The New York Penn League just got a little more talented.
The Cleveland Indians assigned 17-year-old Dominican prospect Dorssys Paulino to the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. The 6-foot, 175-pound shortstop played his first true professional game against the Batavia Muckdogs on Tuesday night at Dwyer Stadium.
Here are a few observations:
In Paulino's first at bat, he was a little over anxious. He swung at several pitches out of the zone, fouled a couple off before finally grounding out to shortstop. Shortly after making his first out, he booted a routine grounder coming in and to his left. His feet were in the right place – moving to adjust to the angle of the throw, but the ball just bounced off the heel of his glove. Possibly a case of, again, being over anxious to get that first throw out of the way. Not to mention it was his first time playing on the Muckdogs' field.
Paulino's second AB was much more successful. After taking a close pitch – a breaking ball on the inside part – he jumped all over a high fastball, smacking it to left field for a line-drive single. The pitch, from righty Joe Cuda, was clearly a mistake at only around 86 mph. Regardless, Paulino showed quick hands and strength. He also looked like he had a plan at the plate. He wasn't going to swing at anything breaking unless there was two strikes. He'd obviously noticed that Cuda was throwing fastball strikes early in the count; he got one to hit and didn't miss.
In the field, things turned around. Twice he scampered behind second base to reach grounders, swung his left foot around to steady his balance and threw perfect strikes to first base. On one, it was a close play with quick outfielder Steve Ramos running and Paulino did not panic, but threw with solid velocity that – at this moment – you would grade a 5 (right on average) for the position. But considering he is only 17-years-old, his arm strength appears to be projectable at a 6.5 or 7.
Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to see him range to his right. I will provide an update if I'm able to see that in a future game.
During his third at-bat, he struck out on a breaking ball on the outside part. He chased the pitch. But remember, he's adjusting to real breaking balls, as opposed to the ones in instructional league.
Overall, it's just one game, but the tools are obvious. Size, strength, quick hands, intelligence at the plate, solid footwork and a good arm. The only question I have is whether he can play shortstop when he fills into his frame. He's already wide-shouldered and a little bulky for his age, so if he were to fill out more, he might end up as a second baseman who can fill in at short. Or, it's possible he turns into a Jhonny Peralta type body, where he is still quick and flexible enough to be on the bigger side for his position.