Molina Ready For Sophomore Season

TAMPA, FL - Leonardo Molina’s numbers weren’t impressive in his first season of professional baseball. The Dominican native put up a .193 average with a .267 on-base percentage, .260 slugging percentage and 51 strikeouts in 53 games. Numbers are rarely misleading, but in this case they are. Molina in fact, turned just 17 midway through last season.

Molina was signed out of the Dominican Republic in July 2013 at the crisp age of 16, for $1.4 million. Molina stands at 6-foot-2 and is up to 180 pounds [15 pounds heavier than when he was signed]. Primarily a centerfielder, he has the ability to play all three outfield positions but given his speed he is a natural centerfielder.

While he doesn’t turn 18 until July 31st, he has already impressed teammates and scouts, and primarily Gulf Coast League manager Julio Mosquera.

“I’m pretty excited because he has a lot of tools at 17 years old," Mosquera said. "You don’t find those tools anywhere. He’s got plus tools; a really good defender, a plus arm, he runs pretty well, and he’s getting better in his hitting, and he works tirelessly everyday.

"It’s hard to say that he’s a five-tool player so young at 17, but has the makeup of the tools to be able to become one [someday]. The work he puts in everyday, it’s only going to do him good to get better.”

While he was one of the youngest players in Extended Spring Training camp, Mosquera believes that Molina doesn’t seemed overmatched, and has so far been able to hold his own with players older than him.

“I’m excited to see him play [in his second season]. He has no fears out there. He’s used to being out here in his second season. He’s comfortable and the time he’s put in the offseason and the time he’s put in this season, he doesn’t have any panic playing with older guys. I think he’s still young but he doesn’t look over-matched to me; he competes everyday in and out”.

Going into his sophomore season in professional baseball, Molina seems to be more comfortable and the culture shock from moving from the Dominican Republic to the United States has subsided. Mosquera says that he believes that outside of playing everyday and getting experience, Molina just needs to work on being consistent.

“Everything in this sport is just about getting more consistent. He’s been more consistent in things he’s done offensively, defensively and off the field. I think it’s helped him a lot and it’s going to help him a lot.”

Molina looks every bit as 17 years old as listed. Through a translator, Molina says that he worked hard over the offseason to come into his second season of baseball as ready as possible.

“I worked hard to keep my body in shape and to get stronger and faster," Molina said. "I’m trying to keep working on my hitting and defense.”

Much like Mosquera, Molina doesn’t think that his youth has any impact on his performance on the field.

“I don’t feel any different. I’m relaxed and I’m focused on what I have to do. I learned a lot of new stuff over [Extended] Spring Training and I worked hard on the stuff that I needed to work hard on.

“I feel good, I’m ready to start my season. I have a lot of confidence in myself. I feel more aggressive, I’m trying to execute the plays and all the stuff that I haven’t been able to do before.”

Molina points to the difference between baseball in the U.S and Dominican Republic as a big part of his improvements.

“Over here it’s professional baseball, it’s more organized. I feel comfortable and excited and I’ve got more experience. I think this season is going to be good for me.”

Much like Mosquera, hitting coach Edward Gonzalez also believes Molina’s potential is already extremely high.

“He’s only 17 years old and he has a high level of athleticism, hand-eye coordination, he is a hard worker and knows what he needs to do to keep developing. He has a plan, which is to get better everyday and knows the objectives that he needs to get better at."

Gonzalez acknowledged Molina’s youth, but doesn’t believe that it disadvantages him in any way.

“He already has held his own. Everyone is older than him except one other kid [Dermis Garcia]. You can’t even tell he’s 17 the way he goes about his work and business.

“I like everything [about his hitting]. He misses good pitches to hit but who doesn’t? He knows that has to be his main focus, when he gets good pitches to hit he doesn’t miss it. The sooner he gets the point of how important it is, he’s going to develop even faster than how he is.”

Molina will mature and Gonzalez says that there is really only one way to develop as both a player, and as a person.

“Just play games. He just needs to learn about the game, learn about pitchers, little things he needs to learn that everyone needs to learn. The more focus he puts the better his game is going to be.”

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