No. 16: Brenny Paulino, RHP
Brenny Paulino would definitely have ranked significantly higher on this list if not for an injury that cost him his entire 2012 season. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic as an international free agent in 2009, and made his debut in the Dominican Summer League (DSL) in 2010, at age 17. He made quite the impression in his first professional season, posting really nice numbers across the board, highlighted by his 10.7 K/9. However, his WHIP was a very inflated 1.71 due to an astronomically high 8.7 BB/9. While control/command issues are expected for very young pitchers, this was something else. In 2011, Paulino came stateside for the first time, joining the rotation of the GCL Tigers (Rookie League) at age 18. It was in 2011 where he saw himself skyrocket up prospects rankings list, posting numbers like a 2.36 ERA, 8.9 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, and a solid 1.14 WHIP. He seemed, at this point, poised to fully breakout in 2012, and possibly vault himself into the top 5 of the Tigers prospects. However, a shoulder injury in spring training sidelined him for the season.
Paulino stands 6'4" and weighs in at 170lbs, boasting the ideal pitchers frame with long, loose limbs and outstanding arm speed. He's somewhat similar to who we met yesterday in Endrys Briceno, but Paulino's ceiling is higher than Briceno's, and he would be much higher on this list if not for the lost 2012 season. During the 2011 season, Paulino's fastball sat in the 92-94 range, and he was able to reach all the way back for 97-98 on occasion. Due to his body frame, which has the potential to add significant weight and strength, his loose limbs, excellent arm speed, and clean arm action; scouts believe that he has the potential to add even more velocity to his fastball in the future, making him a triple digits candidate, potentially. His fastball also has nice movement on it, which is not something you always see with high-velocity pitchers, but Paulino's velocity and movement combination make his fastball a truly plus pitch, with potential for even higher grades. He also features a curveball and changeup, but both of them are below-average pitches and need significant work. His curve is the better of the two off speed pitches as of now, but it still only flashes average on rare occasions. The changeup needs work, period. His command has been a problem in the past, and still is, but the hope is that as he matures, fills out, and gets needed mound time, the command will improve to an average level. His control has rounded somewhat into form, as evidenced by the significant drop in BB/9 from 2010-2011.
It's always tough to project guys this raw and this far away from the big leagues, and it's made even harder by the fact that Paulino is coming off shoulder surgery and a lost season in 2012. Based strictly on his pre-surgery performance/potential, Paulino has the ceiling of a #2 starter, maybe even more depending on how his secondary pitches develop. Ideally, Paulino comes into spring training healthy, and is able to pick right back up where he left off in 2011. If all goes well, he should head to Class A-West Michigan and join their rotation. As for a MLB ETA, I would say 2016 at the earliest.