by John Viril—
Rehabbing Felipe Paulino made his first rehab start in AA NW Arkansas’s 3-2 loss to the Arkansas Travelers Tuesday night. In 5.0 IP, Paulino allowed 0 earned runs, struck out 6 and walked 2. He threw 42 strikes in 67 pitches, showing good command to both sides of the plate.
Overall, it was an encouraging first performance in Felipe Paulino’s comeback from Tommy John surgery last season.
The 29-year-old Paulino’s career has been a story of unrealized potential. Paulino possesses one of the hardest fastballs in the game, averaging around 97 mph and able to touch 100 mph during his prior stints in MLB. Despite clearly outstanding “stuff”, Paulino has a 13-32 career record with a poor 4.93 ERA in 61 starts. Those numbers won’t keep anyone in the league.
Felipe Paulino’s sabermetric peripherals suggest he should be better. His career fielding independent pitching is a substantially lower 4.09—which is right about league average. His park factor and opponent quality adjusted FIP (xFIP) is 4.00. Further, his strikeout rate of 21.1% and 8.36 K/9 are outstanding. Paulino misses bats. The primary culprit for his under-performance has been an unusually high .335 batting average on balls in play (BABIP).
However, Felipe Paulino’s fortunes have turned around after Kansas City claimed him off waivers from the Colorado Rockies. Since joining the Royals early in the 2011 season, he has posted a 7-7 record with a 3.55 ERA and a 8.75 K/9. Paulino was off to a fabulous start in 2012 (3-1, 1.67 ERA) when he tore his UCL in early June.
Given the snake-bitten nature of Paulino’s career, fans cannot help but wonder if he will ever realize his potential. At this point, Paulino is out of minor-league options. We can expect the Royals to insert him into the rotation in place of Luis Mendoza when he finishes his 30-day rehab stint. While Mendoza has developed into a serviceable 5th starter, Paulino has far better upside. Paulino can be a no. 2 starter in a good rotation.
Maybe, just maybe, Felipe Paulino will finally catch a break in his career.