Outfielder Ramon Flores, when he was in the Yankees system, was always a player who was looking to improve himself.
He took a three-pronged approach – improving his hitting, fielding and multi-lingual interviewing skills each day. The native of Barinas, Venezuela, who will turn 23 March 28, was always a pleasure to deal with.
“I know where I want to get to and what I have to do in order to get there,” Flores said when he was a Yankees farmhand. He made his Yankees debut last May 30, starting in left field. He was returned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last June 10, but recalled to the Yankees June 21.
“It was like a dream playing in Yankee Stadium in that uniform,” Flores said.
Despite the fact fellow young outfielders Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott had both been called up before him and suffered injuries, Flores’ Yankees dream ended abruptly, as he, along with reliever Jose Ramirez, was traded to the Seattle Mariners last July 30 in exchange for uber-utility guy Dustin Ackley.
Seattle sent him to Triple-A Tacoma, where he was tearing up the Pacific Coast League, hitting ..423 in 14 games before suffering a broken and dislocated right ankle as he was getting close to a call-up in mid-August. Then, Nov. 20, Flores was traded to the rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers for shortstop Luis Sardinas.
That swap, depending on Flores’ health and recovery from the ankle injury, might land him a spot as a fourth outfielder in Milwaukee in 2016. A good guy who looks like he could get a serious chance on a team, which under new general manager David Stearns, a Harvard grad and former Mets operations employee, is rebuilding in the powerful National League Central.
There are three reasons Flores appears to be in good shape, depending on health, with the Brewers:
- Outfielder Khris Davis was traded by the Brewers to Oakland last week.
- Flores is out of minor-league options.
- Aside from starting outfielders Ryan Braun and Domingo Santana, Flores, as of today, appears better than the other outfielders Milwaukee has.
His competition for a spot, as of today, includes the following:
Keon Broxton – He is a former Pittsburgh prospect with speed, most used as a pinch-runner who will be 26 in May.
Rymer Liriano – A former San Diego prospect who played in 38 games with the Padres in 2014, sent back to Triple-A El Paso in 2015 and DFA at the end of last season.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis – Our old Mets buddy who had two stints with the club in addition to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He has a .232 average in 272 major-league games and, like Flores, has played all three outfield positions.
Michael Reed – A homegrown Milwaukee prospect and good athlete who played in seven games with the Brewers in 2015. Has also played all three outfield positions.
None of the top Brewers outfield prospects appear to be ready for 2016, giving Flores more of a chance.
Over the last few years, with the improvement of the Yankees system, certain positions have the amount of talent assuring not all the players at that position will eventually play with the Yankees. That is especially the case with outfielders and shortstops in the system at present.
Milwaukee plans to play Braun and Santana at the corners regularly, Nieuwenhuis has the experience edge. Flores, if healthy, can fill a backup role and provide solid defense and offense as a contact hitter. This will all shake out in Spring Training in Arizona, not Florida. Braxton, Liriano and Reed will also have their say.
If a former Yankees prospect ends up making it with another team, that’s life in baseball. We spent time with them when they were in the system and got to know them well,
Ramon Flores included.