The third day of Perfect Game National, the first national showcase of the summer, was highlighted by many strong pitching performances, one of the best of which was turned in by righthander Kyle Molnar.
For years, the product of Aliso Niguel High (Aliso Viejo, Calif.) has been advanced for his class, competing against older competition on the showcase circuit last summer at Tournament of Stars and the Area Code Games. But Molnar showed improved stuff and pitchability at JetBlue Park on Saturday, showing two offspeed pitches that flash above-average potential.
Molnar touched 93.6 mph at the World Wood Bat Championships last fall in Jupiter, according to TrackMan data, but his velocity fell considerably throughout that outing. Molnar maintained his velocity during his two-inning stint Saturday, sitting 91-92 mph, touching 93.
The UCLA commit’s easy, smooth and deliberate delivery has improved over the past year. He throws with minimal effort and warmed up with ease at 90 mph. He shows a more direct line to the plate and throws from a lower arm slot than last summer, settling in around three-quarters. Molnar has a quick arm and the ball jumps out of his hand. Working from the far first base side of the rubber, Molnar consistently locates the ball to his glove side with at least average life in the form of glove-side run and downhill plane.
“I slide over on the mound to the left because it gives me the ability to get inside of lefthanded hitters,” Molnar said. “For the high school game I locate the ball well to my glove side, so I don't have to go back to the middle of the mound.”
Molnar primarily threw a four-seamer up until the past season but added a two-seamer that he throws from a slightly lower arm slot that has groundball potential with sink and arm-side run.
“Last year I didn't have the two-seam at all,” Molnar said. “But this year I realized I needed it because anybody can get a four-seam fastball. I have a two-seamer and hope I can break some righthanded bats.”
He is very athletic, is a natural strike-thrower and has the potential for at least average control, likely better. He struck out three in his two innings while getting six swinging strikes.
His low-80s changeup showed the potential to be a plus offering with considerable tumble and his 75-78 mph curveball flashed above-average at its best but showed some inconsistencies.
“I feel like all my life my curveball has been my pitch and all through this year it has not projected as well as I wanted but my changeup has been phenomenal,” Molnar said. “It drops a lot so people think it is a splitter, but it’s not. It’s just a circle changeup.”
Molnar has a natural feel for pitching and showed the ability to mix three offerings well against hitters from both sides of the plate, starting out half of the hitters he faced with first-pitch curveballs and throwing same-side changeups in both hitters’ and pitchers’ count.
“I feel I can throw anything I want in any count. I have that confidence in myself.”
The 6-foot-2 Molnar has an athletic build that has gotten much stronger over the last year and still has strength gains remaining.
“I have been eating a lot and trying to gain weight. I am starting this new workout down in Anaheim to gain velocity that has explosive movements and plyometrics,” Molnar said. “I think last year I was 180 but now I weigh 205. So I have put on a lot of meat.”
Molnar will not attend Tournament of Stars next week because his school is still taking exams during that time. Because of his Team USA experience last summer on the 17U team, Molnar has a spot in the trials for the 18-and-under Team USA squad.
• An audible buzz went around the stadium later in the same game when an athletic, live-bodied righthander named Mike Nikorak of Stroudsburg (Pa.) High began warming up at 92-94. In his first inning of work, Nikorak largely sat 94-95, touching 96 multiple times. Nikorak has a quick arm and the ball jumps out of his hand with downhill plane (when on top), arm-side run and sink from a high three-quarters arm slot. His fastball to his glove side also has late giddyup.
His velocity started at 91 in his second inning but then crept back up to 92 and 93 before sitting 93-95. He maintained his velocity from the stretch. Nikorak showed a breaking ball that flashed at least above-average potential, though inconsistent.
The Alabama commit is athletic and ran the 60-yard dash in 6.83. Nikorak was a quarterback on the football team up until this season when he started to focus exclusively on baseball. He is 6-foot-5, 205 pounds with broad shoulders and a high, trim waist with room to get much stronger.