On Wilmer Flores moving to second base

Wilmer FloresThe Mets are expected to activate Daniel Murphy and install him as the team’s third baseman in Tuesday’s game against the Cubs. We should all be glad that Murphy is back from the disabled list to lengthen the lineup. And we should be just as happy that the team is finally playing a better defensive lineup. In addition to Murphy at third, rumor has it that Ruben Tejada will be playing short and Wilmer Flores will move over to play second.

But the question becomes what to do with Dilson Herrera, who seems to be the odd man out. Herrera didn’t take advantage of his opportunity to establish himself in the majors. But he was also hurt for nearly a month. Anyway, the easiest thing to do is to send him to the minors where he can play every day. And if there’s anything we’ve learned about Sandy Alderson, it’s that he never misses a chance to take the easiest way.

My belief is that Herrera is a future star and Flores is a future utility player. Their offensive numbers have been similar up to this point, with a slight but definite edge to Herrera. There’s absolutely no doubt that Herrera is a better runner and a better fielder. So, in the Mets’ universe, it makes perfect sense to pick the inferior player to play right now as the club looks to fight for a playoff spot. The younger player always gets the short end of the stick, even if the older player is 23.

Here’s an age-based comparison of the two players:
.

Age League OPS PA Age League OPS PA
19 SAL .750 503 19 FSL .689 559
20 FSL .765 309 20 FSL .799 272
20 EAST .967 278 20 EAST .855 275
21 PCL .896 96 21 PCL .887 463
21 MLB .607 93 21 MLB .542 101

The first set of numbers belong to Herrera and the second set to Flores. At age 19, Herrera hit better but Flores was at the higher level. Let’s call it a wash. At age 20, Flores had a slight edge in the FSL, where he was repeating the level. Not shown here is that Flores also played at the FSL at age 18, too. Anyway, when both players advanced to Double-A, Flores was good while Herrera was great. Not shown in this chart is that Herrera got a cup of coffee in the majors at age 20.

Their hitting in the PCL was a wash. The difference is that Flores did this over nearly a full season while Herrera’s total was about a month. And Herrera got off to a slow start. In his final 64 ABs before getting called to the majors, he was batting .422 with 9 XBH. In the 67 ABs before Flores was promoted to the majors, he was batting .313 with 7 XBH.

And neither one was very good in the majors at age 21. Yet Herrera held a 65-point edge in OPS.

Flores did better in his second go-round in the PCL, upping his OPS to .935 in Las Vegas. But once we take the appropriate air out of that, we see it’s not very impressive. Our research shows that you should remove 19% of a player’s OBP and 34% of their SLG to get a better representation of what the same season numbers look like going from the PCL to the majors.

Applying those to Flores, we get these numbers for the past two years:

2013 – .887 OPS in LVG, .639 OPS translation, .542 actual OPS in majors
2014 – .935 OPS in LVG, .672 OPS translation, .664 actual OPS in majors

Flores underperformed what we would have expected him to do in 2013 but did exactly what we would have expected in 2014. And we see his 2015 MLB numbers are virtually the same as his 2014 numbers. Everyone’s wowed by the home runs but in 256 PA this year, Flores has a .665 OPS. Last year in the majors, he had a .664 OPS. This is who he is as a hitter.

Last year, Flores’ supporters said that the reason he didn’t do better was because his playing time was sporadic and he was hitting eighth in the order. This year he’s been a full-time player and has moved up in the batting order, even hitting cleanup. While we see a slightly different shape to his numbers in 2015, his overall production is a carbon copy of what it was a season ago.

Now, the supporters say that his offensive numbers suffered because he was focusing on playing shortstop. The story goes that his fielding was impacting his offense. So, we’ll sink more time into Flores, hoping he’ll develop into an impact bat once the pressure of playing a position he’s played the majority of his life is removed.

It brings to mind a scene from the movie, “And the Band Played On,” which was a story of the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Matthew Modine plays a doctor on the front line and he’s testifying before Congress, trying to get more money to research the disease to find a cure. The amount he’s requesting seems like an incredible amount – in hindsight it was a drop in the bucket – so the idea was dismissed out of hand. To which Modine’s character replied:

“How many dead hemophiliacs do you need? How many people have to die to make it cost efficient for you people to do something about it? A hundred? A thousand? Give us a number so we won’t annoy you again until the amount of money you begin spending on lawsuits make it more profitable for you to save people than to kill them.”

