According to ESPN, there are more than 100 baseball players in Major League Baseball from the Dominican Republic but none from Haiti. The last couple of months there’s been some talk about the possibility of a new Haitian baseball national team but we haven’t received any updates on whether or not it will happen.
ESPN reported 82 Dominicans made last year’s Opening Day rosters, and we think some of the athletes could be Haiti born players who may not publicly identify as an ethnic Haitian.
Meet 19-year-old Port-au-Prince born Yankees outfielder Estevan Florial. According to sports blogs, before the year is out, Florial could prove himself to be as good if not better than any prospect in the Yankees system or even all of baseball if he can reach his considerably high ceiling.
MLB Pipeline has Florial listed as the 15th best prospect in the Yankees system.
Florial signed with the New York Yankees under the name, Haniel d’Oleo, in 2014. However, the contract was voided after he was unable to provide a birth certificate.
Florial was born in Haiti, and his mother moved them to the Dominican Republic, where she sought getting her son enrolled in school, without any official identifying paperwork, she enrolled him as Haniel d’Oleo, Florial assumed that identity and became a new person. Under this new identity, Estevan would become one of the top international prospects in the 2014 international free agent class.
Before he could report to the Yankees, the discrepancies in his paperwork caught up with him which nearly cost him a contract altogether. After the name discovery was made, Florial was suspended for a year by Major League Baseball. His mother flew back to the Dominican Republic and got his birth certificate and with it his name was changed back to his old one, Estevan Florial.
After his Haitian birth records were retrieved, the Yankees and the league were satisfied that there wasn’t any intent to deceive the league and New York signed him for $200,000 and assigned him to its Dominican Summer League affiliate in 2015.
Over the one-year ban, the player said he learned a lot during his downtime, after which he became listed as the fourth best prospect, according to the Major League Baseball website. “I’m happy to be here, to be playing baseball every day,” Florial now says.
He made his professional debut with the Dominican Summer League Yankees 1 and played 2016 with the Pulaski Yankees, Charleston RiverDogs, and Tampa Yankees. In 2016 he played games across three levels and largely struggled throughout the year, in particular with pitch recognition and swing-and-miss issues.
As a baseball player, Florial said he models himself after Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen and admired Barry Bonds growing up.
New York Post reports,
Florial’s stock rises with every ball he sprays to each field. As a 19-year-old in Tampa, he’s the team’s youngest player and, typically, its No. 3 hitter — or was, until hitting the disabled list Thursday after jamming his finger sliding into a base. (He said it was nothing serious and he would be back soon.)