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Marcos Molina’s future is clouded

Where does Marcos Molina fit into the Mets’ 2018 plans?

MLB: Spring Training-New York Mets at Boston Red Sox
Marcos Molina
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Signed in early 2012 out of the Dominican Republic for $100,000, Marcos Molina flew under the radar until 2014, when he made his Brooklyn Cyclones debut. The 19-year-old absolutely tore up the New York-Penn League, posting one of the most statistically dominant pitching seasons in Brooklyn Cyclones history. While the numbers certainly were eye-popping, it was how Molina was doing it that was really catching everyone’s eye. The Dominican-born pitcher utilized a delivery that as unique as it was ergonomically inefficient, generating virtually all of his arm strength from a lightning-fast arm with a short path rather than his lower half. This put a great deal of stress on his pitching arm, generating red flags and doubts about his long-term health in the minds of many.

Sure enough, Molina began experiencing elbow issues during the 2015 season. He missed most of the year attempting to avoid Tommy John surgery, but shortly after the season ended, the right-hander underwent the procedure. He missed the entire 2016 season, finally returning to the mound during the Arizona Fall League. In his seven appearances for the Scottsdale Scorpions, he posted a 3.78 ERA, walking 7 and striking out 8 in 16.2 innings. While the results were not exactly there, the fact that Molina was healthy an on the mound was a victory in and of itself.

When he got back on the mound for the 2017 season, it became apparent that Molina was, at best, still working off the rust of his layoff. Splitting his season with the St. Lucie Mets and the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Molina posted a 3.21 ERA in 106.2 innings, allowing 94 hits, walking 26, and striking out 86. While his numbers for the year were solid, Molina was very much a diminished pitcher. His fastball, which sat comfortably in the low-to-mid 90s before Tommy John, averaged 91 MPH for the season and often backed up into the mid-to-high 80s for entire starts. 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, but whether this simply represents Molina shaking off the rust from his surgery or a new paradigm for him remains to be seen.

If Molina is able to regain the lost velocity on his fastball, his path to the Major Leagues is much clearer. If the right-hander does not regain his lost fastball velocity, Molina does not have much of a future as a pitcher.