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Historic?

The Nats selected some guy named Jesus Flores in the Rule 5 draft, followed by some other guy, and then yet another some guy in the Rule 5 Jr. draft. (They also lost a bunch of guys who don't even qualify as some guys.) I'm not sure how deeply Mets fans are lamenting the loss of Flores---I'm not even sure the fine folks at Amazin' Avenue noticed---and they've probably got better things to consider, like the thought of management actually trying to put nine good players on the field at the same time in 2007 and all that. For a team like the Nats, however, Flores looks like a good get. He's a catcher, and he's got power; his 21 homers in the Florida State League translate to about 95 homers in the National League. Not so? Well, I thought that's what the press release said, but I guess I was wrong.

Lest I drift too far from shore, allow me to commend the think tank on this pick. Flores is a nearly-free prospect ($50,000 draft fee, $25,000 of which can be redeemed if Flores doesn't stick and the Mets want him back), and better yet, he's a potentially historic addition to the franchise. Yes, I'll explain.

In the entire history of big league baseball, there have been only five guys named Flores. Jesus Flores could be the sixth, and he could turn out to be the best. Here are the five who preceded him:

  • Gilberto Flores (a/k/a Gil) was an outfielder who played for parts of three seasons in the late 1970s. He hit .278 as a rookie for the Angels (f/k/a Anaheim or, back then, simply California), though it was a rather empty .278. The Angels apparently Ryan Churched him the next spring, so to speak; he was in the minors to start that season. The Mets claimed good ol' Gil off waivers in mid-summer 1978, and by then he had barely over 100 big league at-bats left in him. He was done after the '79 season.
  • Jesse Flores, the only deceased member of this exclusive club, pitched in majors for parts of seven seasons over a half-century ago. Unfortunately for Jesse, for five of those seasons he pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics during an era in which Connie Mack's franchise finished in the first-division once in 17 seasons. It was just Jesse's luck that he wasn't around for that one season.

    In 1942, Jesse made a brief debut with the Cubs, who sold his contract to the A's. (Jesse was 27 when he debuted, so I get the distinct impression his career was, for lack of a better term, enabled by World War II.) Jesse emerged as Philly's staff ace in '43, winning the team's pitching triple crown, although we must keep in mind those A's went 49-105. In 231.1 innings, Jesse went 12-14 with a 3.31 ERA, good for an ERA+ of 109. For his efforts, Jesse tied for 27th in the American League MVP voting. (No, he did not receive a Bizarro MVP vote.) The next four seasons, as his team's performance varied from merely bad to, well, as bad as the '43 team, Flores' performance varied from pretty good to quite good. Other than that brief debut with the Cubs, his ERA+ never dipped below 100 (although it was exactly 100 in 1945). Flores had his best season in 1946, when he ranked fifth in the AL in ERA (2.32) and ERA+ (152). But he went just 9-7 because the Athletics were really fond of winning 49 games per season that decade and because Jesse somehow made nearly half his appearances out of the pen. Arm problems, maybe?

    The following season, Jesse pitched pretty well but had a miserable 4-13 record; dumb luck, because the A's, despite only one real addition (Ferris Fain, acquired in the Rule 5 draft), enjoyed a radical turnaround to 78-76 (although still only fifth place). After that '47 season, San Diego of the Pacific Coast League purchased Jesse's contract. Jesse made it back to the big leagues with Cleveland in 1950, pitched pretty well mainly in relief, and then was done just short of his 36th birthday. He died in 1991.

  • Jose Flores was born in New York City and played college ball at Texas. He's a second baseman who played briefly with Oakland in 2002 and the Dodgers in 2004. No matter how briefly he played (seven at-bats in all), I'm sure he's proud of the accomplishment. He was drafted by the Phillies in the 34th round way back in 1994 and was on at least his fourth organization before he made his big league debut at the age of 29. According to Baseball America, he's still at it, splitting 2006 between the International and Pacific Coast Leagues.
  • Randy Flores is a 31 year-old situational lefty reliever out of USC. Randy debuted with Texas in 2002 before bouncing to Colorado. He spent all of 2003 in the minors but has found a good thing in St. Louis, since LaRussa loves the left-right-left-right thing. Randy pitched quite well for the Cards in '05, not as well this past season, but we're talking about 40-inning samples here---and he's performed excellently in the postseason both seasons. Randy has rather poor control but a pretty good strikeout rate. Like most LOOGYs, he'd be great if he didn't actually have to face as many righties as lefties; his platoon split is substantial.
  • Ron Flores (a/k/a "No, the Other One") is Randy's younger brother, a 29th round draft pick in 2000 out of USC, where he earned an economics degree. Like Randy, Ron is a lefty reliever, though Oakland hasn't really used him as a LOOGY; Ron has had slightly more innings pitched than appearances since debuting in 2005. So far, so good, as Ron has a 2.82 career ERA and a good control record in nearly 40 big league innings.
Of those five, Jesse Flores had the longest and most successful career. Jesse was a career 44-59 pitcher, but it's not his fault he spent most of it toiling for Mack near the end of the line; as Jesse's Wikipedia page notes, his winning percentage with the A's, however meager it seems, was 35 points above his team's during that stretch. The Flores brothers, Randy and Ron, might have something to say about this before they're done, but for now they're not exactly impact pitchers.

So it's all here for Jesus Flores to claim. Maybe he won't start making history in the 2007 season. He's a young kid, probably pretty raw, hasn't played higher up than the FSL. But he could have a future. I dare say he's the brightest Flores prospect yet.

One final note: I'm not going to determine whether LeVale Speigner can become the greatest Speigner yet. Quite frankly, that would take far too long.