Yankees’ Former No. 1 prospect eyeing last chance to make 26-man roster

New York Yankees, Estevan Florial
Feb 20, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Estevan Florial (90) works out during spring training practice at George M Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Former Yankees No. 1 prospect Estevan Florial has had a rough go of things when it comes to getting regular playtime at the Major League level, but that hasn’t deterred him from giving his all this spring.

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Now out of minor league options, Florial is playing for a place on the 26-man with the Yankees, as well as keeping himself in pinstripes. It hasn’t worked out the way many expected for Flo, and that can partially be attributed to the wrist injury he suffered back in 2019. Sadly for him, he has never quite rebounded from losing significant time and being forced to rehab that injury. Yet, he’s ready for Spring Training, and according to the NY Post’s Mark Sanchez, isn’t letting anything go to his head.

“It’s just the mentality of coming here and try to make the team,” Florial said after practice Wednesday. “It doesn’t matter if I’m out of options or if I wasn’t. Just come here and do the best I can. In the end, they make the decision.”

Per Mark W. Sanchez of the New York Post.

The Yankees are giving Estevan Florial another chance:

Florial is one of the many guys competing for a spot on the 26-man roster, but he’s also competing for the starting left-field job. With Boone’s recent comments that he views Oswaldo Cabrera primarily as an infielder, it could open the door for Florial and others to slide in and steal a spot on the OD roster. He’s always had the raw tools and skills to make something of himself in the league, but it hasn’t amounted to much up to this point. When asked about what position he’d want to play, Florial had this to say:

“I tried to put that out of my mind,” said Florial, who mostly has played center field in the minors. “To me, if they put me out there, I would be more than happy. I want to be a good teammate — it doesn’t matter where they put me, left, center, wherever.”

Per Mark W. Sanchez of the New York Post.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Florial comes out of the gates scorching hot and is able to play his way onto the roster. However, the more likely scenario is that he plays decently well but is ultimately DFA’d and tossed onto the waivers. He could certainly see more playtime elsewhere in the league, but why aim low when he could shoot for a spot with the organization that drafted him and has held onto him for so long? Back in 2018, he was thought to be the next huge success in the Bronx and was consistently atop the Yankees’ prospect rankings.

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Since then, however, he has struggled to find a role on the team. His strikeout problems, as well as the aforementioned wrist injury, have made it difficult for him to get everyday ABs. Many fans want him to get a fair shot on the roster, but with a team like the Yankees, it’s hard to allow someone tons of time to figure things out. With just 25 PAs in the 2021 season, Florial showed just a bit of his skill set and what made him such a talented prospect. It’s hard to truly “wow” the front office when he hasn’t had consistent ABs, but in 2021 he was able to show flashes of what made him special.

In the ’21 season, he OPS’d .990, again over just 25 PAs, and he hit a HR and swiped a bag as well. The minuscule sample size meant he didn’t do enough, nor have enough playtime, to actually impress for the long haul. Last season, however, it was a completely different story. He saw 35 PAs, again not enough of a sample size to truly judge a player, but he only tallied 3 hits and posted a -7 wRC+. I don’t know how much longer the organization will want to hang onto Flo, especially since he’s out of options. This spring is the most important of his career, and hopefully, he can do enough to win a spot, and prove that he’s not an “AAAA player”.

In AAA last season he OPS’d .850, with a 124 wRC+, as he clubbed 15 HR and stole 39 bases. However, with the good, there was also the bad, as he struck out 30.4% of the time — not to mention he struck out 37.1% of the time when called upon to play with the big boys. His biggest issue is his chase rate and his inability to lay off pitches out of the zone. His Swinging Strike % was 21.4% with the Yanks last year, which was 7% higher than it was with AAA Scranton.

I know his time may be running out, but that could light a fire like we’ve not seen before inside him. He was once highly touted and consistently talked about as the future CF of the squad, and now he’s playing for a spot with the organization. Even if he were to be DFA’d and someone else picked him up, it may be more difficult than he imagines cracking an MLB roster. Flo is still only 25 years old and could be a late bloomer that finds success elsewhere. However, keep an eye on him this spring, and maybe he’ll finally put it together just enough to earn a roster spot.