Wilmer Flores and an infield makeover

Is it time to reset the Met infield just a bit to get maximum production? Specifically Wilmer Flores needs to be in the everyday lineup, ideally at a relatively set position. Flores’ slash line has been excellent, year to date it is .313/.340/.458 with just 96 at-bats this year. Even more impressive is the fact that he had a horrible start to the year, his April slash line was .171/.194/.343, so it took a red-hot May to get his production up to where it is now. Over just the last seven games he has been smacking the ball at the rate of .438/.500/.500, and not many players in MLB can match that stretch. He’s even batting respectably against right-handed pitching with a .278/.307/.375 line over the season, despite his poor start. (Please note: all statistics cited in this article are from ESPN.com, and are based on games through May 29.)

Flores has been accomplishing this torrid streak without a set position. Some days he plays third, some at second and some at first, and some days (not so much lately) he doesn’t play at all. Just think if he had a set position, might he not be even more productive?

Let’s take a look at the Met infield as currently constituted. Lucas Duda is the everyday first baseman, and that should not change. His numbers for the year are .263/.391/.568. As long as he is healthy and batting anywhere near his current level, he needs to be at first, whether a lefty or a right-hander is on the mound. He has had trouble with lefties in the past but this year he’s hitting .308 against lefties. So unless he gets hurt or endures a prolonged slump he should be in the lineup with an occasional day off, especially against a tough lefty.

Neil Walker is the starting second baseman, and he has a pretty good slash line this year of .266/.328/.440. He deserves to be in the lineup, and he is a natural second baseman. But a position move might benefit the team.

The regular third baseman this season has mostly been Jose Reyes, who has mostly been bad at the plate. His slash line is a miserable .202/.274/.326 for the year. He did improve a bit for awhile, but over the last seven games he has regressed to .188/.235/.313. He is clearly the weak link in the infield.

Asdrubal Cabrera is the incumbent shortstop, and he has played well enough when not hurt, providing some pop at the plate and adequate fielding at a premium defensive position. Keep him in the lineup right where he is unless hurt, and again as with the others occasional days off as well.

The infield reset that I think would work the best would be to bench Reyes, shift Walker to third, and plug Flores in at second base. Flores is no Bill Mazeroski in the field, but second base may be his best position. His strength is not his arm, which is more of a liability at third, the shorter throws from second serve him better.

Walker probably would not embrace a move to third. He has played the position in the majors, although not nearly as much as second. Terry Collins would likely be loathe to uproot a veteran like Walker, but the shift to third could well benefit the team by giving Flores a set position.

Reyes and T. J. Rivera could serve as utility infielders, each getting an occasional start to rest the regulars as well as some late inning work in runaway games. Based on the performance this year, I would put Rivera ahead of Reyes on the depth chart, except at shortstop.

All of the infielders above are north of 30, with the notable exceptions of the 25-year-old Flores and Rivera. The aged thirty or more infielders all have limited upside at this point in their careers and are more likely to be backtracking. Why not nurture Flores and give him an everyday position to play, and hopefully watch him blossom into a star?

32 comments for “Wilmer Flores and an infield makeover

  1. Steve S.
    May 31, 2017 at 9:10 am

    I would just put Flores out there at 3B most of the time. Let’s see what he can do full time!

  2. alizarine
    May 31, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Totally agree. If Wilmer is given a single position and is playing everyday, he’ll hit. I also agree that position should be 2B, not 3B. Walker is not going to be on this team long term. Shift him to 3B and set Wilmer free.

    • John Fox
      May 31, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      Alizarine, I see we are thinking alike, thanks.

    • Matt Netter
      May 31, 2017 at 11:40 pm

      Except in an emergency, Flores should never see time on the left side of the infield. Look up his defensive stats. Most of his errors have occurred at SS and 3rd where he cannot make that cross diamond throw if his life depended on it. He play an adequate second and passable first. I love Wilmer Flores and he has a solid bat. His best role is as a platoon or sub on the right side. He can’t field, run or draw walks. He will never be a great player, but he is a valuable guy to have.

  3. TexasGusCC
    May 31, 2017 at 9:26 am

    “…blossom into a star?” John, your closing remark will have several usual commenters choking on their coffee.

