45 Prospects in 45 Days: Seattle’s James Paxton
Over the next 45 days the staff here at The Fix will profile and predict the fantasy fates of prospects that could – should, in some cases – be closely monitored on the waiver wire or even in the draft room.
For the projection portion of the article, we will try our best to give you projections from all three major projection systems. Those projection systems are: ZiPS, Steamer, and Oliver. Oliver varies from the other two by projecting what a player would accomplish over 600 PA. Obviously, most prospects won’t reach 600 PA, due to various reasons. It can help to pay more attention to the rate stats that are included in order to get a clearer idea of what you’re dealing with in a particular player.
The 6-4 Canadien left-hander became a first-round selection of the Seattle Mariners in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft. Interestingly, Paxton was first selected by the Blue Jays in the first-round of the 2009 draft, but when the two sides failed to negotiate a deal, the Blue Jays brass leaked to the press that the team held negotiations with the pitcher and made him ineligible for collegiate ball. Or so the story goes… Following this debacle, Paxton landed in Independent Ball and would ultimately be a top pick the M’s the following year.
The bread-and-butter of Paxton’s arsenal are his fastball and curveball. He can turn the fastball up to 98, but typically sits between 92-96. The hammer curve, which Baseball America calls a “plus-plus” pitch, crosses the plate at about 86 mph. A cutter and change-up round out Paxton’s repertoire, but those pitches aren’t as refined as the first two.
Here’s some video courtesy of MLBDirt:
Jason Parks on the year ahead:
If he can maintain his delivery, getting over the front side, I think he has the stuff to stick in a rotation. If not, he’s a nice weapon to have in the bullpen; a long-armed lefty who can pump fastballs in the mid-90s.
Baseball America on Paxton:
Paxton tightened his delivery late in 2013, which allowed him to pitch well when he was called up to the major leagues for the first time in September. Paxton will get a chance to win a spot in the big league rotation in Spring Training. If he throws enough strikes, he could be a mid-rotation starter. If he moves to the bullpen, he has the stuff to pitch high-leverage innings.
Marc Hulet of FanGraphs chimes in:
He’s a favorite to earn a spot in the opening day starting rotation but he’ll have to become more consistent if he’s going to hold down the job. After finishing just shy of 170 innings pitched in 2013, Paxton could come close to the 200-inning mark in 2014 — especially if he’s more efficient with his pitch count.
Minor League Production:
With Taijuan Walker not ready to start the season, James Paxton will likely earn the number three spot in the rotation for the Mariners. At 25-years old, it feels as is the left-hander has the tools and experience to make the full-time leap to the big leagues. Paxton accumulated close to 170 innings on the bump between two levels in ’13, leading us to believe that somewhere in the 190-inning range this season is not out of the question if he makes a full-season worth of starts.
Paxton took the hill four times for the Mariners in twenty-thirteen, going 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA (3.26 FIP), a 22.3% K% while walking just 7.5% of opponents faced. Despite the small sample, it’s worth noting that Paxton induced swinging strikes at a 9.4% (SwStr%) clip and ground balls at a impressive 59.1% rate (league-average was 44.5% in ’13). Both good numbers for a starter getting his first taste of the first division.
For some fantasy owners it may be difficult to monitor the minor details (that’s what we’re here for, I suppose), but listen or look for signs of Paxton’s progress, specifically his delivery. The rumored tweaks to the delivery along with the deception and arsenal could make him fantasy-relevant in 2014. Paxton is currently the 103rd starter off the board with an average draft position of 335. He’s a viable starter AL-Only and deep(er) mixed formats for his fair ratios and decent amount of strikeouts.