Estrada Can Be Counted On

Thairo Estrada has chipped in with solid offensive production in the early going and continues to open many eyes in the Yankees organization as his versatility in the middle infield is tested by splitting starts between shortstop and second base for the Staten Island Yankees. In fact, despite his youth, he's one of those rare players that can be counted on by his coaches.

“I’ve felt good already,” Estrada said through the help of a translator. “We have a really good team this year.”

Last season with Staten Island, Estrada played in 17 games, all of which were played at shortstop where he made only two errors and maintained a fielding percentage of .966.

In the season’s early going, the 19-year old has adjusted quite naturally as he has started ten games at the second base position. However, Estrada has also started five games at shortstop in order to refine his skills at his original position. He has made one error so far at each position.

“For me it’s the same, playing shortstop, second base or any position in the infield,” Estrada said.

Staten Island manager Pat Osborn has not only been impressed by Estrada’s playing ability on the field, but how he carries himself on and off of the field as he deals with the challenge of competing against older, more experienced players.

“He’s hitting in the three spot as a 19-year old in a league that’s pretty much dominated by college kids,” Osborn said. “This kid would have been a freshman in college this year. When I was a freshman in college, there was no way that I could have competed in this type of league. There’s a lot on his plate, but he takes it in stride and he handles it well."

Estrada, who is hitting a solid .274 this season with one home run and eight RBIs, was signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent on Aug. 2, 2012 and began his professional baseball career with the Yankees’ Gulf Coast League affiliate in 2013 at the tender age of 17. Estrada played 50 games for the club that year hitting .278 with two home runs, 11 doubles and 17 runs batted in.

Osborn, who got a glimpse of Estrada while he was managing in the Gulf Coast League, has seen Estrada’s improvement first hand since moving up to short-season A-ball.

“Becoming more consistent is probably the big thing that he’s improved on,” Osborn said. “Defense, offense and base running are becoming more consistent.”

In preparation for his transition to second base, Estrada devoted much of his attention to improving his fielding skills in Spring Training and Extended Spring Training before this New York Penn League season.

“I worked in the gym, I worked with ground balls. I worked really hard to get everything ready for this season,” Estrada said. “I had to work on staying down for the ground balls and work hard in every single area of my fielding.”

Spring Training was also an opportunity for Estrada to show off his talents to other coaches and managers in the Yankees organization including triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager Dave Miley who, according to Osborn, fell in love with how good of a player he already is.

“Thairo is a very, very good player and I think a lot of people forget how young he is,” Osborn said. “He’s only 19 years old and he’s been everything as advertised. Every day he’s getting better.”

In order to see more playing time and assist the Yankees, as a number of other older middle infielders needed playing time, Estrada was held up in Extended Spring Training to start the season with Staten Island.

“With our numbers in the lower levels at shortstop and second base, we thought that it would be better to keep him here and let him play every day, than send him somewhere and have to split time while playing only a couple times a week,” Osborn said.

Playing every day in Staten Island will also allow Estrada to work on aspects of his fielding and hitting which are still in need of improvement to be able to perform at a Major League level.

“Turning the double play at second base is a big one,” Osborn said. “Every once in a while he’ll get a little big with his swing and his approach will get a little out of whack. Those things will come and that’s why [the coaches] are here, to help him out with that."

“I’ve gotten more experience playing in this league. I’m learning every single day,” Estrada added.

Estrada was born in Bejuma, Venezuela and despite spending the last two seasons in America, he does not speak more than a few words of English. Nonetheless, Osborn is hopeful that Estrada will become a leader on and off the field for Staten Island this season.

“He’s not a very vocal guy but he goes about his business the right way and he’s a guy that players can try and follow,” Osborn said.

Osborn is optimistic that Estrada will remain a powerful offensive force in the third spot of the Staten Island lineup which will help his team to win games as well as presenting a bright look into the future for the Yankees organization.

“I expect him to remain in the middle of our lineup and be a guy that we can count on day in and day out,” Osborn concluded.

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