This Top Prospect Has Impressed at Yankees' Summer Camp, Could Be Called Upon in 2020
NEW YORK – If you closed your eyes in Yankee Stadium last Tuesday, listening to batting practice on the field, you'd think Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton were taking hacks.
The sound of baseballs clanging off the empty bleacher seats echoed over Top 40 tunes blaring from the ballpark's speakers.
In reality, New York's big-name boppers had wrapped up their rounds of BP long ago. Rather than veteran sluggers in the box, it was prospect Estevan Florial testing the limits of Yankee Stadium.
"We love Flo," skipper Aaron Boone said on Sunday, days after Florial's BP barrage. "We think he's got a chance to be a special player."
Florial hasn't only impressed in batting practice. The 22-year-old's "tools" and "potential," as his manager put it, have been on full display since Summer Camp began.
In an intrasquad on Sunday, starting in right field, Florial gunned down Luke Voit trying to advance to third from first on a base hit through the right side. The Yankees' first baseman was thrown out by about 20 feet as Florial showcased his cannon of an arm.
Voit may not be known for his speed rounding the base paths, but Florial is. Moments after spraying a single to left field off J.A. Happ on Saturday, Florial swiped second with ease.
The outfielder, hailing from the Dominican Republic, is the highest-rated position player prospect to have received an invitation to Yankees Summer Camp. For someone that's been in the organization for several seasons now, Boone has kept a close eye on his progression and is eager to see the speedster continue to develop this summer.
"He's been robbed a little bit of his development the last couple years with some injuries that he's run into and obviously this year with getting shut down. That's hurt his development a little bit," Boone explained. "But we still love the person and the tools and the potential. there's no question that his ceiling remains incredibly high and I think there's a lot of value to him being out here."
Florial is only two years removed from his stint as the top-rated prospect in the Yankees' farm system. This year, he's situated in the sixth spot among the organization's top young talent, per MLB Pipeline.
While his defense and speed have always been reliable and the centerpiece of skillset, even Florial is cognizant of where he needs to step up his game.
"My strikeout rate is high, that's something we have to keep working on," Florial acknowledged on Monday. "I have to get [my chase percentage] down a bit. I have been working with the hitting coaches to know how to attack the pitcher and have better strike zone discipline."
Last season with the Advance A Tampa Tarpons – the highest level Florial has played in thus far – he hit .237 in 74 games with eight home runs, 38 runs scored and nine stolen bases. He struck 98 times in 274 at-bats.
When asked if Florial is being considered for an Opening Day roster spot, Boone said he isn't ruling anything out in 2020. If other big leaguers happen to contract COVID-19 – joining DJ LeMahieu, Aroldis Chapman and Luis Cessa – everyone from New York's player pool is in play.
"As far as Opening Day, look, if one thing 2020 and this virus has shown us, you gotta be adjustable in your plans," Boone spelled out. "He's here with the thought that if something happens, he very much becomes in that mix."
Even with the improvements Florial has made, and the unprecedented situation presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still concerns regarding Florial's ability to handle big-league pitching.
The left-handed hitter was outmatched against Gerrit Cole on Sunday, for instance, punching out in both at-bats against the ace. Here he is whiffing on an offspeed pitch outside of the zone for his second strikeout out of the afternoon.
One way to get better in the box is to learn from the best. The prospect said that working alongside Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and the rest of New York's star-studded outfield at Summer Camp has helped him continue to develop physically and mentally.
"I love being around those guys," Florial said. "To know their thought process and how they go about their business, there's a lot of things you can improve on and learn from those guys. From a defensive standpoint, hitting standpoint, mentally too."
Here's what MLB.com had to say about Florial in the prospect's scouting report:
If he can improve his on-base ability and refine his basestealing acumen, Florial has the plus speed to become a 30-30 threat. His quickness and instincts allow him to chase down balls from gap to gap in center field, while his arm strength gets plus-plus grades from some scouts. He's an asset at any of the three outfield positions, though there's no reason he'd have to move from center.
If more players within the Yankees' organization test positive for COVID-19, or injuries happen to pile up, Florial could be called upon to contribute. It's unlikely but by no means impossible. The prospect says he will be ready to help his team win wherever the club needs him.
"We're playing baseball and in baseball, there's nothing that's 100 percent," he said. "You never know what can happen. I'm ready for whatever is the case to help the team and where the team needs me, I'm going to be there for them."
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