Astros right-hander Felipe Paulino has been garnering a lot of attention with some blazing heat and a string of strong starts. Although he’s been flying off the shelves in mixed leagues, I still don’t trust him. So after an eight-inning, two-run gem in Colorado on Wednesday night, it’s time to see what this guy is all about.
Observing the 26-year-old Paulino , you find a lot of comparisons to fellow Dominican, Bartolo Colon. They share similar stocky (put nicely) body types, but Paulino is noticeably larger at 6-foot-2, 270 pounds. Like Colon in his heyday, Paulino is mainly a fastball-slider pitcher, routinely dialing the heat up to 97 mph while mixing in a high-80’s breaking ball. Also, like Colon, Paulino struggled mightily in his first full season before showing prolonged flashes of brilliance in year two.
Over his last five starts, Paulino has dominated to the tune of a 1.75 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP, with opponents hitting just .194 off him. He’s gone eight innings in each of his last three outings, permitting a total of just three earned runs. No one goes deep off him, as he’s allowed just two long balls all season.
This is all very impressive, and it’s hard to deny it being worthy of a flier in mixed leagues. But don’t go nuts; I see plenty of rough patches in Paulino’s future. This is because there’s another, less flattering comparison you can draw with Paulino, and that would be to Diamondbacks right-hander Edwin Jackson. A similarly talented 26-year-old, Jackson also throws 97 with a strong slider, but has been quite the enigma throughout his career. The thing that has plagued Jackson, which also appears to be a flaw of Paulino’s, is a fastball that comes in a little too straight. No matter how fast a pitcher can deal, a Major League hitter will make solid contact if it comes in on a line.
As a result, you see bouts of inconsistency, which no pitcher exemplifies more than Jackson. In 2009 he pitched to a stellar 2.52 ERA and .212 opponents’ average prior to the All-Star game, then labored to a 5.07 ERA after the break while opponents batted .290 off him. This season he’s allowed at least six earned runs three times, while also blanking opponents three times, leading to a sub-par 5.38 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. Wild unpredictability like this is probably what you can probably expect from Paulino.
Control issues have also been one of Felipe’s major bugaboos throughout his professional career, and are yet to go away. In 87 Minor League games, Paulino averaged 4.3 walks per nine innings. This resulted in an uninspiring 4.07 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over his Minor League career, with a 21-23 record. The hefty hurler currently sits among the baseball’s Top 5 in free passes, and even during his hot stretch he’s posted a BB/9 of four. It’s going to be virtually impossible for Paulino to avoid future struggles as long he’s dealing with this wildness.
Another thing the guy has going against him is the light-hitting Astros lineup. Houston is third-to-last in the Majors in runs scored, and second-to-last in batting average. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that Paulino has just one win to show for his recent emergence after starting out 0-6.
He also has a tough stretch of upcoming games. He’ll travel to KC to face the Royals on June 15 — who are surprisingly second in the American League in batting average — followed by two scheduled outings against a scary Rangers’ offense.
So sure, go ahead and grab Paulino, and hope to ride out this current hot streak. But don’t say you weren’t warned if he blows up soon and kills your ERA and WHIP for the week.