Wilmer Flores emerges as front-runner at SS

Ruben Tejeda might be the best defensive shortstop on the New York Mets, but Wilmer Flores' bat is making noise during spring training and has helped him leapfrog Tejeda into the team's starting lineup.

vThe up the middle tandem for the New York Mets this season is in limbo. Daniel Murphy is the logical and virtually certain choice at second base, but it is the shortstop position where the debate rages on. The position battle is between two players with potential, but each with their own struggles. Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores are vying to be Daniel Murphy’s double play partner, and it is time to look at assess both candidates viability to fill this position.

First, in looking at the “incumbent” Tejada, who has manned the position for most of his Mets tenure since his call-up, is a defensive minded player who is offensively challenged. Tejada is clearly the more sure-handed and slick in the field, but his struggles with the bat were well documented last season as he did not hit above .240. His inability to hit for average, and inability to regain his form from a season in which he hit .290 contributed to his floundering within the Mets organization. His tendency and propensity to hit fly balls, and to have a fly ball swing also contributed to his struggles last season. Though, the batting average is only one part of the equation as to why Flores is very much in contention to man this position.

The second part is the attitude adjustment Tejada must make in his desire and work ethic. Last season, constant questions were raised and with merit regarding Tejada’s perceived lack of focus and consistent attitude throughout last season. His lapses in judgement and focus were simply inexcusable, and his poor performance opened the door for candidates such as Flores to compete and potentially emerge from this competition.

When looking at Flores, it is imperative to view his defensive flaws as a major knock, but in part a disclaimer. No matter what Flores does, it is unlikely he will ever be of the same caliber defensively as Ruben Tejada. Though, that does not mean Flores cannot have a real impact up the middle, and equal that of Tejada’s. Interestingly, in WAR (wins above replacement), Tejada and Flores are both under 1. This proves significant because despite Tejada’s defensive strength, his lack of offensive production precludes him from making a tangible impact on the win total. But, offense is where Flores thrives and is consistently raved about by scouts as having a smooth, compact swing. This approach has certainly payed off this spring, as Flores is showcasing maturity, and picking the right pitches to use his patented swing on.

Unlike last season, where Flores often looked jumpy and off-balance, Flores has shown he is learning how to perform at the MLB level, with the MLB team. Of course, spring training will end and the grind of the major league season will begin. Though, if Flores can continue his production over from spring training, it will make for a fascinating debate as the Mets look for their shortstop of the future. The old adage goes that defense wins championships, but offense wins games. Well, the latter part of this statement may tip the hand in favor of Flores to win the shortstop position, and enable him an audition to be the everyday shortstop, ahead of the defensive-minded Tejada.

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