Is Paulino’s Third Time in Eastlake a Hit or Miss?

There’s an old saying in baseball about three’s. You may have heard it.

Three strikes, you’re out.

You’ve had three chances, three opportunities for success. If you fail that third time, you’re done.

Dorssys Paulino is on his third chance. He’s hoping, more so than ever, that he doesn’t strike out.

I realize this may sound contradictory, as just last week this Captains’ column was all about the third time being a charm for Claudio Bautista. But opportunity is a fickle thing, and Lady Luck can be a cruel mistress. She hasn’t made up her mind on Paulino yet, but it’s only a matter of time before the hammer falls and whatever bed has been made, will have to be laid in.

Paulino is a young former shortstop, touted to be possibly the next Francisco Lindor when he was signed by the Indians in 2011 as a 16 year-old non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic for $1.1 million. He came from a baseball pedigree – his father is former big league pitcher Jesus Sanchez, who pitched for the Marlins, Cubs, Rockies, and Reds from 1998 to 2004. Paulino had untapped potential. He was young and powerful, a raw talent, and had only to refine his play and learn how to perform with big leaguers. He was going to be good, was the consensus. He was going to be a winner.

Paulino showed his talents during his 2012 campaign with the Arizona League Indians and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. He hit .355 in 41 games in Arizona before spending 15 games with the Scrappers and hitting .271. He had seven total home runs that season and knocked in 38 runs on the year, earning him a spot on the 2013 Lake County Captains’ Opening Day roster.

And that’s where his trouble started.

I’ve been covering the Captains for three seasons. I’ve covered Dorssys Paulino at that same level for the same amount of time. Needless to say, it shouldn’t be that way.

Paulino hasn’t seen a level higher than the Captains since he joined the squad in 2013. His hitting hasn’t been awful – he hit .246 in 2013 and .251 in 2014 – it’s his fielding that has truly held him back.

As has been reported numerous times, Paulino made a name for himself when he recorded 39 errors at short in 2013. After committing 13 errors at the same position in 2014, the Indians decided it was time for a change. Paulino spent some time away from Lake County last spring, transitioning from an infield player to an outfielder, where he could have more success, more opportunities, and less stress. It was his chance to start over.

He committed nine errors in the outfield last year, a far cry from the double-digit number he put up the year before.

Even his demeanor seemed to be changing last year; he was more personable, avoided the media less, and attempted interviews in broken English. It was obvious Paulino was growing up.

Unfortunately for him, Paulino found himself back on the Captains roster this season, marking his third start with the team. Though he’s young, it’s easy to see how this could be his last chance to make an impression on the team. If he isn’t able to excel in Lake County during his third try, is more time really going to season him and make him a good player? Will this be a trend that would transcend all levels of the game?

He’s certainly working this season to prove that he’s not the player everyone thought he was after his last two seasons in Eastlake. Now a full-time outfielder, Paulino has made only one error this season. Paulino said that his first full year in the outfield has been going very well.

“I keep learning to the best player I can be,” Paulino said.

He is batting .242 and, while not incredibly impressive, he is tied for second on the team with 27 RBI. He has hit four home runs, eight doubles, and has 50 hits on the season. He has stolen seven bases. He said he’s really taken to heart the notion of not trying to do too much at the plate, which has led to his success.

“Our team is always there for each other,” Paulino said of the group he plays with in Eastlake this season. “We pick each other up.”

Most impressively, Paulino is hitting .279 with two outs and runners in scoring position. While you would have never, in the past, dreamed of relying on Paulino in a clutch situation, he has demonstrated this season that he can thrive under that pressure. He had a walk-off hit on Thursday, May 28, to propel the Captains to a 5-4 win against the West Michigan Whitecaps.

He said he was glad he was able to help the team out in that situation.

Paulino’s certainly showing that he has matured as a player, a teammate, and a man. When he joined the organization, he was a 16 year old kid who found himself thrust into the spotlight at an age when maybe he was not yet ready for it. He’s older and wiser now. When he’s not at the ballpark, Paulino said he spends his time watching TV and talking with his friends back home in the Dominican Republic. He’s not running around and acting like a kid when he’s off the field.

Is it too late for this new attitude to make a difference, though? At only 20 years old, Paulino is hardly at an age where there is no hope for him. But will the Indians have had enough of wondering if and when Paulino will excel, and cut ties with the youngster before they waste more time?

No one wants to see a young player fail. But, like everyone who plays the game, there are three chances to make an impact. Sometimes, that third attempt is a swing and miss, or you watch your chance soar right by you. But sometimes, with enough focus and determination, that third chance gets you on base, and opens up a new chance for you to make an impact, and to really score.

Photo: Lake County Captains

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