Paulino Progresses in First Full Season in Outfield
Bob Toth | On 02, Feb 2016
Once a top prospect in the Cleveland Indians farm system, Dorssys Paulino finds himself entering one of the bigger seasons of his professional career as the calendar inches closer and closer to a return of baseball to fields near you.
Paulino signed with the Indians as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 16 in 2011. At the time, it was a result of a $1.1 million investment into the international talent available. The depth in the Cleveland minor league system at shortstop was thin, leaving the club in a precarious position with Asdrubal Cabrera set to become a free agent after the 2014 season.
The team selected Francisco Lindor with the eighth pick in the 2011 draft, another shortstop by trade, and began using both Erik Gonzalez and Jose Ramirez more at the position in the minors in 2013 as the quality of the depth at the position began to strengthen. Paulino, however, had a difficult time making the adjustment to the professional game, showing good range and a strong arm, but struggling mightily with the glove.
In his first 46 games of action in 2012 between the Arizona League and New York-Penn League with Mahoning Valley, he committed 25 errors for a .882 fielding percentage. The mark included 20 errors in his 31 games in Arizona.
He was advanced to Lake County for the 2013 season and while his defensive issues remained a concern (.916 fielding percentage with 39 errors in 116 games), he also struggled at the plate, hitting .246 with 91 strikeouts in 120 games.
Young and in need of more seasoning, the right-handed hitter returned to Lake County for the start of the 2014 season, but errors plagued him once more. On April 19, he committed five errors and had a potential sixth one go off of his glove for what was ruled a base hit. The problems persisted and the Indians organization made the decision to send him to extended spring training in Arizona to be converted to an outfielder.
He was hitting .219 with 32 strikeouts in 26 games at the time.
“We are not eliminating playing the infield from his future, but would like to get him acclimated to the outfield for now,” said Indians vice president of player development Ross Atkins in an email release after the move. “The best thing for Dorssys in 2014 is to find some consistency as a complete player. The errors at shortstop were impacting his ability to focus on controllables because of how much he cares about his teammates.”
When he returned a couple of weeks later, he slotted into left field for the Captains while seeing some occasion action in center. He finished the last 87 games of his season with a .261 batting average, 18 doubles, four triples, three homers, and 30 RBI. He struck out 69 times in those 87 contests.
His manager with the Captains had hopes that he could handle the new position based on his approach.
“He reads the ball well. He has quick feet and good hands,” manager Mark Budzinski was quoted in a July 2, 2014, story in The News-Herald. “He plays the game with the thought process of before the ball is hit. Some guys tend to not think about it much because they’re out in the outfield. The good ones think ahead.”
Paulino went from being rated the Indians’ #2 prospect by Baseball America after his debut 2012 season to #6 after the 2013 year to #26 after the completion of 2014.
With the top prospect label off of him, he returned for a third season in Eastlake in 2015. After hitting .164 in April, he improved at the plate and was hitting .311 in mid-July and was leading the Captains in RBI when he received his promotion to High-A Lynchburg. He continued the hot stretch in a new league, hitting .356 in 17 games for the month and was named the Carolina League Player of the Week for July 27 – August 2.
He finished his 43-game stretch with the Hillcats with a .305 average, ten doubles, six triples, four homers, and 30 RBI, giving him new professional season-highs in the latter three numbers.
He took kindly to his new home at Calvin Falwell Field, hitting .349 in 24 games with three homers and 19 RBI, compared to .254 on the road with a homer and eleven runs batted in. The numbers were the reverse of his home and road splits at Low-A, where he hit .215 at Classic Park in 37 games, but .284 in 46 road contests.
On a likely related note, Paulino committed just one error in the outfield for Lake County and three for Lynchburg on the year, easily the lowest season total of his four-year career.
Following the season, he was named an organizational All-Star for the Indians by MiLB.com.
“Despite the fact that he’s repeated a level a couple times, Dorssys is still extremely young, extremely talented,” said Indians director of player development Carter Hawkins in the organizational All-Star story on MiLB.com. “And now that he has a little bit stronger of a foundation mentally, we’re pretty excited about where that can take him.”
With the outfield less crowded in Lynchburg in 2016 with the previous promotion of Bradley Zimmer and the expected move of Clint Frazier to Double-A, Paulino may stick in Virginia to start his season. Even though he only turned 21 in November, he will enter his fifth professional season when baseball resumes and it would give him a good chance to pick up where he left off against Carolina League pitching.
While the investment in Paulino has taken some time to pay off, he showed growth and progress in his first full season in the outfield. The Indians will hope for continued strong returns in his second full-time season roaming the green grass.
Photo: Lee Luther Jr./The News & Advance