Just under a week after the announcement that center fielder Aaron Hicks will undergo wrist surgery, Yankees skipper Aaron Boone today confirmed to reporters that the operation is now expected to put an end to Hicks’ 2021 season (Twitter link via the YES Network’s Jack Curry). That’s seemed possible, if not likely, since the time the surgery was announced, but the only prior indication on a timeline had been a “months-long” recovery period.
The news on Hicks comes less than an hour after the Yankees announced a series of roster moves. Corey Kluber and Luke Voit were placed on the injured list, as was expected following yesterday’s announcements on their own injuries. Coming up to the big league roster in their place are righty Albert Abreu and outfield prospect Estevan Florial.
With Hicks down for the season and Brett Gardner struggling mightily, there would appear to be a door open for Florial to claim some playing time. The 23-year-old has played 312 games in center field over his professional career and was at one point touted as the organization’s center fielder of the future. Florial was near-universally ranked among the game’s 50 best prospects prior to the 2018 season, though his stock has dipped since that time.
It’s also worth pointing out that while there’s an ostensible opportunity for Florial to seize a starting job now, he’s been struggling tremendously himself down in Triple-A. Florial hit .229/.308/.603 in nine Double-A games to begin his season, but he’s gone 6-for-34 with 11 punchouts in 40 plate appearances since moving up to Triple-A. The 17 games he’s played between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021 represent his only experience above A-ball, save for the single game he played for the Yankees at the MLB level last summer. Put more simply: there’s a very good chance he needs more development. Nevertheless, Boone indicated Florial will get the start in center for the second game of today’s twin bill.
Florial wasn’t recalled as the 27th man for that doubleheader — righty Nick Nelson has that designation — but it could still be a very brief stay for him in the Majors. Boone said that activating Giancarlo Stanton from the injured list tomorrow is “in play” as an option (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch), and the Yankees will need to make a corresponding move to get him on the roster. That doesn’t necessarily mean Florial’s stint will be a one-and-done showing, but it’s at least possible that’s the direction they go.
Whether he’s in the Majors or back in Scranton, Florial’s performance will bear monitoring in the weeks to come. With few other center field options on the roster, that’d be one obvious area for the Yankees to look to address via the trade market in the event that Florial’s struggles continue.