SSTN Mailbag: Jhony Brito, Estevan Florial, and Franchy Cordero!
Opening Day is always a special day for me. Frankly, I believe that Opening Day should be a national holiday so that kids can get away from school to go see the games, but it's possible that I'm just a little biased on that one. Like many baseball diehards, I have certain traditions I always follow. When I wake up in the morning on Opening Day, the first thing I do is turn on one of any number of sound systems (if I'm traveling, I just use my phone), and I play "Centerfield," by John Fogerty, followed usually by Bernie Williams' rendition of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" and Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days". Yesterday was a bit different, in that I didn't get to play those songs immediately after waking...that's what having a 7.5 month old baby at home will do, but I got an even better omen because of that perfect little girl. I heard her wake up before I could start the music, so it was time to put her morning routine first. As my wife and I entered the room, I was shocked to find my girl sitting up in the crib, a position she found from sleeping (a first for her). I'm not superstitious about anything other than baseball, but I took the fact that my daughter popped up in the crib as a good omen for the Yankee season...compare it, if you must, to waiting to see whether or not a certain furry critter sees his shadow on Groundhog Day. A perfect start to the morning continued with an awesome 5-0 win for the Yankees on Opening Day, including a brilliant start by Gerrit Cole, timely hitting from Judge and Torres, and really solid all-around play by rookie Anthony Volpe. As Optimist-In-Chief here at SSTN, I'm going to choose to believe that the events I witnessed on Opening Day indicate that a long winter for the Yankees is over.
As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll assess Jhony Brito's true abilities, determine Estevan Florial's fate, and try to figure out what the Yankees see in Franchy Cordero! Let's get at it:
Larry asks: Jhony Brito pitched a perfect game in his last start in spring training. I really don't know much about him, but with all of the injuries it seems like he's the next man up. What can Yankee fans expect him to do this year?
I looked at the Yankees' rotation depth earlier this offseason, and wrote about Brito in that post. Brito was added to the 40-man roster this past offseason, and his unheralded path through the minor league actually mirrors many other Yankee prospects. Brito steadily moved from a pitcher with below-average velocity that lived in the high-80s and low-90s to one whose velocity began sitting in the mid-90s while peaking at 98. The book on Brito coming into Spring Training was that he was a guy who pitched with good command, got hitters to hit the top of the ball with his sinker, and did enough with middling stuff to keep hitters off-balance. I had watched video of Brito prior to this season, but not really enough of any one outing to get a feel for who he was as a pitcher.
My initial scouting report from December regarding his secondary stuff remains. I think the slider that Brito throws is inconsistent in shape, without a lot of movement, but he commands it well and uses it effectively enough to keep hitters off of his fastball. Brito's change-up shows potential, as it's movement profile with good drop and fade resembles his sinker with 10+ MPH of velocity separation. Again, Brito commands this pitch well, so I think it has the potential to be an above-average pitch, and the one that I would look to first off of his sinker.
Where I think I might have been a bit light is on Brito's sinker. From my Spring Training look at him, it really looks to be a bowling ball sinker that hitters really struggle to square up. I didn't see evidence of any velocity drop throughout his outings, so the newfound velocity seems to be for real. Combined with the change-up, I think Brito has the potential for two above-average pitches and a useable breaking ball due to his command. That, along with Brito's build and solid delivery, indicates that Brito has enough to be a back-end starter in the big leagues.
I would expect him to be an up-and-down arm early this year who produces as a starter and even as a long reliever when needed, but I do think that he could become a stable rotation arm as soon as the end of this season. In the current environment, capable starters who can log innings don't grow on trees, so even if Brito doesn't wow you with strikeouts or stuff, I think he has real value long-term.
Dave asks: What will the Yankees ultimately do with Estevan Florial?
He made the Opening Day roster and even got a cameo appearance, but I don't see him sticking. The pitch recognition issues that plagued him as a prospect remain, and he'll get eaten alive by big league pitching. Sad to say, I think the Yanks will ultimately deal him in a bit deal either for a minor league reliever with options or a piece for the low minors.
Mike asks: The Yankees got an outfielder...Franchy Cordero. Why???
Look, this isn't a moment where I'm going to sit here and tell you that the Yankees found a hidden gem that will suddenly become a 30 HR guy and the everyday left fielder. Cordero has real swing-and-miss issues, but he does have strong prospect pedigree and some raw tools. Cordero has significant pop from the left side of the plate, producing top-of-the-scale Max Exit Velocity according to Statcast and despite his size, he still maintains plus-plus speed. Cordero also can play all 3 outfield positions and sort of fake it at 1B.
More critically, Cordero has an option remaining, which Estevan Florial does not. Cordero gives the Yankees roster flexibility, and they've managed to help guys with tools, but recent poor performance in the past. Maybe there's more than meets the eye to Cordero, but I don't see any reason to keep Florial over Cordero at this point, so I think it makes sense to take a flier, particularly when it gives the Yankees roster flexibility.