When I step into the clubhouse looking for Dorssys Paulino, I don’t have to look very far. Paulino stands out amongst the crowd as he is sporting a new hairdo for the 2016 season. I can spot his blonde head a mile away. It’s an interesting hair color choice and I made sure to ask him why he chose blonde?
“Every year I do something different,” he laughed.
He’s sported several different hairstyles over the course of his career in the Cleveland Indians system. He’s worn red hair at one point and also dyed his hair black at another course of his career. He clearly likes to stand out.
He stood out a long time ago when he was only 16 years old. He was considered to have one of the top bats for an infielder in 2011. The Indians were able to sign for a $1.1MM bonus and he immediately became one of the most exciting prospects in the system at that time.
He started at the very bottom, playing in the Arizona Rookie League in 2012. The results were very encouraging at the start as he only played in 41 games but hit a sizzling .355/.404/.610 with six home runs and 30 RBIs. His bat was starting to live up to its promise already.
Paulino rose up slowly but surely over the course of next few seasons and was already playing in Class A Lake County by the 2013 season at the tender age of 18. That’s when he hit a roadblock. His entire career, he had played in the infield and was considered a future infielder by scouts. The problem was the Indians were pretty top-heavy on middle infield prospects at the time and it seemed like a long shot he’d be able to break through the pack. So they decided a position change was in order.
The Dominican shortstop found himself playing an entirely new position. His days of playing the infield were over and he ended up seeing his position shift all the way into the outfield. It was quite a shift for the former infield prospect.
“It was hard the first couple of years but I’ve now gotten used to it and I feel I’m playing much better right now than I used because I’ve worked hard every day to get better at that,” Paulino notes.
Not only was he learning a new position, he was also learning how to adapt to the pitching. His bat started to slow down in Lake County and he spent the entire 2014 season with the Captains and hit .251/.311/.354 for the year. The panic alarm didn’t go off though as Paulino was only 19 years old at the time, he was still ahead of the curve for his age.
He ended showing much more progress in Class A in 2015 and earned himself a well-deserved promotion to High-A Lynchburg. His hard work was paying off as he was rising up through the system. However, he was starting to get passed on the depth chart by a couple of guys as the Indians had begun to improve their drafting and were constructing a more efficient farm system. But they still had their eye on Paulino.
He only spent a half season with the Hillcats but owned an encouraging .305/.371/.526 batting line in just 43 games. He was adjusting to a new level of pitching at an impressive pace. Things were trending upwards for the newly converted outfield prospect.
He was playing well to start the year in 2015 when he once again began with the Hillcats, but disaster struck when he hit another wall when he suffered a fractured hamate bone in his left hand. Unfortunately, he would require surgery and ended up missing about two months of the season. It was a long time to recovery for a prospect and he was missing valuable developmental time as well. Despite missing a good chunk of time, he ended up coming back strong and being a key contributor to the Hillcats during their 2016 postseason run. The former shortstop finished the season with a .284/.353/.445 batting line and was beginning to gain some consistency at the plate.
“I think it’s my routine," he reflected upon the strides and improvements he’s made in the batter’s box, "I’ve become a little more confident at the plate.”
Paulino is now enjoying his first season at the Double-A level. He’s started out slow but begun to become more consistent and is enjoying a solid .254/.369/.437 batting line throughout the early goings of the 2017 season.
“He’s aggressive at balls in the strike zone and ready to hit from the first pitch on,” said Akron RubberDucks manager Mark Budzinski.
Paulino may not be a future shortstop like many envisioned but he’s taken to his new role like a champ and embraced the change. He’s still young but has a very mature approach to the game and that’s something that makes him a valuable prospect to the Indians organization
“He’s been a true pro. He’s learning what it takes to every day to prepare and how to get your body ready to go on a day-to-day basis,” praised the Akron manager.
It’s been a long road for Paulino. Despite the long journey he is still at a good age to continue to develop his game further and realize the dream of making it to the big leagues. Hopefully he can do that still with the Cleveland Indians.