SSTN Top 15 Yankee Prospects: Two Controversial Prospects
Estevan Florial and Anthony Volpe proved to be two of the most controversial prospects on our list. Some writers ranked them among the Yankees’ best prospects; others didn’t rank them at all. The SSTN staff expands on their thoughts below:
Estevan Florial – What is there not to love about the prospects of a lefty hitting young outfielder who has five tools? Florial has a rocket arm, top-shelf defensive skills, speed, and the ability to hit and hit for power. Florial is the type of prospect that fans dream on. His skill set projects him as a player who could be a superstar- who should be a superstar. With his talent, Florial could be Superman.
Unfortunately, Florial’s path to greatness has been derailed by injuries which have, in turn, have made his Kryptonite (strikeouts), much more apparent.
Estevan Florial is 22 years old. He hasn’t played a day in any level higher than A ball. There is the belief that he is just a step or two away, and that’s just not true. Florial has never played AA or AAA baseball. He’s not yet close to the bigs. The 2020 season will be his sixth as a professional and yet, he can’t stay on the field. Only once has he played in more than 84 games in a season (110 games in 2017).
2019 wasn’t kind to Florial. He batted only .237. He struck out 98 times in 274 at bats all for high-A Tampa.
He has the skills, he has the talent, as of yet, it has not all come together. Florial could be Superman, but time is running out.
Anthony Volpe – Because they are professional and have had such success in the last number of years, I tend to trust the Yankees’ scouting and player development teams. I have to believe that Anthony Volpe has the skills, talent, and drive to be a successful professional ballplayer and future big league talent. It is said that he has a natural “feel for the game” and that he reminds scouts of a young Derek Jeter. High praise indeed!
But, he is years away. Volpe is just 19. He has played all of 34 games (in the Rookie League) as a professional.
It is far too early to tell with Anthony Volpe.
(I ranked Volpe as my #10 prospect.)
The good news is his results in rookie ball. He displyed very good plate discipline; Volpe walked 15.3% of his plate appearances and only struck out 25.3% of the time. He had good power for a 19 year old (.140 ISO and 2 home runs in roughly a fifth of a season). Whether or not he sticks at short, he’s a middle infielder with power and they are valuable if they can hit major league pitching.
The bad news is that his results were in rookie ball. We’ve all seen prospects perform spectacularly in rookie ball and then fade away as the competition got better. Volpe didn’t blow away the opposition in rookie ball. He did well. If he had those results at AA ball, I’d be much more excited. So he’s a C+ prospect for me at this point.
Estevan Florial (NOTE: Matthew originally wrote about Florial back in Spring Training in an article titled, Where Have You Gone Estevan Florial?)
“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you”
Simon & Garfunkel – Mrs. Robinson
A year ago, Estevan Florial was the darling of many Yankees prospect watchers, including me. He had completed a half season at high A and looked to be improving his strike zone discipline, his biggest weakness. His strikeout rate had fallen from 31.9% in 2017 at low A to 25.7% at high A And his walk rate increased from 10.5% to 13.0%. Not bad for a 21 year old. He only hit 3 home runs in half a season at high A but I thought that his 20 home run power would come back eventually.
Florial is supposedly a solid defender in center and with 20 home run power, and those walk and strikeout rates, you are looking at a .270/.375/.470 or so hitter at a premium position. That’s a valuable asset and a player I thought could be the next Yankee center fielder after Aaron Hicks made the eventual transition to left field.
And then 2019 happened. Florial was hurt for half the season and regressed horribly at high A. He hit more home runs (8 in half of a season) but his strikeout rate increased to 32.6% and his walk rate dropped to 8.0%. Now he did hurt his wrist, which is a nasty injury and one that can obviously impact performance at the plate..
Florial has dropped off of the Top 100 Prospect lists. He is still young and I would imagine will start the season at high A (Tampa) again. The Yankees protected him from the Rule 5 Draft, so they obviously believe in him. Let’s hope that he can stay healthy and have a breakout year.
Florial would have been at the top of this list a couple of years ago. Now, his stock has plummeted after he had several rough seasons in a row. After his best season in 2017 – in which he played 110 games, Florial has only played 158 total games. When he has played, Florial has been unable to completely fix his high-strikeout body of work, with much less power. That being said, I still believe in Florial’s raw talent. His 2018 season was still solid overall (.283, .377, .422), even with his best numbers coming at lower levels. Also, he gets on base at a solid clip (career .353 mark), he has the tools to play all three outfield spots, and he’s still only 22 years old. Florial certainly has a tone of doubt, but the talent and ability to be a top prospect and a future Bomber.
