I put into the leadoff spot. This team needs middle of the order hitters, so if you have someone like Young on your team, who has shown throughout his career that he has a talent for getting on base when no one else is on, and then causing havoc on the base paths with his speed, why not utilize that and put resources into other parts of the lineup? I don’t think they’ll go that route, but it would be interesting.

Murphy had a superb season in 2013. It’s been talked about multiple times on Mets 360 and other blogs in the Mets blogosphere, so I’m not going to quote the numbers, just list the top ten finishes in the NL; 8th in Runs Scored, 7th in Stolen Bases, 7th in Doubles, 8th in Total Bases, 2nd in Hits. Yes, he did this in a lot of ABs and is not a great OBP guy, but Murphy can hit, period. He’s also improved at 2B (although he was 2nd in Errors as a 2B, he was also 3rd in Assists, 2nd in Putouts and 3rd in Double Plays turned), making himself not a liability at the position.

So why is Murphy not the most likely guy to start in 2014? All the above information makes Murphy the biggest ML trade chip the Mets have. Although Phillips, Kinsler and Kendrick are reportedly on the market, Murphy is younger and cheaper than all three. Murphy is at the start of his prime and can play 1B and 3B if that’s the need. I could see Murphy being the ML part of a deal for a variety of OFs (Jose Bautista would be my choice), and I could also see the Mets holding onto him and signing FAs to fill the other needs. Either way, I’d be happy. Murphy is a Met that fans should be glad is on our team, and if he’s traded and he brings back a big piece of the puzzle for the next few years, then he should be celebrated for what’s he’s done and as one of the best 2nd Baseman in team history. If he improves my team I’m happy, if he’s hustling like he always does on the field, I’d also be happy.

Now, for Flores. Again, I will not rehash the history of Flores. Mets fans have known about this guy since he was 16. I also get that he had a tough time in his first shot at the majors, but there is statistical evidence in his minor league career that shows he can be, at the least, another version of Daniel Murphy.

To illustrate this, I’m going to dab into the world of major league equivalencies. To me, that’s the best way to even out minor league statistics when comparing ML players to players with mostly a minor league history.

Murphy had his own ML audition in 2008, after having break out campaign at AA Binghamton. The 23 year old had the following stat line: .308 BA, .870 OPS, 9.7% walk rate and 11.3% SO Rate. Pretty good.

Flores broke out at AA in 2012. The 20 year old’s stat line was: .311 BA, .855 OPS, 7.3% walk rate and a 10.1% SO Rate. Again, pretty good, and he was only 20 years old.

When you look at their ML Equivalencies, the numbers come out as follows:

Murphy: .238 AVG, .667 OPS, 6% walk rate, 12.6% SO rate
Flores: .237 AVG, .633 OPS, 5.2% walk rate, 12.1% SO rate

Nearly identical numbers. Now, we know the differences. Murphy came up to the majors in 2008 and was successful. Flores wasn’t in 2013. But it can’t be ignored that these similar stat lines came when Flores was 20 and Murphy was 23. It also can’t be ignored that Murphy’s debut occurred at 23, as opposed to Flores at 21. Flores also suffered that ankle injury, which could have further marred a good debut.

Flores also showed improvement once moving to AAA. Of course, his actual numbers were inflated at Las Vegas, but his equivalencies also show improvement.

AAA: .253 AVG, .690 OPS. Although the OPS only jumps 57 points, those were almost all in his slugging percentage, which took a 50 point jump, while his OBP took a 7-point jump.

What does this all mean? Considering how close they were at AA, I feel that Flores can, at his baseline, be a Murphy clone. The difference is, whereas Murphy was never expected to produce power, and by now we know he will be a 35 to 45 double guy with 8 to 12 HR’s a year, Flores has always projected to have 15 to 20 HR power. So, Flores will be Murphy with more power.

I would take that, and I think that will be the deciding factor in Flores being our 2B next year. Even fielding wise, they aren’t very different. Flores has a slightly better career minor league fielding percentage, Murphy slightly better range. That simply means, Flores makes more plays that come to him, while Murphy makes more plays that Flores can’t get to, in essence, evening the situation out. None will be a plus defensive infielder, but as Murphy has shown, they won’t be a detriment either.

When you add it all up, it makes sense to trade Murphy and give the 2B reigns to Flores. Murphy will get more back in a trade. There is depth in the organization at second and we already have an ML alternative (Young) if Flores flops. Plus, for similar expected production (I can’t see Flores, if given the starting duty at 2B, not at least replicating Murphy’s stat line from 2009, .266 AVG, .741 OPS, and he might even eclipse those numbers), why pay Murphy 5.5 million or more, when you have Flores for the bare minimum, at a much younger age. I’m a Flores believer and I look forward to the next several years of Flores, Travis d’Arnaud and Wright as strong right handed bats in our order.

20 comments for “Why Wilmer Flores is the future at second base

  1. Metsense
    October 24, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Excellent article Scott! I also see a future trade of Murphy for all the reasons mentioned above. If Murphy is included in a trade package the Mets have a better chance of bringing back a better player to fill a need and his projected $5.5 M salary goes toward the better player softening the financial blow of the new acquisition.
    I’m sure the Mets didn’t want to trade Hubie Brooks either.

  2. October 24, 2013 at 9:10 am

    Young has a talent for getting on base? You could of fooled me! With a .250 batting average,35 walks in over 400 at-bats and an OBP of .318? You don’t think the Mets can find someone with better numbers as a lead off hitter in 2014?

  3. tom
    October 24, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Flores absolutely raked after a slow start in AAA…as Casey used to say, you can look it up. He had 2 bad ankles, so it is very hard to judge his uneven performance after call up. I think he’ll hit fine and be OK in field. And if he falters, it s/b short term, and we’d have Young at 2nd. I like Murph, but they need to make changes and you have to have chips to trade, so he should be traded in a good deal.

