Name: Thairo Estrada
DOB: February 22, 1996
Batting and Power. Estrada is the epitome of the term 'professional hitter' and it's because few can match his combination of excellent swing mechanics, advanced plate discipline and patience, and more than anything his top-shelf pitch recognition. Throw in not just a willingness to use the whole field but a consistent season-long, entire-field approach that never wavers and his .281 career average to date is just the tip of the iceberg of what he can do average-wise. Not very big at all, standing just 5-foot-11, he is still able to generate average or better long-term power potential because of his above average bat speed and uncanny ability to consistently barrel the baseball. More of a high-doubles eventually because of his propensity to shoot liners from gap to gap, he still has the ability to hit his fair share of home runs too. He has above average offensive ability across the board.
Base Running and Speed. We've mentioned in the past that Estrada doesn't just have sneaky power, he has sneaky speed too, and it's because he is a lot faster than his modest stolen base totals thus far would suggest. In fact, his career-high 18 stolen bases last season are probably half of what he's truly capable of achieving given his above average speed, high baseball intellect, and natural on-base abilities. He still hasn't learned to be more aggressive swiping bags yet. So while he is an elite station to station runner his stolen base totals will probably remain modest until he learns to be less gun-shy and take a few more chances in the running game.
Defense. Estrada continues to get more playing time at other positions, namely second base, and it's because of his growing versatility that his defensive game at shortstop continues to be underrated. He has above average range, good hands, and plus arm strength, the kind of physical tools to already make him an above average defensive shortstop. Throw in enormous mental makeup and off-the-charts intangibles, there's a Derek Jeter-like quality to him where the consistency jumps out watching him everyday and where he can also make highlight reel defensive plays in big spots. There are flashier defensive shortstops so Estrada does play second fiddle to some but few can match his consistency game in and game out. And as good as he is at shortstop, he is even better at second base where everything plays to grade level higher; he's a plus defensive second baseman. With the arm strength to play third and the speed to play the outfield too, he has versatility in spades.
Projection. Estrada, still just 20 years old, has everything in place to safely project as an eventual big league reserve player at minimum; consistent hitting ability, average or better power, above average or better speed, and above average or better defensive abilities at two middle infield spots with the talent to fill in at other defensive spots if need be. In fact, there are some very tangible Randy Velarde-like qualities to him that can not be overlooked. However, pigeon-holing him into a future reserve spot doesn't do his actual ceiling any justice either. In fact, while Velarde is an excellent comparison at his core, that's not Estrada's ceiling because he is faster, more powerful, and could be more consistent with the bat too when it's all said and done. Throw in the aforementioned huge mental makeup and great consistency on both sides of the ball, Estrada is the kind of player mangers love to get into the game as much as possible. There's an Anthony Rendon-like offensive ceiling but with above average defensive abilities, especially at second base, and that gives him legitimate long-term starting potential.
ETA. We mentioned that Estrada could begin to move quicker at some point and that point was last season as the then 20-year old advanced all the way to high-A Tampa from the short-season leagues in less than one year. He has little to prove in high-A too. Unprecedented minor league middle infield depth for the Yankees could have Estrada begin the 2017 season back in the Florida State League, however, but that's not where he belongs. He should see ample Double-A time this upcoming season and, arguably already big league ready in nearly every way, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that he gets some Triple-A experience later in the year too.