Mark LoMoglio

Thairo Estrada is having a breakout season of sorts and it's due to his maturity.

TAMPA, FL -- Twenty-year-old shortstop Thairo Estrada has been making quite the name for himself after being pulled up from the Charleston Riverdogs earlier this season. His most recent struggles aside, the surprisingly young Venezuelan native has been with the Yankees since 2013 at the age of seventeen, and the evolution of his game has shown signs of him powering through the minor leagues.

Estrada spent the last two seasons in the short-season leagues, finishing up last year with .267 batting average, a .338 on base average, and a .360 slugging average with the Staten Island Yankees. He played in a total of 63 games and, with it being essentially his first season season playing under the lights, he used last year as a learning experience to help fine-tune his game.

“It was a good year for me, and I thought I did very well,” Estrada said through the help of a translator. “I learned that I need to be swinging at better pitches and [really] just recognizing which ones to swing at.”

During the offseason Estrada focused on the usual working out and staying in shape for Spring Training, as well as the mental aspect of his game and what to look forward to as he began the 2016 season in Charleston, mainly the difference in pitching between the two leagues. Some of these mental notes include knowing when to lay off breaking balls, and understanding how to better read balls that fool him earlier in the count.

“There’s just a lot of mental work, it’s just focusing a lot more, and focusing on the little details to help make me play better,” Estrada added.

Spring Training was a chance for Estrada to showcase his already widely known talents to the coaching staff, and let them know that he came to work while he’s in Tampa.

After coming off a groin injury in 2014, in which Estrada only played in 23 games that season, the young shortstop was forced to repeat the NYLP league in 2015. However, after taking the time to recover Estrada just reaffirmed the coaching staff’s confidence in him as a player.

“He looked good," Tampa manager Pat Osborn said.  "He’s a really good baseball player. He plays the game a lot older than he really is.  He plays like he’s 25/26 years old.”

Osborn has worked closely with Estrada in the past, mainly during their time together in Staten Island, and he is not surprised at progress already being made this early in the season. Osborn looks at Estrada as “one of his little sons” and knows just how capable he can be as he grows into his body and physically matures, Osborn even pushed for Estrada to start off the 2016 season as a Tampa Yankee.

“When I heard he was coming here I was really excited,” Osborn said. “I love the kid, I love the way he plays the game, he’s fun to be around, and he helps teams win.”

Estrada had an explosive start this season with Charleston, hitting five home runs and ending his short time there with a career high batting average of .286. The promotion to the Tampa Yankees this early in the season came as a complete shock to Estrada but not to coaching staff who predicted that Estrada can have a successful season that will only continue to help him improve the fundamentals every young player needs to master as they climb up the totem pole to reach the majors.

“Everything was just there for me,” Estrada said through the help of a translator. “ My hitting and my fielding were just in sync, and I would just go out there everyday and just do a good job while I was there.”

As the 2016 season continues to unfold, Estrada has been off to a solid start adjusting to not only a new team dynamic with Tampa, but defensively by playing three positions— third base, shortstop, and second base. Although Estrada has proven himself in the field, the coaching staff really admires the power in his swing. 

“He gives you really good at bats consistently,” Osborn said. “He’s someone you can count on in big situations.  He battles, he can hit with two strikes, he can drive the ball.. and it’s good cause this kid’s putting himself on the map.”

Hitting two home runs so far since he’s been moved to Tampa, Estrada has also banked 9 RBI’s, and currently has a batting average of .239. Estrada’s ability to put power on the ball has proven itself to be a natural gift that seems to keep improving as he gains more experience.

“We’re excited to have him," hitting coach Tommy Slater said.  "This kid can hit and he’s always hit, and for him another young guy to be in this league we’re fired up to have him. He’s a guy that always gives a competitive at bat.”

The sudden move to Tampa hasn’t effected Estrada mentally, and he knows that he needs to keep his eyes open on the field to learn more about the finite aspects of his game he still wants to improve, but at the same time continue with the style of game he’s been playing up to this point.

“I don’t try to adjust the game, it’s just keeping what I know I can do and adopting it into this fame and this league, and it’s worked so far,” Estrada said. “I just want to keep improving the small details of the game, especially hitting-wise, I just want to be as consistent as I can for as long as I can.”

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