Volpe is one of the Yankees’ most talented fielders. He can pick it at shortstop and could easily play second if need be. Offensively, Volpe rated as a high-contact, high-IQ player. That did not culminate in rookie ball, as he struck out 38 times in 121 at-bats. He did also walk 23 times for a .349 OBP with only a .215 BA. Volpe is a glove-first prospect with a questionable hit tool and little power. That being said, the patience he showed in his brief stint in rookie ball is enough to include Volpe in my top-15.
I ranked Estevan Florial as my #6 Yankee prospect. If you had asked me (and many others), I would have put him towards the top of the list before this season. I can’t say that he is a worse player now, but I can frankly say that he hasn’t improved either. Of course injuries have played a huge role in this. He’s been passed on the prospect list by players already in the organization who have improved or talented new players.
While it seems like he has been around forever, he’s a 22-year old with tools off the chart and a great makeup as well. I’ve still got hope that if Florial can put together a sustained healthy period and he can develop into the impact player the Yankees think he’ll be.
Anthony Volpe was my #13 prospect. He’s a solid player with a makeup that is off the charts. I ranked him a bit lower than others for two reasons – first he struggled to a .704 OPS and .934 Fielding Percentage in his first professional action in 2019. Second, the Yankees have plenty of prospect depth right now – he could have found his way into the top ten at one point, but not now. Plenty of prospects is a good problem for the Yankees to have.
Estevan Florial is a supremely talented ballplayer – about that, there is little doubt. If you were to watch Florial warm up prior to the game, his quick twitch muscle as he ran in the outfield would be immediately apparent; his throws come in strong, on a line; he gets a good jump in CF, likely enough to be a good defensive outfielder in the Majors today; and in batting practice, he shows significant pop with the bat. All of this was true when he was a consensus Top-3 prospect in the Yankee system going back a couple of years.
Injuries have obviously decimated his last two seasons, and wrist injuries are very scary for a player who projects to derive much of his value at the plate from power, but there were warning signs even prior to the wrist injuries. Florial has consistently been dinged by scouts for his poor pitch recognition. Many observers have long held the belief that Florial would struggle in the upper levels when faced with better breaking balls. In fact, Florial struggled with that exact aspect of the game facing some of the best pitching prospects in baseball at the Arizona Fall League. Excluding Florial’s lost 2019 season, Florial displayed really poor plate discipline numbers, striking out at a 31.1% rate in 2017 and a 24.6% rate in 2018. Players can improve plate discipline with playing time, but Florial has lost significant time to injuries and again this season due to the pandemic.
As talented as Florial is, it is becoming less likely that he will be able to maximize his immense talent. He is excellent defensively, so I think his floor is likely as a 4th outfielder, but I can’t honestly say that it is likely that Florial will be a star. I think there are at least 15 better prospects in the Yankee system than Florial.
I have a really hard time ranking Volpe at all given how little time he has spent as a pro thus far. The early signs are encouraging. He handled rookie ball well offensively, showing more pop than I think most would have expected, albeit in a very small sample size. Volpe struggled some with errors in rookie ball, but that is very common for young prospects, and not indicative at all of future performance.
Volpe doesn’t have any tools that stand out. He has a solid hit tool, but his current swing plane probably means that Volpe will be more of a gap hitter than a power hitter at maturity. Volpe’s arm is good enough for SS and his instincts in the field are good, but he isn’t a potential defensive wizard. Volpe is credited by those who have been around him as having a make-up that is off-the-charts good, and for sure that could bode well in terms of outperforming natural talent.
Volpe is a local kid, and I want him to succeed. It’s not fair to anyone to compare prospects to other players or previous prospects, but I still have the image of the Yankees over-drafting Cito Culver in the first round as a local kid with great make-up stuck in my head. That’s not at all fair to Volpe, and I don’t think that’s what happened here, but I have to admit the potential for bias in my rankings both to you as readers and to myself. Volpe may yet prove me wrong, but I just don’t have a good enough feel for who he is as a prospect yet to rank him above all of the high-ceiling prospects the Yankees have stockpiled in the last few years.