Back in 2013, I was shocked to see a 17-year-old shortstop on the GCL roster I had never heard of. I was even more taken back when that same shortstop ended up being the opening day starter. He went on to have a surprisingly productive season, hitting .278/.350/.432/.782 with two homeruns, 11 doubles and five triples. By the end of that season, most everyone at least knew who Thairo Estrada was.
His second season was cut short by injuries, but he was still relatively productive in his first taste of Staten Island. It was a small sample size in just 23 games total, and he hit a respectable .272/.337/.309/.646.
The then 19-year-old spent the 2015 season back in Staten Island, where he again performed well. He was .267/.338/.360/.698 with two homeruns and 17 doubles in 60 games. He struck out just 30 times in 63 games. He played a lot of second base because Kyle Holder was manning shortstop. In doing so he showed that he can not only play an above average shortstop, he can also do the same at second base.
Position: Shorstop/Second base
Age: 20 (Born February 22, 1996 in Venezuela)
Signed: 2013 for an unknown amount of money
Best tool: Contact
Defensively, the only plus tool Estrada has is his arm. He is one of those guys, however, who is pretty good at everything else. He projects to be a better than average shortstop long term. Where his value comes in the Yankees’ system is that he can also play multiple positions. He plays above average defense at three or four positions around the diamond. That in and of itself has value, but that’s not all Thairo can do.
Estrada, for his size, actually has some impressive pop. On top of that, he has good patience and an excellent contact tool. So far, that has translated into some solid seasons offensively for a middle infielder. The Yankees are still waiting for that true breakout season though. Thairo is hoping it’s next year. He employs a whole field approach to hitting, taking balls the other way as much as possible. Every now and then if he leans into one he can leave the yard.
Thairo’s most realistic projection right now is as a utility infielder. He can already play any position on the diamond well. If he hits his ceiling he’ll be a starting shortstop who is above average on both sides of the ball. The floor is a guy who never sees the diamond in the MLB. He will likely start the season in Charleston in 2016, and from there he could be a one or two level a year guy. It all depends on how he performs. If he makes it to the majors, his ETA will be 2018.
Estrada is yet another high ceiling shortstop in the system. It’s great to have guys like him, and as far as I’m concerned the more the merrier. There is a definite roster crunch amongst middle infielders at the lower level, but I expect Thairo to find a way to get playing time one way or the other due to his versatility. This may be a real breakout year for him, as he will attempt to elevate his prospect status now that he is in the long season leagues.