Leonardo Molina, prepping for his third professional season, is beginning to impress behind the scenes.

TAMPA, FL -- After signing for a reported $1.4 million in 2013 outfielder Leonardo Molina, who had relatively less than noteworthy two first professional seasons, appears ready to turn the proverbial corner and become the all-around player many scouts think he can be.

He struggled mightily in in first year in the United States in 2013, batting only .193 as a 16-year old and he admitted to then that he had a lot to work on and that he will continue to get better.

“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 [in 2015].”

And in 2015 he did have a better year, batting .247 and showing he has some pop in his bat as well. He improved his slugging percentage over 100 points. Even with the improvement last year, however, he wasn’t satisfied.

“Last year wasn’t what I wanted,” Molina said through the help of a translator. “But this offseason I worked hard on the things I need to improve on for this year.”

“We’re working on his and balance with the swing,” hitting coach Edwar Gonzalez noted. “He’s stronger so he’s able to control his body in a better position to hit [now]. The better his balance is the better his pitch recognition is going to be. It’s not really about if he can hit breaking balls or not. If he does things correctly with your swing pre-pitch he’s gonna recognize pitches [better].”

Molina is a notoriously patient hitter and Gonzalez has seen how hard Molina has been working to improve himself in other aspects of his overall hitting.

“I’m really impressed on how quickly he’s picked up what we’re trying to work on with him,” Gonzalez said. “It’s hard to work on things physically on the swing when a kid is so young. Now that he is getting stronger, you can really see the things he can do and he’s shown that the last couple of weeks.”

Gonzalez said Molina is finally matching his strength with ability and it’s starting to show at the plate.

On Saturday in an Extended Spring Training game he showed off what he could do. Molina went 2-3 with a double that hit the left-centerfield fence in the air and he also legged out an infield hit to the shortstop. He was also caught trying to steal and that seemed to be a problem last year as well. He had a very bad jump and the ball was there well before he got to second. He has the speed to steal bases but without at least a decent jump, getting caught will continue to be a problem.

Even though he is still just 18-years old now, Gonzalez doesn’t think Molina is that young compared to the other guys in Extended Spring Training.  In some ways, especially considering his peers at the minor league complex, the teenager is a veteran of sorts.

“The first time I saw Molina was three years ago in the Dominican Republic,” manager Raul Dominguez said. “He’s still young but I see a lot of improvement from him based on how he impacts the ball and how smart his is in the field.”

Dominguez raved about Molina’s defense and that his arm in the field will carry him a long way. It showed on Saturday too when the other team had a chance to tag up from second but they didn’t even try it. The threat of getting gunned down by him is almost as good as the throw itself; his reputation is starting to precede him now.

Molina is only 18-years old and he seems to be more mature than a lot of guys his age. Going from Spring Training into Extended Spring Training can get monotonous for some players, doing the same thing over and over again but Dominguez doesn’t see that in Molina even though this is his third Extended Spring Training camp.

“He doesn’t feel that way,” Dominguez said. “He enjoys it, he enjoys what he’s doing. He told me that he’s learning every single day and wants to keep learning."

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories