Wilmer Flores working hard to find spot, position on Mets
JUPITER, Fla. -- Mets prospect Wilmer Flores spent part of his busy winter playing baseball in his native Venezuela. When that stint ended, he came to the United States to attend a rookie development symposium, where he picked up lessons about life in the major leagues.
On Jan. 15, Flores arrived at the Mets' spring training complex in Port St. Lucie, where he worked on the finer points of playing second base.
All told, Flores' days off this offseason might not have exceeded about 15. But in the early days of camp, Flores has made sure that his efforts have not gone unnoticed.
"He came here a month ago to get ready for spring training," manager Terry Collins said this week. "And I'm very impressed by that."
Flores' bat has made him one of the Mets' most intriguing prospects, which is why Collins intends to give him plenty of chances to prove himself during preseason games.
However, Flores' glove also makes him one of the team's most perplexing prospects.
Scouts generally consider the 21-year-old as a player without a position. An infielder by trade, having played shortstop as recently as 2011, Flores is most comfortable at third base and second base, where the Mets have used him primarily during camp. First base might also be an option. But none of those defensive positions appear to be a perfect fit.
At third base, Flores would be blocked by David Wright, who signed an eight-year, $138-million contract in the offseason. At first base, he would have to unseat Ike Davis, who is coming off a season in which he hit 32 homers. At second base, where he might be most valuable to the Mets, Flores has shown improvement in his first few chances in spring training.
Still, scouts have long questioned whether Flores has enough athleticism to stick at the position. One rival talent evaluator said recently that there's "no way" that Flores stays in the middle infield, although some scouts have questioned whether he can cover enough ground to play the outfield.
The Mets have committed this spring to giving Flores plenty of time at second, where he already has made a few smooth defensive plays.
"He's done a very, very good job over there," Collins said. "I just want to give him some playing time and take a look at him."
Though Flores said he's willing to play the outfield if it means reaching the big leagues, he never has played there as a professional.
"I know I can turn double plays," said Flores, who is slated to begin the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. "I know I can play second base."
So long as Flores continues his development at the plate, the Mets appear willing to find a place in the field for him. In 130 games last season, split almost evenly between Class-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton, Flores hit .300 with 18 home runs and 75 RBIs.
His power spike only reinforced the perception that Flores' bat eventually will get him to the major leagues.
"I feel like it's going to happen," said Flores, who homered in last week's intrasquad game. "Sooner or later, I know it's going to happen, because like I said, I'm going to keep working hard and play 100 percent."