Scouting Yankees Prospect #28:Leonardo Molina

The Yankees signed outfielder Leonardo Molina in 2013 out of the Dominican Republic for a reported $1.4 million. Widely considered one of the top International free agent signings that summer, he had an inauspicious debut season last year statistically but has still been lauded for his great tools, advanced makeup, and high-ceiling, long-term potential.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Leonardo Molina
Position: Outfield
DOB: July 31, 1997
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 190
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Physically and mentally far more advanced than most 16-year old International players, the Yankees had Molina skip the Dominican Summer League entirely last year and had him debut in the rookie level Gulf Coast League instead. He wound up hitting just .193 with one home run, however.

"I didn't have the season that I expected," Molina admitted through the help of a translator, "but with God's help I'm going to work harder and hopefully have a better season [this] year.

"I feel like I improved a lot overall in the game. I improved my hitting and defense for sure but learning how to be a professional more than anything."

Critics might find it easy to jump on his lack of numerical production but key situations need to be kept in mind; he played the majority of the season as a 16-year old, he was playing for the first time in a foreign country and enduring the many adjustments that come with that, and he had to experience a lot of firsts in the game overall.

In fact, those who worked with Molina the closest and saw him on a daily basis were downright thrilled with how his debut season went behind the numbers.

"Yes, from a numerical standpoint he was down a little bit but from an approach standpoint, learning the game, and just watching his ABs get progressively better and better as the year went on, I'm very excited about another very young kid and his potential future ceiling," GCL Yankees1 manager Travis Chapman said.

"You know I actually think he's in a pretty good spot. Obviously the numbers weren't there and baseball is about consistency. As a 17-year old [Molina played the last three weeks of the season as a 17-year old] for the first time over in the [United] States I thought he handled both his successes and failures in a great manner. In a lot of big situations where we needed to move a guy over or needed a big base hit, he came through in a ton of clutch situations for us this year."

A coach's dream with the way he plays so intensely and with his willingness to do whatever the team needs him to do to win, Molina is still trying to get his feet wet. He has tools galore but he's still learning to harness all of those tools and that starts with being a more consistent hitter

"I got better defensively but hitting-wise towards the end of the season I got better at staying up the middle of the field," Molina said. "Hand positioning and bat positioning, just getting both in better position to have a straight path to the ball, I feel like I was a little bit late during the season last year."

It's that kind of self-awareness that is extremely rare for a player so young and it's one of the biggest reasons that team insiders are still very much excited about his long-term potential.

It isn't uncommon for first-year professionals to struggle initially after bypassing the Dominican Summer League level and then bounce back in a big way in their sophomore campaigns. In recent years the Yankees have seen the likes of Ramon Flores and Miguel Andujar both struggle mightily in their debut seasons and bounce back with impact seasons the following year, and team officials believe the same could happen to Molina.

"Yeah I would fully anticipate that," Chapman opined. "I know Miguel Andujar did a similar thing too in his first year in the GCL. I've heard about Ramon Flores and what he went through too. I fully anticipate and hope Molina will have a similar [bounceback] season this coming year."

More importantly, however, is that Molina expects that to happen. He believes he will be a much different player going forward after getting his bearings and with some further maturation down the road.

"Staying concentrated for a longer time, having better preparation, that's something I can definitely get better at," Molina said. "It was a great experience [last] year but following up that experience and bringing that into this next season and knowing what to expect, that will be very helpful.

"I can be a lot better and I'm going to put the work in to be better," he concluded.














2014 GCL Yankees1 .193 192 10 1 21 18 6 19 51 .267 .260

Batting and Power. With advanced patience, pitch recognition, and plus bat speed, Molina has three of the four main prerequisites to one day potentially be a high-average hitter. Throw in high baseball intellect, one who shows a real ability to make in-game adjustments, nearly all the signs are there to be a consistent force with the bat. The one aspect that is lagging behind, however, and one that isn't uncommon given his young age, lack of experience, and longer limbs, is a still somewhat lengthy swing. He has obvious above average power potential or better and sometimes he gets wrapped up in trying to swing for the fences, but when he concentrates on hitting first he shows an ability to spray line-drives to all fields. He shows a physical ability to stay short and compact in his swing, it's just a matter of making it a priority.

Base Running and Speed. Molina is quite quick. Not truly a plus runner, one who is more above average than anything, he can have an impact stealing bases but with his longer legs he is actually better once he's in motion. He can be an elite station to station runner given his ability to quickly accelerate but he does need to improve on his initial first burst step to become a better base stealer. He has 20-plus stolen base potential if he can improve that first step and learn to read pitchers' moves better, but already quite big and not done growing yet it remains to be seen if that will slow down his running impact later in his career.

Defense. Molina is an exceptional athlete and has high baseball acumen, and the combination spells plus defender in the outfield. A centerfielder right now, how he improves his initial first step will go a long way towards determining if he can remain a plus defender there long-term. If that first step progress doesn't come or if he simply grows too big for the position [which is quite possible], he does have the plus arm strength and innately accurate throws to be a plus defender in right field should he need to slide over there. He has impact defensive potential.

Projection. With advanced plate patience and pitch recognition, above average speed, above average or better power potential, impeccable makeup and off the charts intangibles, Molina has both the physical and mental tools to one day be a potential impact standout player on both sides of the ball. The one thing that is needed to bring all of those tools together, however, is developing that consistently short swing path and maintaining that up the middle hitting approach. At 17 years old that is a wait and see proposition. There's a Carlos Gomez-like upside here if things break right, albeit a bit slower but more powerful version, and like Gomez it could take some time for that consistent on the field production to materialize.

ETA. N/A. First and foremost Molina needs to get to the long-season leagues before a realistic big league arrival time can be estimated. For now he is a prime candidate to begin the 2015 campaign in short-season Pulaski to help introduce him to playing under the lights for the first time.

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