Introducing Top Prospect Leonardo Molina to Yankees Fans After $1.4 Million Deal

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterAugust 1, 2013

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The New York Yankees have signed 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Leonardo Molina—the No. 5 prospect in this year’s international class—for $1.4 million, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America.

While it was originally reported that the Yankees were interested in Molina headed into the signing period, they were forced to wait until today, his 16th birthday, to make it official.

Molina wasn’t as well known as many of the other top prospects in this year’s J2 (an abbreviation given to the international prospect class due to the start of the signing period on July 2), but he made a strong impression on those in attendance for the Dominican Prospect League’s Louisville Slugger Tournament Series in January.

He solidified his prospect stock with a strong showing during DPL showcases over the subsequent months. And by the time the signing period rolled around in early July, Molina was widely regarded as the prospect with the highest ceiling.

At 6’2”, 175 pounds—remember folks, he just turned 16—Molina is an outstanding athlete with a projectable frame that should allow him to add considerable strength as he matures physically. The outfielder’s loudest present tool is his plus-plus speed, which helped him post the fastest 60-yard dash time (6.49 seconds) of all DPL prospects.

Molina’s speed also translates to plus range in center field. However, as it is the case with most young, athletic outfielders, it also allows him to compensate for poor jumps and reads. All that really matters is that his speed is present and usable; the instincts will improve with experience.

Meanwhile, Molina’s defensive actions at the position are fluid and natural, and they reflect a genuine feel for the game at a young age. His arm strength has also improved over the last year as he’s started to grow into this body, and it now grades as a slightly above-average tool that plays up a bit due to the accuracy of his throws.

At the plate, the right-handed hitter features average bat speed that stands to improve as he adds strength. As for the swing itself, Molina demonstrates impressive bat-to-ball skills with a short path to the ball that enables consistent contact.

However, because he keeps the barrel on such a flat plane through the zone, it’s difficult to envision him hitting for power without an overhaul to his swing and finish. So even though he projects to have an above-average hit tool at maturity, it’s doubtful that Molina will offer anything more than 45 (on the 20-80 scouting scale) power.

Considering that he just celebrated his 16th birthday, Molina is all projection at this point. However, his present combination of athleticism, tools and feel for the game at a young age suggests the upside of at least an average, everyday center fielder at the highest level.