OF Wilmer Flores? Why Not?
When it was announced the Mets were going to try Wilmer Flores in the outfield, it was met with a collective groan from Mets fans. That shouldn’t be surprising as Wilmer has established himself to be not exactly fleet of foot, nor has he shown himself to be a great defender anywhere the Mets have dared to put him.
As a result, Mets fans were reminded of the horrors of watching Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, and Todd Hundley in the outfield. With injuries to Juan Lagares and Jay Bruce this Spring, we are a step closer to seeing that happen.
Given this being Spring Training, and with the Mets health perpetually being what it is, this is exactly the time of year you are supposed to be experimenting with these types of moves. Maybe, just maybe, Flores could handle the position.
Let’s start with the obvious – Wilmer is slow. That is something not just proved by the eye test but also by Statcast data.
As published on Baseball Savant, Flores had a sprint speed of 25.7 feet per second. To put that in perspective, Flores ranked 398th out of the 451 MLB players ranked. While this isn’t surprising, it is surprising Flores was ranked ahead of two outfielders – Jose Bautista and Matt Kemp.
Now, no one should consider Bautista or Kemp good fielders anymore. Last year, Bautista posted a -8 DRS in 1,242.2 innings in right, and Kemp posted a -17 DRS in 851.2 innings in left. Using Fangraphs parameters, that puts Bautista and Kemp in the poor to awful range.
Judging from Kemp and Bautista, Flores ceiling in the outfield is probably being a poor outfielder. As Mets fans, we already have that expectation no matter where Flores plays. Last season, he had a -14 DRS. Being a versatile and poor fielder is kind of Flores’ thing.
However, unlike Kemp and Bautista, we shouldn’t expect to see Flores spend the majority of his time in the outfield. Basically, what is instructive is Flores is just fast enough to fake it in the outfield. However, the issues is whether he can field enough out there.
When it comes to fly balls and pop ups, Flores has never had a real issue fielding the ball, so long as he doesn’t have to deal with a bat boy (who aren’t in the outfield):
Really, when it comes to Wilmer his defensive issues have typically been range and arm. That’s a big reason why he didn’t work at shortstop and why he has shown himself to be a poor fit at third. Again, as noted throughout his career, he’s not a real fit anywhere.
Really, it could be he’s as poor a fit in the outfield as he is in the infield, so why not? If he’s hitting, they are going to want to find a spot for him in the lineup. If this team repeats their injury issues from last season, and 2018 has not gotten off to a great start, the team may be forced to put him out there. At a minimum, you’d be hard pressed to argue he could be any worse out there.