Yankees’ former No. 1 prospect could battle for left field job

New York Yankees, Estevan Florial
Jul 20, 2021; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Estevan Florial (90) reacts after an RBI ground out during the third inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees management has indicated that they feel confident with their available options in left field without acquiring a new player. They were interested in retaining Andrew Benintendi and made contact with a few other left-field free agents, but their price tags were a bit expensive for what the Bombers’ budget suggested.

After retaining Aaron Judge on a monster nine-year, $362 million deal and inking Carlos Rodon, overspending at another position wasn’t exactly a preference.

With that being said, Cashman made it known that Oswaldo Cabrera and Aaron Hicks could end up competing for the starting job this upcoming season, but there’s another prospect who could have a prime opportunity to rise to the occasion.

“We are prepared to go with what we have internally. Aaron Hicks has rehabbed his knee from the injury in the postseason.”

Why can’t Estevan Florial step up and compete for the Yankees?

Former Yankees’ No. 1 prospect Estevan Florial has yet another chance to reclaim his previous value, despite being 25 years old and failing to make an impact at the Major League level in the past.

Florial sustained several injuries, including a broken wrist that interrupted his progress several years ago, but he’s dominated at the Triple-A level, which makes it even more interesting that he continues to struggle when called upon in the Majors.

In 2022, he played 101 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hitting .283 with a 36.8% on-base rate, 15 homers, 46 RBIs, and 39 stolen bases. He posted a 124 wRC+. Those numbers usually indicate that a player is ready to make the jump to the bigs, but Florial failed to make an impact across 17 games with the Bombers last season.

In fact, across 35 plate appearances, he hit .097 with a 20% on-base rate, 37.1% strikeout rate, and 8.6% walk rate. He recorded a -6 wRC+, which is almost inconceivable to measure.

Defensively, Florial is a phenomenal athlete, utilizing his speed and strength to get the job done with ease. He would be a trusted left fielder, but his offense continues to flop the very moment he touches a Major League batter’s box.

At 25 years old, Estevan continues to fight through mental hoops, but if he’s able to piece together some confidence and enjoy momentum, he could finally translate to the Major League level. It is possible he simply needs more experience and at-bats with the top team, a reality he could experience during spring training. If he performs well, who’s to say he can’t find his way onto the active roster and compete for the starting left-field job? It is certainly wishful thinking at this point in time, especially since Cashman tried to trade him in the past, and nobody was willing to give up any legitimate value for services.

However, he still has all of the elite tools that made him the team’s top prospect in 2019, and with a little luck and confidence, maybe some unexpected can happen.