After seeing Cleveland Indians prospect Dorssys Paulino for two more games against the Batavia Muckdogs, it became more and more obvious the 17-year-old shortstop will have no trouble adjusting to Low-A and is a good candidate to start next season in Lake County, maybe even Carolina at Advanced A.
Paulino, facing two Muckdogs pitchers known for being mid-80s fastball lefties with outstanding control, went 2-for-8 in the second and third game of their three-game set after going 1-for-3 in game one. The two hits were line drives - one of them a double - and both were hit to left field on fastballs up in the zone. He only struck out once and several of the outs were on hard line drives, both to left.
While 2-for-8 isn't mind-blowing, there are two facets of his at-bats that were eye-popping for a batter his age:
1) Bat speed and quick hands
While neither of the pitchers he faced were throwing blazing fastballs, Paulino got his hands ready early in the pitcher's wind up and turned quickly on pitches on the inside part of the plate. His swing was a tad long, but smooth and calm. The young infielder never looked like he was swinging overly hard, yet the ball came off his bat with exceptional velocity. Paulino's quick hands allowed him to adjust to pitches when behind in the count and still make contact.
2) Approach and pitch recognition
It's rare in the New York Penn League that 22-year-olds who have spent four years in college have a solid plate approach and pitch recognition much less a 17-year-old, but Paulino's is outstanding on both accounts. He took close breaking pitches that were only inches inside and outside of the plate. That suggests he realizes very early in the pitcher's release that it's going to be a ball or strike, fastball or breaking ball, inside or outside. In the three games, he only swung at one breaking ball out of the zone.
At this point, he isn't looking to walk, but he has a clear vision of what he's looking to hit: fastballs to pull his hands in and smack to left field or fastballs outside and low to line back up the middle. He won't swing at much else. You can imagine that will change as he grows as a hitter.
To quote one scout, "if you can hit the fastballs, you can wait until they hang bad pitches and wack 'em." And, well, Paulino can hit fastballs.
My first impression was that he can not play shortstop long term. My mind was not changed in the next two games, but he did show off some impressive footwork going up the middle. Paulino fielded the ball behind the bag, swung his hips around and threw in stride to get a speedy runner. Of course, his strong arm (I have it as a 5 at the moment with a high probability that as he grows stronger he'll end up with a 6 or 6.5)
His hands are questionable. There was one grounder he booted pretty badly and there were several plays where he seemed uncomfortable catching the ball. It appears he will make an above average amount of errors at every level going forward.
His instincts looked average at best. He reacted quickly to the ball off the bat, was good around the bag and made the right "baseball plays."
But one thing that was likeable was his head-up attitude in the field. Paulino was always engaged in the play, darting behind runners, shifting a step to his left or right with the pitch or batter and swinging in behind the pitcher when there was a man on third base just in case there was a bad throw from the catcher back to the man on the mound.
It's only three games, but here's what I have long-term:
Paulino has the makings of a regular in the majors, probably not a year-after-year All-Star or a batting title winner, but a player who could make an impact in the Indians' organization as a starting second baseman