Mets prospect part of a growing Flores network

May 21st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Anthony DiComo’s Mets Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CLEVELAND -- Wilmer Flores may be long gone from the organization, but the Flores family isn’t done with the Mets quite yet.

Nine years after Flores endeared himself to fans at the 2015 Trade Deadline, the longtime big leaguer’s first cousin, Saul García is starting to make some waves in the organization. García, a pitcher, made MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Mets prospects for the first time in the offseason, clocking in at No. 29.

Garcia is part of a growing Flores network that includes both Wilmer and his brother, a Tigers pitching prospect also named Wilmer.

(Flores’ father, his older brother and his son are also all named Wilmer.)

“I don’t know what it is,” the former Mets player said last month from the Giants’ clubhouse. “I’m glad [García] is getting attention. Great kid, great kid. Very centered. He knows what he wants. Quiet, as we all are.”

A late bloomer, García did not sign with the Mets as an international free agent until right around his 18th birthday. He didn’t pitch much as a teenager, but nonetheless made it to full-season ball in 2023, throwing 80 1/3 innings between Single-A St. Lucie and High-A Brooklyn.

Back at St. Lucie to start this season, García has struggled a bit, though his 6.30 ERA comes with multiple caveats. One is that he missed two weeks at the end of April with a hamstring tweak. The other is that all the damage done against him has come over two outings. In the other four, he hasn’t allowed a hit.

“He is really interesting,” Mets director of player development Andrew Christie said. “His biggest thing is strikes. A lot of the pitchers at our younger levels, that’s going to be the biggest focus.”

For now, the Mets are using Flores as a multi-inning reliever, with plans to stretch him out as a starter. While García’s ultimate future could be in the bullpen, the Mets like to keep their pitching prospects in the rotation until they prove it’s time for a switch.

Christie described García as a classic fastball/slider type with a “real interesting” heater that “gets above barrels very, very well,” as well as a sweeping slider in the low-80s range and a changeup.

“The fastball and slider are kind of the calling cards,” Christie said. “When he’s right, those are both kind of Major League average pitches right now, which sounds silly, but it’s legitimate. It’s just him learning to command it a little better.”

It helps to come from a Major League family. Although García is 12 years younger than his cousin, Flores said the two “basically lived together” during a period of his youth. Flores’ mother is the sister of García’s father, and the families had homes near each other in northern Venezuela.

As a child, García was “real skinny,” according to Flores, to the extent that “nobody thought he was going to play.”

That has since changed.

“He’s throwing hard, huh?” Flores said. “Hard worker. Him and my brother, they work out together. They’re both pitchers. It’s really good to see how far they’ve come, because they really had to work hard for it. And they keep doing it.”

Elsewhere on the farm

Triple-A Syracuse: Keep an eye on veteran José Iglesias, who signed a Minor League deal in the offseason and elected to remain in the organization despite not making the Opening Day roster. The big-league Mets are currently without a true backup middle infielder, which makes it feel inevitable that Iglesias will return to the Majors at some point. He’s doing his best to become a factor, committing just one error on defense while logging a .900 OPS against left-handed pitchers.

Double-A Binghamton: Over the weekend, the Mets promoted No. 10 prospect Blade Tidwell and No. 30 Rhylan Thomas from Binghamton to Syracuse following excellent starts to the season. Both had played at Double-A in the second half of last season, which was a factor in the decision. It’s easy to see why Mets evaluators think highly of this pair; Tidwell produced a 2.41 ERA over seven outings (five starts) in his return to Binghamton, striking out four times as many batters (44) as he walked (11), while Thomas, an outfielder, hit .323 and struck out just 12 percent of the time.

High-A Brooklyn: Three more promotions of note: the Mets sent fourth-ranked prospect Ryan Clifford, No. 13 Brandon Sproat and No. 19 Nolan McLean from Brooklyn to Binghamton earlier this month. Clifford earned the bump despite a lackluster batting line at Brooklyn, while McLean also has plenty left to prove as a two-way player. Scouts continue to paint McLean as a far stronger prospect as a pitcher than a hitter, which could eventually force the Mets’ hand. As for Sproat, he’s been dominant with a caveat of his own: a walk rate that must come down if he’s to make good on his frontline potential.