The New York Mets demoted Wilmer Flores to the Las Vegas 51's last month to try and find him regular playing time. Flores had been added to the big league roster in May to supplant Ruben Tejada at shortstop, but it somehow never materialized. Tejada hit well enough to maintain his job, and Flores got the boot so he could do more than rot on the major league bench. Flores has responded to the playing time, doing nothing but hit since he returned to Triple-A.
Flores is riding a 22 game hitting streak with the 51's, which he extended last night by going 3 for 5 in Las Vegas' loss to Tacoma. Flores has hit safely in every game in his latest stint with the 51's except for his first one, and has a .330 batting average in Las Vegas. Flores also has flashed some power, swatting 12 home runs and driving in 54 runs on the year. Flores has clearly shown enough ability to get a shot at major league playing time, but the problem is that the Mets don't really have a place for him.
Tejada has responded well to the challenge from Flores, hitting .287 since May 27th. Tejada has also scored 15 runs and 10 RBI's in that stretch, a solid contribution from a bottom of the order hitter. Tejada also has a leg up on Flores as a defender, and manager Terry Collins has been very hesitant to use Flores at shortstop given his defensive issues. While Tejada is hitting only .234 on the season, his recent hot stretch has likely bought him another month or so before the Mets would consider giving Flores time at short in the majors.
The other infield positions are spoken for as well. Flores is a natural third baseman, but won't play there as long as David Wright is around. First base was an option the Mets toyed with earlier in the spring, but the Lucas Duda/Eric Campbell platoon has solidified itself as well. Second base is currently blocked by All Star Daniel Murphy, although it could open up if the Mets move him prior to the July 31st trade deadline.
If the Mets do fall out of the race by the end of August, they should find a way to get Flores regular playing time in September to see what they actually have in him. Flores has torn the cover off the ball in Triple-A and has hit well at every level of minor league play. Flores could be a AAAA player for all we know, but the Mets haven't given him a real chance to play without being jerked in and out of the lineup.
One reason the Mets may not call him up is to avoid damaging his stock with another poor major league showing. Flores could be a trade chip for the Mets this winter, who may look to put together a package of players for an outfielder with power or a talented young shortstop. Flores could be a part of the package if the Mets don't view him as a shortstop long term. As Flores continues to hit in Triple-A, the pressure is mounting for the Mets to make a decision on him going forward.
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Tags: Baseball, Daniel Murphy, Las Vegas 51's, MLB, New York, New York Mets, Ruben Tejada, Wilmer Flores
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