While he was not the premiere member of the club, Thairo Estrada was one of the numerous players to give the Yankees unexpected but valuable playing time in the face of injuries.
After a phantom Major League stint, Estrada made his debut on April 21st. Two days later, he picked up his first two big league hits. He remained in the majors through early June and was really solid, hitting for an OPS of .841 while playing three different position and pinch running when needed. He wasn’t on the level of Gio Urshela, but he was a very pleasant surprise. His September call up stint dragged down his overall season numbers, but he was a positive in 2019.
However, looking ahead, what might he be for the Yankees in 2020?
2019 Stats: 69 PA, .250/.294/.438, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 91 wRC+, 21.7 K%, 4.3 BB%, 0.2 WAR
2020 FanGraphs Depth Chart Projections: 70 PA, .250/.292/.384, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 19.7 K%, 4.7 BB%, 0.1 WAR
Estrada’s success in the major leagues was unexpected not only because he was a random fill in, but because his minor league numbers were nothing extraordinary. He was never a top 100 prospect. Other than a 50-game stint in rookie ball back in 2013, his best minor league season was 2016 in high-A where he put up a 117 wRC+. That’s solid, but if that’s the best it’s hard to project good play in the majors on the back of that.
For someone who played in a fairly small sample size, his peripheral numbers suggest that he did about what he should have. His expected wOBA was .310 compared to the .308 he actually put up. His expected slugging was .424 compared to .438 that he actually hit. His .283 BABIP and .267 expected batting average suggest he may have gotten slightly unlucky.
Despite that, he’s projected to do slightly worse than what he did last season. The 69 at-bats he got last season aren’t going to outweigh the fine but not great minor league career he had before that.
Now let’s look at what role Estrada could have in 2020.
If and when baseball does resume, there may very well be a spot on the major league roster for Estrada in 2020, even without any sort of massive injury repeat.
MLB is expanding the active roster size to 26 people starting this season. It remains to be see what type of player the Yankees choose for that spot, but Estrada’s not a bad option. As mentioned, he played three positions with the Yankees in the majors last year. He played no third base despite having 460 career innings at the spot in the minors. If, for whatever reason, the Yankees outfield isn’t somewhat back to normal when the season starts, he could be a utility option, especially considering that Miguel Andujar may end up as an outfielder himself.
It’s a little hard to tell how much of Estrada’s 2019 was real, and what he might be for the Yankees going forward. However at the very least, he’s useful to have around.