Scouting Yankees Prospect #25: Thairo Estrada

The Yankees signed shortstop Thairo Estrada in late 2012 out of Venezuela. Another under the radar amateur signing at the time, one whose game was advanced enough to bypass the Dominican Summer League level entirely, he has quickly become an organizational favorite with his nice blend of present skills and long-term projection.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Thairo Estrada
Position: Shortstop
DOB: February 22, 1996
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 185
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

He made a name for himself in his debut season in 2013 when he hit a more than respectable .278 with 18 extra-base hits as one of the youngest players in the Gulf Coast League. The in-season numbers were not quite there yet in his sophomore campaign last year though, hitting .272 with just three extra-base hits in 23 combined games between Staten Island and the Gulf Coast League.

"Given the amount of time I played I think it was a productive season," Estrada said through the help of a translator. "I think I got better both offensively and defensively.

"Fielding-wise, it was more about staying concentrated on every pitch and making sure I don't get ahead of myself, making sure I catch the ball before trying to throw it. Hitting-wise, recognizing pitches better and getting the pitch that I can handle better were two areas I believed I improved."

A standout performer in Extended Spring Training, he missed nearly seven weeks last season in the short-season leagues after pulling his left hamstring.

"I was at first base, a ball was hit into the gap and I was rounding second when I felt it," he said. "I was out for a month and a half."

He played all of 17 games for the Staten Island Yankees before injuring his hamstring on July 4th and didn't return to game action until August 20th when he was able to collect six more games in the Gulf Coast League. Still, as limited as his time was in 2014, he made quite the impression.

"He hit two home runs for us this year during the playoffs, in four games during the playoffs, including a grand slam," GCL Yankees1 manager Travis Chapman said. "He's just a wonderful leader on the field and a very good defender at both short and second base."

A natural shortstop, the recently turned 19-year old experienced a few firsts last season. He started playing some second base to help increase his versatility and in an effort to get his bat into the lineup more often, and he also played night games for the first time in his career.

"I had never played under the lights before so at first it was a little weird and a little difficult to get used to but after a few games I was fine," Estrada noted. "I feel comfortable playing second base now [too]. I've been working there a lot more and I feel more comfortable there everyday."

The general consensus in the scouting community is that Estrada has the defensive prowess not only to remain at shortstop but one day be a true plus defender. However, he has also proven in rather quick fashion that he's the kind of player that can really stand out at a multitude of positions too.

"He's got a chance to play shortstop [long-term] all the way through and in some organizations he would," Staten Island manager Mario Garza said, "but [as] I think you're going to see with a lot of our shortstop talent I think we may see him some at second base and maybe even third base, and even if you needed him to he could probably play some centerfield."

"He's good enough to play short," Chapman said, "he can definitely play second, potentially even over at third if you need him, but the bat, even for him being a smaller guy, he can really swing the bat and swing it with some power."

It's not just his defensive versatility that turns heads. He can really hit too and hit for some power, and it's that defensive-offensive combination that baseball insiders have quickly fallen in love with early in his career.

Throw in a high-energy style of play and off the charts makeup, many team officials believe Estrada has the chance to be very special down the road.

"He's exciting," Garza added. "He may be my favorite player that I've ever managed -- he's definitely up there. He's one of the most fun players to manage. It's not just what he does on the field but him as a person.

"He's a competitor. He's that guy that you don't want in the opposing dugout because he's that guy that's a gamer, a competitor, one of those gritty type players. He can do some things. He's a tough out.

"His speed actually plays up because of his baseball instincts and intelligence. He's not a Jorge Mateo raw speed guy but he'll steal bases, he'll go first to third, but he has enough speed where he'll get some infield hits. He's a special player.

"He'll do whatever he can to get on the field. Really, what a special kid he is."

He can hit, hit for some power, steal bases, and play better than average defense at a few different positions already, and he will play his entire 2015 campaign still as a teenager. It's because of all of those reasons that many baseball insiders believe that Estrada is a sleeping giant prospect-wise.

"I agree 100 percent," Garza exclaimed. "He's a tough kid and he wants to win. He doesn't want anybody beating him and he takes losing hard, but then he's also ready to go the next day.

"He's the kind of guy you want in your clubhouse. You're not going to have any issues with him. He's a coach's dream."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2014 Staten Island .271 59 1 0 2 11 8 6 7 .348 .288
2014 GCL Yankees1 .273 22 2 0 4 2 0 1 4 .304 .364
2013 GCL Yankees2 .278 176 11 2 17 28 7 12 30 .350 .432


Batting and Power. What makes Estrada so special is his innate feel for barreling the baseball. He has advanced patience and pitch recognition, he employs plus bat speed, and he has a real knack for consistently hitting the sweet spot. So while he isn't exactly an imposing physical figure, he is able to generate solid power with his incredible torque. He shows average or better power potential long-term and the ability to be a high-average hitter, one who gets on base at a high clip. Using the whole field a bit more would certainly help in that capacity.

Base Running and Speed. Estrada is more above average speed-wise than a true plus runner but his impact running the bases can play a level closer to plus at times simply due to his high baseball intellect, high energy style, and overall aggressiveness. He is a true elite station to station runner and he easily has the ability to be a perennial 20-plus stolen base threat too.

Defense. Where his high baseball intellect really comes into play is on the defensive side of the ball. He has all of the physical tools to be a standout at shortstop; plus arm strength, above average range, and soft hands. But what ties it all together is his feel for the game. He has an ability to slow the game down and make veteran-like decisions at a really young age, and that is a rare trait. He projects to be an above average defender at shortstop and despite his lack of experience at second base he already shows long-term plus potential there. With the speed to play centerfield too and the arm strength to play third as well, he has the ability to shine at a few different positions.

Projection. With an ability to hit, hit for some power, steal bases, and play above average defense at a few different positions, physically Estrada already safely projects as a future big league reserve player at minimum. However, there is a lot more ceiling left in this 19-year old and he has the kind of special makeup that a manager wants on the field and in the lineup in an everyday capacity. With an ability to grind out at-bats and never give any away, hitting-wise he is very much Jose Pirela-like in that regard. Estrada even has that Pirela-like 'it' quality too of hustling on every play. There is more speed in his legs though and the chance to hit for significantly more power too. And defensively Estrada has the chance to be an impact player at a few different positions. He has an Anthony Rendon-like offensive ceiling but the defensive chops to excel at shortstop among other positions.

ETA. N/A. There are no glaring weaknesses in his offensive game so which position Estrada settles into will mostly affect how quickly he ascends to the big league level. There's a glut of quality shortstop prospects in the Yankee organization right now and if the Yankees decide to keep him there they might be forced to take their time with him. Should he move to second base, however, he could move a lot quicker. Where he plays defensively will also impact his short-term track too. He could break Spring Training camp this year with low-A Charleston in a variety of roles or begin the season in Extended Spring Training and break camp there as the starting shortstop in either Staten Island or Pulaski.


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