David Stearns acquired OF Ramon Flores in late November in a trade that sent SS Luis Sardinas to the Mariners. At the time it seemed somewhat strange. On the surface he had essentially used his depth at SS to add to what was already a pretty deep outfield. Adding to that OF depth is something he's continued to do. We've seen this become a tactic of his: Increase depth in an area so that he can trade from that depth. I still think adding Flores was step one of a process that will eventually result in trading an outfielder. But Ramon Flores has a chance to be more than just a depth move.
The 23 year old left-handed hitter has an interesting package of tools that could add up to an average regular in left field. Here's what FanGraphs former too prospect analyst Kiley McDaniel had to say about him entering the 2015 season:
Flores is one of those players that reached his upside quickly, but doesn't have much more to offer than as a solid part-time player. He has solid bat speed, great plate discipline and feel to hit with good plate coverage, but average at best power that limits the damage he can do. Flores is a heady player with average speed and arm strength that can play all three outfield positions and should be able to contribute to the Yankees at some point in 2015 as the prototypical 4th outfielder that could hit his way into being a low-end regular for a few years.
With the Brewers it's hard to say if he'll have the chance to work his way to that "low-end regular" role. They are a rebuilding club that can afford to give fringe average regulars a chance to blossom. But the Brewers also have MLB-ready outfielders Ryan Braun, Khris Davis, Domingo Santana, Rymer Liriano, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Add to them the near MLB-ready guys--Michael Reed, Brett Phillips, Keon Broxton--and playing time looks to be a fierce battle.
Still, even as a 4th outfielder I like Ramon Flores' skill set. He's a guy that makes a lot of contact. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think that's really important in a back-up player. As he's capable of handling all three outfield spots, I'm hoping his upside in that role would be similar to second-half-of-2014-Gerardo Parra. That's a very good player to have.
Bench construction always seems to be one of the most underrated and misunderstood aspects of building a contending team--obviously it doesn't matter to the Brewers right now. I always tell people to think of it in two interrelated ways.
1. Eliminating the negative contributors on your team can have a substantial cumulative effect.
2. When you add up all the innings and plate appearances the 5 bench players get, it roughly equals 1 full time player.
So while it's far from the most important aspect of building a contender, a good bench can be the last piece of the puzzle. If Ramon Flores can be a 4th outfielder worth 1+ WAR then the Brewers will have put one piece of that puzzle together well in advance of need it. And that's not a bad thing at all. If anything, it's really smart. They've given themselves a lot of time to find out if he's that piece or not.