Matt Meyers wrote an article about starting Flores at SS when a flyball starter is on the mound, somewhat like how Davey Johnson used to play Kevin Mitchell at the position in 1986.
It's an interesting idea. The Steamer/ZiPS mixed projection over at Fangraphs pegs Flores for a .299 wOBA, Tejada a .285 wOBA. I don't want to get too mathematical here, but using last season's league average wOBA and wOBA scale, that translates to -7 runs below average at the plate for Flores and roughly -14 runs below average for Tejada, or a difference of about +7 runs in Flores' favor over a season's worth of plate appearances (600). This obviously doesn't account for defense, however, so the real question is does Flores' offensive advantage (7 runs) overcome the defensive gap between the two?
This is where it gets tricky. Tejada, in his career at SS, grades out as an average to slightly below average defender at SS, depending on which defensive metric you look at, with his most recent season being his worst by DRS. Flores, on the other hand, hasn't played an official pro game there since 2011, as the long charade of him sticking at SS was finally put to bed. I think most people are familiar Flores' reputation as a SS defensively, but just in case you forgot, here are a couple scouting reports from a few years ago from Baseball America:
Flores' bat will have to carry him because his speed and athleticism are below-average and not conducive to playing shortstop at higher levels. He throws well enough to play third base, but some scouts think he lacks infield actions and eventually will have to move to an outfield corner or first base.
...But scouts give Flores no chance to stay up the middle. He's a well below-average runner with heavy feet and substandard range. He reads balls well off the bat and has an average arm, which could keep him on an infield corner. Flores played third base last winter in the Venezuelan League, which is a more natural fit for his skills.
"But scouts give Flores no chance to stay up the middle." I think it's pretty safe to assume he would grade out as one of the worst defensive SS in the game. Maybe (probably?) the worst defensive SS in the game. In the UZR era (2002 and beyond), some the worst defensive SS have been worth around -10 runs per season. I wouldn't put it past Flores beating those numbers (in a bad way), but we'll be generous and just assume he'll be a -10 defender at the position.
Using these figures in conjunction with the offensive values I mentioned earlier, that means if Tejada is an average defensive SS, he's the better player, but just by few runs, which is where differences can be pretty negligible. If he's below average again, Flores would be the better player under our hypothetical offense/defense run values, but then again, that assumes Flores won't be UZR-era historically bad, which he might truly be. But as Meyers point out in his article, although the projection systems don't love Flores' bat, he's a 22 year old accomplished minor league hitter who has the upside to hit better than the forecasted .256/.293/.392 slash line.
So that's basically a bunch of words to say Flores at SS is kind of interesting, but hell, I don't know if it'll work or not. Isn't statistical analysis fun?
What convinces me is Meyer's final point:
If nothing else, the Mets should give Flores a chance at short because they have nothing to lose. It’s clear that Tejada is not the long-term answer, and it will be years before top shortstop prospect Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario are ready. As we’ve learned from ESPN’s Giant Killers series in college hoops, teams that are inferior on paper pull upsets by using high-risk, high-reward strategies.
It's hard to argue with any of this. The 2014 Mets project a lot like the 2013 Mets. So, at the cost of maybe a win, is it worth trying the crazy-but-somehow-maybe-not-that-insane Flores at SS idea? I think it is. Maybe I'm just really sick of Ruben Tejada, and I did previously the idea of Flores at SS to be ridiculous, but I'm in for trying the Flores at SS experiment. I mean, why the hell not?
Whether this actually happens, though, is another story. He did start and play a full 9 innings there yesterday again the Marlins, but didn't today as Quintanilla and Tejada each manned the position during split squad games. He really hasn't seen much action at the position until recently, either. Right now, I'm still betting on Tejada as the Opening Day SS, but until we acquire someone else, you can count me in the Flores for SS campaign.
Edited by nmigliore, 23 March 2014 - 09:55 PM.