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?