Regular readers of my stuff will know that the question posed in this post’s title is a difficult one for me. At 5’5″ and 160 pounds, terms like ‘projectability’ and ‘loud tools’, you know, the ones you want to use when discussing a prospect, don’t apply to the 2012 Vancouver Canadian.
Jorge Flores was fun to watch though. His year in Vancouver coincided with the first year of this blog. I wasn’t accredited yet so much of the game action I did see was like any fan, with buddies and a beer in my hand. I wasn’t as analytical (or boring) when watching the C’s then.
In fact, re-reading my shortstop review piece from that season, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with any more cliches when describing a smaller ‘energy’ guy.
I also predicted a move to second at some point and wasn’t at all sure if Dunedin wouldn’t be the ceiling. So, aside from the odd sentimental check in, I’d shifted Flores to the ‘org filler’ side of the ledger.
Over the last year or so though, a few things happened that have me re-thinking my position.
Firstly, as I am right now, I started to watch and appreciate Jose Altuve more. Now, in no way am I saying we should throw an Altuve comp on Flores but Jose put up nearly 5 wins last year — according to Fangraphs version of WAR — by being a contact hitter without a ton of power (.118 ISO) and isn’t great defensively (-12.4 in 2014 according to UZR).
That profile kinda fits what I have in mind for Flores, albeit slightly better defensively.
Secondly, another undersized former Vancouver Canadian, Roemon Fields, got a bit of a love this spring as a guy who brings a a few things to the table without necessarily having the entire package. Now, Fields’ gets attention for his plus speed but that doesn’t necessarily equate to value. Just look at D.J. Davis‘ base-stealing stats as an example. What impressed me the most about Roemon’s time in Vancouver was his instincts on the basepaths.
Something Flores showed in spades during his time here.
Lastly, a 2012 Vancouver teammate of Jorge’s, Dwight Smith Jr. made his way onto a few off-season prospect lists based largely on his hit tool. To whit, from Baseball Prospectus:
where the big asset is solid hitting ability fueled by quick hands and a mature approach that enables him to frequently work into favorable hitting conditions. Smith’s compact stroke and knack for staying inside of the baseball also lead to high instances of contact. It will come down to whether the outfielder can maintain that contact as the hard line-drive variety into the upper levels (and beyond) given the power is likely to max around below average, and it’s a bit of a tweener defensive profile.
I haven’t found anything as in-depth as the above about Flores’ swing but as the two players are roughly the same age (Flores is 23 while Smith Jr is 22) and have followed a similar career trajectory, let’s quickly compare stats:
2014 (Flores was promoted to New Hampshire in May which limits sample size):
2015 (thus far):
Now, you can argue Flores has the advantage here as he had 64 games in AA the year before (would you call that a repeat?) so knew a bit about what to expect but meh, I still think the above table is our best comparison tool. It’s close, but according to stats, I don’t see how you can argue that Flores hasn’t been the better hitter the last two seasons.
Throw in fact Flores has played five different positions to Smith’s two and shouldn’t it be Smith, and not Flores, who is getting a bit of prospect plaudits?
Jeff Moore, of BP/Sportsnet, wrote a piece focusing on the two and how they may be able to help the big club this year but for two different reasons. According to Moore, Smith has:
‘skills with the bat that are on par with everyday players in the big leagues, with a strong approach at the plate and limited strikeout numbers.‘
‘isn’t much of an offensive threat, but as a high-energy player with good speed and plus defensive skills, he could be a valuable asset to the Blue Jays’ bench by the fall.‘
I’m not trying to inflate one of these guys stock while denigrating the other. I hope they both succeed. But I just don’t get why Smith Jr is seen as a future bat while Flores is not. He’s proven over the last two seasons that he can hit.
Throw in fact he plays a premium position (along with others) at a good level. Can run. And ya, I think he’s a prospect. I bet you don’t see him on any off-season lists though.
As long as Jose Reyes makes 22 million bucks a year, he’s the shortstop. Flores should provide a utility option down the road though. Jays fans may even learn to love him just as much as Munenori as well.
And for those who want to piss all over my argument, I’ll give you your ammunition up front:
Ryan Goins A+/AA stats:
Prospects will break your heart.