The Pittsburgh Pirates should monitor former top 50 prospect Estevan Floiral during Spring Training, as he's out of options and one of the more interesting potential DFA candidates.
At the end of Spring Training, teams will need to cut their roster sizes down. Some players will get sent to Triple-A, but many are out of minor league options. Teams will have the choice of having them on the Opening Day roster or designating them for assignment, exposing them to waivers. The Pittsburgh Pirates could find a way to take advantage of this and claim a player to place on the active roster to start the year. One player to watch this spring could be New York Yankees’ outfielder Estevan Florial.
Florial was a former top 100 prospect and going into 2018, he was considered a consensus top 50 prospect. Now that wasn’t without its merits, as Florial had an OPS of .850 while showing off a combination of plus-plus speed and power with more than capable center field defense. There was always the concern of strikeouts as he K’d over 30% of the time (31.1% to be exact); however, it was the only red flag in his game.
However, since then, Florial has seen his prospect stock drop. The outfielder spent the next two years stuck at High-A, not able to get his OPS over .715. On top of that, the Yankees saw the addition of guys such as Jasson Dominguez, Everson Pereira, and Spencer Jones, all of whom have surpassed Florial in terms of prospect value. Not to mention that the major league team added Harrison Bader, re-signed American League single-season home run record holder Aaron Judge, and saw the emergence of rookie Oswald Cabrera.
But that doesn’t mean Florial is worthless. Sure, he’s not the consensus top-50 prospect he was a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean he has no value. The outfielder turned in a quality season at Triple-A, slashing .283/.363/.481. He swiped a whopping 39 bases while hitting 15 homers in 461 plate appearances. He also walked at an above-average 10.4% rate. Beteen his plus power and pitch selection, Florial ended the year with a 124 wRC+ and .372 wOBA at Triple-A.
Now granted, it’s not as if Florial is all of a sudden foolproof. He still struck out 30.4% of the time and was aided by a .398 batting average on balls in play. When given a brief stint in the big leagues, he had just three hits (all of which were singles) with 13 strikeouts in a miniscule sample size of 35 plate appearances. But the raw talent is still there, as he still receives high praise for his raw power, speed, and fielding. Plus he did change his approach and saw a noticable change in his batted ball rates.
With so many outfielders on the 40-man roster, you’re probably thinking why should the Pirates keep an eye on Florial in pre-season? Even though the Pirates have a handful of outfielders, very few can play a good center field. Bryan Reynolds, although he’s slated to be the full-time CF, still graded out as below average in 2022 (though he was much better in 2021). Jack Suwinski has played some center but is better in an outfield corner. Ji-Hwan Bae mostly played center when he was sent to the grass but is still fairly unfamiliar with the outfield. That leaves Travis Swaggerty as the only competent center field defender currently on the 40-man roster.
Florial would definitely be a better option to have on the roster than Ryan Vllade. Guys like Swaggerty, Canaan Smith-Njigba, and Cal Mitchell have minor-league options remaining. Plus, given Bae’s infield versatility, the Pirates could be flexible with the speedy Korean prospect. While Florial might not seem like a perfect fit, he’d make the team better. There are far worse fourth outfield options than him. If worst comes to worst, the Pirates could DFA him and give someone else an opportunity.