Prospect Profile: Leonardo Molina

2014 Stats: 

Level: R-

217 PA    .193/.267/.260    9% BB%    24% K%    6/7 SB     -2 DEF

Molina ranked #20 on my Yankees top 100 list.

Background:

Want to feel old? Leonardo Molina was born on July 31st, 1997. The Yankees spent big Leonardo Molina in the summer of 2013, inking the Dominican-born outfielder to a $1.4M signing bonus on his 16th birthday — the first day he was eligible. At the time, Baseball America pegged him as the #5 international prospect, but noted that he was the best pure athlete of the bunch.

2014 Results:

Most teenage international signees spend their first year or two playing in one of the foreign rookie leagues, but the Yankees opted to bring Molina stateside at the tender age of 16. Molina unsurprisingly faced some adversity at the plate in his first crack at pro ball, but did show some promise. He managed respectable strikeout and walk numbers despite playing in a league where most players were three or four years his senior, and was also successful in six out of seven stolen base attempts — unsurprising given his excellent speed. On the down side, he struggled to hit the ball with much authority, managing just 11 extra base hits in 53 games. Although his overall line was pretty dismal, he did show some signs of life in the season’s final two weeks, by hitting a not-terrible .273/.298/.364 over his final 12 games.

What Kiley says:

Molina signed for $1.4 million last July 2nd, the year before the Yankees went nuts internationally. He was a 70 runner when he signed, but has added some bulk since then and is now a 55-60 runner, but is still quick enough to profile in center field as expected.  Molina has more raw power than you’d expect for his size, but his bat path is more line drive oriented in games. He had terrible numbers in the GCL this year, but it says more about him that the Yankees brought him over to America in his first season than that he struggled. Molina looked solid in instructs with plus bat speed and a loose cut; he seems to have gotten his timing down and could be due for a breakout next year.

What KATOH says:

Molina

For players in the lowest rung of Rookie ball, age, strikeout rate and isolated power are the factors most predictive of big league success. Although Molina’s power was non-existent, his strikeout rate wasn’t terrible, especially for a player so much younger than his competition. KATOH agrees with the scouts on Molina: He’s about as risky as they come, but the reward could be extraordinary. KATOH gives him about a one in three chance of reaching double-digit WAR. But given how far away he is, Molina also gets a one in two shot of flaming out before even reaching the majors.

Future Outlook:

For someone Molina’s age, you can all but ignore the minor league numbers. The fact that he even played in the domestic minor leagues before his 17th birthday was impressive: He was only one of two hitters to do so in 2014. Sure, it would have been great if he had hit for at least a modicum of power in his pro debut, but its important to remember that he’s still just a 17-year-old kid who may not even be done growing yet. More likely than not, the power will start to show up in games as he grows a bit stronger. Its pretty obvious that Molina’s very advanced for his age and that the Yankees think very highly of him. At this point, all we can do is play the waiting game with Molina. He has more tools than a construction site, and it’s just a matter if seeing how well — and how quickly — they translate into on-field performance.

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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