Continuing The Times-Tribune’s annual countdown of the top 15 Yankees prospects. I rank 20 prospects, Donnie Collins ranks 20 prospects, and then we average them together. The list takes into account ETA for the big leagues. You’re going to find some guys who might not have ceilings as high as others, but who instead could be in a position to help the Yankees sooner. Since they’re so new to pro baseball, 2018 draftees are not included on the list.
No surprise here. Estevan Florial takes the top spot in our 2019 top prospects lists. Florial’s season already suffered a setback when he broke his wrist in spring training while tumbling to the field after trying to make a catch. This after missing a chunk of last season after surgery on the hamate bone in his hand. Florial is a potential five-tool player, but he needs to stay healthy and cut down on some strikeouts to realize his potential. He was slashing .355/.429/516 in 31 at-bats in spring.
Position: Center fielder
Acquired: Signed as a nondrafted free agent March 19, 2015, out of the Dominican Republic.
SWB ETA: 2020
Started the season with High-A Tampa, but landed on the injured list May 18 with that hamate injury and didn’t return to game action until a rehab assignment with the GCL Yankees on July 10. Florial played 75 games with Tampa and hit .255 with a .354 on-base percentage and a .361 slugging percentage. He also stole 11 bases and was caught 10 times. His K% percentage dropped a bit (from 27.6% with Tampa in 2017 to 25.7%) and his BB% increased a bit (10.3 to 13.0). The Yankees sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where he slashed .178/.294/.260 in 21 games.
Here are some videos of Florial:
Below, Donnie and I discuss why Florial lands at No. 1 on the list, what’s good about him and what might need work.
CF: Last guy on the list shouldn’t surprise anyone. Florial has all the tools to be special. Sweet swing. Power. Lightning quick. Good base stealer. He’s just got to stay on the field to do it. His injuries the last two seasons have been a little flukey, especially the one the spring. I think the Yankees were pretty surprised to learn that diagnosis. Wonder where he’d be if that hamate injury last year doesn’t happen.
DC: I was honestly going to rank him second or third after last season. He wasn’t very good when he played, albeit through injuries. But I had to put him No. 1 on my list just because of how much the Yankees played him this spring before the injury. They were really looking at him, and it’s enough to make you think that they were seriously considering giving him a push this season. Didn’t hurt that he was really impressive too. He has never put it all together of course. But he has every tool. He hit a bomb this spring to left-center (I forget against whom) that was one of the standout moments of camp for me.
CF: I want to say it was the Phillies, but I could be wrong. Last season was rough on the field, but I wouldn’t downplay the effect of that surgery. I think people sort of look past it because it’s a simple surgery and you’re back in a couple months, but I think it takes a while to get that power back. I mean, he had zero power last year. That doesn’t just happen.
DC: And he had a ton of pop in the spring. He just drove everything. That is a surgery that players have every now and again, and it is pretty much a 100 percent recovery rate. But it does take some time. Every surgery does. He looked much better this spring that he did at any point last year obviously. But I ranked him close to the top two years ago too, and he’s a much more complete player now than he was then, as you’d hope. I don’t think he actually got stunted all that much by missing so much of last season. This year’s injury though…it’s another fluke. But I think this one sets him back a bit. Probably holds him off a level from where he would have been by the end of this season just because of the timing of it.
CF: It’s a bummer, because he was really good in spring. His spring — I don’t want to put any comp on him — but it reminds me of Robinson Canó’s with how smooth it is. Or maybe Canó’s mixed with Daryl Strawberry’s. It looks long, but it’s quick. He just impacts the ball wherever it’s pitched and he can drive it out. Then if he gets it into a gap, that speed adds another element that you don’t see with players with his type of offensive potential.
DC: I like the comp to Cano’s swing. To me, and it has been this way for a few years, his speed is kind of what separates him. It made him a good defender in center. It makes him an exciting offensive player. But the power really looked like it was staring to come around this spring. It’s exciting when you see a guy develop little by little. I remember one of my first springs covering the Yankees, and one of the player development guys urged me to go watch the 18-year-Old third baseman over on the A fields who was skinny, fast and had a lightning quick swing. It was Miguel Andujar, and it seemed like every year after that, he was doing something a little bit better. Once the power started to come around for him, he was pushed up to the bigs. They say the power is the last thing to come, and I have the feeling it was coming this year for Florial. It will be fun to see if he can pick up where he left off in the spring once he comes back.
15: Phillip Diehl (Traded to Colorado on March 23)
14: Stephen Tarpley
13: Garrett Whitlock
12: Nick Nelson
11: Albert Abreu
10: Luis Medina
9: Roansy Contreras
8: Thairo Estrada
7: Trevor Stephan
6: Clarke Schmidt
5: Deivi Garcia
4: Kyle Holder
3: Jonathan Loaisiga
2: Michael King
1: Estevan Florial
Photo: Associated Press