StrategyJune 13, 2011

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AL Diamond In The Rough: Felipe Paulino

By Josh Shepardson

While a “change of scenery,” is often thrown around as wishful thinking for improved performance from an underachieving player or prospect, sometimes it truly is just what the doctor ordered. In Felipe Paulino’s case, if your first change of scenery doesn’t do the trick, try again. If the early results are indicative of lasting changes, small sample size warning in full effect, Paulino will be a rare steal of an acquisition by Royals General Manager Dayton Moore, and a potential fantasy contributor as well.

Owner of a blazing heater that frequently sits in the mid-to-upper-90’s, Paulino is your classic flame thrower in need of refining. Anyone who’s watched and followed baseball for an extended period of time can likely name a dozen or more live arms who were unable to become pitchers, and left fans wondering “what if?” Paulino appeared to be headed down that same path of tantalizing arms that couldn’t turn the corner, but he may have a new lease on life with the Royals.

In 21 innings pitched since joining the Royals, three starts and one relief appearance, he has been impressive. Command and control have historically been trouble at times for Paulino, but since changing uniforms he has had no such problems with a pristine 1.71 BB/9. He has seen his strikeout rate take a step back with the improved walk rate, but it is still serviceable at 6.86 K/9, and holds upside thanks to his strikeout stuff and better than leave average swinging strike rate. The most notable change to Paulino’s game is a heavier reliance on his breaking balls. He’s throwing his fastball just 42.9 percent of the time while leaning on his slider 37.9 percent of the time, mixing in his curveball 13.4 percent of the time, and even showing his changeup on occasion 5.8 percent of the time. Such a heavy reliance on his slider, should it last over a long period of time, is a good way to make a plane trip to Birmingham, Alabama. Another change that appears to be the result of using his fastball less often is a much higher groundball rate with the Royals, 60.7 percent groundballs, than in his career to date, 44.8 percent groundballs.

In the so called “Year of the Pitcher 2.0,” it is easy to overlook a player like Paulino. Those in deep mixed-leagues and AL-only formats should already be rostering him and hoping he’s able to sustain his newfound success. With another clean start, he should probably find his way onto rosters in medium sized mixed-leagues as well. A rare low-risk, high-reward starter, Paulino should be on watch lists in leagues he’s unowned as he’s capable of making the leap to Bud Norris-esque rosterability.

Josh is a graduate of SUNY Cortland's Sport Management program, and an aspiring fantasy writer. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad. You can also follow his work at The Hardball Times and follow him on Twitter (BChad50).
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