Yankees top prospect Estevan Florial only has to look down the dugout to face his cautionary tale. It’s as old as baseball: Highly touted up-and-comer has his dream squashed by injuries.
Florial’s manager, Aaron Holbert, lived it.
“I was a guy that was often injured and it’s tough,” says Holbert, the first-year High-A Tampa manager. “It’s tough, year after year, you set goals for yourself, you have an idea of where you want to end up.”
And then all of a sudden, the injured list comes calling.
Holbert, now 46, was a Cardinals first-round pick, 18th overall, in 1990. He played one MLB game in 1996, and another 22 in 2005, mostly as a pinch-hitting second baseman. Holbert wasn’t quite the prospect Florial is, though.
The five-tool outfielder, signed at 17 for $200,000 out of the Dominican Republic, is the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect and is rated 47th overall by MLB.com, but his path to the majors has been more unpredictable than a knuckleball.
There was Florial’s one-year ban from MLB over a missing birth certificate, which raised red flags for a league office made sensitive by past prospects falsifying their ages. MLB determined that was not the case with Florial, and in 2015, he officially became a member of the Yankees organization. Three years later, he was a budding star at High-A Tampa.
Then an injury to his right hand last season limited him to just 84 games between Tampa and the Gulf Coast Rookie League.
“When you know you’re far from the field, it’s kind of frustrating,” said Florial, who seems determined to improve his English and so did not have a translator present for the phone interview.