  4. Joe Vasile
    October 24, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Good article Scott. While I do agree with you that Flores should be considered the future at 2B, I don’t really see the Mets trading Murphy at this point. What I’d like to see at this point is a platoon at second base next year with Flores and Murphy, with Flores seeing the occasional day at first to spell Davis/Duda or third to spell Wright. I think that taking advantage of Murphy and Flores’ platoon splits will pay dividends next year. The two of them combined may give the Mets the 2B production of a Cano, but for millions of dollars less. For the long-haul, though, I see Flores as the guy because of his greater power potential.

    • TexasGusCC
      October 24, 2013 at 11:20 am

      That’s a good idea also. You realize, that because it’s logical they won’t do it.

  5. TexasGusCC
    October 24, 2013 at 11:16 am

    I have a problem: We are fans. It is not our job to worry about the Mets financial health, nor is it our fault that they were reckless. Also, the Mets will make in 2014 and did last year. Therefore, we should be keeping the best player and not worry about Murphy’s $5.5MM salary, because in baseball, relievers make more. Murphy is a good but flawed player. I would rather that Murphy stats and plays first than the options these dumb decision makers are offering, and in July, trade him if it helps the team AND Flores is capable. If not, switch the two players and trade Flores next winter. Get rid of the Duda that fancies himself as a DH anyways.

    • TexasGusCC
      October 24, 2013 at 11:17 am

      * Also, the Mets wil make MONEY in 2014 and did so last year.

  6. October 24, 2013 at 11:38 am

    And what about the 2 loans that are due in 2014?

  7. Scott Ferguson
    October 24, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    A lot of great responses. I’m against platooning Flores because it would mean he was only playing against lefties, which is usually only about 33% of the time and I strongly believe that the only way young players learn is to play. Both Murphy and Flores won’t be on the 25 man roster next year. One will be traded or Flores will be in AAA.

  8. Scott Ferguson
    October 24, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Regarding EY batting leadoff, I know their are better players out there, but if they only make one big acquisition this offseason, it needs to be in the middle of the order. Say they sign Choo and bat him leadoff. He might get on base 39% of the time but who do you yrust to knock him in other than Wright? That’s the problem with investing big money into a leadoff hitter.

    • Sean Flattery
      October 24, 2013 at 11:58 pm

      I agree. I’m befuddled on criticism of Eric Young by so many Mets fans, especially considering the leadoff situation before he arrived. The guy led the league in SBs, energized the team, got big hits, took the extra base, hit extra base hits, etc. He is what he is. He’s not an all-star, Colorado wouldn’t have traded him for McHugh if he was. I’m eager to see him next year in a full season with something to prove as an everyday player…even though, he’s proved plenty to me. And people calling him a bench player is just insulting to him, he deserves the chance to be leadoff next year.

      • Name
        October 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm

        Young after the all-star break:
        .228/.292/.300 with a .592 OPS.
        We complain about Lagares’ offense, and those numbers pale in comparison to him. Don’t be fooled by remembering a few great plays that he made. Overall, he stinks.

  9. October 24, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    And who are the big sluggers going to drive in when no one is on base?

  10. Name
    October 24, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Why do Met fans think that Murphy can be the primary chip in a trade for players such as Kemp, Stanton, Bautista? Teams that want to trade with the Mets would look at Wheeler, Syndeergard as primary chips and Murphy could potentially be the cherry on top, not the guy you build a trade around.

  11. tom
    October 24, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Agree he is not a primary piece. If something costs $20, you may pay with teo $5′s and a $10….Murph is a $5. Somewhat enhanced because even at his next year’s salary, his production if replicated is relatively cheap by today’s nutty salary standards (I remember the time Kouxfax and Drysdale held out for something like a combined $250,000, and were forced to take less due to lack of free agency).

  12. Sean Flattery
    October 25, 2013 at 12:01 am

    Trading Murphy in favor of Flores would be a bold and risky move..AAA is not the majors. Flores has alot to prove even to be a part time player before even considering moving Murph.

  13. October 25, 2013 at 12:28 am

    Young was an upgrade because Met management totally misjudged what they thought they had as their lead off hitter. Yes anything would have been better. But a .250 batting average does not make you a prime candidate for the lead off spot especially when you don’t draw any walks.

  14. tom
    October 25, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    With regard to the risk of Flores successfully transitioning from AAA to majors, that is always a risk…having noted that, Flores absolutely tore it up from May 1 until he got promoted, in AAA, a very good sign that, next year being a year older, he will have taken last year’s injury-filled cameo and used it as a learning tool and put up very solid #’s with the Mets in 2014. I think if Murphy could be a chip in filling a major hole, it is a risk to take. Flores would free up $$ to be spent elsewhere.

  15. tom
    October 25, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    You say Young is not a reserve and should have a chance to start in 2014 – all depends on what they do this off-season.

    If you projected his Met #’s over 150 games, he have stolen 63 bases, with a high success rate. That offsets his otherwise mediocre stats. On the 2013 team, yes, he should start. depends on what they do in offseason. If they bring Byrd back and sign another OF free agent, his starting chances greatly diminish. He is a .250 guy with no power, unfortunately. If he were a .280 or .300 guy, with a tick more power, different story.

  16. October 26, 2013 at 2:19 am

    Tom you answered the problem with Young yourself. Defensively he’s barely adequate so you need for him to produce offensively. Talking about projections Let’s take a look at 2013 results. Young played in 148 games for New York and Colorado. He had 539 at-bats drew only 46 walks, batted .249 and had an OBP of .310. Numbers don’t lie.

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