When you meet right-handed pitcher Wilmer Flores in person, he definitely has a presence to him. When I shook his hand, his handshake was firm, like his ability to identify the strike zone. He is one of five Wilmer Flores in the immediate family, but just like his brother who plays for the Giants, he is making a name for himself.
Wilmer Flores is here, his first child – Wilmer – was born Thursday in Miami. That makes five Wilmers in the immediate family. What will they nickname the newest Wilmer? “Little Wilmer?” Flores says.
He finished the season in Erie, going 6-4 with an ERA of 3.01, striking out 95 in 83.2 innings of work. (K per 10.22). Here’s the breakdown of his pitches per our report on Tigers Minor League Report.
Legitimate plus pitch that sits in the 92-95 MPH range and can reach the upper 90s in shorter stints. Effective velocity is higher, and the pitch seems to get to hitters faster than they realize. Misses bats in the zone and works very well just above the zone.
The harder of his two breaking balls, and often referred to as a cutter. Sits in the 83-86 range with good, sharp break away from right-handed hitters. Also works it inside to lefties, though more under their hands than at their back foot.
Flores throws his curve in the upper-70s, and it mimics the look of his slider, but has more depth. Doesn’t throw it as much as the harder breaking ball, but it misses bats, and he has a good feel for dropping it in the zone.
A nonexistent pitch at the moment, as he threw just a handful during the 2022 season. Reportedly wasn’t comfortable with a traditional circle-change grip and has been working on a split-change this off-season, with some promising early results.
During our talk with Flores on Friday, he spoke about working on his slider and adding a changeup, which would help him continue to keep hitters off-balance.
“The work I have put into my changeup this off-season, it shows in the results with my slider,” Flores said. “That I control to throw into different shapes, depending on the count.”
When asked about his first post-season appearance in Erie last season against Somerset, one of the best teams in Double-A, he wasn’t phased. In fact, it doesn’t matter to him. He had the same mentally for each batter. And he just turned 22 years old.
For all the past failures of the Tigers identifying young pitching, if he can throw his changeup as a solid fourth pitch, he can be a starter. There is some reliever risk if he can’t go 7-8 innings per start. Last season, he did not have one start over 6 innings. Working on going deeper in outings was another focus of his off-season.
Where he starts the 2023 season is unknown, but fans should continue to watch his progress.