The Yankees signed Ramon Flores in 2008 for a cool $775,000. The soon-to-be 23-year-old outfielder from Barinas, Venezuela made his stateside debut in 2009 with the Gulf Coast Yankees, and has been steadily climbing through the system ever since. He had his first breakout season in 2012, mostly with the Tampa Yankees in High-A. That year, he had a triple slash of .303/.370/.425 with 26 doubles, 2 triples, 11 homers, and 59 RBI. He also scored 85 runs and stole 24 bases. All of the sudden, the Yankees had a nice little outfield prospect on their hands. As a 21-year-old in Double-A Trenton in 2013, where the average age was 24.6, he pretty much held his own, hitting .260/.353/.363 with 25 doubles, 6 triples, 6 homers, and 55 RBI. He only stole seven bases, but overall it was still a pretty good season.
The main issue with Flores is that he's a bit of a tweener. He doesn't have enough speed to be considered a speedster, and he doesn't have enough power to be considered a slugger. This is usually not good news for prospects. In order to get noticed, you often need one big tool to get people's attention. Flores has shown that he has a solid bat, and solid speed, but many think his ceiling is that of a fourth outfielder, unless he changes something dramatically. That being said, he is often praised for his very impressive plate discipline, as he has a career walk rate of 11.4%. That patience should help him get a long look this spring.
Scranton (AAA): 63 G, .247/.339/.443, 17 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 45 K, 116 wRC+, 0.9 WARP
Flores made it to Triple-A Scranton in 2014, and he was hitting the ball with some authority before a gruesome ankle injury cost him all of June and July, and some of August. It would have been great to see what Flores could have done over a full season playing every day in Triple-A, but it wasn't meant to be.
Flores did get healthy in time to go play winter ball in Venezuela this past off-season, and he really impressed. While playing for the Tigres de Aragua, he slashed .347/.435/.505 with 17 extra-base hits and 29 RBI in just 196 at bats. He cooled down a bit in the post-season, but that's still impressive. While the competition in Venezuela isn't quite up to snuff with where Flores was in Triple-A, It's still important that he went down there and proved he could pretty much dominate a league like that. His power seemed to have a bit of an uptick as well (think Brett Gardner last year), which is also a good sign.
Before he got hurt last year, Flores was well on his way to a possible September call up. Who knows, he might have been there earlier considering the Yankees' frequent ailments and Zoilo Almonte's terrible performance as the up-and-down guy. The injury probably cost him that opportunity, as well as some pretty important development time, but he bounced back so well in winter ball that I have to believe, assuming he gets off to a good start and stays healthy early on, that he is one of the first in line to come up if an injury happens to any of the Yankees' outfielders. Unless Tyler Austin gets off to a monster start and overtakes him, we should see Flores fairly early on in the season if someone goes down. The worst case for Flores, and possibly the best case for the Yankees, would be that everyone on the Yankees big league roster stays healthy and plays well, and we don't see him until September.
As far as the future goes, Flores really needs to keep developing his power more if he wants to be an everyday corner outfielder for the Yankees. It's odd enough having two speedy low power guys in the outfield (although I know Brett Gardner showed quite a bit of pop last season), and having three of those guys is kind of unheard of these days. That being said, Flores showed improved power production before his ankle injury, and I remember him muscling up a couple of times in spring training, so maybe he can tap into it more and more as he matures. This will be a big year for the 23-year-old. He'll be out to prove that he's ready for a big league job, so a big year could mean even bigger things for him in 2016.