The dust has begun to settle from the Sergio Santos trade and there won’t be heavy trade analysis here. That’s already lots of places. Most White Sox fans have their own take on Santos’ value anyway. This is all about Nestor Molina because after all this is a minor league blog focusing on the White Sox and Molina could now be the best prospect in the organization.
Like Santos, Molina was originally an infielder. However, his pro pitching career began at 19 in the Dominican Summer League, a much earlier start than Santos. As a reliever from 2008-2010, Molina showed great control and a competent strikeout rate.
Entering 2011 Molina, then 22, was given a shot to start and took advantage of the opportunity. Between high-A and AA Molina posted outstanding peripherals (10.2 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9). That kind of control plays anywhere. He features a low 90s fastball, a splitter, which is his best pitch, and a decent slider.
Most of the concern about Molina lies in a few areas: his average stuff/velocity, his lack of experience (just 22 regular season innings in AA and 2011 was his first year pitching more than 100 innings) and his relatively thin variety of pitches. A lot of people think Molina still winds up in the bullpen and as FanGraphs said better than I can, if Molina is a starter the Sox win the trade, if he goes back to the ‘pen it’s advantage Toronto. His 6-1, 180 pound frame also leads a lot of scouts to think he will end up in the ‘pen for durability reasons if not ability reasons
Rankings for Molina have been all across the board as well. Part of the problem is that he came mostly out of nowhere last season, but it’s also because scouts seem to be split on whether he winds up as a starter or a reliever. Baseball America doesn’t think too highly of him, but the Blue Jays have a very deep system so any low ranking within the Blue Jays he received needs to be taken with that in mind. Some arbitrary site I’ve never heard of (Seedlings to Stars) sees him as a top 50 prospect in all of baseball. A Blue Jays site (Batters Box) sees him as No. 6 in their system, a fairly good mark. John Sickels also really likes him, probably more than anyone else, placing him second in Toronto’s system.
Naturally, Phil Rogers doesn’t care for him and didn’t like the trade.
As for where he sits in White Sox rankings, I’m inclined to rank him first. I’ve already seen and read places that think he sits second behind Addison Reed, but to me if Molina is behind Reed then the trade shouldn’t have been made. Reed is Major League ready and has the potential to have a better career than Santos. However, he’s not there yet and Santos wasn’t expensive. If Molina profiles as a starter he has to be ahead of Reed because of the huge value difference between starters and relievers. If the Sox made the trade, they view Molina as a starter and thus their best prospect.