FanPost

Better Know a Prospect: Riser Edition!

I like seeing players that, for once reason or another, aren't heralded or hyped start flying up the system rankings. Maybe I'm a baseball dork or maybe I just grew up as a short kid that couldn't hack it beyond a certain level. Either way, it's heartening to see those types of prospects progress.

Today's prospect is a J2 signing from 2018, and a kid that's shuffled his way from depth prospect to top 20. It's Eddinson Paulino day!

Physical Profile

Slim, slight kid. 5 foot 10 and listed at 155, I suspect he's put on some good weight this year as he looks heavier than that. There's some room on there to bulk up but it's not going to be enormous improvement. That's okay as he is pretty strong for his size already. He's a good, fluid athlete and there are no concerns about him having the hand eye to make it at the higher levels. He's young, especially considering the lost 2020 season. He turned 20 last month and already looks like he'll be moving beyond Salem sooner rather than later.

Hit

Despite running a a hard-luck .293 babip, Paulino has demonstrated a surprising feel for contact and ability to drive the ball all over the field. It's a contact-first approach but not Dee Gordon slap levels of contact. His bath path is smooth and he can get to pitches all over the strikezone. Despite the contact driven approach, Paulino's run a walk rate a tick over 11 percent this year which has helped with some of the babip woes. The most surprising thing to me is the authority with which he makes contact. Despite his frame, impressive bat-to-ball skills have made his contact quality much better than I'd hoped for. Strikeouts are a little up

Power

There's an outside chance that Paulino bulks up in his early 20s and starts lifting the ball more, but would you believe me if I said that's not really a concern? Average to very slightly plus raw power right now, which is great for such a slim guy. Again, his contact skills make that play up but also misled evaluators. Paulino was seen a strictly contact over power guy but in Salem this year he's slugged an impressive .432 while hitting 8 homers. He'll never be posting 25+ dingers but he does have the raw power to hit 15-20 over a full year at maturity. The key is balance, as his hit tool is so good I'd hate to see it compromised. He's hit the ball in the air a little more which makes the power play up, and I can see a future where he finds a way to alter his approach without sacrificing what's making him intriguing right now.

Field

Conflicting reports here, but all along the same lines. Fangraphs has him as 2B only, while other scouts have said he could hack it at third and play short in a real jam. There's no doubt he lacks the range and footwork for short, but I think the organization should commit to having him play second. His glove will flash fringe plus, enough that I think improved positioning would make up for what I see as plainly poor footwork. He will need to stick at second at least, otherwise his ceiling is that of a utility infielder. His hit tool is good, but not so good I'm willing to dismiss defensive issues. That said, I take the optimists view on this one. He's barely 20 and only made his full season debut this year — there's time for him to make improvements to this tool. I like him to be an average defender with some work.

Run

Not a burner, but can steal you a bag from time to time. I've seen a smart, aggressive baserunner, but the decisions get harder with every level he moves up. Speed is not a major part of his game. More on this at the end, though.*

Arm

Average arm strength that plays at third and second. It's a shame he's not a more instinctual defender because I like his throws across the diamond.

The Good

Hit tool is advanced and improving. For a 19 year old to flash what he's flashed this year, it's very encouraging. His approach is patient but not passive, and the fact he can hit anything in the zone hasn't turned him into a swing happy guy either. The slugging numbers have really impressed me so far. 44 extra base hits so far this year is well beyond what I think the organization was expecting. With some better babip luck these numbers could be even more eye popping.

The Bad

If he doesn't stick at second then he's in trouble. He'll need a defined position to have a consistent role in the majors, otherwise we're looking at another guy who can put bat to ball consistently but doesn't do enough offensively to justify yet another defensive liability in Boston. And for an organization that's finally found a good defender at second after Pedroia's career ended it'd be a hard sell.

Projection

High end, Paulino is a useful defender that can provide very good offense for a second baseman. Developing power and a good hit tool could make him, again at the high end, a coveted infield asset. Think Bogaerts, a fringy defender who makes you forget all that with first base quality offense. Bogaerts is actually not a bad comp for him at the very, very high end of his projection. Physically they're much different, but Bogaerts has shown that he can contribute offensively even in years where his power has been lacking.

Low end, Paulino is yet another one tool guy that never finds a position. If his fielding doesn't get to serviceable, then I struggle to see a future where he's more than an up and down fill-in type. I love the offense, but the qualifier is that he needs to do it at second base. Full stop. Good contact and high teens homers is great at second base but it's underwhelming elsewhere.

Realistically, I think he'll play well enough at second to justify a utility role. Think Arroyo, but the bat is the carrying tool instead of the glove. It's a question of where they develop him. If they commit to a multi season project of him at second base, I think he's a good enough athlete to pull it off. If they continue to move him around the diamond then I struggle to see a future where he's a regular in the lineup.

* Something to note is that while Paulino has not shown blazing speed, he's swiped 22 bags and only been caught 3 times this year. Now, plenty of young, athletic prospects can run up gaudy stolen base totals at the lower levels where pitchers don't know how to control the running game but 20 steals is still 20 steals. Maybe he's not a burner, but he does seem like a smart runner.