One of the most talked about topics by Royals fans this off season has been whether or not the team will acquire another starter to bolster their staff. It seems fairly certain the Royals won’t be making any additonal moves regarding starting pitching, at this point. That would leave us with Luke Hochevar, Jonathan Sanchez, and Bruce Chen as anchors to the staff and Danny Duffy, Felipe Paulino, Everett Teaford, and Aaron Crow as possible candidates to be 4th and 5th starters. It seems more likely Duffy and Paulino will end up filling out the bottom of the rotation, but we’ll have to see what happens over the next several weeks. Unless he falls apart in spring training, Paulino seems to be a given to make the rotation. Felipe Paulino will be one of my most interesting watches this year, and I think he could very well be the best and most important starter for the Royals.
I’m aware of his 10-31 career record, and that alone could make my prediction seem preposterous. And After hearing his record, some of you may think I’m one drink away from claiming that Mark Redman was deserving of his 2006 All-Star nod. However, I’m not going to hold Paulino’s career record hostage as there is more to a pitcher than his W-L record. I’m also not going to declare him a world beater, but I am saying the Royals have a guy, who is capable of reaching 10-12 wins as their 4th starter. General Manager Dayton Moore did a great job of buying low on Paulino, as he was acquired last May, for cash considerations, from Colorado. In 2012, the team will only be paying him $1.9 million dollars.
A brief look at Paulino’s major league career would indicate he hasn’t seen much success with either the Astros or the Rockies. He was 6-21 in three seasons with the Astros, but still had a tremendous K/9 of 8.1. In his time with Colorado in 2011, he posted a 0-4 record with a 7.36 ERA. However, in his time with the Royals last year, he posted a 4.11 ERA and fanned 119 batters in 124.2 innings pitched. He was also able to limit his walks, or at least bring them down near his career average of 3.8 BB/9. One thing I really like about Paulino is the fact he is able to pitch deep into games and help eat some innings in order to preserve the bullpen. In Kansas City, Paulino had his best stint yet as a major leaguer, and, according to fangraphs.com, he also tied with Alexi Ogando for the fastest fastball velocity at 95.1 mph, for all major league pitchers with 120 innings pitched. That puts him ahead of guys like Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, and Felix Hernandez.
There are many things that could have helped Paulino transition over to the American League and put together a decent year in 2011. For instance, changing scenery and finally switching to a pitcher-friendly home park would certainly help the majority of pitchers out there. Many careers don’t seem to flourish out of Coors Field, unless your name is Ubaldo Jimenez or Jorge de la Rosa. At 28 years old he is entering his prime and certainly capable of stringing together many quality starts throughout the season. One thing is certain though, he will have to continue to make an adjustment and do a better job of utilizing his fastball on the corners of the plate. We have seen him dominate before but now I, and other Royals fans, would like him to be consistent in his outings. If the Royals are to contend in the AL Central, Paulino will be an integral part of their season. I’ll leave you all with this information. In his last four starts in 2011, Paulino notched 2 wins with a 3.75 ERA and tallied 31 strikeouts to only 7 walks. Now wouldn’t that be a pleasant surprise out of your 4th starter, if he carried those numbers into 2012?
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