Yesterday the Milwaukee Brewers promoted right-handed pitcher Paulo Espino to the major league roster and started him against the Chicago Cubs. He went four innings, giving up five hits and three runs but walking no one and fanning three. An unusual 30-year-old rookie, Espino didn’t show up on prospect lists pre-season. Let’s take a quick look.
Born in Panama, Espino attended high school at The Pendleton School (now IMG Academy) in Bradenton, Florida, and was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 10th round in 2006. He was generally successful in the Indians system, reaching Double-A in 2009 and spending the next four seasons in the high minors, having success as both a starter and reliever but never receiving a major league opportunity.
He joined the Washington Nationals as a minor league free agent in 2014 and continued performing well, including a 3.30 ERA with a 133/29 K/BB in 159 innings in Triple-A in 2016, but again never receiving an MLB trial. He moved on to the Brewers for 2017 and was excellent in Triple-A (2.54 in 39 innings, 40/5 K/BB) before moving up yesterday.
Espino is short for a right-hander, listed at 5-10, 210, born January 10, 1987. As you may expect given his profile he does not throw hard, his fastball just 87-90 MPH. He mixes in a change-up in the 80s, a slider in the upper70s-low-80s, and a curveball as low as 69 MPH. He throws strikes easily and did a great job keeping Triple-A hitters off-balance with his assortment.
Short right-handers are always viewed with some suspicion, especially those who don’t throw hard, but Espino has earned his shot. He can start, he can relieve, and he throws strikes, giving him a chance to contribute as an 11th man on a modern staff.
This video is three years old but gives the general idea.