Yankees: One dark-horse candidate to win the left field job

New York Yankees, Estevan Florial
Jul 20, 2021; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Estevan Florial (90) hits a home run during the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

At first glance, Yankees‘ Oswaldo Cabrera seems to have leverage regarding the starting left-field position. Cabrera is coming off a fantastic defensive campaign over 44 games, enjoying 13 total defensive runs saved and nine defensive runs saved in the outfield, specifically. However, the sample size is generally too small to make generalized predictions, meaning the starting left-field job is open for the taking.

Despite general manager Brian Cashman standing firmly behind Aaron Hicks, promoting his qualities and instilling confidence in the veteran, this is anybody’s job to win.

The Yankees even brought in Rafael Ortega and Willie Calhoun to compete, so we know they’re trying to create a position battle to bring the best out of everybody. With that being said, I wouldn’t rule Estevan Florial out. He could make a nice impact during spring training, justifying a crack at the starting job this upcoming season.

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Can Estevan Florial still save his spot with the Yankees?

Florial is 25 years old, still a ripe age to become an everyday contributor at the MLB level. He has approximately zero minor-league options left, so if the Yankees call him up, they must be confident he will stay there. Otherwise, trading him now to a team in need of outfielders, or at the very least depth pieces that can sit on the active roster, there is no better time in the present.

The problem with Florial is that his metrics look great at the AAA level, and he has all the tools to become a phenomenal player in the majors. However, his numbers and confidence simply haven’t translated. With Scranton in 2022, he enjoyed 101 games and 461 plate appearances.

Over that substantial sample size, he hit .283 with a .368 OBP, 15 homers, 46 RBIs, and 39 stolen bases. The only downside to his game is his 30.4% strikeout rate but did log an 11.7% walk rate.

The five-tool prospect simply dominates at the AAA level. Still, the second he hits a major league batters box, his chase and whiff rates increase significantly, dragging his average down and making it difficult for him to put the ball and play.

Nonetheless, he has a good arm in the outfield and phenomenal athleticism to boot. He’s never been a disappointment as a defensive piece, but we’ve never seen a big enough sample size to justify leaving him out of the equation entirely fully.

Back in 2020, he played just one game, featuring in 11 games in 2021 and 17 last season. The fact that the Yankees haven’t offered him more than 20 games to find his groove and achieve consistency could be considered malpractice.

Given the number of times the Yankees have trotted out players like Tyler Wade or Tim Locastro in favor of Florial is crazy to consider. Allowing the prospect to show his potential over a larger sample size should’ve been a priority in the past, but flip-flopping between the Yankees and Scranton certainly didn’t do him any favors regarding his confidence. Now that he’s out of minor-league options, it is now or never for him to put his best baseball on the field.