Tournaments : : Story
Saturday, May 24, 2014

What the future holds

Matt Rodriguez        

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Elite Squad Baseball right-handed pitcher Anthony Molina drew attention from nearly every scout covering the 5-Plex Player Development Complex on Saturday afternoon as he took the mound in the 18u WWBA East Memorial Day Classic. However, most of Molina’s peers are playing in the 16u age group while Molina was playing up and still making it look easy.

He is used to it by now. His skill set is far too advanced to hold him to facing kids his own age. The 6-foot-5 righty is up for the challenge. In fact, its now expected you’ll see him play up in nearly every tournament he’s a part of. Why would he not be? The kid is not even old enough to have a driver’s license, yet he possesses a 94 mph (miles per hour) fastball, which his peers most likely find cooler anyway. His teammates sure do.

With a 94 mph fastball, though, comes a lot of attention and expectations, which you would imagine could be difficult for a 15-year-old kid to deal with. Not Molina. The humble youngster isn’t fazed by the attention, and who could have higher expectations than Molina himself? He thrives under the spotlight; a let-me-introduce-myself attitude when he blows his fastball by just about every hitter unfortunate enough to have to face him.

Introductions are no longer necessary. Molina has erupted onto the scouting scene and is even drawing attention from professional scouts despite not being draft eligible for another two years. The sky is the limit for this kid.

“He’s very good,” said Elite Squad Baseball coach Richie Palmer. “He’s ultra-talented; probably one of the most talented kids we’ve coached and I still think he’s got a lot more ahead of him. He’s special now, but as he gets older and starts to understand his body and his mechanics even more you’re gonna see him be a lot better than he was today and today he was pretty special.”

“I think I have pretty good pitches, I just need to work on location,” Molina said. “That’s my main flaw I need to work on; location, getting extended, and just working completely as a pitcher.”

To those who saw Molina’s two no-hit innings Saturday afternoon, it would be hard to point out any flaws in his performance. Molina threw 20 of his 29 pitches for strikes, collecting three strikeouts while surrendering just one walk. His team got the 1-0 win over the Palm Beach Shockers-Black to finish pool play without a loss.

“I just went out there and tried to keep the score low and give my team a chance to win,” said Molina. “Today I felt like my changeup was pretty good. I got a couple of kids on it. I spun the fastball pretty well and a couple of curveballs fell. I was feeling pretty good out there today.”

He put his performance into modest words. Anyone else who saw his performance would label it as stellar, or as Palmer would put it, special.

“Fifteen-year-olds aren’t supposed to be this polished,” said Perfect Game scout Frankie Piliere. “Molina already has a feel for three big league average or better pitches, and the velocity improves every time we see him. The polish he’s going to have by the time he’s a senior is a scary thought for hitters.”

Molina has become a household name in scout ball and further established himself as one of, if not the, premier pitchers in the 201 draft class this past October at the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., a tournament designed more to promote those who will be draft eligible for the June draft. He was easily one of the youngest kids to play in the tournament.

“It’s a great honor being there and playing against so much great talent,” Molina said. “It really humbles you when you play around such talented players. It makes you better as a player; better as a person to know that you have the capability to play against them and do well.”

His coaches have continuously challenged him with some of the best high school players in the country, and Molina always rises to the occasion. In fact, he is the lone 2016 graduate on Palmer’s roster this weekend; a roster loaded with top 2014 and 2015 talent.

“I think it’s gonna be very good for him to be around older guys showing him the ropes; guys that have already committed and are playing for the draft,” said Palmer, who has become a big advocate of Molina.

“What I really like about him is he’s fun-loving and carefree until he gets on the mound,” Palmer continued. “On the mound, everything shuts down and he doesn’t talk to anybody. Once he’s done pitching, everyone in the park can hear him cheering for his team.”

The hard-throwing hurler is the type of player that every coach would love to have on his team: a dominant force on the mound, a leader in the making, a competitor, a team player, and a student of the game.

The University of Miami, well known as “The U”, was the lucky college to already receive a verbal commit from the Miami area of Hialeah. Whether or not he will ever step foot on the Coral Gables campus as a student-athlete remains to be seen. After all, Molina is the top overall prospect for the class of 2016 and already drawing the interest of professional scouts speaks volumes about his game and potential.

“Miami’s a great school,” said Molina. “They’ve been helping me since day one. They do everything they can to help me. Playing there will be great. It’s my dream school. I’ve loved it since I was little. I used to go to the games when I was young.”

Not even 16-years-old and already offered a chance to play baseball for his dream school? Talk about realizing your dreams.

The Miami native is also in touch with his Cuban heritage and looks up to Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, last year’s National League Rookie of the Year who also finished third in the Cy Young Award voting.

“I love the fact that he’s Cuban; I’m Cuban too,” said Molina. “I love the story behind him and the way he pitches. I think we have a lot of similarities.”

Fernandez, who was ranked the sixth best overall prospect in the 2011 high school class, was taken in the first round by the Marlins. Could the next similarity the two share be that they are both first round picks? All the signs right now would point to ‘yes’.

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