New York Yankees: Top five prospects in 2018
2. Estevan Florial – OF. Hit: 45 l Power: 60 l Run: 70 l Arm: 65 l Field: 65 l Overall: 60.
The 20-year old centerfielder enjoyed a breakout season in both levels of class A this year, leading to his emergence in the top 50 on a number of top prospect lists (except Keith Law’s of ESPN). Florial had a unique beginning to his career, as he was prohibited from signing as an international free agent after discrepancies about his identity were discovered by MLB. Thus, he signed with the Yankees for a paltry sum of $200,000 the following year, while some believe he could have received around $2 million before the identity issue.
Since Florial grew up in Haiti, where baseball academies for top prospects to refine their skills at a young age are scarce, Florial’s game was always a bit raw. However, he started to put his enormous raw tools together in 2017 and the whole baseball industry took notice, perhaps most notably Brian Cashman.
Cashman has refused to part ways with Florial despite overtures from teams such as the Athletics, while not even allowing those discussions to begin with the Pirates and Tigers in potential deals for Gerrit Cole and Michael Fulmer. This is quite the statement considering Cashman was okay with including Clint Frazier and others in those deals.
Most likely, Cashman sees Florial as his center-fielder of the future, whose ETA of 2020 (or late 2019) coincides perfectly with the expiration of Aaron Hicks contract after the 2019 season. By then, Florial should be the final addition to a lineup littered with stars and potential stars at every other position. His left-handed swing should fit perfectly in Yankee stadium with the potential of a 30-30 player while also providing potential Gold Glove defense in center field.
**Intangibles** The one flaw Florial has right now is his ability to make consistent contact and recognize off-speed pitches. Given his international background, this shouldn’t be surprising as he was not exposed to advanced pitching at a young age. However, even given his contact issues, he still hit .298 with a .372 OBP across class A, showing the ability to make hard contact.
This underlies the reason I think the Yankees are extraordinarily high on this young man’s future: he is a notoriously hard worker who has made huge strides since first signing with the Yankees. Brett Gardner said about him this spring training:
"“Just the way he carries himself, as much off the field as on the field. Very hard worker. Very focused. And he’s very, very talented, man. He’s got a lot of tools.”"
Coaches rave about his work ethic, such as his Arizona Fall League manager Jay Bell, who believes Florial’s sixth tool is that he’s a wonderful human being. With continued experience and hard work, Florial has superstar potential.