How many PA do we have to waste on Wilmer Flores, starting infielder? Yes, he’s still young and the possibility he can improve certainly exists. But the key word is possibility. It’s one among several outcomes and at this point it’s not the most likely one. He has 704 PA in Triple-A that are not good once you take the air out of them and 647 PA in the majors that are equal to or worse than his adjusted Triple-A numbers. There’s just no way to dismiss 1,351 PA as a small sample.

Herrera was much better than Flores at Double-A, they were equivalent in Triple-A, although Flores had a much bigger sample and Herrera was promoted once he started hitting. And Herrera’s shot in the majors was superior to Flores at the same age. He’s a natural second baseman and much better defensively than Flores. He’s much, much faster than Flores and he’s not above taking a walk.

The case for Flores is based on the hope that he can improve on what he’s done at Double-A, Triple-A and the majors, despite 1,626 PA at those levels. If he improves, you live with the questionable defense, the poor running and the inability to draw walks.

The case for Herrera is based on the hope that he can reproduce his Double-A numbers if he’s given more than the 96 PA he had in Triple-A or the 93 he’s had in the majors this year. Herrera doesn’t need to improve as much as he needs the chance to play. On an age-based comparison, he’s been better in the batter’s box than Flores, he’s superior everywhere else and there’s more chance for a 21 year old to improve than a 23 year old.

Flores gets the shot because he’s older, not because he’s better. Anyone offended by Dillon Gee given preference over Rafael Montero should be offended here. Anyone offended by Bartolo Colon given preference over Noah Syndergaard should be offended here. Anyone offended by Rick Ankiel getting preference over Juan Lagares should be offended here. Anyone offended by Michael Cuddyer getting preference over Michael Conforto should be offended here.

You should play your best guys, regardless of how old they are or how much money they make. In the meantime, we’re left rooting for Flores. If history is any judge, he’ll go through a five-game streak where he pops a couple of homers and has everyone convinced he’s turned the corner. And then we’ll have a three-week stretch where he does nothing. It’s been 19 days now where he’s done nothing so a mini-hot streak should be just around the corner.

Let’s hope it lasts more than a week this time.

Meanwhile, Herrera should get a bunch of playing time in Las Vegas, where he will likely put up good numbers. And some people will say with a straight face that he “needed the extra seasoning.” If only we could wager on these things happening what a good world it would be.

20 comments for “On Wilmer Flores moving to second base

  1. Name
    June 30, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Herrera is 21 with 61 games at AA and 22 games at AAA.

    He’s not helping the team right now, so more seasoning please. As bad as Flores is, i can live with him for another month or two for the development of Herrera

  2. Ian
    June 30, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    I’m all for Herrera in the future or now. Why don’t we move Flores to left field. I bet his defense would be above average out there. Infielders usually can slide to the outfield easily and Cuddyer is the guy we don’t need.

    • Larry Smith
      June 30, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      Flores is ponderously slow. Just as the minor league staffs decided he didn’t have the skill set to be a shortstop at the major league level (and that has clearly been shown to be the correct assessment) they also felt he couldn’t cover enough ground to be an acceptable major league outfielder.
      I agree with Brian that Herrera should have been kept on the major league roster and played. It’s the typical Mets way of operating to send him down and keep Wilmer in the majors.
      My preference would have been to send Campbell down and let Wilmer get occasional starts at all four infield spots. Campbell is not even close to being a major league player. Flores is somewhat of a major leaguer IMO.

      • TexasGusCC
        June 30, 2015 at 6:54 pm

        This from Fangraphs:

        Ultimately, Wilmer now has a 1.7 UZR/150 in 561.2 innings this year to supplement his 12.5 UZR/150 in 443.1 innings in 2014. This now gives him a cumulative 5.9 UZR/150 in 1005 innings! While this is still not a huge sample size it is becoming increasingly likely that Flores can stick at the position. Flores’ apparent ability to play shortstop coupled with his current 93 wRC+ (projected for more of the same from ZiPS and Steamer) makes him about an average player.

        http://www.fangraphs.com/community/the-mets-third-base-uncertainty-and-troy-tulowitzki/

        Let’s list how many starting shortstops are equal to or worse than Flores has been:

        Miller, Semien, Gregorius, Mercer, Amarista, M. Gonzalez, Aviles, Segura, Andrus, Desmond, Rollins, Escobar, Castro, J. Ramirez, Santana, A. Ramirez, and E. Escobar. That’s 17 players!

