Yankees Prospect Profile: Ramon Flores

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Although the young Venezuelan is overshadowed by other outfielders who have developed with him like Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin, Flores should not be forgotten at the start of 2014.

Background:

Flores will be 22 by the end of Spring Training, and the Yankees have received decent value out of him from an initial $775,000 investment. Signed on July 4, 2008 out of Barinas, Venezuela, the slender outfielder has been playing with the organization since 2009. After previously making stops just about everywhere around the low minor league levels of the Yankees' system, the lefty was promoted to Double-A Trenton in 2013. At the start of the season, Flores was ranked by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo as the Yankees' 11th-best prospect and Minor League Ball's John Sickels as the Yankees' 15th-best prospect with a C+ rating. Sickels noted that he might be a "tweener," but that he "consistently plays above his head and does a little bit of everything."

Indeed, in 2012, Flores his .302/.370/.420 with 29 doubles and a 126 wRC+ in 131 games with High-A Tampa before earning a brief bump up at the end of the season to Trenton for the Thunder's playoff games. He showed very nice plate discipline, though his small stature (5'10", 150 pounds) indicated that he might struggle to become anything more than a fourth outfielder in the future, especially since he didn't have much power or defensive ability.

2013 Results:

Trenton (AA): 136 G, 620 PA, .260/.353/.363, 25 2B, 6 3B, 6 HR, 7 SB, 6 CS, 98 K, .334 wOBA, 104 wRC+

In his first full season above A-ball, the results on Flores were... meh. By July 23, Flores was hitting .241/.336/.329 with 54 walks and 77 strikeouts. Mayo bumped him back a few spots to #16 on the Yankees' top 20 prospects. Sickels was also disappointed in Flores, remarking that Flores fit in with the underwhelming Trenton outfield. For what it's worth though, Flores did pick up his performance toward the end of the season as he finally seemed to adjust to Double-A pitching.

After failing to OPS over .750 in any previous month, Flores was on fire in August, as he hit .309/.406/.447 with 10 doubles and 20 walks in 30 games. His recovery helped the Thunder to go on and earn an Eastern League playoff spot. The Thunder swept both Binghamton and Harrisburg each in three-game series to win their third ever Eastern League title, easily making them the Yankees' most successful affiliated franchise in 2013. Flores certainly played an important role in the Thunder's romp to the crown, as he went 9-for-26 (.346) with two triples and two walks in those six games.

2014 Outlook:

Flores's 2013 campaign was up and down, but it was good that it ended with a strong finish to the season. Some of the flaws in his game did manifest themselves in the first half though, and they can't be ignored. While overall, his walk percentage went up, his strikeout percentage went up somewhat too. The surprising speed he demonstrated in 2012 with 24 steals disappeared, and he was thrown out in almost half his attempts. While the tendency with Trenton's Arm & Hammer Park is to look upon mediocre offensive numbers more positively since it's a pitcher's park, Flores actually hit slightly better at home (.270/.366/.367) than on the road (.251/.341/.360) in 2013.

Thus, Flores does not appear quite ready for a promotion upon the start of his age-22 campaign despite holding a spot on the 40-man roster. He'll probably start the 2014 season in Trenton alongside Tyler Austin and Mason Williams in the outfield. (I predict Slade Heathcott will start the year in Scranton, but he could very well be in the mix in Trenton as well with Williams back in Tampa.) If Flores can show off some of the more polished form that he featured in the second half of 2013, then he can push himself back into the Yankees' main minor league outfield mix. Until then, his most likely major league outcome seems to be fourth outfielder at best.

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