Thursday, May 19, 2011

OTF's 32 Most Interesting Prospects: No. 17, Kendry Flores, RHP

A 19-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic, Kendry Flores is the kind of raw, high-upside pitcher that could either boom or bust. Yes, we have seen nice success stories of high power, high ceiling arms like Santiago Casilla (though he was brought up in the Oakland A's system to be fair), but we have also seen burnouts like Waldis Joaquin and Denny Bautista. To use Ron Shandler and Rob Gordon's grading system (It is explained in their Minor League Baseball Analyst Annuals), I would sense that Flores would grade out anywhere from a 9E to an 8D prospect (the number represents the potential while the letter represents the probability of reaching that potential).

There is some hype surrounding Flores, though it's safe to say he's a pretty unknown commodity around baseball circles, not surprising considering he has only played one season in the United States (last year in the Arizona Rookie League). While John Sickels ranked him the 13th best prospect in the Giants system (he graded him as a C+ prospect), Baseball America overlooked him on their Top 30 Rankings for the Giants system in their 2011 prospect handbook (though to me, he's a better prospect than outfielder Darren Ford and catcher Johnny Monell). Even amongst the Giants blogosphere there are some mixed feelings about Flores' ceiling. SF Dugout, a Giants Online Magazine, ranked him as the 34th best prospect in the Giants system, while Dr. B of When the Giants Come to Town had him as the 18th best Giants prospect.

Why such fluctuation? Well...he's incredibly young and we have such little statistical data to lean on in terms of evaluating him. Even if you include his Dominican Summer League numbers, he has just pitched 121 innings of professional ball and only 55 of those innings were seen stateside. Thus, Flores may be a good prospect with a high ceiling in the Jorge Bucardo-mold. He just isn't getting as much attention as Bucardo simply because what we have to evaluate Flores is such a small sample size.

But what do we do know about Flores? In terms of reports on mechanics and stuff...well...not that much. He does sport a nice frame that he will easily grow into (he's six-foot, two inches tall and weighs 175 pounds), and Dr. B notes that Flores "has fastball in the low-mid 90's with a pretty good changeup and a slurvy breaking ball." It is probably expected that some more scouting reports will surface once Flores debuts this season. As of now, he is in extended Spring Training and is probably going to start the year in the Northwest League with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. The Giants are definitely taking it slowly with him, which may not be a bad thing to do considering he is just 19 years old and has just two years of professional baseball experience (and only one year of AMERICAN professional baseball experience).

In terms of what he has done as a professional statistically, Flores has been stellar. As a 17-year-old in the DR, he made 13 starts and pitched 66 innings while striking out 57 batters. He showed decent control (3.8 BB/9) and command (2.38 K/BB ratio), but the best aspect of the game was that he induced groundballs (1.81 GB/FB ratio) and minimized the hits, as his hit rate was only 6.1 per nine innings in 2009.

In his first year in the states, his command and strikeout ability improved, though he did get batted around a little bit more in the Arizona Rookie League. Just 18-years-old in the AZL, he made 11 starts and two relief appearances and pitched 55 innings total for the season. In those 55 IP, Flores struck out 56 batters (a 9.2 K/9) and allowed only 13 walks (a 2.1 BB/9). His K/BB ratio was a very promising sign (4.31), as it was an almost two point improvement from his professional debut season in the DSL. That being said, the hits did go up a little as he sported a hit rate of 8.0 (a 1.9 increase from the DSL) and the groundball-flyball ratio did regress a little (1.27), but he did sport a high BABIP (.320), so you could argue that hitters got a little lucky on him in terms of finding balls for hits in the AZL.

Dr. B had a nice writeup on him and here's a nice paragraph that sums up what Flores has done as a professional so far in the past two years:

"I had Kendry Flores on my Dominican Dandies list last year after a fine 17 yo campaign in the DSL: 7-2, 2.18, 66 IP, 24 BB, 57 K, GO/AO- 1.85. He handled the advancement to the states with aplomb improving on his K/9 and BB/9 in the process. His last 10 games were especially sparkling: 5-2, 1.47, 43 IP, 6 BB, 41 K's. The first thing I look at in the stat lines of a young pitching prospect is K/9, but the second is BB/9. While Kendry's K/9 is certainly adequate, it's the great control for a kid so young that really jumps out at you."

I ranked Flores at No. 17 mainly because I'm intrigued by his potential. He has pitched pretty well for a young, starting pitcher in the DSL and AZL, but he has performed admirably in limited stints at very low levels. While the Northwest League isn't a major step up, it is still better competition nonetheless. Flores' stock as a prospect from here on out will probably ride on how well he adjusts to Northwest League hitters in 2011.

Additionally, I'm not sure if Flores will stay a starting pitcher. As with a lot of Latin American arms in the Giants system, there is a possibility that he may be transitioned to the pen in due time, much like Henry Sosa. However, there simply isn't enough information out there right now to make the assumption that the Giants are going to move him to the pen, so as for now I'm viewing him as a starting pitching prospect at this point.

The Northwest League begins on June 17th, as the Volcanoes will open the season on the road against the Spokane Indians (a team I'm fond of because I actually used to live in Spokane and I went to college at Gonzaga University). Right now, all Giants fans can hope for is that Flores is making the necessary strides  in extended Spring Training to get him ready for his stint in Salem-Keizer. He's an interesting pitcher, with some intriguing tools and a solid professional history so far, and hopefully, he'll continue to develop as a pitcher as he transitions to Short-Season ball.


  1. May 19th was a work day, but Minor League sabermetrics is...Minor League sabermetrics. 'Nuff said.


  2. Okay...I'm not sure what you meant, but if I'm inferring correctly, yes, you can only judge so much on advanced numbers at the minor league level (especially lower minor league level). But Flores has promise, and he has an interesting arm set. So, while the jury is out on his numbers, at the very least, he's a decent prospect with some upside.

  3. Well, you are inferring incorrectly. I was not critiquing the accuracy and predictive value of minor league sabermetrics. Rather, I was applauding your decision to parlay a mediocre blog ( into the tour de force that is "Optioned to Fresno". Minor League Baseball + Giants = Prospects + Hope... best site this side of the blogosphere.

    -J. Orozco