Posted on March 18, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
It’s certainly been a topsy-turvy few years for Wilmer Flores early in his big league career with the New York Mets. He’s moved in and out of a starting role multiple times, yet his production has improved each and every year. Flores posted a .267 average and .788 OPS over 103 games last season and is now upset that he doesn’t have a defined role with the Mets heading into the 2017 season.
Flores got his first big break when he began the 2015 season as the team’s starting shortstop, despite doubts throughout his minor league career that he didn’t have the foot speed to play the position in the big leagues. Unfortunately, he began to lose playing time over the course of the season, during which he was nearly traded away.
However, Flores ended the season starting at shortstop for the Mets during the World Series, in part due to the injury to Ruben Tejada. But with the Mets adding Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera last offseason, Flores was relegated to a bench role, where he remains heading into 2017, much to his chagrin.
“It’s gonna be hard if you don’t play for three days and you got to go out there and do your thing,” Flores said recently about being a reserve. “The only thing I can do is get ready to play.”
In 2017, the Mets figure to go out of their way to get Flores on the field against left-handed pitchers. Flores had a 1.093 OPS against lefties last year, but was far less productive against right-handed pitchers, posting a .642 OPS.
Flores may end up in a platoon at first base with the left-hand hitting Lucas Duda, and he also figures to be a primary backup at the other three infield spots. However, even with David Wright ruled out for the early part of the season, Flores may still not find consistent at-bats against right-handed pitchers, as Jose Reyes is in line to be the primary third baseman in Wright’s absence. Despite what the numbers say about his splits between righties and lefties, Flores doesn’t see himself as only being a platoon player.
“I’ve been comfortable (against right-handers) since I started playing baseball,” Flores said. “I got a lot of opportunities against lefties (last year), but against righties, I feel really good.”
However, while manager Terry Collins says Flores will get plenty of at-bats, he isn’t going to have a set position on the team.
“He’ll play a lot of positions and face left-handed pitching,” Collins says of Flores. “First, second, short and third. That’s what he is;. the utility infielder of course. He’ll get a lot of at-bats against left-handed pitching, be in the lineup. I don’t have one spot for him.”
The Mets skipper adds that Flores has to embrace the role he has, even if he doesn’t like that he won’t be playing every day.
“The one thing about his situation is you don’t have to like it,” Collins said. “You just have to accept it and be ready to play.”
Flores got off to a dreadful start last season playing a similar role to the one he’ll have on the Mets this season. He hit just .107 in April and .219 in May, as he struggled to get consistent at-bats. When injuries popped up for the Mets and Flores started to play more throughout June, July, and August, he was one of the team’s most consistent run producers.
But heading into 2017, Flores is unhappy at not being an every-day player and not knowing how much he’ll play. He figures to be an important figure on New York’s bench, as the depth he provides at all four infield positions is a huge asset for the Mets. However, Flores is worried that he’ll once again struggle to fit into a supporting role.
“The only thing I can do is keep working and be ready every day for whatever they ask,” Flores said. But he knows it won’t be easy.