Jesus Flores, A Catching Project for Rays to Play Around With

By Robbie Knopf

The Rays had to find another catcher. Chris Gimenez was on the disabled list at Triple-A Durham with a hand injury, and the Rays were one major league catching injury away from having to call up either Juan Apodaca and Craig Albernaz, both minor league lifers. The player they elected to sign was former big leaguer Jesus Flores, who played 311 games with the Nationals from 2007 to 2012. The issues surrounding Flores, though, are manifold.

Flores, 28, was released by the Dodgers after hitting just .164 in 22 games for their minor league affiliate. And although Flores’ MLB numbers are not that bad (.241/.289/.375 line, 77 OPS+), he has been terrible since undergoing shoulder surgery in 2009, managing just a .212.249/.325 line (56 OPS+) in 387 major league appearances and throwing out just 16% of attempted basestealers. So while Flores sounds nice as an extra catcher in theory, does he have any value beyond name recognition considering he is a shadow of his former self?

Prior to the season, we looked at Flores as a catching option for the Rays and learned two interesting things: 1) that he had once been a very talented prospect and 2) that he had never really been given time to develop. Way back in 2006, Flores was a 21 year old catcher in the Mets system and had an outstanding year, putting up a .266/.335/.487 line with 32 doubles, 21 homers, and 70 RBI in 120 games and throwing out 39% of attempted basestealers. However, his performance turned out to be too great for his own good as the Nationals selected him in the big league portion of the 2006 Rule 5 Draft. Baseball America correctly predicted that staying on the Nationals’ bench all year could cripple Flores’ development and it’s pretty clear how. Flores always had great bat speed and impressive power, but he was going to have to learn better plate discipline to harness it consistently at higher levels. That usual happens as players make their way through the minors. Flores, though, never had the chance. He didn’t play a single game above A-ball before making the major leagues and the result of that was 238 strikeouts against just 58 walks in his 1014 major league plate appearances. Is it too late for Flores to make up for the lost time?

Flores’ main role in the Rays’ organization is to serve as a warm body and emergency fill-in in case Jose Molina or Jose Lobaton gets hurt. But while they have him in their system, the Rays can try to see if he has any promise left. Flores is only 28 years old. Why not see if you can help him adjust at the plate and learn to be more patient? Maybe Flores’ time has passed after his shoulder injury. But the Rays have nothing to lose tinkering with Flores to see if he can become more than just an emergency catcher and maybe a player who could make an impact for their major league team. Admittedly, the chances of that taking place are pretty low. However, the more half-court shots you take, the more likely one of them has to go in by chance alone, and maybe Flores could be that long-awaited shot that hits nothing but net.