01/07/2004 1:55 PM ET
Molina making strides in winter ball
Apparently Yadier Molina just doesn't get tired. After a season that started way back in February when pitchers and catchers reported to Major League Spring Training, Molina is still going in winter ball. And he's going well.
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Molina, the younger brother of big-league catchers Bengie and Jose Molina, is enjoying a strong campaign with the bat in the Puerto Rican winter league. Serving as the starting catcher for Carolina, Molina sports a .317 batting average with a .341 on-base percentage and .437 slugging percentage. For a player with Molina's exceptional defensive ability, numbers like that will go a long way.
The most encouraging element of Molina's winter is his power. He tallied 16 extra-base hits in more than 100 games in Double-A this year, but he's already rapped out 11 in 39 games in Puerto Rico. He doesn't strike out much and doesn't walk much.
"He finished up at Tennessee hitting the ball very well," said Cardinals director of player development Bruce Manno. "For the latter part of the season, he was hitting third in that lineup. He centers the ball well, goes the other way well. He's smart at the plate and use the whole field to hit.
"The one drawback is he doesn't run good. But he's done pretty well offensively when you look at what he did in the (low Class A) Midwest League (in 2002) and then Double-A, which is a huge jump for him. I'm not really surprised and I'm anxious to see him in the spring."
For Molina to survive that huge jump from low Class A to Double-A was an accomplishment, especially since he didn't turn 21 until July. If, as expected, he starts the '04 season in Triple-A, he will be one of the youngest players on Memphis' roster as well.
Molina's defense has always been there. If his offense keeps coming along, there will be a Major League job ready for him sooner than later.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.