    Also, we can’t say that Walker will handle third better then Flores does. So, for now, leave Flores there while making him take grounders everyday to make him learn to focus on defense, and throwing through a tire sitting on a table at first base. I’m tired of seeing his low throws as if his arm can’t reach, which I feel it can if he would throw over the top like he used to instead of the cool way. Older baseball players have always felt throwing more strengthens your arm, not throwing less.

    Indeed, it’s time to put Reyes on the bench and hard to understand how Bozo the Manager keeps batting him second. His bunt attempts last night tell you the guy is just pressing. He’s a very good bunter that just needed to relax and lay it down, but instead he was hyper and out of control at the plate. At this point, Reyes had two months to make a difference and he hasn’t shown much. Late game defender, starts two games a week for about a month and let’s re-evaluate then.

    EDIT: I can see alizarine’s thinking, but it’s too early in the season to do this unless we know for sure Flores will be given a long term opportunity to stay in the lineup. Uprooting Walker this early may be detrimental to team if his defense at third doesn’t pan out. Flores has been long enough to realize if he would be handed an opportunity, it probably should have already happened.

  4. May 31, 2017 at 9:38 am

    It will be quite the makeover in 2018: Smith/Cecchini/Rosario/Flores…

    • David Groveman
      May 31, 2017 at 9:43 am

      1B Smith
      2B Flores or Cecchini
      SS Rosario
      3B Mike Moustakas

      Has a nice ring to it as well

      • Jimmy P
        May 31, 2017 at 11:10 am

        This is a winter conversation — so much time between now and then — so I’ll keep it brief:

        I kind of hate Mike Moustakas. Not a fan. Would not want to invest real money in him.

        Mets have a lot of options and internal solutions, but I’d like to see them import at least one significant everyday player this offseason. There are openings at 1B, 2B, 3B, C, and CF. A lot depends on availability and opportunity and price.

        I’d cut Reyes loose very soon. He’s coasting, unfocused, toast. Not the veteran leadership this group needs.

        Spare parts that could be around in 2018: Flores, Cecchini, Rivera, Cabrera, Nimmo, Lagares, Smith.

        Those answer a lot of positions, but not in a way that makes the Mets significantly improved. Someway, somehow, I’d like to see Mets bring in a very talented everyday guy — at which point I’d be more able to accept, say, a CF platoon of Lagares/Nimmo or a 2B mashup of Flores/Cecchini, etc.

        I want to bring in one real bonafide player — and I don’t want him to have Greek ancestors. I don’t want to pay for an “okay” player to stabilize a position. I want quality. We can do “okay” with our spare parts.

        “Okay” does not win championships.

        All that said, the focus has to be on building a high-quality bullpen.

        Not easy!

        • John Fox
          May 31, 2017 at 12:09 pm

          Jimmy,
          I did not mean this as a winter piece, I was thinking this is something that could be done this season to get even more out of Flores’ bat and get him comfortable at one position.

          • Jimmy P
            May 31, 2017 at 2:36 pm

            Yeah, you are right. Sorry.

            The guy they need to make room for is Rosario. I continue to see Wilmer as super-sub.

        • Matt Netter
          May 31, 2017 at 11:37 pm

          Jimmy P – stop taking the words out of my mouth.

        • TexasGusCC
          June 1, 2017 at 12:55 am

          Mike Trout has Greek ancestors…

      • TexasGusCC
        May 31, 2017 at 11:16 am

        Do we absolutely know Duda is better than Smith, especially with a revamped approach, or should we wait for
        Him to sign with the Nationals to find out.

        • John Fox
          May 31, 2017 at 12:05 pm

          Gus, would Washington want Duda? That Zimmerman guy seems to be doing okay at 1b for them, but I’m guessing you knew that and you were making a Daniel Murphy reference.

        • May 31, 2017 at 1:33 pm

          Here’s what we know:

          Lucas Duda has a .963 OPS in the majors.
          Dominic Smith has an .874 OPS in the minors. In the PCL. With playing his home games in Las Vegas.

