May 16, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Felipe Paulino (59) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
When Felipe Paulino was purchased from the Colorado Rockies on May 26, 2011, it would have been difficult to imagine that he would be a key member of the team. After all, this was a pitcher who had put together a 6-21 record with a 5.83 ERA with the Astros before he completely fell apart in the thin Rocky Mountain air. In Colorado, Paulino was 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA, giving up over two runners per inning. Yes, Paulino had a live arm and was able to strike out twice as many batters as he walked, but virtually nothing about his performance said that he would become a viable major league piece.
As it turned out, someone forgot to tell Paulino about that last part. He pitched well from the start, giving up one hit in 4.1 innings of work in his first appearance, and did not let up from there. He was no longer essentially a batting practice machine, generating ground balls and displaying improved command of his pitches. With the Royals, Paulino went 4-6 with a 4.11 ERA, looking much better than he ever had while staking a claim to a rotation spot in 2012.
Paulino did not disappoint out of the gate, going 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA and a strikeout rate of almost three to one through his first seven starts. Yet, just as it appeared as though Paulino was about to emerge as a potential solid starter for the Royals, disaster struck. He became another one of the Royals pitchers to undergo Tommy John surgery that season, joining Joakim Soria, Blake Wood and Danny Duffy on the major league side to go under the knife.
Now, like Wood and Soria, Paulino appears to have thrown his last pitch for the Royals, opting for free agency instead of accepting an assignment to the minors. As he appeared to be coming into his own prior to the injury, Paulino could be an intriguing pitcher for a team looking to take a chance on a low risk/high reward pitcher. Since he has struck out nearly a batter per inning over his career, and has done a solid job of generating ground balls, he could be an option for a team with an excellent defensive infield.
Although he was removed from the 40 man roster by the Royals, Felipe Paulino is essentially the type of free agent starting pitcher that they have been tied to this offseason. Should he prove that he is healthy, and at least close to throwing in the mid 90’s with his fastball, Paulino could be someone that proves to provide far more production than could be expected.
Felipe Paulino may be another case of what could have been for the Royals. However, even though this chapter of his career may be over, he could still end up as a productive player in the right situation.