Untouchable prospect Wilmer Flores

When the Mets had discussions with the Seattle Mariners about lefthander Cliff Lee, talks stopped when the Mariners inquired about Wilmer Flores.

Why, at first glance, Flores’ numbers don’t blow anybody away. The shortstop had an ugly .637 OPS in the low Class-A South Atlantic League in 2009 and was batting .306 with eight homers and 59 RBI split between that club and high Class-A St. Lucie this season. Good numbers, but certainly nothing that would make you turn away from Lee.

But here’s the kicker. Flores doesn’t turn 19 until August and he’s played in two pitchers’ leagues against players much older. His 35 extra-base hits in 379 at-bats against just 49 strikeouts are big indications of continued success and increased power as the righthanded hitter rises through the minors. He’s already walked 25 times this season – three more than the entire ’09 campaign.

Flores was batting .278/.342/.443 and leading the Savannah club this season with 44 RBI when summoned to the FSL. He garnered more votes than any other player in Sally All-Star game voting, and is likely to be named that league’s Most Outstanding Prospect when year-end awards are announced.

In his first 102 at-bats for St. Lucie, Flores has hit .382/.394/.480. If he isn’t the youngest player in the FSL – a league normally housed with 20-23-year olds – he’s among the youngest.

Comparisons to Miguel Cabrera have been made in the past, and it’s a pretty good comparison this season. Cabrera, also a shortstop back in his teen years, posted a .709 OPS in the low Class-A Midwest League at age 18 and a .754 OPS the next year in the FSL. He hit only 28 homers during his three-year stint in the minors and his BB and SO rates were similar to Flores. So those crazy comparisons, while still a bit of a stretch, aren’t that bad.

Pushing 200 pounds on his 6-4 frame, Flores will definitely outgrow shortstop, but he should be fine at the hot corner. He has very good hands; he made just 13 errors in 2009 in a league where many shortstops surpass 50.

Don’t expect GM Omar Minaya to include Flores in any trade deadline deals, especially for a rent-a-player. If the Mets were one player away from seriously challenging for a World Series, Minaya might consider it, but this Mets team has too many question marks to risk dealing a potential impact player like Flores.

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