CHARLESTON, S.C.—On a baseball field, it's hard to miss Estevan Florial's gifts. He can run from home plate to first base in less than four seconds. He can hit home runs to any part of the park. He covers ground effortlessly in center field. All of those traits have made him one of the Yankees' most coveted prospects in advance of this year's non-waiver trade deadline.
But it's the things he does away from the field that set him apart, especially in the eyes of his teammates and coaches.
"I really think a lot of this kid," Charleston manager Patrick Osborn said. "His tools are obvious, but for me it's the type of person he is. He's an A-plus person with a tremendous heart. He's a great teammate. That's what stands out for me."
For an example of his graciousness, take a look in the players' section of the parking lot at Joseph P. Riley Park. There, you'll find a black Buick Regal that belongs to Florial. It wasn't a vanity purchase, but Florial considered it necessity when he got to the United States to get his driver's license and buy the most affordable car he could find so he could become the best player possible.
"When he came over here, he decided to buy car," Osborn said. "He bought that car so he could show up to the complex early and stay late, as well as driving around his buddies who don't have access to a car."
If a teammate without a car needs to make a late-night run to the store for food or toiletries or some other necessity, Florial is game.
"When I was in spring training, I saw a lot of guys who had to go to Wal-Mart but it was going to be hard for them," Florial explained. "So when I got there I said 'I need a car," even if it's not just for me. When we're here we're together and we're one team, so we have to help each other."
Life in the minor leagues is famously threadbare. Unless you received a big signing bonus, players are getting by on very slim salaries. After rent and utility bills, there's very little left for meals that don't come from either Chipotle or Chick-fil-A.
So if there's a player in your apartment who knows how to cook and loves to do it, life is that much better. Florial did the cooking last year for himself and his teammates at Rookie-level Pulaski, and he's found himself in that role again this year in Charleston.
He's not going to beat Bobby Flay anytime soon, but he's skilled enough in the kitchen to make the standard recipes well enough to keep his teammates well-fed. It might only be meat, rice and beans, but it's enough to get by when money is tight.
"He's a very, very good teammate," RiverDogs righthander Alex Vargas said. "If Flo can do it, he'll do whatever he can to help us with whatever we need."
And while those qualities are certainly part of the reason Florial so highly thought of within the organization, they only supplement his immense talent on the field. He showed his tools all season last year in Pulaski, but they didn't translate into big-time numbers.
This season, that's changed. Part of the reason is due to an increased batting average on balls in play. His .431 mark leads the South Atlantic League this year, and is likely a big reason his average has hovered around .300 for most of the season despite a nearly 32 percent strikeout rate.
Still, Florial’s overall game draws raves from evaluators. He's been on opposing scouts' radars since he came to the United States and has been someone teams have targeted each of the last two trade deadlines.
"He's a gifted player in all facets of the game," Charleston hitting coach Ty Hawkins said. "He's got a pretty good understanding of what he's trying to do, swing-wise. He's still in that learning process of where he's actually going to end up. I think his whole makeup as a player and a person is pretty amazing. And also the tools that he possesses—he's got bat speed, balance and athleticism. His pitch recognition is getting better, so we'll keep working in that way."
There are concerns about the amount of swing-and-miss in his game, but some of those are muted because of his age and level.
“I'd rather have him more aggressive than passive. He'll start figuring out the strike zone as he gets older. He's still learning," one scout said. "It's always going to be a concern, but he's hitting .300 and he's tooled up. He's got a chance to have some serious impact at the big league level if he keeps progressing the way he is."
The Athletics had their scouts blanket Charleston the past couple of weeks as they try to put together a deal that would send righthander Sonny Gray to New York for the stretch run.
Florial is by no means a finished product, but he's off to a great start in his first season outside of Rookie ball, and his combination of tools, skills and intangibles has made him into one of the most sought-after players in a Yankees' system as loaded as it's been in years.