Prospect Profile: Estevan Florial

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The Particulars
  • Position: CF
  • Born: 11/25/1997
  • Bats: Left
  • Throws: Right
  • Height: 6’1″
  • Weight: 195 lbs.

Background

Florial was born in Haiti, but signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015 for $200,000. He could have gotten a lot more money, but the Commissioner’s office found that his mother provided a falsified document with her son under a different name in order to enroll Florial in school in the DR. Florial’s mother didn’t have any conniving intentions, but unfortunately, it proved costly. As a result, he was suspended in 2014, so he couldn’t sign as a 16 year-old when he assuredly would have received a seven figure bonus.

The Story So Far

There’s a bit of prospect fatigue with Florial. After such a scorching start to his professional career, injuries have held back the now 24 year-old center fielder.

He dominated the DSL in 2015 and came stateside the following year, but it wasn’t until 2017 that Florial broke out. That year, in time split between Single-A Charleston (91 games) and High-A Tampa (19 games), the then 19 year old hit .298/.372/.479 (145 wRC+) in 476 plate appearances. Florial’s strikeout rate was a bit high (north of 30 percent), but there was far more good than bad. To top it off, the center fielder swiped 23 bags in 31 attempts and swatted 13 homers. This earned a cameo on Double-A Trenton’s playoff roster. All that got him a lot of top-100 attention in the following year’s preseason prospect lists, but ever since, Florial has stalled.

Florial suffered a broken hamate in 2018 and a wrist fracture in 2019, costing him significant development opportunities. Instead of pushing his way to the upper rungs of the minors, he stuck around in High-A Tampa without much improvement. In 2018, Florial posted a .255/.354/.361 (110 wRC+) for Tampa with very little pop (3 homers) and a high strikeout rate (25.7 percent). The next season, it got worse: .237/.297/.383 (101 wRC+) with 8 homers and a 32.6 percent K-rate. Hand/wrist injuries are simply the worst for hitters. Nonetheless, the Yankees added him to the 40-man roster in the 2019-2020 offseason.

Of course, things just couldn’t get better for Florial in 2020 — and this time not because of injury. Rather, the cancellation of the minor league season due to the COVID-19 pandemic cost Florial more valuable development time, and perhaps finally a chance to perform above High-A. Alas, Florial did make a cameo in the majors last summer, but more out of necessity than anything else. At least he picked up his first big league hit:

For what it’s worth, the Yankees said that Florial hit 12 homers at the Alternate Site last summer. I wouldn’t make too much of that. There’s very little context there. He spent some time playing in LIDOM this winter in order to get some more at-bats in real competition.

Scouting Notes

Florial has tools anyone can dream on. It’s just a matter of if he can tap into all of them, particularly on the offensive side.

Florial has plenty of raw power. Apparently, he produced an average exit velocity of 91.3 MPH at the Alternate Site last summer (that would be top-30 in MLB). However, his approach at the plate is not great. Baseball Prospectus’s Jeffrey Paternostro noted that “he’s aggressive at the plate and doesn’t consistently recognize better quality spin”. Then there’s FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen, who is the low person on Florial’s bat. Longenhagen points out that Florial’s long swing forces him to cheat on high velocity and makes him susceptible to whiffing against secondary offerings. MLB Pipeline confirms that his long swing can be a problem, but also notes that he’s got good bat speed (something Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus confirm). Long story short: Florial has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game and will need to refine his approach in order to tap in to his power.

There aren’t many questions about Florial’s defensive ability, at least. He’s got a superb arm by all accounts, graded as high as 80 by FanGraphs and double-plus (70) per MLB Pipeline. Longenhagen calls Florial’s arm one of the best he’s ever seen. High praise. On top of the arm, BA lauds Florial’s instincts in center. Along with his speed, this will allow him to stick at the premium outfield position.

If all goes right, Florial could be a 30-30 offensive player with good defense in center. Sounds great, but of course, the consensus is that he’s far more likely to bust than boom. There are still too many holes in his swing and the lack of development time over the last three years is worrisome.

Prospect Lists

Florial hasn’t seen a leaguewide top-100 prospect list since 2019, but he’s still in the top-10 organizational prospects, save for one publication:

2021 Outlook

Florial’s season is underway with Double-A Somerset, his first regular season taste of a minor league level above High-A. He homered in his first at-bat and is 2-for-8 overall, with the other hit being a double. He’s also struck out four times, so the swing-and-miss profile is evident.

I anticipate Florial spending most if not all of his time in Somerset this season. The Yankees don’t need to hurry him to Triple-A or the major leagues just yet. He’ll still have one more minor league option remaining in 2022, meaning there’s still time to get his development back on track. Not much time, but at least there’s some. He’ll just need a good showing in Double-A to get things moving in the right direction again.

My Take

I still hold out hope that Florial will figure things out. That said, even when the going was good back in 2017, he still struck out a ton. I know strikeouts are pretty commonplace in today’s game, but K-rates north of 30 percent in A-ball are pretty alarming. And after three years of very little developmental progress, it’s difficult to be optimistic about Florial becoming a major league regular.

Nonetheless, I do think Florial could be a good fourth outfielder. His defensive prowess and raw power could play well in spurts, I think. I reserve the right to change my mind if he finally breaks through this year in Somerset, though.

Now, I can’t finish this post without acknowledging some of the clamors for Florial to join the big league roster already. I know everyone’s frustrated with the poor performances of Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier, and Brett Gardner, but let’s be realistic here. Florial is highly unlikely to do any better. Just because we’ve heard about his tools for years doesn’t mean he’s an upgrade. Florial needs to get back on a normal prospect development plan, and by no means should he be thrust into a major league role right now.

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2 Comments

  1. Alec Bruce

    So it sounds like he’s kind of ready to be exactly where he is.

  2. Gerreddardit Cole

    Florial needs to be up here immediately, Derek. He can’t be any worse than Hicks, Clint and Gardy. Those are .150 hitters. Now Hicks did have a big hit last night to redeem himself but he also couldn’t track the ball. He let one drop in front of him leading to that bit inning and Judge had to bail him out on another. Can he not see? Does he need Gleyber’s glasses? Clint got a big walk last night and has been getting better swings of late but we just can’t go on like this for much longer. Black holes in LF, CF C if Gary is catching and 1B. Voit needs to be here this weekend. He can rehab up in the Bronx and he’s an upgrade over Ford.

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