The Yankees' outfield picture is wide open for prospects to break into the major league scene. Ramon Flores is one of the prospects vying for that job.
Name: Ramon Flores
Bats: Left Throws: Left
Age as of Opening Day 2013: 21 (born 3/26/1992)
Height: 5'10" Weight: 150 lbs.
Remaining Contract: Under team control, 4 years of minor league service time
2012 Statistics: (High-A Tampa) 131 games, .302/.370/.420, 126 wRC+, .364 wOBA, 6 HR, 24 SB
Everyone is hoping for some combination of Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, and Mason Williams to burst onto the scene and take over as the next crop of Yankee outfielders, which is a reasonable hope, but in 2012, Ramon Flores turned in a great season for High-A Tampa, his best since leaving Rookie ball, putting his name at least slightly in the discussion of the future of the outfield. Most people who grade out prospects for a living call Flores a Tweener, which may seem a little negative, but really it just means that the player doesn't fit the prototype for the position he is in, a la Brett Gardner playing left field. Flores is not a power-hitting outfielder by any means, but he has made up for it a bit with his strong ability to already draw walks proficiently, something most players his age sorely lack.
Just turning 21 days before the 2013 Opening Day, Flores will likely be starting his season at Double-A Trenton, where he played one game of the regular season in addition to during the Thunder's playoff run last year. Minor League Ball's John Sickels ranks him as a C+ prospect in the system; a grade he shares with prospects like Bryan Mitchell, Austin Romine, Rafael DePaula, Corban Joseph, and others. Sickels mentions that Flores "plays above his tools and does a bit of everything", profiling him as a fourth outfielder behind the Austin/Heathcott/Williams trio.
Offensively, Flores has already demonstrated above average plate discipline and ability to spray the ball to all fields for someone of his age. The power is simply not there and unlikely to ever be there, topping out at 11 home runs during his stint with Charleston in 2011. His lack of speed and athleticism limits his defensive abilities to "nothing special" with room to improve in reading routes and a better learning of where to position himself in the field. Mike Newman believes his Baseball IQ to be high, which at least means that he has an ability to learn and adjust where necessary, but his likelihood of becoming a star or anything like that is not great.
Ramon Flores impresses with his already advanced hitting skills, but it makes it difficult to nail down exactly how much more he will be able to improve from there. Could he end up stealing away a starting spot on a major league team? Possibly, but the safer bet would be labeling him as more backup than starter for right now. Another strong season at an advanced level will certainly get him a harder look, and the Yankees did add him to the 40-man roster this offseason to ensure they could keep him around. He will certainly get the chance to prove he can be more than a backup in the majors with a full season at Trenton in 2013.