          The idea that Smith is somehow better than Duda right now is so far beyond ludicrous that it defies words. What’s next – are people going to wonder if Travis Taijeron is better than Jay Bruce?

          • Chris F
            May 31, 2017 at 1:40 pm

            +1

            I think the Dude has room to improve, but starting Smith now instead is pure folly.

          • Jimmy P
            June 1, 2017 at 6:10 am

            Well, that’s both silly and intentionally misleading.

            We do know that this season, in a small sample size, Duda had an OPS of .963 when you typed that. Obviously, if we “knew” Duda was a .963 OPS guy there would be no debate.

            Over his career, he has an .800 OPS.

            Last season, in more ABs, he had a .714 OPS.

            I just find it frustrating that someone as smart as you with statistics would intentionally obfuscate the debate by siting the 100 AB sample size compared to a career of 2,724 PA.

            Hey, I like Lucas Duda. But I suspect he’s going to earn decent money next season. The organization has to decide how best to allocate it. I’m personally not sold on Smith — who is young and a work in progress — but you are taking a strong anti-youth stance on this one without contextualizing anything.

            • June 1, 2017 at 2:25 pm

              People are claiming that right now that Smith should get playing time in Queens.

    • May 31, 2017 at 10:09 am

      Two months into the season and Cecchini isn’t hitting at all and Smith isn’t hitting very well for a 1B in Las Vegas. Perhaps they go wild the remainder of the year. But what they’ve done so far, there’s no way that either one of them is in the Opening Day lineup for the Mets, much less both of them.

      If Duda and/or Walker are open to a short-term contract, one or two years, I expect them to be back with the Mets next year. Same thing with Bruce and Granny in the OF, although that’s an either/or choice.

      • May 31, 2017 at 10:23 am

        I haven’t looked lately, but are Smith’s overall numbers bad or the important ones? I’m interested in avg compared to babip, avg compared to obp, strikeout ratio and maybe line drive percentage.

      • Steve S.
        May 31, 2017 at 10:35 am

        Agree on Cecchini and Smith. Duda on a short-term would be good, if possible. Would go with Bruce over Granny.

        What about T.J. Rivera at 2B?

        1B Duda
        2B T. J. Rivera
        SS Rosario
        3B Flores

        LF Cespedes
        CF Conforto
        RF Bruce

        • Pete In Iowa
          May 31, 2017 at 1:56 pm

          I agree about Rivera. I don’t know why he consistently gets overlooked, but he’s done nothing but hit at every level and, most importantly, in the majors. He had a really good run to open this month, then cooled off some and now he hardly gets a sniff. Pretty big single he had last night, I’d say.
          A contact, consistent hitter like him looks pretty good to me playing third and batting second on this club. He’s every bit as good as Flores at third and certainly appears to be a much more consistent hitter.
          Reyes has to go. Not only is he a poor hitter, he has absolutely no feel for playing third. Last night proved that again — he fielded a sac bunt which clearly was going to be foul, which set up second and third. And later, he was way too deep against Villar — fastest man on the Brewers — who luckily bunted the ball foul.

          • Jon
            May 31, 2017 at 10:58 pm

            The Mets always lose when Reyes doesn’t play. Against righties Wilmer is a useless singles hitter who is slower than molasses. Worst fielder I have ever seen. Reyes makes plays at third and short…needs to be in there. Coasting comment is plain dumb

  5. Eric
    May 31, 2017 at 10:08 am

    I think you’re right about Flores however, I don’t see Terry switching Walker to 3rd mid-season. Next season will be different I think with the contracts with Duda, Walker, Reyes and Cabrera expiring. With Smith and Rosario in the wings I just don’t see the Mets going multi-year contracts except Walker or Cabrera specifically to play third.
    Both have physical issues so it’s hard to say which one though Cabrera has better hands and arm.

    • Jimmy P
      May 31, 2017 at 11:23 am

      Good post, good thoughts.

      The word “Rosario” never made it into the post, however.

      I don’t see Walker moving to 3B midseason unless it’s a real emergency.

      I see Cabrera shifting to 3B. If he’s unwilling, I’d change his mind.

      I think TC actually has a pretty good handle on Wilmer, that he’s not an everyday guy, but is an effective weapon. Starts against every LHP and sometimes, as the situation dictates, against RHP. He’s the movable piece.

