Development, development, development. If there’s one consistent phrase that’s been bouncing around the Lake County Captains’ clubhouse this season, it’s development. Wins and losses are nearly as important at this level, it’s been said, as players’ consistent development.
It sounds corny at first – of course wins and losses matter! A team can’t make the playoffs without a winning record. Who cares how much you develop if you can’t develop into wins?
However, the strides certain players on the Captains’ roster have taken this season demonstrate the true importance of this notion of development. And, especially when looking at their ages, its east to see how timely development can eventually lead to greater future success.
Case in point: Dorssys Paulino.
Paulino is 18 years old – the youngest Lake County Captain ever. He was brought into the Indians organization as a non-drafted free agent in 2011 out of the Dominican Republic. He entered 2013 being ranked as the 56th best prospect in all of baseball according to Keith Law’s Top 100, and is the number three prospect in the Indians’ organization according to Baseball America.
This all has the makings of a brilliant success story.
In 2012, Paulino played for the Arizona League Indians and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. He hit .355 in AZL with six home runs, 30 RBI, 31 strikeouts and 15 walks. In his 15 games with the Scrappers, Paulino posted a .271 with one home run, three walks, eight RBI and 14 strikeouts.
He led the Indians Player Development System with his .333 average in 2012. In Arizona, Paulino ranked second in average with .355, third in slugging percentage with .610, fourth in extra base hits with 26 and was tied for first with intentional walks. He was named the overall fifth best prospect in the Arizona League according to Baseball America, along with being named an AZL Post-Season All-Star and a Topps Short-Season/Rookie All-Star in 2012.
His 2012 season gives even more room for excitement and expectations for Paulino’s 2013 season. However, 2013 did not start out quite the way one would have anticipated. With the team as a whole struggling, it was difficult to see right away with the organization was putting so much stock in this player.
Paulino hit .208 in April with no home runs and five RBI. He improved with a .223 average in May, followed by .250 and .248 in June and July, respectively. The steady improvement in average is certainly demonstrating the idea of development, but, as a short stop, performance at the plate only says so much.
Overall, the Captains rough first half was the result of a number of things – sloppy playing, poor offense – and a high number of errors. The team had well over 100 errors going into the second half of the season. Again, the name of the game is development, so it’s understandable that players are not going to be as smooth on the field as their higher-level counterparts. Paulino was a strong contributor to the high error count and set a Midwest League record with his 36 individual errors on the season.
However, his past numbers and reputation preceding him made it obvious that there was more to this player than was demonstrated during the first half. Cue the second half – and the Paulino everyone has heard about seems to have emerged.
He has become the living reflection of this idea of Low-A player development. Since the All-Star break, Paulino has hit .261 with 48 hits, including three home runs as compared to .222 with 49 hits and one home run pre-All Star break. His triple slash has improved from .273/.312/.585 to .323/.370/.693.
Aside from these statistical improvements, Paulino has become a much more consistent player, especially at the plate. He went 4-4 during his game on August 5. Scooter Tucker desired the game as one of Paulino’s best of the year, and understandably so.
So far in August, Paulino is batting .289 with 11 hits, six RBI, four walks, eight strikeouts, and one stolen base.
Is this a product of development? I think that’s the only explanation.
Even during his rough patches, Paulino’s attitude never seemed to mirror that of other struggling shortstops in the organization. As long as Paulino doesn’t develop negativity similar to that of his big league counterpart, the only development that seems possible is further development into the player this organization knows Paulino can become.
Photo: Jesse Piecuch/DTTWLN photographer