Estevan Florial is a prospect who has generated a lot of internal discussion this season. From very early in the season, the Haitian-Dominican with a colorful signing history was the talk behind the backstop in the Sally League, a sleeper waking up after a tough 2016. Florial kept on keeping on after a midseason promotion to the High-A Florida State League, and after Hurricane Irma prematurely ended the FSL playoffs, the Yankees bumped him to Double-A Trenton to experience the Eastern League playoffs.
Florial wasn’t even on the active roster for the Division Series against Binghamton, and while he was activated before the Championship Series, he was not expected to play a significant role. He didn’t appear at all in Game 1, but as I was entering the park Wednesday night, he was on the lineup card, hitting eighth and playing left field. After briefly expressing my excitement on Twitter, I refreshed the information at my disposal about Florial and settled in to watch his pregame warmup.
What information would I look at here? This was only to be a one-game look at Florial, three or perhaps four plate appearances, at a secondary position. Often I will intentionally go into a full series look pretty clean; I wasn’t really fishing around for Jake Burger or Leody Taveras information before seeing them. But one game is going to leave a lot of holes, so I perused some of our internal reports on Florial—Javier Barragan and Greg Goldstein have both written about him already this season—and recollected what I’d heard about him from sources going back to April: potential five-tool player, some swing-and-miss issues, almost everyone loves him. We can also infer some things about what his own team thinks of him: he’s in the Double-A playoffs at 19 years old, he’s jumped two levels this season, and he was apparently valued higher than prospects such as Blake Rutherford and Jorge Mateo—legitimate top 101 guys—at the deadline. And, of course, the player card tells you that Florial played very well at both full-season A-ball levels, a generally well-rounded performance with one red flag: strikeout rate.
I can tell you that Florial has one of those standout, impressive physical bodies. He’s listed at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds on the roster, but I suspect he’s gained an inch or two and some good weight since then. He also has a less-extreme version of what you might call the “Lewis Brinson build,” by which I mean he has a high waist and therefore longer legs than you’d typically see on a man of his height. And just like Brinson, Florial runs like a gazelle, with long, smooth strides. Florial’s clearly at least a plus runner, but I never did get him running down the line and I sure as sugar didn’t time him in the 60. I have generally heard a 6 or 7 attached to Florial’s running grade, which is the area that visually looked right, and frankly because of relative lack of subjectivity, that’s one of the easier things to track down about a prospect.
I can also tell you that Florial’s bat speed is legit. Altoona threw J.T. Brubaker, a 2015 sixth-rounder who was consistently sitting in the mid-90s for eight innings and ramped it up to 98 early. In his first at-bat, Florial got just a little bit ahead of a Brubaker fastball, lining it well down the line but a few inches foul. In the following at-bat, Florial once again smashed a liner in the same direction; this time the first baseman made a heck of a play to get the tip of his glove on it and deflected it into a single. A lot of prospects have good bat speed, but Florial flashed true, high-end bat speed, comparable by my eye to recent Trenton rehabber Clint Frazier. Given the frame and bat speed combination, I would expect a significant power projection. This is a rare situation in which I wished I had a couple rounds of a batting practice look.
But Altoona was able to adjust to the guy slaughtering fastballs, and Florial got himself out at times too. Brubaker didn’t throw a lot of offspeed in the game generally, but he got Florial to barely go around in his first at-bat and to take a really ugly swinging strike three in his third at-bat—there’s that swing-and-miss issue from the reports and strikeout rate from the stat line. Florial came up once more as the tying run in the ninth against closer Yeudy Garcia, sitting 99 MPH with a vicious slider but 20 or 30-grade command. He clearly came up with the right plan—to lay off the slider—but Garcia got it over just enough to end the game with Florial looking.
In the field, well, he played left in deference to Rashad Crawford, who has played center for most of Trenton’s season. He tracked one extra-base hit into the corner well and fired a rope to the cutoff man, and the second throw nailed a runner at home by a good margin. This isn’t enough to throw any kind of serious fielding grade on Florial, especially since he projects to be a center fielder and he wasn’t even playing there. But I did not see any red flags here either.
I probably got lucky that I got what seems to be a very representative Florial look in just one game. Sometimes, you can get a look at a player that doesn’t fit in with what he’s supposed to be. You can get a series where a top prospect in baseball looks like a role 4 dude for reasons like a minor injury or problems at home that you’ll never hear about, and you can get a series where a role 4 looks like the best prospect in baseball just because everyone has to have the series of their life, sometimes. Here, Estevan Florial looked like exactly what the bulk of the evidence points to: one of the best prospects in a loaded Yankees system and a player that will be in consideration for prominent list placement as we move on into that august project.