        Can we please stop dumping on Flores? Any of the teams that have those guys would love to have Flores. Why can’t we see that other players have their problems as well.

      • TexasGusCC
        June 30, 2015 at 6:59 pm

        “Ultimately, Wilmer now has a 1.7 UZR/150 in 561.2 innings this year to supplement his 12.5 UZR/150 in 443.1 innings in 2014. This now gives him a cumulative 5.9 UZR/150 in 1005 innings! While this is still not a huge sample size it is becoming increasingly likely that Flores can stick at the position. Flores’ apparent ability to play shortstop coupled with his current 93 wRC+ (projected for more of the same from ZiPS and Steamer) makes him about an average player.”

        http://www.fangraphs.com/community/the-mets-third-base-uncertainty-and-troy-tulowitzki/

        Let’s list how many starting shortstops are equal to or worse than Flores has been:

        Miller, Semien, Gregorius, Mercer, Amarista, M. Gonzalez, Aviles, Segura, Andrus, Desmond, Rollins, Escobar, Castro, J. Ramirez, Santana, A. Ramirez, and E. Escobar. That’s 17 players!

        Can we please stop dumping on Flores? Any of the teams that have those guys would love to have Flores. Why can’t we see that other players have their problems as well.

  3. TexasGusCC
    June 30, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    That’s one approach, and certainly a good one. Another one would be to keep Herrera to learn here and rotate Flores in the three infield spots giving him five starts a week. With Herera at second, Flores at SS isn’t as bad as when Murphy was there. Besides, if Murphy leaves after the year, who will be at third base next year? There’s only one candidate: Flores.

    • TexasGusCC
      June 30, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      Herrera was just sent to minors. That’s that.

    • Chris F
      June 30, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      Lets hope not. What I fail to get much traction with but i beg you all to look at is this: besides wearing the special concrete cleats Nike makes, his Majestic uniform has sleeves made of chain mail…he cannot throw from SS, and he can barely throw cleanly to first from second. He will long hop so many throws from third that infield hits will be commonplace. Flores has zero aptitude to play 3B.

  4. James Newman
    June 30, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    I wonder if moving Flores to second base will really help his offensive game. We saw that with Duda moving to first, and maybe the switch will help Flores.

    If Flores doesn’t pick up the pace, and Herrera begins to tear it up in Las Vegas, then I hope the front office will call him up.

  5. Metsense
    June 30, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Hererra should have come off the disabled list and went to AAA to get his timing back down. Dilson is just a rookie and to expect him to just step in, especially after struggling, was bad judgement. If that happened then Herrera might have been ready to be called back up now, especially with Tejada beginning his fade. Let’s not mince facts, Tejada has a 684 OPS compared to Flores .665 OPS. There is no way you can convince me that the front office would have moved Flores off SS for a 019 OPS differential if Herrera was at least also in the .670 OPS range.
    Barring a trade, Herrera should be back in a few weeks if he puts up the expected PCL numbers (see Recker/Nieuwenhuis numbers for reference) and Tejada continues to level off to his career numbers. In a few weeks the Mets could be back to the SS dilemma, Flores or Tejada.
    The article reaffirmed what I have believed in, Hererra is a better player than Flores. The fact that Herrera has only a 607 OPS is reason enough to send him down this week. The mistake will be not to bring him back when he forces the issue.

  6. Terrence Sadowski
    June 30, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    I have liked both players quite a lot and admit to being a real fan of Flores, for reasons that I cannot explain. I had similar feelings about FMart, Alex Escobar, and Lastings Milledge. And Sidd Finch too.
    You make an objective argument that is hard to deny and have taken some wind out of my Flores sail. I do like Texas Gus’s suggestion. Makes sense to me.
    FWIW, I havent felt like SS has been the biggest issue. Cuddyer has killed the Mets with poor situational hitting.(.200 RISP). Campbell has bed to play too often. Etc, etc., etc.

    • James Preller
      June 30, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      Herrera was hitting, what, .190?

      Oh, wait, it’s .195. The SLG was .317.

      With all the stats and number crunching and mental gymnastics in that article, why were those facts left out? Too obvious? Or did they get in the way of your bias.

