18. Marcos Molina, RHP
Height: 6’3”, Weight: 200 lbs.
DOB: 3/8/95 (22)
Acquired: IFA, 2012 (Dominican Republic)
2017: St. Lucie (High-A): 5 G (5 GS), 28.2 IP, 17 H, 6 R, 4 ER (1.26), 5 BB, 23 K / Binghamton (Double-A): 13 G (12 GS), 78.0 IP, 77 H, 37 R, 34 ER (3.92 ERA), 21 BB, 63 K
Marcos Molina had a ton of prospect helium coming off his dominant 2014 with the Brooklyn Cyclones, but had that momentum stopped suddenly when he tore his UCL and went under the knife for Tommy John surgery in late 2015. After missing the 2016 season, he returned to the mound during the 2016 Arizona Fall League, and then after getting a little extra time to recover, made his 2017 debut in May. All in all, Molina had a solid if unspectacular season in his first year back, though numerous red flags were raised hinting at very diminished stuff.
Before his Tommy John surgery, Molina sat comfortably in the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball. During the 2017 season, it averaged 91 MPH and often backed up into the mid-to-high 80s for entire games. Whether this simply represents Molina shaking off the rust from his surgery or a new paradigm for him remains to be seen. His slider and changeup still appeared to be quality pitches, giving the right-hander an added length of rope if his fastball does not return to form.
Molina’s delivery, the subject of much talk both before and after his Tommy John surgery, still places an undue amount of effort and strain on his arm and shoulder to generate velocity, but has improved slightly. Before his surgery, Molina barely utilized his lower half in his delivery. Throughout 2017, it became apparent that he had lengthened his stride and was utilizing it a bit more, though he still remains a dart thrower.
Lukas Vlahos says:
The stuff just wasn't the same when Molina returned from Tommy John this season, and the results match those reports. After catching prospect enthusiasts' attention in 2014 with a 10.73 K/9 in Low-A, Molina dipped into the low 7's at High-A and Double-A. Maybe the stuff comes back as he continues his recovery, but the mechanics are still rough and the overall profile screams "reliever" more than ever.
Steve Sypa says:
I’m not really sure what to make of Molina anymore. He put up solid numbers over the course of the season, but the eye witness reports of the stuff were not good. Given his age and the fact that this was his first season back from Tommy John surgery, I’m willing to kick the can down the road and give the right-hander another season before feeling strongly one way or another, but it’s not looking good for Molina if his explosive fastball isn’t able to return to pre-surgery form.
17. Gerson Bautista, RHP
Height: 6’2”, Weight: 170 lbs.
DOB: 5/31/95 (22)
Acquired: Trade (Boston Red Sox in exchange for Addison Reed)
2017: St. Lucie (High-A): 10 G (0 GS), 14.1 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 2 ER (1.26 ERA), 3 BB, 20 K
Gerson Bautista was signed by the Red Sox in April 2013, but missed the season due to a positive PED test and has been behind the developmental eight-ball ever since. Most recently, he began the 2017 season with the Salem Red Sox, Boston’s High-A affiliate, and struggled for most of the season. Upon being acquired by the Mets in exchange for Addison Reed, a light seemingly went on. It was like night and day for the Dominican reliever in the 14.1 innings he threw with St. Lucie. He shrunk his unsightly walk rate while striking out more and allowing fewer hits.
Bautista has a live arm, possessing one of the better fastballs in the system. It sits in the mid-to-high 90s and regularly touches 100 MPH. He complements the fastball with a fringy high-80s slider that flashes average or better and a fringy high-80s changeup that hasn’t flashed much better, meaning that Bautista is still primarily getting by with throwing, as opposed to pitching. If he is able to make his delivery less violent and work on the mechanics of his delivery- he opens early, jerks his head to the point that his hat has come off, and rarely finishes his follow through in the same position- it should help his control and improve him as a pitcher.
Lukas Vlahos says:
Of the arms the Mets acquired at the 2017 trade deadline, I personally prefer the polish of Jamie Callahan and the better control profile from Drew Smith. That being said, Bautista has more upside than either of them, thanks to his 100 MPH fastball. His control and secondary offerings would likely benefit from improved mechanics, but there's a potential late inning relief ace here if the Mets' pitching development pipeline can refine things over the next few seasons.
Steve Sypa says:
Of all the relievers in the system, Bautista might have the highest upside, but he also might have the most work to do to realize it. The fastball is great, but that’s about it. He only pitched a handful of games with St. Lucie last season, but his performance there was in very stark contrast with what it had been with the Salem Red Sox before the trade, so perhaps the new coaching staff can help Bautista unlock that latent potential.