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Yankees mailbag: Estevan Florial’s trade value, Cito Culver, Mike Tauchman

The answers to this week’s mailbag are in

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Hi, everyone, we have a short mailbag today—just four questions and answers. We didn’t get a big turnout, but hey, sometimes that happens. As always, leave your questions in our weekly mailbag call or inbox at pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

y4nkees asks: Why don’t the Yankees trade Estevan Florial? They don’t have a spot for him, and he is highly valued.

Florial is such an interesting prospect. Injuries have hurt his stock over the last few seasons. He missed out on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list the last two years, and he dropped from 57 to 82 in the 2019 MLB Pipeline rankings. One has to imagine that takes the rose off his value. That said, the Yankees absolutely love Florial. They continue to stick by him, refusing to include him in trade packages. It’s a pretty interesting dichotomy.

Having just turned 22 in November, Florial remains young for his level. He hit .237/.297/.383 with eight home runs (101 wRC+) for High-A Tampa last season. There are definitely areas of his game that need serious improvement, namely plate discipline and pitch recognition, but the tools still jump off the page. I think there’s some prospect fatigue with Florial, who has been highly touted since 2016. It almost reminds me of Gary Sanchez back in 2014.

So, why haven’t the Yankees traded Florial? There isn’t an easy answer, but it’s likely a combination of his perceived value dropping and the Yankees’ commitment to his development.

Larry asks: Is Cito Culver the worst first-round pick by the Yankees? They passed on both Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in the same draft. I remember writers questioning his selection back then.

The Yankees drafted Culver 32nd overall back in 2010, six spots ahead of Syndergaard. Culver was widely considered a fourth-round talent, while some pegged him even lower than that. This wasn’t an instance of the Yankees whiffing on a talent or failing to develop a first-rounder. They went out of their way to draft a lesser player because they prioritized good makeup over skills.

I can’t blame them for passing on deGrom, because he fell all the way to the ninth round. That’s more on the Mets striking gold than the Yankees missing out. The point remains, however, that the Yankees have hilariously botched the draft for essentially a decade. Culver is the pinnacle of that failure.

For those of you wondering, Culver was a career .231/.304/.328 (80 wRC+) minor leaguer before washing out of affiliated ball. He now plays for the Sussex County Miners in the Can-Am League.

TommyJohn asks: Who’s your interim center fielder, Mike Tauchman or Brett Gardner, and why?

I love Gardner. I advocated for the Yankees to bring him back for 2020, but I’d say he fits the roster best as the fourth outfielder. Give me Tauchman as the interim center fielder. The 29-year-old has greater upside, both at the plate and in the field. Tauchman hit .277/.361/.504 with 13 home runs (128 wRC+) over 296 plate appearances in 2019. He displayed tremendous glove-work, too, ranking in the 95th percentile in Statcast’s new Outs Above Average metric.

Gardner, on the other hand, had a career season, hitting .251/.325/.503 with 28 home runs (115 wRC+) in 141 games. He played quality defense, but fell short of Tauchman’s lofty standard, falling in the 72nd percentile. Gardy will spend most of the season at 36 years old, and one has to wonder if age will take a toll on his ability in the field. Factor in his subpar exit velocity, making him more susceptible to regression if the ball changes, and one has the makings of a fourth outfielder.

Mark asks: If you had to guess, which Yankees from the 2020 team will end up in the Hall of Fame?

I would argue you can break this into two categories, each consisting of three players. On the one hand, there are three Yankees who have reached the Hall of Fame peak, and need longevity to further pad their case. I’m thinking of Gerrit Cole (24 JAWS), Aroldis Chapman (16.6 JAWS), and Giancarlo Stanton (37.1 JAWS).

On the other hand, there are the players who got off to strong starts, but it’s still too early to tell. That includes Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and maybe Luis Severino. They should have long enough careers ahead of them to make you think it’s possible, but baseball is hard and anything can happen.

For info on JAWS, a Hall of Fame barometer developed by PSA alumnus Jay Jaffe, I recommend this primer.