At spring training two years ago, Estevan Florial was the must-see center fielder in Yankees camp who went gap to gap to turn triples into outs and featured a strong, accurate arm.
In hushed tones people believed the then 20-year-old was good enough defensively to play in the big leagues.
Now, the 22-year-old Florial’s star has dimmed because of injuries the past two seasons that have clouded his future. The lefthanded hitter suffered a broken bone in his right wrist in both 2018 and 2019.
Still, Florial entered 2019 ranked as the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect despite losing about half the 2018 season at high Class A Tampa to hamate surgery.
With all eyes on Florial last March, he crashed into a center field wall and suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right wrist. He returned on June 3 and appeared in 74 games for Tampa, batting .237/.297/.383 with eight home runs.
Florial needs to accomplish two things this season: stay on the field and cut down his strikeout rate.
“That’s a goal you have to set up,” said Florial, who signed in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic. “The last couple of years have not been fun off the field.”
In five pro seasons, Florial has stuck out in 28 percent of plate appearances. In his past two seasons in the Florida State League he has whiffed 127 times and collected 78 hits.
“It’s part of the game. You don’t want to strike out all of the time,” Florial said. “I have to get better at that.”
Towards that goal, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Florial has engaged the big league outfielders.
“I see the older guys and try to pick their brains,” Florial said. “I learn from them. They have a lot of experience.’’
There is still time for Florial to put himself in position to play in the big leagues. However, the time to begin improving is now.
“Everyone sees the potential. At some point (a player) has to start producing,” farm director Kevin Reese said when asked about Florial.