The Dodgers on Wednesday added to their backup catcher competition mix with the signing of Jesus Flores to a minor league contract, per Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Flores will receive an invitation to big league camp in spring training.
Flores, 28, joins Eliezer Alfonzo, Wilkin Castillo, and Ramon Castro as non-roster invitees to Camelback Ranch, who will compete with Tim Federowicz for the backup catcher spot, with Triple-A Albuquerque the likely fall back for one if not two of the competitors. Federowicz and A.J. Ellis are the only two catchers currently on the Dodgers' 40-man roster.
Flores hit .213/.248/.329 in 2012 with the Nationals, for whom he had played his entire major league career, since getting taken in the 2006 Rule 5 draft from the Mets. Flores was the Nationals' primary catcher last season after Wilson Ramos went down with a knee injury, but Flores lost his starting role to the newly acquired Kurt Suzuki in August.
Flores threw out just nine of 60 attempted base stealers (15%), a stat Kilgore noted "could be partly attributed to the Nationals’ slow-to-the-plate pitching staff." Flores in his career has thrown out 51 of 203 base stealers (25.1%).
The Nationals non-tendered Flores on Nov. 30, as the catcher would have been eligible for salary arbitration with five years, 79 days of service time. He made $850,000 in 2012.
Flores is a great "what if" candidate, for a couple of reasons. He hit .266/.335/.487 with 21 home runs as a 21-year old in Class-A St. Lucie in 2006, but rather than continue to develop in the minor leagues he was a part-time catcher in the major leagues, hitting .252/.301/.387 in 169 games in 2007-2008. Those certainly weren't bad numbers by any means, as National League catchers as a whole hit .256/.323/.391 in those two seasons, but one can't help but wonder how Flores might have progressed with a little more seasoning.
In 2009 Flores hit a career-best .301/.371/.505, but it came in just 29 games as he battled right shoulder problems. He spent four months on the disabled list that year with a contusion and a fracture of his shoulder, then just three games after his September return he was shut down again with a partially torn labrum. He had surgery to repair the labrum tear that caused him to miss all of 2010.
He has hit .241/.289/.375 in 311 games in his career, including just .212/.249/.325 in 113 games in the two years since his surgery.
Flores is the youngest of the Dodgers non-roster catchers, and it will be interesting to see if he can tap into that potential from long ago. Better to find out with Flores as a non-roster player, rather than Dionering him a guaranteed $1 million for the privilege.