The competition that Tim Federowicz has for backup catcher are all flawed in some way. Wilkin Castillo has all of 37 plate appearances in the majors and none sine 2009, both Ramon Castro and Jesus Flores had a surgical procedure at some point in the last two years, and Eliezer Alfonzo hasn't even shown up yet because of a virus that wouldn't even let him on a plane for a week.
Of the four non-roster catchers signed by the Dodgers, Flores is the most intriguing and probably the most talented. But he hasn't been the same after shoulder surgery at the end of 2009.
"It's been tough for me the last couple of years coming back from surgery," Flores said. "But I think that's part of the game, it's just how the game goes. I just have to stay positive and optimistic, working and preparing myself to get better."
Flores missed all of 2010 after the surgery, and in the last two years he has .212/.249/.325 in 113 games. He lost his job with the Nationals in 2012 to Kurt Suzuki, and was non-tendered by Washington on Nov. 30.
That came after a promising start to his major league career, when from ages 22-24 he hit ,260/.313/.409 in 198 games, including .301/.371/.505 in 29 games in 2009 before getting shut down with the shoulder problems that eventually led to his surgery. He was in the major leagues at a young age because Washington drafted Flores from the Mets in the 2006 Rule 5 draft, and he had to be kept on the major league roster in 2007 in order for the Nats to keep him.
Might he have been better served to have spent at least a little more time developing in the minor leagues?
"I started doing well when I came up in the big leagues. By the time I touched the minor leagues again, it was when I was getting hurt. I can't say whether or not more time in the minors would make me a better baseball player," Flores said. "But who I am right now, I feel really good. I've been through tough times, and even at my age I did very well. But from this point forward, I'm going to concentrate on the present."
That present includes working with a loaded pitching staff, with eight starters headed by Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
"I feel awesome, it's a good experience. Last year I spent time with a good talented pitching staff in Washington, and now I came into this team where they have the same talent level of pitchers," Flores said. "It gives me confidence that we'll be playing well, and we'll compete against good teams. We have the potential to be in first place."
Flores said he isn't worried about the competition for backup catcher.
"During the spring I just focus on doing my job," Flores said. "There are some things we can't control, so I just do my thing and control what I can control."
Three years removed from surgery, he said he is fully healthy and hopes it will translate into success.
"I feel good. I think I'm swinging the bat very well. I feel very confident with what I'm doing right now," Flores said. "I'm in a new organization with a new team, where I feel comfortable and I feel good. This year is going to be different, it's going to be a breakout year."
The first major league hit for Flores was a two-run double off Wes Obermueller of the Marlins on Apr. 22, 2007. The hit knocked Obermueller out of the game, and Florida replaced him with Kevin Gregg, also a non-roster invitee with the Dodgers this year and the man whose locker sits next to Flores in the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch.
Flores signed a minor league deal on Jan. 16. He has five years, 79 days of service time.
|2011 (AAA - Syracuse)
|2013 Projections - Age 28 Season|
I think Flores has the best shot of the non-roster catchers to make the team, but it really depends on his health. Those projections seem to think Flores won't be back to his pre-shoulder surgery form. Since I picked Flores to win the backup job before spring training, I'll stick with it and guess he hits .258/.308/.401 in 38 games.
What is your guess for Flores? Be sure to guess BA/OBP/SLG, number of starts at catcher, and any other thing you wish to guess.