One of the more fascinating picks from the Braves’ 2019 draft class was outfielder Stephen Paolini. There was VERY little information out there about him before the draft and while we know a bit more now, he is, in some ways, a real question mark as to whether he will be able to develop quickly enough to let his considerable physical tools play in professional baseball.
Midseason Report Card: Paolini was among our honorable mentions when we released our Top 30 Braves prospect list at midseason. When we release our preseason list for this coming season, at best he is likely to stay as an honorable mention or get left off altogether with the idea that we are going to be keeping an eye on him next season.
Stephen Paolini 2021 MiLB Stats: 105 games, .171/.263/.255, four homers, 24 RBI, 39 BB, 167 K
What we saw in 2021: Paolini is a fascinating blend of raw physical tools and we were fortunate enough to get to interview him before the start of last season. He can really run and that showed on the basepaths this season. Additionally, he is a very capable defender in center field which, for a raw kid out of a smaller high school program in the northeast, is a good sign. He can hit the ball with authority, although he does have to sell out a bit to do that. He also drew walks this season, but 167 strikeouts in 105 games while hitting .171 in low-A is obviously pretty rough. So far as a pro, his hit tool has not shown up with any regularity whatsoever and losing the 2020 season, from a development perspective, was pretty brutal for him.
What the future holds: Ultimately, everything is going to come down to whether Paolini can bring his hit tool along. His pitch recognition needs a lot of work and he needs to work on figuring out what pitches he can do damage on. We do expect him to be better than he was in 2021 next season, but we also don’t expect a huge breakout. He is a project, but one with significant upside if he can get things going with the bat.