      He’s been hitting .195.

      That’s bad. That’s not getting it done.

      I don’t get the discussion. Or the point of age comparisons, which are meaningless.

      Games are being played right now, important ones that will make a difference in who is in and who is out.

      None of this determines who will be better in the future, and so on. But there’s a game tonight and Wilmer Flores deserves the nod. I also like that he’s more experienced, as more games under his belt. When and if Wright comes back, there will be more information and new decisions can be made.

      I think Herrera probably has the brighter future, but we’re living in the right now.

      • June 30, 2015 at 4:15 pm

        Shortly after returning from the DL, Herrera had an 0-14 slump. Hey, it happens. It’s no different than Curtis Granderson starting the year 1-18. Or Flores going 2-16 to start the year.

        Unfortunately, right now that’s 17% of his ABs in the majors this year. If you think this ill-timed slump is indicative of his ability right now – we see things differently.

        Without the hindrance of an 0-14 slump, or returning from an injury, Flores has a .405 OPS in his last 14 days. If that’s the guy you want to hitch your wagon to in an effort to win games right now, I don’t get it. If winning games right now is the goal you can’t say The Dilson is no good but Flores deserves the nod. He’s not hot now, he’s not hot in the last 28 games and he’s not hot for the season. And there’s no excuse for why that could be the case.

        I’d rather go with the guy who’s the more athletic player and the one with the better minor league hitting record. Neither player has been good this year but Flores has been healthy all year and has sucked in 2.5X more PA. But that’s just mental gymnastics.

  7. June 30, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    Let me take a shot at this. If the goal was clearly winning, period end of story, it is not just Herrara vs. Flores. Because Campbell is still on this roster, and I would take either one over his useless life form any day of the week. But winning is not the number one goal. Constant expense management is the mission.

    As Sandy makes clear every day he doesn’t give a crap about the fans.He isn’t exactly hiding that fact. He works for the owners, and the number one priority is an annually low payroll. For how long and how far? Further than Sarah Palin can see out her window.

    Keeping both Herrara and Flores on the active roster has been needed because there were so many injuries it had to be done. Now it is easy enough to send Dilson back down (and, let’s be honest, he didn’t force their hand) and slow down one more service clock.

    When trying to figure out anything the Mets do, the dollars, both present and future, must be factored in. Sandy got an extension off of four crappy years. The owners were thrilled with him, just look at how he is managing that payroll!

    Does anyone really think Syndergaard and Matz were not ready to go in April? Keeping them around, and by extension keeping Gee and Niese around, was about potential expenses years from now.

    The younger players are not getting sent down because they don’t like them. Quite the opposite. It is why the team never has a problem bringing up garbage like Satin, Campbell and Kirk. They are never going to need to get paid.

    I don’t know how to analyze the front office, because the situation is bizarre.

  8. Studes
    June 30, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    There’s no reason to cast aspersions on Mets management here. Right now, Flores is the better hitter, so he gets the shot over Herrera. Lots of other teams would do the same thing. Herrera is the second baseman of the future, but right now the team is better with Flores at second instead.

  9. Jim OMalley
    June 30, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    Right now Flores gets my vote over Herrera and I like them both. Now if Cuddyer goes on the DL, then it becomes interesting to see if the Mets bring up an intruiging individual.

  10. CBlake
    July 1, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Saying that Dilson’s 96 PAs is the same as Wilmer’s 463 is curious. You toss out Dilson’s 93 ugly PAs this season because of small sample size, but hold up his 96 AAA PAs as proving his superiority.

    If you have to discount Wilmer’s PCL numbers as sub-standard, then you have to discount Dilson’s as equally substandard.

    I like both players. Its too early in their careers to say definitively which of them will be more successful. Wilmer has shown some MLB aptitude. Dilson not so much yet.

    Wilmer has taken all this continued controversy well and tried to do whatever the team asked him, which is admirable. He is a full half-foot taller than Dilson and probably has the size to be able to move to other positions. He might be too tall for short, but decent sized for 2B or 3rd, or even the OF. Dilson may be a bit small for second, but we’ll see

    • July 1, 2015 at 11:36 am

      Neither player’s Triple-A numbers are particularly noteworthy. The fact that Flores’ numbers were mediocre over virtually a full season is more of a demerit than Herrera’s being mediocre in a month.

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