Originally signed by the Detroit Tigers out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, Paulino spent most of his tenure in the Detroit system on the shelf with various injuries then was traded to the Astros for Jose Veras in the summer of 2013. He missed all of ‘14 with Tommy John surgery. He dominated in 2016, blitzing three levels with a 106/19 K/BB and finishing the season in the majors.
Paulino ranked third on the Houston Astros Top 20 prospects list for 2017 with the following commentary:
3) David Paulino, RHP, Grade B+: Age 22, signed by Tigers back in 2010 from Dominican Republic; acquired in 2013 trade; posted 2.00 ERA in 90 innings with 106/19 K/BB, 72 hits allowed, pitching in Double-A/Triple-A plus 12 innings of rookie ball rehab due to sore elbow; already has Tommy John on resume; stuff similar to Martes with fastball up to 97, plus curveball, improved change-up, excellent control; much different physically however as Martes is 6-1 and Paulino is 6-7; given injury history he may be more likely than Martes to end up in bullpen but ceiling is very high. ETA 2017.
Listed at 6-7, 215, Paulino is a right-handed hitter and thrower born February 6th, 1994.
As noted in the pre-season report he has excellent stuff, with a fastball up to 97-98 MPH on his best days along with an above-average breaking ball and change-up. His command is much better than typical for a young power pitcher and when healthy he has been statistically dominant.
“When healthy” is the problem.
Despite the previous Tommy John procedure he is still bothered by elbow issues, missing time with “elbow tendinitis” last season and an elbow bone bruise this year. He’s thrown just 14 innings in Triple-A this year with so-so results (4.50 ERA, 13/9 K/BB).
There’s no doubt that Paulino has the arsenal and command to start but it is very much an open question whether he has the durability. He’s never thrown more than 97 innings in a season and the persistence of elbow issues post-surgery is concerning.
Paulino’s talent on the mound is quite enticing but the long-term role will depend on his health.