After his first professional season went virtually unnoticed, Wilmer Flores is finally garnering attention from the baseball community. His name has started popping up on top prospect lists including MLB.com and Fangraphs’ most recent Top-100 lists. He ranked fourth on Chris Clegg’s top 15 Tigers’ prospects earlier this off-season. Many people are probably wondering who Flores is and where he came from. Flores turns 22 in January and might be closer to the Major Leagues than some people think. A masterful 2022 season for Double-A Lake Erie has thrust him into the Tigers’ future plans and should make him a top target for fantasy baseball managers in dynasty leagues.
Keep reading to learn more about where Wilmer Flores came from and why his profile is so exciting.
Wilmer Flores: Detroit’s soon-to-be Fantasy Baseball Star
Who is Wilmer Flores?
2022 Stats (A+/AA): 103.1 IP/2.79 ERA/1.01 WHIP/30.8 K%/5.5 BB%
Wilmer Flores signed with the Tigers after going undrafted in the shortened 2020 draft. Flores has the height most scouts prefer in a starting pitcher, but he is built a little on the stockier side. This caused many to wonder if there was significant relief risk pushing him down draft boards. His first professional season was unspectacularly solid, pitching 66 innings across 13 starts with a 3.68 ERA. The impressive part was that came with a 32% strikeout rate. Heading into 2022, scouts began to recognize Flores’ arsenal as FanGraphs gave him three pitches of a 50-grade or higher but doubted his control. Flores responded to the doubts by maintaining a strikeout rate north of 30% while improving his K/BB ratio to 5.65.
People might not realize that Flores was one of the most impressive pitchers in all of Minor League Baseball. There were only two pitchers under the age of 22 to throw at least 90 innings with a strikeout rate north of 30% and a walk rate under nine percent. Wilmer Flores is accompanied by none other than Andrew Painter on this shortlist. Painter is one of the flashiest and highest-regarded prospects in baseball. Flores was nearly as impressive as Painter but only gets half the praise. Control was the one thing missing from Flores’ profile heading into the 2022 season but should be of concern no longer.
Not only was he able to limit the free passes, but he also continued to prevent hitters from barreling him up at a high rate. Flores maintained high ground ball rates with an HR/9 of 0.87. A pitcher’s ability to keep the ball in the yard is important when evaluating future success. Flores has continued to demonstrate a strong ability to do this as he progresses through the Tigers’ system and there is no reason to think this will change.
The initial relief risk no longer exists as Flores has continued to demonstrate a rare ability to get hitters out while posting high strikeout rates. His 2.79 ERA would look even better if not for his second to last start in which he threw one inning and surrendered seven earned runs. Without that start, his ERA would sit at 2.19 and trail only Andrew Painter amongst players under 22.
Keep reading to learn more about the arsenal that makes Wilmer Flores so effective.
Wilmer Flores’ Arsenal
Four Seam Fastball
Flores has the fastball velocity you look for in a starting pitcher prospect. The pitch consistently sits in the mid-90s and can touch 98. Flores stays compact through his windup before his arm swings back and fires straight over the top. He generates plenty of power from his lower half which allows the fastball to maintain velocity through his starts.
Not only does the fastball have plus velocity, but Flores also has excellent control of the pitch. He locates the pitch to all sides of the plate but is at his best when working up in the zone. The velocity and late rise allow his fastball to whiz right past hitters. The high fastball also changes hitters’ eye level before Flores attacks them down in the zone with his secondaries.
With plus velocity and plus command, Flores’ fastball profiles as an effective Major League pitch. This helps provide a stable floor for Flores’ future value.
The cutter is quietly a solid pitch for Flores. The pitch sits between 88 and 92 mph and is an added bonus to his arsenal. Throwing the cutter gives hitters another pitch to worry about and helps to keep them off his four-seam fastball. He can locate the pitch in and out to batters from both sides and relies heavily on this pitch when he does not have feel for the curveball. He generates more swings and misses on this pitch than you would expect, and it is especially fun to watch him paint the inside corner to righties. The velocity is nothing special, but the control helps give this pitch at least average future grades.
A cutter sitting around 90 mph might not raise any eyebrows, but it helps improve Flores’ floor. A second fastball is an important part of a starting pitcher’s arsenal and affords Flores some wiggle room if his secondary stuff is not working on any particular day.
Flores’ go-to out pitch is the curveball which he throws effectively to both lefties and righties in any count. The pitch generates lots of swings and misses with high chase rates, making it a perfect tw0 strike pitch. The curve is a big bender just short of true 12-6 action sitting in the low-80s with plus spin rates. A power fastball with a big bending breaking ball keeps hitters off balance and constantly guessing.
Look how filthy this pitch is:
— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) November 22, 2022
Flores is comfortable throwing the pitch in any count but as with any curveball, the feel can be inconsistent at times. Without another true out pitch to lefties, Flores is left relying on the pitch and sometimes hangs it over the zone. This is a plus pitch but not a finished product. The introduction of another secondary (more on that to come) could help his curveball become even more effective.
Flores’ changeup is consistently viewed as his worst offering. The pitch sits in the high-80s with about a nine-mph difference between this and his four-seamer. Most right-handed pitchers like to utilize the changeup to generate strikeouts to left-handed batters. Flores, however, still likes to lean on the curveball in situations like this. Lacking a true out pitch to the opposite hand can be problematic for pitchers as they face tougher competition.
There is a reason for encouragement here: Flores has spent the off-season working with Tread Athletics on his changeup. You can see more in the thread below about what exactly they are working to “change up” with this pitch.
Wilmer’s CH is coming along nicely.
Early on this off-season we identified that he favors supination (two banger breaking balls & slight cut on the 4SFB). Despite this, he would force pronation on his CH (putting him behind the ball), causing it to flatten out.
(1/2) ⬇️ https://t.co/XN2sIV2nMz pic.twitter.com/Of3RHa9bjV
— Turner Givens (@TurnerGivens) December 29, 2022
Whenever a player is working out with Tread or Driveline, it is always something to take note of. Working with one of these groups does not guarantee instant success or improvement, but it shows a never-ending drive to get better. This is especially encouraging for a young Minor League pitcher who is having success to still strive to improve. Flores recognizes he needs another secondary pitch to attack lefties and hopefully, this changeup is the answer. Even if it is just an average pitch, the addition could be huge for Flores’ future value.
Wilmer Flores 2023 Fantasy Baseball Outlook
Wilmer Flores is unlikely to make a significant impact on fantasy teams in 2023. He is yet to eclipse 103 innings in a professional season and the Tigers will likely continue to proceed with caution. The best-case scenario would be a late-season look in a hybrid role. Something like how Hunter Brown contributed to the Astros in 2022 is a realistic expectation. A couple of starts with a few relief appearances mixed in.
That being said, Flores’ dynasty value is extremely high. Through two professional seasons, he has demonstrated an ability to keep the ball in the yard, limit free passes, and effectively strike batters out. He has three plus pitches and the potential for a fourth if the changeup continues to progress. Detroit’s pitching depth no longer looks as deep as it once did. Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, and Eduardo Rodriguez are the only pitchers locked into a rotation role come 2024. There will be plenty of opportunity for Flores to earn a starting job in Detroit, especially if he continues to pitch at such a high level. He ranks as my 12th-highest pitching prospect with the chance to continue moving up.
Buy Wilmer Flores now in dynasty leagues before his value rises even higher.
Photo by Whitecaps Photo | Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)