Nestor Molina: Beast Amongst Top Jays Pitching Prospect Thus Far in 2011

Say what you will about other highly touted Jays pitching prospects and their work so far in 2011, none of them can touch the numbers being put up by Nestor Molina. Prior to the 2011 season, and without much starting information to go with, we ranked Molina as the #47 prospect. You can read Jared Macdonald’s write up on him here.

We’re not the only ones to call him the best pitching prospect of late in the Jays minors system. The Southpaw placed him first in a recent article, and Woodman663 of Blue Bird Banter voices his support for promoting him to AA here.

The 22-year old, along with team mate A.J. Jimenez, is growing the number of fans that are paying close attention to his performances every time he plays. What has he done to deserve such close attention and accolades?

Most impressively, he has only allowed 3 walks in 36.2 innings. That, to me, is the most significant piece of information we have because it speaks to his deception, not just his stuff. I look to Ks for stuff, and walks for deception and location. Why? If he’s walking a lot of guys, it’s because he’s not hitting his spots and he’s not fooling anyone with his pitches. So, not only does he have the stuff, as made evident by his 39 Ks in 36.2 IP, but he’s also dominating hitters on all counts by offering great deception and by locating his pitches particularly well.

The other point of note I’d like to make in reference to Molina’s stats is that he has allowed 12 runs overall, with only 7 of them being earned. That’s 5 unearned runs already, something that speaks to the defensive support he’s getting in Dunedin. In comparison, he only had 4 unearned runs in all of 2010, through double the amount of IP. He’s not the only one getting some iffy defensive support there as the fielders have already committed 31 errors in Dunedin in 2011! Sure, those runs are unearned and don’t affect statistics directly, but the extended innings and work caused by them sure do! Therefore, Molina’s performance could actually be even more dominant than his statistics indicate, and that’s a scary thought.

His stats so far in 2011 are better than those of Chad Jenkins, Asher Wojciechowski, and Deck McGuire, all much more highly touted prospects before the season began.

What do those stats look like?

4-2 / 7 GP / 5 GS / 36.2 IP / 30 HA / 7 ER / 3 BB / 39 Ks / 1.72 ERA / .226 AVG

He is the winningest Dunedin pitcher, his Whip of 0.90 is best amongst starters, and his his ERA of 1.72 tops them as well. He has given up the fewest walks (3), by far since the Tepera is next with 8, and also leads the impressive Dunedin staff in Ks with a margin of 6 over Deck McGuire. Only McGuire has given up fewer hits (28), but he also has 1 inning less pitched.

Dominance, plain and simple, indicates what Molina has done in 2011. Whether or not he can maintain that dominance as he gets further into the season is another question altogether. Will he tire? Probably. But, with his throwing 81 innings in 2010, restrictions on his innings count in 2011 shouldn’t refrain him from pitching all year long as a starter. He’s up to 36.2 IP so far. If he is “allowed” to throw approximately 120 innings or so (a jump of about 40 IP), that should take him very close to the end of the minors season. Just to compare, Joel Carreno threw the most innings for Dunedin in 2010 with 137.1 IP. After that, all pitchers were at 127 IP (Henderson Alvarez) or under.

Why do I bring up the innings count? Well, if he does actually get a shot in AA this season, it means that he can get that promotion later on in the seaosn without fear of having his arm get too tired or abused. So, whatever time he gets in AA in 2011, if any, should not be hindered by any restriction.

As a final point, I would like to add the following: Molina has only made 5 starts so far in 2011, although his 2 “relief” appearance were both for over 4 IP. A lot can change quickly in baseball, so there’s no telling what will happen in his case. Will he implode this season? Not likely. But, could he tire, do horribly once promoted to AA, or wind up struggling in 2012 as Henderson Alvarez has of late? These are all possibilties, so I do temper my optomism of Molina as much as possible by knowing this. But, what I do know for certain is that he is a beast amongst the top Jays pitching prospects that now needs the attention he deserves. He has earned that respect.

Whether the Jays eventually decide to promote Molina, Jenkins, Asher, or Deck, they’re going to be moving hugh-end talent up the ranks. I would argue that at this point, because of both his dominance and experience as a pro, Molina may actually have an edge over the 3 others and could earn the first shot in New Hampshire out of that bunch. I’d place Jenkins as being next in line, with Deck a close 3rd. We’ll see if that comes to reality, but in any promotion, I look forward to seeing how they respond. Because as nice as it is to see all of these arms being so successful in HiA, the real test for all of them will begin when they try to transition to AA and face much stronger and more experienced opponents.

Nestor Molina, if we were ranking today, would now be place somewhere in the #15-30 range, held back only by his short track record as a starter and the fact that he’s in HiA. That’s a long ways from his pre-season 47th ranking, and is indicative of just how improved he has been as a starter. He is the fastest moving Jays prospect up all rankings, and will undoubtedly make Baseball America’s top 30 list during their next rankings list if he keeps this up.

-MG

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Tags: Chad Jenkins Deck McGuire Joel Carreno Nestor Molina

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