What a weekend we just had! We were treated to a weekend of snow and division round playoff football that included the Chiefs first home playoff victory in 25 years. That kind of weekend calls for the perfect snack. Right before kickoff, I ventured to the cupboard to achieve full sports nirvana.
(GASP AND BLOOD CURDLING SCREAM)
The cupboard was bare. My mind started to race. How could I have allowed this? I’ve short-changed myself of the perfect Saturday. The Chiefs would for-sure lose now and that’s ALSO my fault. I’ve let the city down. I’ve let The Kingdom down. Why God? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!
Then, as if by some leftover Christmas magic, I saw it in the back: that gigantic tin of popcorn. It had begun it’s final journey of blending into the background of the pantry, forever neighboring the organic spices (Service Time: 3.2 years) and a bag of old Halloween candy consisting only of candy corn (Service Time: Arb 3). It rescued me in my final hour and saved my Saturday. To show my appreciation, I’m dedicating my first submission to that magical tin of popcorn. I love you. (Also to my wife and daughter, you’re both pretty awesome too!)
Much like my cupboard, the Royals 40-man is currently experiencing a shortage. Their ordeal is centered around middle infielders. It is currently very top heavy with team MVP Whit Merrifield, potential superstar Adalberto Mondesi, and veteran Chris Owings. You can probably also throw in Nicky Lopez into that group as he is likely making his major league debut at some point in 2019. I think Owings is only here for a year and I think Whit will be dealt at some point between now and the end of next season, leaving a void at utility infielder that is much like a tummy that needs a good base before many much beer joins the party
Back in July, Drew introduced us to Flores and did a great job profiling his progress in AA. Up to that point, the 24 year old Flores hadn’t jumped onto many top prospect lists and was beginning to turn some heads. By the end of the year, Flores was clipping .314/.440/.803 in 508 plate appearances. That’ll…that’ll do. Along with that, Flores hit 7 dingers, stole 27 bags, posted a 14.2% K rate, and played 5 defensive positions. Much like that popcorn tin, Flores has multiple flavors to offer a big league club.
Let’s start with the good stuff: the cheese popcorn errrr…Flores’ ability to get on base. Prior to 2018, Flores never really hit for a great average. His first 5 seasons were spent in rookie ball where he floated somewhere between .224 and .305. Pretty meh. But he was still able to get on base, posting at least a .351 OBP in 4 out of 5 of those years. In 2016, he was promoted to A ball, where he struggled a bit posting a .272 OBP. I’m sure his age prompted a promotion the following year to A+ where he picked it up to .316. Still not great but showing enough to get to AA in 2018 where he broke out. He ended with the aforementioned .314 average, a superb .363 OBP, and 121 wRC+. If those numbers are repeated or improved upon, Flores could be leaving scouts licking their finger tips clean of that heavenly cheese dust at the end of each game.
A close second in the realm of popcorn flavors/baseball tools, caramel. For many in the Royals org., speed is incredibly important to the Royals’ brand of baseball. Flores has always been seemingly comfortable ripping bags but last year he was on another level. He stole 27 bags and was only caught 7 times, good for a 79.4% success rate. If there was a fast track to get on the front office’s radar, it’s through one’s feet, specifically the ability to move them faster than most. And I’ve recently been introduced to combining the cheese and caramel into the same bite. Holy game-changer! Similarly, pairing the ability to get on base with the ability to steal bases is also a game changer and one we should all be on the lookout for.
Then there’s the old go-to: butter. Butter is the classic, day-to-day flavor that gets the job done. It’s got spunk. It’s got old-school tendencies. It’s got grit. Butter is the fielding tool of popcorn. It’s not flashy but it gets the job done. And what’s better than butter? Extra butter. Being able to play multiple positions will add shine to any player. Flores played 5 positions last year. He played 44 games at 2B, 40 games at 3B, 22 at SS, 11 in LF, and 3 in CF. The infield is likely where he stays, but having some experience in the outfield can’t hurt and if he becomes serviceable out there too, he could be a super utility player able to PH or PR for anyone at any point. And for added flair, he even pitched 2/3 of an inning in 2017. That’s like adding a bit of Lawry’s seasoning salt to your butter popcorn.
Finally we come to the ability to hit for power aka Cinnamon. Hitting for power is bold and hawt, but we all know that homeruns are rally killers. In Flores’ case (as well as most popcorn tins), I don’t know if that will ever be a strong tool of his. At just 5′-11″ and 145 lbs, his smaller frame doesn’t exactly lend itself to providing much pop. Still, Flores did produce 7 HR, suggesting that he has decent enough mechanics to produce pop. Adding weight similar to what Whit did in 2016, going from 175 to 195, could greatly impact this potential. If Flores were to add some strength, he could maximize that swing and keep pitchers on their toes every at-bat.
If Flores was to continue getting promoted and continue improving at each level, his floor is a utility player. But it’s a utility player that can come in and pinch run for anyone while also providing defensive flexibility. I think that’s a combo worth salivating over. Who knows, he might save a couple of Saturdays himself.