Ramon Flores Fits Now And Later

Ramon Flores, a 23-year-old Venezuelan outfielder, is the latest acquisition in Brewers general manager David Stearns’s November flurry of moves, acquired from Seattle in exchange for utility infielder Luis Sardinas. Flores is a perfect pickup for Milwaukee, a player who fits the needs of a rebuilding effort while filling an important hole in the current major league roster.

Flores spent 2015 split between the Mariners and Yankees organizations, as he went from New York to Seattle as part of this July’s Dustin Ackley trade. ¬†He hit a robust .308/.401/.454 with nine home runs and 28 extra-base hits over 384 plate appearances in Triple-A, most of which were spent in the pitcher-friendly International League. He hit .219/.219/.250 in a 12-game stretch with the Yankees before he was traded, his only major league playing time thus far.

Flores lacks a single standout tool, but he’s a well-rounded player. Baseball Prospectus’s Christopher Crawford described his swing as “simple, short to the ball without much hip rotation, but with enough bat speed to square up and make solid contact to all parts of the ballpark.” ¬†FanGraphs’s Kiley McDaniel called him “big league ready” with “five fringy to average tools along with excellent plate discipline.” Both analysts agree Flores fits as a fourth outfielder or a left-handed side of an outfield platoon.

If you want something to dream on, look at Flores’s improving power over the past two seasons. His meager power in A-ball was what kept him low on prospect lists, but over the past two seasons, Flores has 16 home runs in 150 games in Triple-A, plus 34 doubles and six triples. Flores has a strong arm (which he has already shown at the major league level) and is versatile enough to play all three outfield positions. He practically screams platoon partner and defensive replacement for Khris Davis.

And that’s what makes Flores such a perfect acquisition for Milwaukee. Flores is out of options next year and must be released if he doesn’t make the major league roster, and as such the Brewers managed to acquire him for a player buried on the depth chart in Sardinas. Flores should have no problem making Milwaukee’s Opening Day roster in 2015, as there were no locks in the Brewers outfield outside of the obvious ones in Davis, Ryan Braun and Domingo Santana prior to the trade. He’s young, at just 23, and has hardly amassed any major league service time. And yet Flores still can help the Brewers in the short-term, as he gives them a much-needed left-handed outfield bat and a solid defender, a perfect contrast to Milwaukee’s right-handed, power-focused starting outfielders.

The concerns I expressed about tanking last week have been assuaged for now. Both the Flores acquisition and the Jonathan Villar acquisition (written up by Seth Victor here) make sense in both the long and short runs. These moves may not make the Brewers contenders, but they unquestionably make them better in 2016. More importantly, Flores and Villar are both good and young enough to conceivably be on the next contending Brewers team. These moves give fans something to watch now and something to dream on later. Even if they don’t work out, it’s exactly the approach I like to see.

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