After a completely average and completely acceptable 2015 Ben Paulsen entered the 2016 poised to play the role of left handed platoon partner for Mark Reynolds at first base. On April 30, he was hitting .326/.380/.500. On May 13, he was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque. On Sept. 6, he was removed from the 40-man roster and finished the season with -1.2 rWAR in just 32 games played. How did this happen?
For the first few weeks of the season, Paulsen mostly split time with Reynolds at first base. As Reynolds became the everyday first baseman, manager Walt Weiss struggled to find Paulsen regular at-bats. Once his everyday at bats began to dry up, so too did his .452 BABIP. Between April 24 and May 11, Paulsen received just five starts and managed just five hits in 29 at-bats, so when Daniel Descalso was activated from the disabled list, it was Paulsen who got the boot down to Triple-A.
He did get another opportunity with the big league club when Reynolds went down with an injured hand on Aug. 12, but it did not go well for Ben. He started at first base in seven of the next 12 games and managed just .115/.148/.115, only barely managing to OPS his weight, let alone hit his weight. On Aug. 24, the Rockies had seen enough; they sent Paulsen back down to Triple-A, even though there was only a week until September roster expansion, and purchased the contract of Stephen Cardullo. Two weeks later, in order to clear space on the 40-man roster, Paulsen was designated for assignment and later outrighted to Triple-A.
And so (likely) concludes the saga of one Benjamin Michael Paulsen for the Rockies. From lovable, big-bearded call up, to perfectly acceptable utility player/platoon partner, to anchor-level-drag on the lineup in less than two years. Again I ask, what happened?
Sometimes players are like shooting stars. They appear in a bright streak of light, only to come crashing down to earth. It’s easy to look at Paulsen’s career BABIP and call him a shooting star, or, more accurately, a crashing meteor.
But I believe there is something far more telling that explains Paulsen’s fall from grace. On Aug. 21, 2015, Paulsen had a career line of .289/.335/.492 (which is approximately 2016 Justin Turner) in 331 plate appearances. He also had a .369 BABIP, which is high but certain players can run a high BABIP over the course of a career. Since then, though, Paulsen has managed just .240/.280/.366 in 186 plate appearances with a much more realistic .319 BABIP. That’s worse than 2016 Gerardo Parra.
Before Aug. 21, 2015, Ben Paulsen was a #goodplayer. Since then, he has been bad. We have no other choice than to conclude that the shaving gaffe that cost Paulsen his epic beard also must have sapped his strength, like a modern-day Samson.
It’s a real shame that Paulsen has fallen off so hard, since the Rockies have a definite need at first base going forward. Maybe, like Samson, he can come back and help the Rockies destroy a rival with one final feat of strength. However, with Paulsen off the 40-man roster, it’s increasingly unlikely we will see him in a Rockies uniform again anytime soon.