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How can Yankees’ Estevan Florial elevate his game in 2022?

While his AAA stats were unimpressive, Estevan Florial flashed signs of potential with his raw power, speed, and defensive prowess. With Florial’s age 24 season on the horizon, it’s make-or-break time for his career. He had a really exciting 11 games for the Yankees, but he’s going to have to show a lot more. There are really nice components to Florial’s game that remind us of the prospect that he once was, but there are also extremely concerning aspects of his game that he needs to adjust. Delving into minor league data can be difficult, but with what we have available, we can identify his flaws.

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Whiffing Way Too Much

If you’ve followed my work throughout the season, you’ve probably caught me saying “Strikeouts don’t matter”. That statement holds true at the major league level for guys who have ridiculous power like Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Joey Gallo. Estevan Florial doesn’t have the natural power of those types of hitters, predicting his game more on his speed and athleticism. That doesn’t mean Florial has no power, boasting a .186 ISO which is above average, but he can’t consistently sustain a 30.2% K% and expect to utilize his speed. In Triple-A East, he posted the tenth highest Swinging Strike Rate, which is alarming. I guess that just means he’s a lost cause right? Well, I think not.

Batted Ball Adjustments

Florial’s batted ball data shows he’s just a small adjustment away from elevating his offensive game. His 19.0% Line Drive rate was also the fifteenth worst in Triple-A East, which leads me to believe he has a swing path problem. The interesting thing about all of this is that he rarely hits groundballs (twenty-second lowest rate) and hits a ton of flyballs (sixteenth highest rate), which means he’s just a small adjustment away from being able to generate more line drives. It reflects in his BABIP as well, posting a mere .291 BABIP. While it’s close to the .300 average, you expect a higher BABIP from someone with so much speed, and his batted ball data reflects this batted ball problem. Let’s look at how the three different batted balls play out to see why Florial was struggling in AAA.

Batted Ball wRC+ BABIP SLG%
Flyballs 141 .115 .721
Groundballs 32 .236 .259
Line Drives 335 .678 .894

Despite what more old-school baseball fans will tell you, groundballs are the enemy of the hitter. Flyballs and line drives are where you get your offense, but when you hit so few line drives strike out so much, you’re oftentimes betting against the odds of your expected outcome. It’s not a sustainable way to hit, but with how coaching in the lower levels of the minors has jumpstarted a lot of prospects, it’s not farfetched to say Estevan Florial can make an impact.

Projections For Estevan Florial

When you’re dealing with a launch angle problem, it’s all about coaching. Swing paths can be adjusted, and Florial’s raw tools make him so intriguing. He has a 60-grade raw power tool with a 70-grade speed tool His 6% Success Rate Added in CF would’ve been the best mark for all CFs had he qualified. The hit tool isn’t great, and whiffs will always be a problem of his, but if he’s able to cut it down to a 25% rate and generate more line drives, the potential here is incredible. Steamer projects Florial to post a 91 wRC+, which is pretty decent for a guy who had a mere 93 wRC+ in AAA. Steamer projections are just median outcomes, so there’s a world where Florial posts a 100 wRC+ with his elite defense and speed.

Florial will never be an elite hitter, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a very good player. A 100 wRC+ with elite defense in CF would make him a top 15 CF, and the Yankees know this. I’m more than excited to see how a new coaching staff and some returning confidence can help the youngster. He’s not what we imagined he’d be in 2018, but his story is yet to be written.