Through his first 70 games with the Trenton Thunder (AA) this year, he finds himself among the Eastern league leaders with a .321 average, good for fourth in the league and leading the Yankees farm system, and an on-base percentage of .383, good for seventh in the league. He has had 90 hits already, three being home runs, and has tallied 39 runs scored this season. With 23 walks and just 30 strikeouts, his strikeout to walk ratio is about as close to 1:1 as it gets.
So far, Estrada has been more successful in his game as he climbs the ladder to the higher levels of the Yankees system too. He hit .290 last year at two A-ball levels after hitting a combined .273 in the short-season leagues the year prior. Possibly the challenge of the advanced competition, or just the experience and confidence has contributed to his impressive results.
“I have a routine that I go through day by day, so when I am out on the field everything that I need to do just comes to me,” he explained through the help of a translator.
In past years and now, Estrada, signed initially five years ago as a shortstop, has played the position of a utility player. He switches between shortstop and second-base mostly and is still eager to try new positions. He is the ideal team player and cares that he not only enhances his own play but that the team improves as a whole as well.
“Other than shortstop, I think the outfield is something good for me, but I am going to play wherever I am needed,” he said. “When I signed, I was an everyday shortstop and I am blessed for the opportunity I am having here. But, no matter what I am playing, second base or shortstop, I am going to give my 100 percent and just be focused.”
Focus was a word that was repeatedly mentioned when speaking to Trenton Thunder manager Bobby Mitchell about Estrada too.
“He’s very focused and driven,” Mitchell emphasized. “And at a young age (21), he can make adjustments that other players his age can’t make during a game. That will make him succeed.”
Estrada is very serious about staying engaged every day and every moment in his game.
“Every time I get on the field, I give 100 percent. I’m serious about my business and staying focused. Staying focused is really important to me, so I make it one of my priorities.”
But focus isn’t the only thing that goes into making a great baseball player. Although, Estrada has been great defensively, he has some work to do.
“We are working on his running and stealing bases. He struggles more-so with that,” Mitchell said of the would-be above average runner. “Right now he just needs to play shortstop and show people in both ours and to other organizations that he is a valuable player.”
During Spring Training, Estrada worked on being more selective of pitches and also working from the middle to the outside of the plate. He believes that approach has helped him to drive the ball the other way more than ever in 2017.
“I heard really good things about him before he came to Trenton and I saw him at Spring Training, but I really didn’t know how he was going to handle the higher level being so young,” Mitchell said. “I was surprised because he’s just done so well.”
Playing older for his levels is nothing new to Estrada and though he might be younger than most he sure doesn’t look it with the way he carries himself. Leadership is a big deal when it comes to playing any sport. Being young on a team full of veterans does not make it easy to be a leader. However, Mitchell states that Estrada shows his leadership in other ways:
“Right now he leads by example. On the field and by hitting, he leads the team in a very positive way.”
In fact, Estrada’s goal is to have the same type of leadership role Derek Jeter represented on his team:
“I have met Derek Jeter before. I want to be similar to him in a way because he respects the game and his teammates. He gives his all and I want to have that same type of leadership.”
If Estrada continues down the path he is creating, his leadership will follow him and grow. Bobby Mitchell has a lot of confidence in Estrada’s future success, especially after seeing him for a half of a season so far:
“He’s very athletic and smart,” Mitchell exclaimed. “He can apply a lot of what you teach him really well and it doesn’t take long for him to learn. He is very eager to learn and eager to get better. He works his butt off and is really mature for 21.”
“Although he would be very valuable in the National League because they need utility players and always move people around, we have no desire to trade a player like him. Thairo is a very good player!”
Estrada knows exactly what he has to do to create a realistic path to the big leagues too. If this season is reflective of his attitude and ability, that road won’t be too far away:
“The faster I become more consistent with my defense and offense I think I’ll have a better opportunity of making it to the big leagues,” Estrada concluded.