Major League Baseball has announced an 80-game suspension without pay for Astros right-hander David Paulino, who tested positive for Boldenone, a performance-enhancing substance. It’s the first PED offense for Paulino, who won’t appeal the ban, tweets Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. Paulino will miss the rest of the regular season and won’t be eligible to participate in the playoffs if Houston qualifies, which looks like a formality for a 54-27 club that leads the American League West by 13.5 games.
“We are disappointed in the news today regarding David Paulino,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said in a statement. “We hope this is a one-time incident and something David can learn from as he continues his career. The Astros will continue to fully support Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.”
The 23-year-old Paulino currently ranks as Baseball America’s 67th-best prospect, a slight fall from his 51st-place standing after the 2016 season. He debuted at the major league level last year, albeit with only seven innings of work, and racked up six starts this season prior to his suspension. Paulino managed just a 6.52 ERA and a 30.1 percent ground-ball rate in 29 innings this year, but he did post impressive strikeout and walk rates (10.55 K/9 and 2.17 BB/9), and he induced infield pop-ups at an above-average clip (11.9 percent).
While Paulino wouldn’t have factored into a semi-healthy Astros rotation come playoff time, his loss is a blow to their depth at the very least. Houston is currently without three-fifths of its rotation in Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh, all of whom have missed significant time this year because of injuries. Lance McCullers and Joe Musgrove have also spent time on the disabled list this season, thus creating opportunities for the likes of Paulino and Brad Peacock.
With Morton on his way back, Paulino likely would have been leaving Houston’s starting group soon, but he could have continued his development in the big league bullpen or in Triple-A Fresno’s rotation. Further, it’s possible that Paulino would have served as a trade chip by this month’s deadline. As one of Houston’s top prospects, the team perhaps could have used Paulino in a package to reel in a more established big leaguer.
Luhnow rightly called Paulino an “important piece” earlier this season, but his off-field troubles are undoubtedly frustrating to the club. Paulino has now been subjected to discipline in back-to-back years. When Paulino was at Double-A last summer, the Astros issued him a suspension for unknown reasons, though Luhnow did note that Paulino didn’t do “anything major.” That’s not the case this time, however, and his season is over as a result.