You’ve undoubtedly read many, many articles today about the Mets and the Royals in Game 3 of the World Series. It was a great win for the Mets in a series where both teams appear to have strong futures, what with the Mets’ stable of young aces and the Royals’….relentlessness and foul language?
It’s with that in mind that we take a detour to discuss the news that Mets’ top right-handed pitching prospect Marcos Molina has undergone Tommy John surgery. Baseball America’s Matt Eddy broke the news yesterday before game time that Molina underwent the procedure after the season and will miss all of 2016. It’s an unfortunate addition to the slew of Mets’ pitchers, and pitchers across the league, that have undergone the procedure, but it does answer some questions. Namely, what the heck happened to Molina after his dominant performance in Brooklyn on 2014?
Molina broke out in 2014 in short-season Brooklyn with a record of 7-2, an ERA of 1.78, a WHIP of 0.84, and almost 11 strikeouts per nine innings at just 19 years old. The prospect world took notice, and Molina littered most 2015 Mets top prospects lists. The Mets somewhat aggressively promoted him to A+ St. Lucie to start the 2015 season, completely jumping Low-A Savannah. Things started off well enough.
He gave up two earned runs in each of his first five starts of the year while averaging just over five innings per start and nine strikeouts per nine innings. However, teams were hitting him relatively well during most of those starts. His WHIP had ballooned to 1.44 through his first six starts, though he’d only walked eight during that span.
The wheels fell off during his start on May 13th as he gave up 11 hits and six earned runs in 5.2 innings. He was shut down after that game with what was described as “elbow difficulty” and, in late May, ESPN’s Adam Rubin reported that he was being evaluated for Tommy John surgery. Then things got quiet.
It’s been observed that Molina has high-effort mechanics and is prone to having trouble repeating his delivery. So, while it’s never good to see a pitcher go under the knife for elbow issues, it’s not something that is too shocking in this case. The surprising thing about it was that Molina reappeared to pitch in three games in August, one in the Gulf Coast League and two for St. Lucie. They were short outings and in his final game on August 17th he gave up five runs on six hits with two walks in only four innings.
It appears that the Mets were hoping to avoid surgery for the young right-hander, though it’s debatable whether or not it was the right course of action. Clearly the team felt as though it might be possible, though in the end it didn’t quite work out that way. With the rash of young pitchers in the organization undergoing Tommy John surgery in just the last 12 months or so it’s understandable that the team had hoped they didn’t have to add Molina to the list.
Still, you’ll see Molina in most Mets Top 10 lists this winter (Baseball America’s latest Top 10 has him at #6). Once Steven Matz loses prospect status next year, even while missing 2016, it’s highly likely Molina is the team’s top pitching prospect to end the 2016 campaign. While it may seem as though losing a prospect so far away to surgery is a bit inconsequential at this point, Molina is the prime member of a wave of Mets pitching prospects that would be knocking on the door as the team’s current rotation starts approaching free agency.