      Blanking on the guy the Angels used to have — Chone Figgins! — who played that super-sub role so well for a while. Of course, he could also put on an outfield glove in a DH league. Nothing prevents Wilmer from getting 3/4 starts a week and some key PH appearances off the bench.

      We might feel bad for poor Wilmer, but, oh well. Might be a guy we trade over the winter. And I am a fan.

      One of my core beliefs as a manager is that I prefer guys on the bench who can do one thing exceptionally well rather than the all-around player who is okay at everything. These days, with short benches, the generalist is favored over the specialist. Everybody wants Joe McEwing, who does nothing particularly well. I like the Mets bench because 1) Wilmer mashes LHP and can fill in at every infield position; 2) Lagares is a Gold Glove; 3) Rivera is just about the ideal PH, he goes up hacking and has a little speed.

      Just saying that the day we lost Wilmer Flores, I’d want the Mets to go out and find another go who mashes LHP. They don’t grow on trees!

  6. Eraff
    May 31, 2017 at 11:17 am

    I believe Flores has already earned more time—Terry doesn’t necessarily want to Demote anyone Publicly.

    Those of you who want to move walker to 3rd and Flo to 2nd— That’s weakening 2 positions–always a Bad idea! Put both Bats in the Lineup..weaken One Position!…3b

    Besides, Given a chance, Wilmer will prove equally atrocious at 2nd base. I know your small statistical samples say otherwise— they’re lying. The truth is that he’s versatile— he sucks at 3b, 2b, and SS— but he seems almost adequate at 1b

    If he hits like a Gorilla, he’ll play and he will be subbed for defense.

  7. Metsense
    May 31, 2017 at 11:33 am

    Flores has been a good bench player that can mash LHP. The knock has been that he is below average against RHP but recently he has been getting hits against RHP. This would be a good time to see if it is a fluke or he has mastered this enough to be an everyday player. At this point, he has earned the chance and is better that Reyes. An infield makeover to accommodate Flores has no statistical basis of improving the defense. Flores is not a good defensive third baseman but the Mets stuck with Daniel Murphy in those early years so the front office is willing to substitute offense for defense. Let’s see how Flores does first. It is only the 1/3 point of the season so there are 2/3 of a season before we should set our ways on the 2018 infield.

  8. Chris F
    May 31, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Flores is a complete disaster at 3B. He has shown zero aptitude to play the position. He cannot make the throw. He takes too much time to try to make the throw. He exposes anyone at 1B to devastating injury because his accuracy is terrible. We forfeit every DP beginning with 5. He cannot possibly hit enough to warrant making him an every day left-side-of-the-infield player. The game is too fast for someone that impossibly slow, and with such little baseball instinct. He is excelling at doing his job from the bench, which is about the only thing he has excelled at, except being a DH against LHP. I like the idea of platooning him at 1B against LHP, where you expect less mobility and less throwing. He unacceptable at 2B as well. Any question where Flores is the answer to save this team means the Titanic has already hit the iceberg. He’s unwatchable.

    • NormE
      May 31, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      Chris F,
      I agree with you completely. Flores is flourishing in his super sub role. As an everyday player his defense is too weak. I understand many of those who are down on Reyes. He has been very bad. The answer to me is to bring up Rosario and move Cabrera to 3rd. DFA Reyes if you can’t trade him.

    • TexasGusCC
      June 1, 2017 at 1:02 am

      Unwatchable? Wow.

      Man, I hope Wilmer doesn’t read Mets360.

  9. Metsense
    May 31, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Yes Chris ,the best answer at third appears to be Cabrera and a Rosario call up. That may be the final solution but it may need to wait for three more weeks because of the financial considerations. Meanwhile, Flores is a better option than Reyes.

    • Jon
      May 31, 2017 at 11:04 pm

      Cabrera has never played third. He won’t be good there.
      He isn’t moving. He also isn’t particularly good at short and in due time will be on the dl again. The lineup isn’t the issue. It’s the pitching….Reyes is here to stay. His bat will improve and he is our best defensive third baseman and shortstop.

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