Among outfielders, the three names that are brought up the most in the Yankees' minor league system are Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, and Slade Heathcott. This is mainly because all three were once said to have the potential to be star players at the major league level. Unfortunately, Williams (trouble making hard contact), Austin (wrist injuries, decline in power when healthy), and Heathcott (countless injuries) are all stuck in Double-A and it is unclear as to what these three will ever amount to at the next level. The one outfielder who hasn't received quite the prospect love over the years like the aforementioned trio and has done well so far this season, though, is the underrated Ramon Flores.
I think we all know about Ramon Flores' story by now: he has a great approach at the plate, but, as a corner outfielder, he doesn't have the necessary power to be an everyday, first-division starter at the big-league level. In all likelihood, he'd make a nice fourth outfielder for the Yankees, or maybe even a piece in a potential trade, down the road. At least that's what we've been hearing up to at least the beginning of the season.
Thus far in 51 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Flores is hitting .258/.349/.444, which is impressive alone, considering he is over five years younger than the average player at the level. He continues to show good walk (12.6% BB-rate) and strikeout (16.6% K-rate) numbers, but so far it's the power that has stood out the most. His .186 ISO jumps right off the page and his 16 doubles are good for third in the International League. Flores also has five homers (including one on a pitch he absolutely walloped), which is one short of last year's total in his 136-game stay in Double-A Trenton last summer.
Flores, a corner outfielder, as previously noted, has also seen some first base (three games, to be exact) this season, and overall has played 50 games there in his minor league career. If there's ever an extreme emergency situation where the Yankees have to replace Mark Teixeira due to injury, Flores, who is already on the 40-man roster, could be that guy, but a lot would have to happen for such scenario to take place. Flores' best chance to stick with the Yankees is as the team's right fielder in 2015, with Carlos Beltran, who is already a hot mess in the field, moving to full-time DH.
Because it's been only 51 games, it is fair to be skeptical about Flores' power outburst going forward. If he keeps it up, his .186 ISO would easily be a career-best by over 50 points from his .135 mark way back when he was with the Charleston RiverDogs in 2011. All four of the home ballparks he's played at in his minor league career, however, aren't very favorable to left-handed batters. Power is generally the final tool for batters to develop, and Yankee Stadium's short right field porch could aid the left-handed swinging Flores when he makes it to the show. If Flores' power is in fact for real, he may just end up being more than a fourth outfielder/trade chip for the Yankees.