Five-tool player who got a lot of opportunities in big league spring training this year. Estevan Florial had 43 extra-base hits and stole 23 bases in 110 games last season, and if he shows he can cut down on his strikeouts, the sky’s the limit.
Weight: 185 pounds
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent in 2015 for a signing bonus of $200,000
Started the season at Low-A Charleston, where he slashed .297/.373/.483 in 91 games He had 21 doubles, five triples and 11 home runs and drove in 43 runs. He also struck out 124 times and worked 41 walks in 344 at-bats. He was promoted to High-A Tampa on Aug. 1, and would slash .303/.368/.461 in 19 games. He had two doubles, two triples and two homers and drove in 14 runs. He struck out 24 times and walked nine times in 76 at-bats. Overall, he stole 23 bases and was caught eight times.
This is something a little bit different than what’s been done with this list. Below, Donnie Collins and I discuss why Florial comes in at No. 2, what we like about him and what might need some work.
CF: So, Estevan Florial. I had him No. 4, you had him No. 2. After seeing him in spring, I’d probably bump him up to 2, Andujar to 3 and Sheffield to 4. He’s got a crazy high ceiling. But why did you like him enough to give him the 2 spot?
DC: I considered him for number 1. I really did. I came to my senses. But there’s something that really stood out to me about his 2017 season: He hit 11 homers at Charleston. Athletically, Florial is extremely gifted, and that’s evident. He’ll be able to defend. He’ll be able to steal a bunch of bags, and he has been a good enough base runner to steal quite a few at each stop. But power, you typically have to project when the prospect is only 19. I think it’s pretty clear though that Florial is going to develop quite a bit of pop. I see him as a 30-30 guy who can play center down the road. I almost had to at least consider ranking him even higher than I did.
CF: I think the only thing that really scares me is the strikeouts, and I know I’m not the only one. 148 in 420 at-bats is a lot. Like, a lot. I think that’s why I had Andujar higher at first, because at this moment, I’m more sure in his ability to be an impact bat. But watching Florial more and more, it’s hard not to be super impressed. And his swing is so smooth and easy and quick, that I think the strikeouts might be fixable. Not cured totally, but they can get better.
DC: Well, you know as well as anybody, strikeouts are part of the game now. It used to be an embarrassment to strike out. Now it’s almost an acceptable result, agree with it or not. But two things on the strikeouts. 1.) He was 19. If he’s still striking out at that rate in Triple-A in 2020, OK. But I’m straight-up going to ignore the strikeout numbers for now. 2.) He has that smooth, easy, quick swing you mentioned. That type of swing usually is what you need to cut down on strikeouts. I think he just need to learn the strike zone better.
CF: Yeah, I think he should be able to cut down on them. It’s important to remember though, that strikeouts are only really acceptable if you’re also walking. That’s why Judge is so dangerous even though he strikes out so much. Florial walked 57 times in 110 games. So, there’s obviously some refining to do. I think it’s interesting how important he’s become to the Yankees, though, over just the past few months. Trading Dustin Fowler and Jake Cave and Blake Rutherford … Florial is the best (and sort of only) center field option they have in the farm system. He got so many opportunities in spring this year because the center field depth is a lot shallower than the outfield depth in general.
DC: Correct. They were in trouble in center last year, when there was some talk Jorge Mateo was going to get pushed out there. They’ve dealt all of their center field depth. That’s why I was so vocal on social media last year near the deadline about keeping Florial, and it probably says something that the Yankees have made him practically untouchable when all those other prospects who profile as center fielders weren’t.
CF: I’ll be interested to see how aggressive they are with him. On the one hand, plate discipline isn’t an easy fix. That’s going to take time to iron out and it’s crucial to his development. On the other, he held his own against much better competition in spring. And it’s only spring, so you don’t want to overreact, but this is a guy who had 43 extra-base hits last year playing at a level he was young for. I think he’ll definitely start in Tampa, but if he takes off, does he get an early bump to Trenton? Because there won’t really be anyone in his way. Is it possible we see him for a cup of coffee with SWB? I’d say chances are slim, but I wouldn’t rule it out completely.
DC: I’d let him play to the all-star break at Tampa and then push him up. The thing is, this is where Ellsbury helps the Yankees. If he’s your backup center fielder, and you can’t get rid of the contract, then there’s no reason to push a prospect faster than you would want.
CF: On the other hand, Gardner is in the last year of his deal. I don’t think they’ll push him quickly either, but he’s special enough that they can put him in a position where he pushes them.
DC: And that’s what a prospect should do. I mean, if he doesn’t play a big league game until 2021, he’ll still make his big league debut at 23. And he’s on target long before that. So there’s no rush.
15: Ben Heller
14: Jonathan Loaisiga
13: Dillon Tate
12: Domingo Acevedo
11: Thairo Estrada
10: Chance Adams
9: Billy McKinney
8: Domingo German
7: Freicer Perez
6: Albert Abreu
5: Luis Medina
4: Miguel Andujar
3: Justus Sheffield
2: Estevan Florial
Associated Press photo