In a lukewarm offseason, the Yankees have been one of the few teams to have a roaring hot stove. After actively pursuing Shohei Ohtani, trading for Giancarlo Stanton, and signing CC Sabathia, Brian Cashman and company have been linked to both Manny Machado and Gerrit Cole. With a well-stocked farm system, it’s entirely possible the Yankees dip into their well-stocked cupboard to improve the 2018 roster.
We all know that Gleyber Torres isn’t going anywhere. A consensus top three prospect in baseball, the 21-year-old Venezuelan probably would have seen time in the majors this season had he not torn a UCL in a home plate collision. The infielder’s proximity to the majors and mature approach at the plate has made him an incredibly valuable prospect.
It’s entirely possible, however, that there’s a prospect even more valuable in the Yankee system. Haitian-born Estevan Florial is coming off an outstanding 2017 that saw him post an .855 OPS for Charleston’s A-level affiliate, against opponents that averaged about two and a half years older than him. For comparison’s sake, Torres posted a high .700 OPS while at A-level two years ago.
For one of the first times on this site, though, I’m not gonna fall back on the stats. I think Estevan Florial has the highest ceiling in the Yankee organization because Brian Cashman is signalling that he does.
As noted above, Torres is considered near-untouchable in any trade talks. Conversations about Cole and Fulmer have cooled when the Yankees were unwilling to budge off retaining Gleyber, but it’s important to note that Florial is also among the untouchables. For a 20-year-old so far from the majors to be completely off the table in trade talks says more than any stat line.
Ranking Florial ahead of Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, and Thario Estrada might sound like high hopes, and there’s a decent enough chance he never sees a pitch in the majors. Still, over the past couple of seasons Cashman’s faith in particular prospects has paid off, with Luis Severino, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez all turning into elite talents within a year or so of having their future value questioned.
The serious flaw in Florial’s game right now is his batted ball profile. The key to offense in the modern game is the ability to get the ball in the air with authority. He managed just a 24% flyball rate in 2017, well below the level we’ve seen other highly touted Yankee prospects manage at the same development point. As Florial faces better defenses and more informed opposition, he’ll have to be able to generate many more fly balls if he wants his production to match his potential.
There’s no rush to see Florial in the majors, but the outfielder is dripping with raw talent. Teams have been asking about him since he signed. He’s probably the prospect to keep an eye on in 2018, and we can all be pretty confident he’ll be staying in the Yankees system for a while.