Minor League Prospect Report: Dan Paolini, 2B, Seattle Mariners
Another player who stood out on my scouting trip last week is Seattle Mariners prospect Dan Paolini, second baseman for the Clinton Lumberkings in the Low-A Midwest League. He went 2-for-5 with a home run in the first game against Burlington, then 1-for-5 with a strikeout in the second contest. He's been quite hot lately, hitting .325/.386/.850 in his last 10 games, knocking six homers with 15 RBI.
On the season, Paolini is hitting .288/.368/.477 with 26 doubles, 16 homers, 47 walks, and just 60 strikeouts in 392 at-bats. Note the combination of power and a reasonable strikeout rate, which is an impressive sabermetric marker. He ranks fifth in the Midwest League in OPS, yet you won't find him on many prospect lists. Who is this guy?
Paolini was drafted in the 10th round in 2011, out of college at Siena, signed for a $125,000 bonus. He was extremely successful in college, hitting .430/.489/.685 with 11 homers as a freshman, .368/.446/.816 with 26 homers as a sophomore, and .346/.440/.664 with 19 homers as as a junior. He lasted until the 10th round due to concerns about his glove, plus a poor performance with wooden bats in the Cape Cod League.
Wooden bats have not been a problem in pro ball. As noted above, he's been very effective this year, and he was similarly effective in the Appalachian League after signing in '11. Overall, Paolini has hit .287/.372/.472 in 166 professional games, with 43 doubles, 20 homers, 74 walks, and 113 strikeouts.
Granted, this has all been at the lower levels, but it is still impressive. From what I saw last week, he's got plenty of bat speed, had no problems nailing fastballs, and handled breaking pitches reasonably well. He pulled the ball when he could, but unlike teammates Jabari Blash and Guillermo Pimentel, Paolini didn't try to do too much with outside pitches. Pre-draft scouting reports said that his swing was long, but it looked OK in the two games I observed.
It is still uncertain where he fits on defense. He has split the season between second base (28 games) and first base (58 games), which is not a normal combination and usually implies negative things about his future up the middle. He handled routine plays without problems in the contests I saw, but wasn't challenged enough for me to get a valid read on his arm strength or range. Statistically, he's been error-prone at both positions, with mediocre range factors.
I don't know exactly where Paolini will fit on a roster, but his bat is intriguing and he should be tracked for the future.