Black MiLB Players You Need To Know About #5: Estevan Florial

Background + Path to Professional Baseball

Estevan Florial is a twenty-three-year-old Haitian-Dominican centerfielder in the New York Yankees organization. Florial’s place of birth on the island of Hispaniola has many conflicting reports due to his background. Legislation in the Dominican Republic was also passed that stripped Haitians that were born and raised in the Dominican Republic of their Dominican citizenship. Florial claims to be born and raised in Santo Domingo, although there have been reports that have said he was born in Haiti and moved to Santo Domingo as a child, and other reports that claim he was born in Barahona.

Estevan Florial’s path to professional baseball started when he signed with the New York Yankees during the 2014 J2 Signing Period for international prospects out of Santo Domingo for 2 million dollars. When it was time for Florial to start his professional career, it became known that the name he signed under “Haniel d’Oleo” was on fake documentation that made him ineligible to sign his contract. This fake documentation was secured by his mother when he was a child so that he would be eligible to get his education. It is difficult for individuals in the Dominican Republic to secure their personal records and documentation, and even more so for Haitians that live in the country.

A large majority of Haitian-Dominican baseball players go by aliases or solely their Hispanic names, and completely hide the fact that they are Haitian in addition to being Dominican from the public eye to avoid discrimination and scrutiny. In an interview with Bruce Schoenfeld for ESPN, Minnesota Twins infielder Miguel Sanó(one of only two players in MLB who openly claims to be Haitian) describes how common it is for Haitian-Dominican players to alter their identities for the safety of them and their families. Sanó even named players who have played in MLB or currently play in MLB who are of Haitian descent. Miguel Sanó also had a similar experience as MLB did not believe his birth certificate was legitimate when he signed with the Minnesota Twins during the 2009 J2 Signing Period.

Florial became ineligible to sign a professional contract until the 2015 J2 Signing Period, where he once again agreed to a deal with the New York Yankees, this time for only 200,000 dollars. Florial was a top international amateur prospect before he became a professional, regularly drawing the gazes of fans and scouts during showcases and tryouts in Santo Domingo. The Yankees were excited to have Florial in pinstripes, and Florial was excited to wear them.

Estevan Florial made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League during the 2015 Minor League Baseball season, displaying the speed/power combination that would become the calling card in his profiles with 11 doubles, eight triples, seven home runs, and 15 steals in 57 games played at the age of 17. Over the next few seasons of his professional career, Florial would intrigue the world of professional baseball with the flashes of his all-world potential while struggling to stay on the field due to injuries and long stints of struggles because of a high strikeout rate.

After 110 games between Low-A and High-A at the age of 19 where he put up a .298/.372/.479 slashline and made the 2017 MLB Futures Game, Florial began to appear on the Top 100 Propsects lists of various accredited websites. In 2018 and 2019, Florial continued to struggle with injuries and finding success at the plate due to his propensity to strike out. During the shortened 2020 season Florial made his MLB debut for the New York Yankees, becoming the fourth MLB player(The other three being Alfonso Soriano, Miguel Sanó, and Touki Toussaint) to openly claim his Haitian heritage on record.

Player Profile

Estevan Florial is 6'1'’, weighs 185 pounds, bats left-handed, and throws right-handed. Florial’s offensive profile starts with the fact that he takes huge hacks in the batter’s box and strikes out at an extremely high rate. Throughout his professional career, his strikeout rate has sat between 20–30%, but on the other hand his walk rate sits between 10–12%. Many evaluators are skeptical of his ability to make contact, and don't believe that he will have a lot of success or be featured in a prominent role at the major league level unless he makes huge changes in his hitting approach and swing decisions. Florial also has a very long swing and many evaluators believe that he also has issues with pitch recognition of breaking and offspeed pitches.

Florial has upper tier raw power, as the average exit velocity on balls he put in play was 90 mph with a 43% hard hit rate. Despite this strength, Florial’s raw power does not show up in games due to the high groundball rates he has put up in his professional career so far. Florial pulls the ball at a high rate, and that habit could be a part of the issue he has in his approach. With the raw power that he possesses, Florial could benefit from an all fields approach and shortening his swing to make contact instead of trying to swing out of his shoes to his pullside every time he’s in the batter’s box.

Florial is extremely athletic, as he has been noted for having plus-plus speed and it is one of his calling cards. His speed allows him to steal bases, which he does at an above-average rate. Florial also plays centerfield full time, where he is an slightly above-average defender at the position. He is not the greatest route runner or makes amazing reads of the ball, but his 70 grade speed allows him to be passable anyways. Florial has a legitimate 80 grade arm, with many individuals calling it one of the best throwing arms they have ever seen in terms of strength and accuracy. This is a huge asset for Florial to have as a centerfielder, as it can help him accrue value and save runs defensively.

Conclusion

Estevan Florial has an extremely high ceiling and an extremely low floor that is mostly tied to his ability to make contact at the plate. Florial has all-world tools and the value he can accrue is amplified by the fact that he can play centerfield full time. The most important thing Florial needs to prove during the 2021 season is that he can stay healthy so he can continue to find playing time in order to develop, because he is extremely talented. Florial also gets praised for his makeup, persistence, and work ethic.

sports journalist, film director, writer of novels/screenplays/comics, etc.