Name: Gregory Paulino
Date of Birth: 02/04/1993
Height/Weight: 6'3'', 180
How Acquired: Signed as an amateur free agent on April 5, 2011
Gregory Paulino signed with the Oakland A's in April 2011 and it hasn't taken him long to gain notice within the organization. The native of the Dominican Republic made his professional debut with the A's Dominican Summer League team. He quickly demonstrated that he was too good for that league, posting a 1.36 ERA in 33 innings. Paulino struck-out 23, walked nine and induced groundballs from half of all batters that he faced.
Paulino was so polished that the A's brought him over to the US to pitch for their Arizona Rookie League team halfway through the 2011 short-season. That made him a unique prospect within the A's system. Oakland almost always has members of their Dominican Academy spend at least one full season in the Dominican Summer League before coming stateside.
The 18-year-old held his own in his first taste of affiliated baseball in the US. Paulino posted a 3.21 ERA in 28 Arizona League innings. His K-rate dropped from 16.7% to 12.2%, but he still maintained an excellent groundball rate (48.4%) and a solid walk rate (7%).
In 2012, Paulino spent the majority of the season pitching for the AZL A's. He made three appearances for the DSL A's before the start of the Arizona League season, allowing four runs in 9.1 innings with six strike-outs and two walks. Paulino would spend the rest of the 2012 campaign as part of the AZL A's staff.
Paulino split his time between the starting rotation and the bullpen, although his bullpen outings were generally of the long-relief variety. His ERA was 5.70 in his 60 AZL innings, but he pitched much better than that number would indicate. He struck-out 56 while walking only 16 and had a better than 45% groundball rate. Paulino increased his K-rate (18.6%) while reducing his walk rate (5.9%). His K:BB ratio was nearly 3:1.
Paulino was able to make his move from the A's Dominican Academy to the US affiliated leagues quickly primarily because of his fastball command and his ability to throw his change-up. His fastball sits in the 89-91 MPH range currently, but he has the potential to add velocity as he gains weight on his 6'3'', 180-pound frame. What makes his fastball a good pitch, however, is his ability to spot it in the lower-half of the strike-zone.
As an organization, the A's emphasize the development of the change-up with all of their pitchers, and Paulino already has a good one. Jimmy Escalante, the AZL A's pitching coach in 2012, called Paulino's offering a "big league change-up that he can throw wherever he wants."
According to Escalante, Paulino had a tendency to get a little too fine with his pitches at times, rather than challenging hitters, but Escalante liked the growth Paulino made with the mental side of his game during the season. Paulino worked through some mechanical issues during the season, but those were improved by the end of the year.
Paulino has yet to master his breaking pitch, but he made strides with it in 2012. His ability to change speeds and induce groundballs makes him an intriguing prospect and he will gain even more notice if he adds any more velocity to his fastball.
The A's coaching staff have had positive things to say about Paulino's work ethic. He has made a smooth transition to playing in the US and earned the award during the A's fall Instructional League camp for the biggest advancements among the non-native English speaking players in learning the language.
Paulino will turn 20 in early February. There is a small chance that he could earn a spot on the Low-A Beloit staff at the start of the 2013 season, but he is more likely to move up to short-season A Vermont than make the leap to full-season ball this early in his career.