The Astros have decided to call up right-handed pitching prospect David Paulino, according to Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Because he already held a 40-man roster spot, no corresponding move will be required.
Paulino, a towering 22-year-old righty, drew top-100 prospect consideration entering the year from Baseball America. And he has largely continued that momentum, improving to 47th on BA’s midseason top 100 and rating as MLB.com’s 76th-best prospect in the game on their own midseason rankings.
The appeal here is obvious: Paulino has a huge frame and a mid-nineties heater to go with a quality curve. His third pitch, a change, is somewhat less developed but seems to hold the promise of being a useful major league offering. Paulino comes with a big ceiling, scouts say, but it remains to be seen how the entire package will translate at the major league level.
Paulino has impressed thus far in 2016, at least when he has been on the mound. He served a suspension for a violation of team rules in the middle of the year — the situation remains murky — meaning that he has only accumulated 90 total frames on the season. That still rates as a career-high for a hurler who had undergone Tommy John surgery before he was sent from the Tigers to the Astros as the player to be named later in the Jose Veras trade.
Despite that hiccup, Paulino obvious did enough to convince the Astros brass that he was worthy of a shot at the majors. He burned through Double-A, posting a 1.83 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 over 64 frames, earning a bump to the highest level of the minors. Though Paulino has allowed 16 hits and six earned runs over his 14 frames (spread over three starts) at Triple-A, he has managed to compile an appealing 20:6 K/BB ratio.
For the ’Stros, it’s hard not to wonder whether there’s at least some connection between the move and the recent loss of staff ace Dallas Keuchel. While Paulino’s precise role remains unclear, the injury to Keuchel may have made the organization more willing to roll the dice on an unproven arm — whether in the rotation or some kind of relief role. Even if it is somewhat sub-optimal to rely on Paulino at this stage, he certainly delivers some upside and didn’t require any roster maneuvering.
As for service-time considerations, the move will obviously get Paulino’s ticker started. If he opens the 2017 season in the majors, then the extra days of action will have no impact. If, however, the Astros decide they’d like to further delay his free agency, then time spent in the bigs this season will extend the number of days he’d need to stay down next year.