Left-Handed Starting Pitcher
SSS rank among all left-handed starting pitchers in the system: 2
2021 SSS Top Prospect Vote: 23
2020 SSHP Top Prospect Ranking: 20
2019 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 28
Bernardo Flores Jr., a California native, spent his three years of college ball with the USC Trojans. Aside from a decent sophomore campaign, the lefty struggled in primarily a bullpen role. For his three years spanning 37 outings (eight starts) totaling 90 innings, Flores posted a pedestrian 5.32 ERA and 1.46 WHIP as he relinquished 98 hits and 35 walks while fanning 85.
Yet the White Sox were intrigued enough to select him in the seventh round of the 2016 draft. Flores immediately made an impression that year with the AZL White Sox and Great Falls, as he combined to post a 3.46 ERA and 1.22 WHIP as he surrendered just 67 hits (.270 OBA) and 12 walks (4.5%) while striking out 55 (20.8%).
Flores has been consistently good since his draft season. In a 2017 split between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, he combined for a 3.42 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 118 1/3 innings as he allowed 116 hits (.257 OBA), 32 walks (6.5%) and 103 strikeouts (20.8%). Flores fared even better the following year with Winston-Salem and Birmingham, as he posted a combined 2.65 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in a career-high 156 innings by relinquishing 154 hits (.261 OBA) and 31 walks (4.9%) as opposed to 105 strikeouts (16.5%).
In 2019, Flores was sidelined from late May through early August (not including some rehab stints in the interim) due to a strained oblique. He did do quite well, however, in his 15 starts this year for the Barons as he posted a solid 3.33 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 78 1⁄3 innings by ceding 74 hits (.243 OBA) and 15 walks (4.7%) while fanning 69 (21.5%). In fact, in 156 2⁄3 innings for the Barons spanning 28 starts since 2018, Flores has compiled a 3.04 ERA and 1.16 WHIP by surrendering 153 hits (.256 OBA) and just 29 walks (4.6%) while fanning 116 (18.2%)
According to MLB Pipeline, Flores’ fastball typically runs 89-92 mph with a peak of 94, while also displaying an adequate curve and slider. His changeup, with a 55 grade, is considered his best pitch although righties hit him better in 2019 (.264) than lefties (.198).
Despite lacking an overwhelming fastball or out pitch, Flores succeeds by throwing strikes, keeping the ball down (as evidenced by a 53.3% ground ball rate in 2019), fielding his position well and controlling the running game.
After the minor league season was cancelled, Flores’ versatility and upward mobility resulted in his selection to the alternate Schaumburg site for the 2020 season. He even was able to make his major league debut, seeing action in two games (two innings), giving up four hits and an earned run and recording his first two strikeouts, as he got his feet wet for the first time.
Given that experience, plus his invite to major league camp this year, it’s clear that Flores will make the jump from Birmingham to pitch in the Charlotte Knights rotation this summer.