With numbers 50, 49, and 48 in the books, here is #47 on our Top 50 Blue Jays Prospect list!
#47: Nestor Alberto Molina
Relief Pitcher / 21 years old / 6′1″ 179 lbs
Born: January 9th, 1989 in Valencia, Venezuela
Bats: Right Throws: Right
High School Team: N/A
Drafted: Signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2006
- Made his professional debut as a 17-year-old in the Venezuelan Summer League
- His favorite player is Melvin Mora
- Hit .252/.380/.280 in 107 at-bats in the Venezuelan Summer League as a position player in 2006
- Had an eye at the plate when he was a hitter, ranking 4th on his team in OBP in 2006, and 3rd in 2007
- In 2007, he hit .208/.354/.278 in 144 at-bats and threw one scoreless inning of relief
- The Jays converted him entirely into a pitching prospect in 2008, where he went 4-1 with a 0.96 ERA and 0.938 WHIP in 37.1 innings while pitching in the Dominican Summer League
Lansing Lugnuts Team Stats Ranking for Nestor Molina:
- Ranked 2nd in wins with 8
- Finished 5th with a 3.17 ERA
- Ranked 4th on the team with a 1.10 WHIP
- Tied for 2nd with 5 holds
- Pre-game with Lansing Lugnuts announcer Jesse Goldberg-Strassler here.
Extra Information and previous experience:
Molina was used to fielding ground balls as an infielder until the Blue Jays decided to convert him into a pitcher in 2008. The move already looks like it has paid off.
After dominating the Dominican Summer League as a 19-year-old, the Jays felt that Molina needed to be challenged at a higher level in 2009, where he continued to dominate. In a 2009 season spent between the Gulf Coast League and Low-A New York Penn League, Molina went 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA, along with 38 strikeouts in 43 innings.
The Jays actually thought so highly of Molina that, despite only throwing 5.2 innings above the Gulf Coast League, they allowed him to start 2010 with the Class-A Lansing Lugnuts.
Molina spent virtually all of 2010 with Class-A Lansing, where he continued to roll. He went 8-2 with a 3.17 ERA, along with a 2.3 BB/9, 7.2 K/9, and just one home run allowed in 76.2 innings. One of his best performances of the year was on June 15th, when he made one of only his two starts this season. He pitched five shutout innings while giving up only two hits, and was in line for the win until the bullpen unfortunately blew his lead in the final inning of the game.
His success at Lansing persuaded the Jays to promote him late in the year to HiA Dunedin, where he pitched even better than he did with Lansing (only appearing in three games though). According to MiLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com, Molina appeared in two games for Dunedin giving up 1 earned run in 4.1 innings. He did, however, according to the Dunedin Blue Jays’ box score for their final game of the season on September 8th, appear in a third game, where he pitched 2.2 shutout innings and gave up only four hits. The inclusion of this third game lowered his 2010 ERA with Dunedin from 2.08 to 1.28.
The reasoning behind why the Jays seem so interested in Molina’s development is simple. He’s battles in every count, and can throw three to four pitches over the plate. He relies on his fastball mostly, but he has really developed his cutter into an “out” pitch now as well. Add in the fact he can use a splitter and a changeup whenever he wants and it’s easy to see how he can rack up the strikeouts by keeping hitters off-balance.
Normally, using a four-pitch repertoire to throw strikes as a reliever seems excessive. According to Blue Jays minor league pitching coordinator Dane Johnson, the Jays have really used Molina as a reliever only because his arm hasn’t been built up and he’s coming over from being a position player. Johnson also says that Molina’s pitch arsenal makes him think that he could be a starter, and that it’s not out of the question for next season. The Jays did manage to healthily increase Molina’s workload by giving him multiple innings in outings this season, which helped him pitch almost 40 more innings than he did in 2009.
Molina is also pitching dominantly in the Venezuelan Winter League right now, where he has gone 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA along with a 1.110 WHIP and 22 strikeouts in 24.1 innings so far (18 games).
Expected 2011 Team: HiA Dunedin to start
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: Long reliever, but could be a #4 or #5 starter depending on his development
Molina, who turns just 22-years-old next month, is definitely a Jays prospect to keep an eye on. He was mainly so low on our Top 50 list because of his position as a reliever and how he played only his first full season of baseball in 2010.
It will be interesting to see if he is converted into a starter or if he stays as a reliever in 2011, especially if he continues to be successful.
With the departures of Trystan Magnuson, Danny Farquhar, and likely Kyle Drabek and Zach Stewart from the New Hampshire Fisher Cats roster, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Molina at the Double-A level before the end of the 2011 season.