Name: Nestor Molina
Organization: Blue Jays
Notable 2011 Stats: 2.58 ERA, 2.45 FIP, 8 HRA, 14 BB, 115 K, and 48% GB% in 108 1/3 IP with Dunedin (High-A);
0.41 ERA, 0.47 FIP, o HRA, 2 BB, 33 K, and 49% GB% in 22 IP with New Hampshire (AA);
2.21 ERA, 2.12 FIP, 8 HRA, 16 BB, 148 K, and 48% GB% in 130 1/3 IP total
Why He’s This High: Statistically, few pitchers dominated opponents to the extent Molina did in 2011. He was already one of the minors’ big breakout performers after putting together a 115/14 K/BB ratio in High-A, but he then truly burst into the prospect elite when he made five brilliant Double-A starts down the stretch, allowing just two runs (one earned) on twelve hits and two walks in 22 innings, striking out a whopping 33 batters.
Molina pitches like a Leo Mazzone devotee, throwing a ton of low-and-away fastballs and then finishing batters off with a splitter that comes in on the same plane. His fastball is in the 89-94 mph range and has good sink, the split is a plus pitch, and he also has an average slider. All three offerings play up due to his command of them and the deception in his delivery, which features a hip turn that helps hide the ball.
Why He’s This Low: One year ago, Molina was a mediocre relief pitcher in the Midwest League. As with all one-year wonders, he’ll have to prove he can do it again.
Molina’s raw stuff isn’t on par with a lot of the other top pitching prospects out there. His Double-A results showed that he was unfazed by the transition to the upper minors, which is a big point in his favor, and his stuff certainly isn’t bad, but he’ll need to maintain absolutely superb command to become a true ace. He’ll need to do a better job of working both sides of the plate, as more advanced hitters will be able to hit his down-and-away fastballs better than Double-A guys.
Molina’s delivery is repeatable, but it features some recoil and a very stiff landing that could lead to injuries. It’s a wonder he’s able to have such good command despite the landing. As a relatively small pitcher (6’1″ 180) who only has one year as a starter under his belt, durability is something to keep an eye on.
Conclusions: Molina is an impressively polished pitcher who was one of 2011′s biggest breakout stars. With average to above-average stuff and otherworldly command, he should at least be an innings-eater and could be a very good #2 starter. After all, the biggest problem for command pitchers like this is the home run ball, a problem which shouldn’t show up for Molina thanks to his approach. That makes Molina a similar pitcher to Doug Fister statistically, and pitchers like that are bigtime assets.
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