After the Rockies drafted former Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker with their first round pick in 2010, the other former Tiger in Colorado's system had become an afterthought - at least, until his scintillating big league debut this year. Ben Paulsen was Colorado's 3rd round pick out of Clemson in 2009 - and throughout his minor league career he's been painted as a non-prospect and certainly not an exciting player given his lack of positional flexibility, age relative to level (he's 27 now), and his pedestrian minor league stats until he reached AAA.
Still, once Paulsen did reach Colorado Springs in 2013, he did hit very well, posting a .294/.345/.523 line in 2013 and a .294/.378/.543 line in 497 AAA plate appearances this year. When Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Parker simultaneously became unavailable, Paulsen was the man who got the call to the Show in July.
Quite simply, Paulsen played the best baseball of his life on the big league stage, doing it with a sweet mustache. He had two hits in each of his first two games en route to an eight game hitting streak. By the time he was sent down in mid-August, his triple slash line was .400/.432/.600 in 36 plate appearances.
* -- Defensive runs saved above average (provided by Baseball Info Solutions)
Paulsen was recalled on September 1st, but didn't quite recapture the magic of his first call-up, going 7 for 30 with three homers to see his line drop to .317/.348/.571 in 66 plate appearances - still a very good result. Defensively, Paulsen played mostly first but also moved into the outfield in late September as perhaps a try-out for next year's roster as depth, earning a slight positive for his efforts overall in defensive metrics.
2014 Grade: B
This was about as good of a result as Rockies fans could have expected from a player most had written off as a AAAA player - if they had heard of him at all - going into this year. To receive an A, Paulsen would have had to do it over a larger sample size, but still I'm thrilled with the production the Rockies got out of him.
What to expect in 2015
Paulsen appears to have done enough to remain on the 40 man roster over the off-season, a big accomplishment for a player widely expected to be left unprotected in this year's Rule 5 draft - as he was last year. Beyond that, Paulsen's big league future is murky. The Rockies appear to have both outfield depth (especially if Cuddyer signs that QO) and first base depth (with Morneau, Cuddyer, and Parker as options), leaving Paulsen penciled in as the first base starter in Albuquerque in my book. Still, Paulsen will have all of Spring Training to prove that he belongs with the Rockies when they break camp. I've learned not to count him out.