Thairo Estrada should have been a lock for the RailRiders’ opening day roster after spending 2017 at Double-A. But over the offseason, Estrada and his wife were the victims of a robbery in Venezuela. Estrada was shot in the hip/thigh and the bullet is still in there. He hasn’t gotten into any spring games. The Yankees don’t seem super worried about the longterm effects, nor does Estrada, who didn’t even realize immediately that he was shot. Still, it’s a bummer that it doesn’t look like he’ll be ready to go for the start of the season.
Weight: 185 pounds
Acquired: Signed with a reported bonus of ~$50,000 in 2012.
Estrada spent the whole year with Double-A Trenton. In 122 games, he had 149 hits, which I’m pretty sure was second to Miguel Andujar’s 151 for most hits in the Yankees farm system. Estrada had 19 doubles, four triples and six home runs, drove in 48 runs and stole eight bases (but was caught a career-worst 11 times). He struck out just 56 times, which seems like a crazy low number for today’s game, and walked 34 times. He faded a bit in the second half (.660 OPS in 42 games after the all-star break vs. .789 in 80 games before), and hit righties (.787 OPS) better than lefties (.615).
This is something a little bit different than what’s been done with this list. Below, Donnie Collins and I discuss why Estrada comes in at No. 11, what we like about him and what might need some work.
CF: No. 11 is Thairo Estrada. I’m pretty bummed we didn’t get to see him in action this spring, because he really turned some heads last spring. Wanted to see what he was able to do with another season under his belt.
DC: He’s one of those guys who has been around and used to be pretty under the radar, probably because he was just seen as a second baseman in an organization piling up shortstops. But the thing that kind of got him noticed was people like us watching him a lot in spring training and in the lower minors and realizing, he can really play. I think this year will be his fifth season in what you’d consider a legit, competitive level. And he has been young for every league. And he has always hit. He’s so fun to watch.
CF: Batted .301 as a 21-year-old in Double-A, then went out and ripped up the Arizona Fall League. And, an anomaly in today’s game, he only struck out 56 times in 122 games with the Thunder.
DC: You can learn a lot about what the Yankees think a young player can handle by watching spring training assignments, and they pretty consistently had Estrada with the AAA group as a 19-year-old. That says he has a good baseball mind, isn’t going to make mental mistakes and maximizes his offensive abilities, even back then. People get caught up sometimes in signing bonuses on the international level, thinking that equates to potential. Estrada got $50,000 or something like that, which is a pittance. But he has been one of the better signings the Yankees have had in recent years because he has shown an ability to be a utility man.
CF: I think he was also, for at least a while, the kind of guy the team talks up internally, but doesn’t hype up too much externally.
DC: Those guys exist in every organization. The Phillies used to be really hush hush on guys who they didn’t want teams thinking about as trade throw-ins.
CF: I keep going back to this Home run from last spring.
CF: Granted, there’s probably some Florida wind at play here, but that’s a lot of pop generated by that dude.
DC: Sure, he’ll barrel it up every once in a while. I think he hit for the cycle in a Double-A game last year. But to me, he’s a line drive, doubles type of hitter who makes consistently good contact and has a good eye. He’s a better version, potentially, of Ronald Torreyes in that way. From what I’ve seen of his swing — and none of us have seen him this spring — my view on him is that he probably is a 10-homer guy if he plays every day. But I don’t think the Yankees see him as exactly that.
CF: He had almost 150 hits in 122 games last year. That’s a lot of hits. He’s kind of in his own lane, prospect wise, in the Yankees system. Andujar can offer that kind of contact, but has a lot more power. Gleyber’s more of a well-rounded guy. But man that’s a lot of hits. And like you said, he’s only gotten better the higher he’s moved through the ranks: .646 OPS in 2014, .698 in 2015, .737 in 2016 and .745 last year. If he’s really such a good contact guy, he’d obviously benefit from better pitchers being more around the zone.
DC: And he has. Every time he has moved up, he has excelled. Double-A was going to be the first major test for him in a lot of peoples’ minds, because it’s the first league you see where the pitchers throw consistently harder and have better command of it. And he was better in the Eastern League than he was the season before. He’s going to get his hits wherever he plays. The question is what else he gives you in the power department, and is he the kind of guy you can count on as a pinch runner. He has what I call Bernie Williams speed. He looks like lightning on the basepaths, but he isn’t exactly a guy who has ever stolen a ton of bases.
CF: And that’s obviously something that the Yankees will have to keep an eye on after he was shot in the hip this offseason.
DC: I know teams are really starting to worry about their prospects going home to Venezuela in the offseason. It’s not a safe environment, as we’ve learned. Thankfully, he’s going to be OK. But if I’m the Yankees, I’m concerned about how this affects his mobility. Because that’s a big part of his game defensively, and he needs to be able to play shortstop. If he can’t, we’re talking about a totally different kind of prospect right now. He probably, ultimately, has to play a little outfield too. Where range is again necessary.
CF: I’ll be interested to see how long he’s sidelined for. He should’ve started at Scranton, but I’m guessing it’s a while before we see him.
DC: Once he starts taking swings in a game, circle the date a month or a month and a half after that. But I’d imagine they’ll play it a little slower with him and we won’t see him until late May or early June, and that’s if he gets going at the pace he said he wants to get going at.
Associated Press photo