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Yankees 2015 Roster Report Card: Leonardo Molina

No, Molina, is not a catcher, but the talented outfielder just completed his second season of stateside ball. He only turned 18 in July. That is not common.

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Grade: B-

2015 Stats: .247/.290/.364, 2 HR, 6 SB, 10 BB, 37 SO, 162 AB

2015 Roster Status: Rookie; Non-40

For baseball junkies, it's fascinating to watch the development of 16-year-old international signees as they grow from raw, toolsy youngsters to the likes of Luis Severino, Miguel Sano, and more. Obviously, not all of them will pan out, but the ones who do can become something special.

Leonardo Molina was signed just a couple summers ago out of the Dominican Republic, one year before the Yankees went hogwild on international spending. Inked for a cool $1.4 million on July 31, 2013 (his 16th birthday). Molina was ranked by both MLB.com and Baseball America as the #5 international prospect of that July 2 class and also hailed as its best pure athlete. From that point onward, he spent time in various instructional leagues working on his game, impressing analysts at one point in particular against the 95-97 mph speed of highly regarded Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon despite a six-year age difference.

The Yankees were so taken by Molina's abilities that they had him skip the Dominican Summer League altogether and go straight to Rookie Ball in the Gulf Coast League. When he made his stateside debut in June of 2014, he was remarkably still not yet 17. The numbers did not reflect well on Molina's first year of pro ball, as he batted a mere .193/.267/.260 in 53 games. In their 2015 preseason profile of Molina, MLB.com writers noted that Molina "has the bat speed and projectable strength to develop plus power," and that he earned "positive reviews from scouts" despite the shaky statistics. After all, players sometimes just struggle early on; it's no big deal. Future All-Star Ian Desmond hit .227/.272/.292 in the same league in 2004. It happens.

In his sophomore year with the GCL, the numbers for Molina improved and the reports on him got even better. While his .654 OPS translated to merely league-average 96 wRC+, scouts like Perfect Game's Chris King raved about his approach at the plate:

Molina also had a good year in center field, showing off his 60-grade speed and missile throwing arm while honing his defensive skills. There was quite clearly more to his game than the surface level indicated.

Entering 2016 after a little more time in the instructional league, Molina is poised to make a jump, potentially all the way to full-season ball in Low-A Charleston, as shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo did at the beginning of 2015. That being said, moving to short-season Pulaski or Staten Island would not be bad for Molina either. He's still younger than the vast majority of amateurs selected in the 2015 MLB Draft, and they don't have two seasons of professional ball to their name.

Given Molina's age, talent, and improvements, the 2015 campaign was solid and kept him on track to became a real prospect to watch in the coming years. Dream on.