TAMPA, Fla. – When potential binders began to unveil their annual list of top promising baseball players, a common theme emerged regarding one of the NY Yankees' beloved players.
Estevan Florial, long considered one of the best talents of the Yankees agricultural system, had fallen in the eyes of national forecasters. Considered by some as one of the top 50 prospects in 2018, Florial was found below the one that was entering in 2019.
ESPN's Keith Law, troubled in part by more than two months of injury suffered by Florial, injured at a hamate bone last year, once again placed him in front of his top 100 list .
"His competition, for me, is in the monuments," said Reggie Jackson, legend of the Yankees.
After a concussion ending the season, the Yankees championship simply wanted peace and quiet. But his doctor had a very different idea: turn it to 11.
While the slugger who took the Bronx to the assault of last season is fighting against Greg Bird for a place at Opening Day, he is focusing on turning his greatest weakness into strength.
Which raises all the questions: is the 21-year-old center field player still a rising star? Is the flame around the former # 1 prospect of the Bombers extinct?
The Yankees, meanwhile, say that Florial is shining stronger than ever.
"It has a ceiling as high as anyone in this club," manager Aaron Boone said earlier this spring. "Nothing has changed there."
Veteran veteran Brett Gardner added, "As talented as he is, he will soon see him put everything in place.
"He has a brilliant career ahead of him for sure."
The Yankees believe that the proof is the performance of Florial this spring and the latter.
A year ago, the offensive player presented his best asset – his speed – by going around the base three times in 21 spring training matches. His range on the ground has attracted attention, as has the work he has done behind the scenes.
The Yankees say there is even more reason to be optimistic.
Arriving at the game this week, Florial had a batting average of 333 with a .926 OPS, a home run, four RBIs and four steals in just 10 spring training matches. Although he has always had seven strikeouts and only two marches, his reconnaissance of the field – an area in which he has struggled in the past – has generally improved.
"[I’m] try to better control the area of attack, "Florial said in early spring.
A good example of this came during a strike by Florial last Thursday in a game against the Phillies in Clearwater. With two points lit at the top of the sixth, he adjusted the middle trim by adjusting the height and caressing the center-left wall covering.
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The opposing three-point shot made visitors shudder about the blazing attack from the left.
"I mean, wow, there's a short list of people who can hit a ball so hard," Boone told reporters after the match. "I told that to Reggie Jackson on the bench."
According to Boone, Jackson turned to the manager and told him that he knew the list was short – because the Hall of Fame was on the list.
Another Yankees legend, former field player Willie Randolph, was moved in the same way by what he saw in Florial this spring. Randolph went so far as to qualify Florial as "young Bernie Williams" at the New York Post last week. Given that Williams pulled out his No. 51 jersey four years ago, this is not a bad comparison for the young player.
"The way he approaches his company, his work ethic, his desire and his willingness to listen, learn and improve, I do not see many children of 20 or 21 years old arriving here who are so mature, "said Gardner.
This maturity is manifested in the patience shown by Florial. A few days after the Yankees reinstated center-back Aaron Hicks to a seven-year, $ 70-million extension, Florial was asked if he was nervous, he could now be considered a flea. After all, the long term investment in Hicks was to mean that the Yankees saw little future for Florial, did not they?
"We love Hicks here Who would not want to have Hicks on his club?" Florial said. "For me, I am blessed to have him next to me, so that I can learn from him."
A low back injury has prevented Hicks from spending a good part of the past two weeks, giving Florial more chances.
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The general manager, Brian Cashman, wondered if Florial's year should debut at Single-A Tampa (where he hit .255 with three homers, three triples, 27 RBIs and 11 goals against 21 in stolen goals) after 75 games lost (year) or Double-A Trenton. If it starts at Double-A, it will be the highest level that Florial has played in the Yankees' organization.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, Florial has spent the last two seasons as an unregistered guest on the list. In addition to showing his power in this one, Florial was released on the baspaths.
In a game against Atlanta last week, Florial dominated the start of the seventh inning by beating a single in the field. Two drummers and two outs later, the wheels came out.
After stealing the second goal, the speedster advanced to third with a past ball. Then he scored on wild ground. Florial had crafted a course in a way that the mighty Yankees (who set a season record last season with a record of 267) do not do it often.
These anecdotes – the three-point circuit and the blazing speed that leads to a score – perfectly illustrate the reasons why the Yankees stay on top of Florial, even if others are lukewarm.
"He does not recognize the terrain enough to become familiar with his tools." Florial has the speed of the bat, the power, the racing speed, athleticism, quick contractions and all the tools that twinkle, but his ability to grab the types of terrain is not enough him in the top 100, " Law wrote in January. Meanwhile, the ranking of MLB.com prospects has allowed Florial to lose a dozen places this year, from # 45 to # 57, and after being ranked # 38 in the year. last by Baseball America, he 's totally stepped out of their top 100.
Yet, Boone likes what he sees: "His ceiling, that's why he's probably always been considered the [Yankees’] No 1 perspective. His [a] good reason. I remember seeing it for the first time last year and one of the things that grips you is how physical it is. He is good at watching. He's watching the game. He is tall, he is built. Always visibly a very young man.
"I do not know if that necessarily changed in my eyes because I remember being really impressed by his appearance on a baseball field."