Prior to 2011, Molina had made just 77 career appearances, four of which were starts. Toronto had their sights set on giving him a chance to start, assigning him to the high Class A Dunedin rotation. He flourished in the move, throwing 130 innings between Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire while striking out more than a batter per inning and walking about one per nine. Molina has above-average command of a fastball that ranges from 88-93 mph. He originally tried to turn his slurvy breaking ball into a slider, but he has shifted to using a curveball now. Molina has a legitimate out-pitch in his splitter, and he also shows feel for a straight changeup. His secondary stuff doesn’t jump off the page, but his fastball command helps it play up. He profiles nicely in the back of a rotation and will likely make his big league debut in 2012.
UPDATE: John Sickels:
Molina has a solid 90-94 MPH fastball and keeps it low in the zone, picking up grounders. He also has a very good splitter. His slider is still a work-in-progress according to scouts, but his delivery adds deception and helps his stuff play up. His statistics last year were simply spectacular, and it is unusual to see a relief-to-starting conversion turn out this positively. He wasn’t some old guy tricking people; he was just 22 last year. If anything, Molina still doesn’t get the respect he deserves as a prospect. I currently have him rated as a Grade B+ prospect.
Molina features an intriguing four-pitch mix with an advanced feel for pitching. He’ll throw his fastball in the 89-92 mph range and complements it with a slider and a changeup. His best pitch, though, might be his splitter, a true plus offering with a ton of deception. Some have said he might be better-suited to be a top-flight bullpen/setup guy, but his stuff and command say he’ll get more time to start.
The return is exciting. Molina was given a B+ ranking from John Sickels, who rated him the second-best prospect in the Jays’ organization. In 130.1 innings between High-A and Double-A last year, Molina struck out 148 batters against a mere 16 walks. At 23 next year, he might only need a little more seasoning at Double-A before he can join the big leagues.
If he stays a starter, Molina will only need to be worth about as much as Paul Maholm has been worth over the last six years (13.2 WAR) in order to surpass Santos’ absolute value. Paul Maholm never had a minor league K/BB rate like Molina’s and was never a top-two prospect for the Pirates, but it’s still possible that Molina as a starter doesn’t achieve those heights.
“Nestor Molina is a guy that has a 90-96 mph fastball that bores in on right-hand hitters, that keeps the ball down in the strikezone, can hit outside corner, inside corner, take it upstairs if he needs to. His secondary stuff…he has a swing-and-miss type split that drops off the table, his slider is a plus slider, and his changeup is equally as effective. He obviously has a four-pitch mix. He walked (16) guys in a 130-some odd innings and is in winter league right now and pitching with the same success.”