Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY
Oft-injured, right-handed starter, Felipe Paulino signed a 1-year, $1.75 million with a team option for 2015 this offseason. If his arm doesn’t fall off in spring training he will most likely be the fifth starter in the White Sox rotation in 2014. I immediately mentioned Paulino’s injury history because frankly it’s incredible. Below is every event and the number days he was out in parenthesis. Oh, and I got all of his injury information from his Baseball Prospectus player card.
2008 (Missed entire season):
-Right shoulder surgery for a pinched nerve (193 days)
-Right groin strain (19 days)
-Lower back spasms (7 days)
-Right shoulder strain (83 days)
-Lower back tightness (9 days)
-Right forearm strain (40 days)
-Tommy John Surgery on his right elbow (7/3/2012)
2013 (Missed entire season):
-Right shoulder surgery for Cyst Decompression, Rotator Cuff and Labrum Debridement (9/10/2013)
Its an extensive list to say the least. The list above doesn’t include the five other times he was injured that did not require him to miss any games.
Can he stay healthy? Based on the injury information above I would guess that he can’t. However, $1.75 mil with a $4 mil option for 2015 seems like more than you would pay for a pitcher that the team didn’t have any faith in. Maybe the eternal refrain in White Sox circles that “Coop will fix ‘em” will be relevant in this case as well.
Health is going to be the question with Paulino but there is no question of stuff. He’s averaged right around 95 mph on his fastball since he came into the league. He also throws a hard slider in the high-80s, a curveball in the high-70s, and a changeup. According to Fangraphs’s pitch values, his slider and changeup have consistently been his most effective pitches. This is of course all made possible because he can throw a fastball that routinely hits the high-90s.
It is the case with many pitchers with this quality of stuff who never seem to reach their potential that control is often the issue. Paulino is no exception. His career walk rate is 1.9% higher than average for an AL starter. However, I don’t think that his 9.6% walk rate is going to be the deciding factor in his success in 2014.
In his brief stint in 2013 before shoulder surgery, Paulino struck out 25.0% of the batters he faced while walking 9.6% and accrued an ERA of 1.67 in the process. If he can maintain these rates he should be more than fine. So circling back to the first word of this article, injuries will make or Paulino this season.
The effects of Herm Schneider and Don Cooper should definitely be an advantage but no pitcher is immune to injuries. The recent injuries to Gavin Floyd and John Danks highlight this fact. I do think that if any team has a good chance to get the best out of Paulino it would be the White Sox. Here’s to hoping Coop and Herm can pull of another miracle.