Flores Ready to Get to Work

Luis Flores (PHOTO/GEORGE BULARD)

Oklahoma State's Luis Flores was selected by the Cubs in the seventh round of the 2008 MLB Draft on Friday and was initially listed as the first catcher taken by the club. Flores, 21, batted .298 in 57 games with the Cowboys this season after transferring from the University of Houston in Conference USA, where he also pitched.

The 2008 season was Flores' first with Oklahoma State, and it appears it will be his last. The right-handed batting catcher is expected to sign with the Cubs over the weekend and begin his pro career at short-season Low-A Boise later this month.

"It is part of a dream come true for me," said Flores, listed as 5-foot-10, 200 pounds and courted by Cubs area scout Brandon Mozley.

"I had a great year. It was a good move for me coming from Houston. I needed to get out of there and I did what was best for me. Oklahoma State and their coaching staff turned me into a better ballplayer."

Flores had expected to be drafted on Thursday with the Cubs' sixth-round pick, he said, but instead he was the first player chosen on Day 2 of the draft Friday.

He said he transferred to Oklahoma State largely because of the wear and tear on his arm due to the rigors of catching one day and pitching the next.

"I'd catch Friday and Saturday and would pitch Sunday," Flores recalled of his days with Houston. "It got to the point where I couldn't even throw to the bases anymore because I was tired. The best thing for me to do was to (transfer)."

The move paid off as Flores would put together his finest college season, cracking five home runs, 11 doubles and finishing with an on-base percentage of .425.

Best of all, Flores says, he was able to focus solely on his natural position, which he has played since little league ball at age 12.

"It helped a lot," Flores said. "I showed up to the park every day and showed up just wanting to catch. I knew that was all I was going to do.

"It was a big difference as you can tell," he added. "I went in the seventh round as a catcher when I was predicted to go in the 30th, 40th round when I was in Houston. Going to the park every day and just worrying about catching helped me a lot."

Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken agreed that pitching was a bit of a detractor for Flores.

"I think it (pitching) took away from both his defense and hitting abilities," said Wilken, adding, "We loved his defensive abilities. He seems to put the bat on the ball pretty solidly when it counts. We're big on that. Sometimes that's more of an indication of batting average. I think those factors are hard to weigh."

Flores described himself as a gap-to-gap hitter that likes to go the other way.

"I've got gap to gap power. I can hit a few balls out if I get the right pitch or if a mistake is there, but I'm usually more of a guy going the other way," he said.

The next step for Flores will be to sign with the Cubs and begin his pro career.

"They're flying down here (Saturday) to have me sign a contract," Flores said. "They're sending me off to Boise in about five days. I'll go up there and play short-season ball and go from there."

Flores was listed as the first catcher taken by the Cubs in this year's draft, but the club has plans to use fourth-round pick Matt Cerda (Oceanside HS, Calif.) as a catcher, Wilken said. Cerda spent his prep career primarily at shortstop.

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