The Chicago White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays announced a trade, the Sox sending closer Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays for top pitching prospect Nestor Molina.
Molina was a subject of close discussion here at Minor League Ball last week. A Venezuelan signed by the Blue Jays in 2006, Molina was a fairly anonymous middle reliever with a decent arm entering 2011. He's a lot more than that now, thanks to an excellent season that saw him dominate the High-A Florida State and Double-A Eastern Leagues as a starter. He went 10-3 with a 2.58 ERA and an outstanding 115/14 K/BB ratio in 108 innings for Dunedin, then posted a miniscule 0.41 ERA in five starts for New Hampshire with a 33/2 K/BB in just 22 innings. Keep reading to see a scouting report.
Molina has a solid 90-94 MPH fastball and keeps it low in the zone, picking up grounders. He also has a very good splitter. His slider is still a work-in-progress according to scouts, but his delivery adds deception and helps his stuff play up. His statistics last year were simply spectacular, and it is unusual to see a relief-to-starting conversion turn out this positively. He wasn't some old guy tricking people; he was just 22 last year. If anything, Molina still doesn't get the respect he deserves as a prospect. I currently have him rated as a Grade B+ prospect.
This seems like a good deal for both sides to me. Many scouts think he should return to relief, but if I were the White Sox I would give him a chance to move forward as a starter given his performance in 2011.