Wilmer Flores seems to have been a Met for a very long time. Since debuting in 2013, he has amassed over 1,500 plate appearances while playing no fewer than 50 games in each of the four infield spots. Along the way, he has collected 54 home runs, 192 RBI, and one dramatic last-minute reprieve from a trade to the Brewers. No wonder it's so easy to forget that he's still just 26 years old.
Despite moving through the Mets system on the strength of his bat, Flores didn't get off to a hot start in the majors, putting up a paltry .675 OPS from 2013-15. But over the past two seasons, coinciding with the end of his experimental shortstop run, he has put together a .272/.318/.478 slash line -- not a dominant offensive performance, but above league average and the kind of line that keeps a hitter in a lineup on a regular basis. It's fairly similar to the numbers Wil Myers has put up in San Diego over the same time period, although Flores has fewer plate appearances.
Flores has seen significant handedness splits over the course of his career, with an .830 OPS against lefties and a .686 OPS against righties. As a result, he has been used largely in a platoon role. But this season, he is showing something new.
Flores' OPS against lefties is almost identical to his career split, but he has made great strides against righties - a .789 OPS along with nine of his 15 home runs. While he is still a dependable hitter against left-handed pitching, he no longer appears to be a liability against right-handers, which would be a big step forward in his development.
Since 2015's ill-fated attempt to install him as the team's everyday shortstop, Flores has rarely seen consistent playing time. This was in part due to early struggles against right-handed pitching, but even more so due to his lack of an obvious defensive position -- a limitation that has stymied his career for years.
Badly exposed at shortstop and blocked at first base, Flores has seen most of his action at third base this season and the results have spoken for themselves -- six errors and -6 defensive runs saved in just 374 innings. Between breaking the wrong way on grounders, his seeming inability to make anything approaching a decent throw across the diamond, and various misplays galore, it's clear that the hot corner is not where he belongs.
Flores is not a defensive whiz at any position, but his extreme struggles at third base contrast with his play at second, which can best be described as "average-ish." Statistically, he performs better at second base than his former teammates Daniel Murphy and Neil Walker, and played more games there in the minors than at any other position besides shortstop. His weak arm is much less of a liability than it is at third and though his footwork is far from skilled, his instincts are markedly better. Being flanked by two strong defenders in Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith doesn't hurt, either.
Looking ahead to 2018, it's going to be a real challenge for the Mets to fill the hole at second base from outside the organization. Walker is the top free agent at the position, with other "big" names like Jed Lowrie and Eric Sogard coming up behind him. With demand far outpacing supply and Flores just beginning to enter his peak production years, the shortstop-of-the-past might just find himself as the second-baseman-of-the-future.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring