Mets infielder Wilmer Flores told reporters this past weekend that he's dissatisfied with being a bench player, but will do whatever is asked of him by Terry Collins to help the team win.
"It's going to be hard if you don't play for three days and then have to go out there and do your thing," Flores said, when asked about his likely role in 2017. "I know I can play in the big leagues. I know I can play every day, but it's not my choice when it comes to making the lineup."
Terry Collins said Friday that Flores will get time playing all four infield positions this season, plus see consistent at-bats against left-handed starting pitchers.
"You don't have to like it, but you have to accept it and be ready to play," Collins concluded.
In a post to his Instagram account, Flores later put up the following...
In 315 career plate appearances, Flores has an .829 OPS against left-handed pitchers, but just a .661 OPS in 905 plate appearances against righties. His 1.093 OPS against left-handed pitching was third-best in baseball last season, during which he hit .340 with 11 home runs.
According to projections on FanGraphs.com, Flores is expected to hit between .260-.270 this season with roughly 10-15 home runs, 15-20 doubles and sporadic playing time.
Terry's quote reads harsh. But, it's also the truth. I mean, given what we've seen, if a right-handed pitcher is on the mound, I'd rather have Lucas Duda at first, Neil Walker at second, Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop and Jose Reyes at third. It's made more complicated for Wilmer by having Walker, Cabrera and Reyes all being switch hitters.
Thankfully for Wilmer, in addition to being able to play every infield position, he's also one of the league's best hitters against left-handed pitching. The fact is, though he's weak against righties, he averages one home run every 10 at-bats against lefties, which is amazing. Is this because he doesn't face right-handed pitching consistently enough to improve? Or, is it that he just can't hit right-handed pitching very well, yet crushes lefties at an elite rate? I have no idea. But, what I do know is that he's perfect in the role that Terry has set out of him, which is a super-utility guy who can play all four infield positions, hit off the bench and be counted in as an everyday player if needed...
Feb 27, 2017; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; Houston Astros right fielder George Springer (4) dives back on a pick off attempt from New York Mets third baseman Wilmer Flores (4) during a spring training game at First Data Field. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
My concern for Flores -- and for Terry -- is how much Wilmer plays to start the season. It's clearly important to him and his production that he be involved from the get go. Last year, Flores appeared in just 45 percent of the team's first 53 games, while starting in only 16 of them and hitting .190 with one home run and three RBI. However, playing in 65 percent of the team's final 81 games, he hit .305 with 13 home runs and 35 RBI.
The point is, the kid needs to play, even if he's not in that day's starting lineup. So, while I respect and agree with Terry's view of Wilmer's value, Collins also has to figure out how to get Flores more involved each day.
The thing is, short of waiting on an injury and benching Duda every time a left-handed starting pitcher is on the mound, I'm not entirely sure how it's going to work. But, it has to be figured out. Because, the more Wilmer plays, the happier and more productive he appears to be...