The New York Yankees signed Leonardo Molina out of San Francisco De Macrois, Dominican Republic as a 16-year old back on August 1, 2013, for $1.4 million. At the time, Molina was regarded as one the best international prospects in his class.
The highly touted outfield prospect made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League and slashed to underwhelming .193/.267/.260 with one home run in 53 games. While he didn’t quite live up to the hype in the batter’s box, there’s something to be said about debuting in the Gulf Coast League at the young age of 16. Despite his offensive struggles, Molina’s athleticism and raw tools remained unparalleled across the playing field.
The following season Molina returned to the Gulf Coast League with a vengeance, hitting .247 with nine doubles, three triples and two home runs with 17 RBIs in 48 games. It’s also worth noting that the young outfielder cut down on his strikeouts to 37 from 51 in his rookie season and increased his OPS from .525 in 2014 to .654 in 2015.
Molina started the 2016 season in Class A with the Charleston RiverDogs, where he slashed .198/.250/.302 with a .552 OPS in 36 games before being demoted to Rookie Ball when he was assigned to the Pulaski Yankees on June 23, 2016.
Down in the Appalachian League, Molina played in 49 games and improved his slash line to .246/.318/.440 and his OPS to a career-best .758. Molina was also named the Appalachian League Player of the Week on August 21, 2016, after compiling an impressive slash line of .444/.474/1.000 over the course of five games, going 8-for-18 with two triples and two home runs with five RBIs.
Still just 19-years old, the 6’2″ Molina is an outstanding athlete with a frame that will allow him to continue to add strength and he continues to grow physically. His best tool is his plus-plus speed, which attributes to his plus range in center field. However, he hasn’t used his speed much on the base path throughout his first three years in the pipeline. Molina’s arm strength has also improved as he’s started to grow into his frame, and it now grades as a slightly above-average tool that plays up a bit due to his accuracy from the outfield. At the plate, Molina remains a bit of a question mark. The right-handed hitter features average bat speed that has yet to yield consistent contact.
It’s not secret that Leonardo Molina need’s to continue to work on his approach at the plate. Look for Molina to open the 2017 season back in Charleston where he began the 2016 season, but this time, hopefully, Molina is promoted to Class-A Advanced Tampa rather than getting sent back to Rookie Ball.
Perhaps 2017 will be the breakout season for Molina that we’ve all been waiting for.