It’s been a while since I posted anything prospect-related, so I figured this might not be a bad time to take a quick look at one of my favorite sleeper prospects: Ramon Flores. A 5’10″ lefty swinger who plays left field, Flores received a bonus around $775,000 when he signed with the Yankees out of Venezuela in 2008 at age 16. He made his debut in 2009 at age 17, raking for 11 games in the Dominican Summer League, before coming stateside and struggling, posting a .543 OPS. There’s not a lot of info out on Flores yet, but he’s definitely somebody whom I will be keeping an eye on during next season.
In 2010, at age 18, Flores made impressive work of the Gulf Coast League, posting a .329/.436/.481 line, good for a .917 OPS (despite only hitting 2 home runs). The most important statistic to me, however, was his walk rate. He walked 28 times in 43 GCL games, while striking out just 22 times. After 43 strong games, Flore was further challenged by a promotion to the low-A Sally league for 14 games (in which he posted a .607 OPS) and an 8-game stint in the high-A Florida State League (.500 OPS). Although he clearly struggled at the higher levels, these are much tougher levels of competition than any 18 year-old would be expected to face (especially one who’s not considered an elite prospect), and the fact that he was able to perform acceptably in low-A was encouraging.
Flores is kind of an odd prospect because he’s a bit of a tweener: not fast enough to play centerfield, but not powerful enough to be a prototypical corner outfielder. None of his tools particularly stand out as elite, but his walk rate in the GCL this season is indicative of an advanced approach at the plate, with good contact skills to match. Plate discipline is a skill that tends to remain as a hitter advances through the minors, which bodes well for Flores’ future. If he’s really 5’10″ 150 as his baseball reference page indicates, he probably has some room to add muscle and power, while not getting too big for the outfield. I’m not sure he’ll ever be a big power guy, but he could become a doubles machine who can get on base frequently.
If Flores can continue to maintain his polished hitting approach, he should be successful in his return to full season ball (he’ll likely start the season with Charleston in the Sally League), and if he performs well, the Yankees could be aggressive with him again. I wish there was more scouting info to go on, but from the numbers, I consider Flores to be an underrated prospect (he probably won’t be in many people’s top 30), who could shoot up the Yankee list with a strong season. Of course, the jump from the GCL to low-A is a big one, which will be a big test for the talented teenager, though having the more-hyped Gary Sanchez on the team could help take the pressure off.