Molina Eye-Opening

Leonardo Molina has been impressing his coaches

TAMPA, FL - After a solid debut in the Instructional League last season, 16-year old outfielder Leonardo Molina, the Yankees' top International signing last season, looks to capitalize on a strong first Spring Training and an even better Extended Spring Training camp in preparation for his debut season.

"Thanks to God, [Spring Training] went very well," Molina said with the help of translator. "I learned a lot of things that I didn't know before. My bat was a little bit tardy, and it took some adjustment, but I'm locked in [now]."

Mario Garza, last year's Gulf Coast League Yankees manager and slated to be this season's Staten Island manager, elaborated on Molina's initial Spring Training in the Yankees' system.

"He's an exciting player, because he's young [16] and competing with kids much older than him, and he does a really nice job at the plate," Garza said. "He's making strides defensively; very talented kid with a feel for the barrel, plus throwing arm and plus speed. He's a good looking player."

Despite his extreme youth, Molina has been impressing everyone with his already professional demeanor. GCL Yankees hitting coach Drew Henson also went into detail about Molina's Spring Training at the plate.

"He's 16 years old still, but he's jumped in and handles his own," Henson said. "He did a nice job (in Spring Training), and he's had a real good Extended Spring, and he continues to improve each month."

Garza talked about Molina's strengths in Spring, and how much of an adjustment it was for the young outfielder to get acclimated to the life of a professional baseball player.

"He was competing well in the box," Garza added. "He was getting the barrel on the ball, and he was playing against kids much older, especially in Spring Training.

"What really impressed me was his ability to step right in, play with no fear, and compete. In Spring, he was just getting used to professional baseball, and staying here, and getting used to the whole process."

Henson discussed about what Molina was focused on at the plate during Spring Training.

"As a young player, you're working on developing your approach at the plate," Henson said, "swinging at good pitches, trying to understand what type of hitter you are, what your strengths are, and what areas of your game you can improve on.

"He has a pretty good eye at the plate, good pitch selection for being so young, but his biggest thing is that he needs to get games under his belt. Getting more reps, more at-bats, and you can kind of go from there."

Moving into Extended Spring Training, Molina spoke about where his strengths lie and where he needs to improve on before moving into the Gulf Coast League short-season later this summer.

"Day by day, I'm trying to always get better, so there's a lot of little things that I have learned, but I'm trying to get better every day," Molina said. "I'm really working on communicating with my coaches, communicating with my teammates, and finding out things that I can work on and get better at."

Garza has been beyond pleased with Molina's progress thus far in Extended Spring Training.

"He's looked tremendous [so far in Extended Spring Training]," Garza said. "He's done a spectacular job; really impressive, and eye-opening for how young he is to have the ability to do what he is doing.

"He's shown that he can hit for power. He's shown barrel awareness and stability in his swing, and his pitch recognition is very good. That's very exciting because I expect him to continue to improve."

Henson agrees with Garza's assessment.

"He's done a real nice job," Henson said. "He's had a couple home runs, a couple four-hit games. He's doing a good job and he works his tail off."

As the aforementioned Gulf Coast League season approaches, Garza and Henson both discussed what expectations they had for an outfielder who is continuing to blossom into his game.

"I think he's gonna have a great year," Garza opined. "I think he's gonna put himself on the map. He's gonna play most of the season at 16, which is very rare, and something that most people would be concerned with. But with him, I think he's gonna be great."

Henson agreed with Garza's lofty sentiments.

"I think on a weekly basis, just getting consistent, quality at bats, and giving himself a chance to get on base, and he's done a nice job at that [thus far]," Henson added.

Molina was also very direct when it came to his goals for the rest of this Extended Spring Training season as he gets ready for the start of his official debut season next month.

"I want to improve on my base running and my defense," Molina said. "My bat is doing really well right now. My goal is to have a good season. To work hard everyday, and maintain my level of competition."

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