Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
With so much talk about the offensive needs and pitching woes the Mariners have, I would like to take a moment and highlight one potential bright spot.
James Paxton is 25 years old. He was born in and played his high school ball in British Columbia, Canada and played college baseball at the University of Kentucky. He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1st round (37th overall) of the 2009 MLB Draft, however he chose to return for his senior year of school over signing with the Blue Jays.
He was ruled ineligible to return for his senior year after signing a contract with Scott Boras, so he instead spent a year in the Independent League with the Grand Prairie AirHogs.
He was then drafted in 2010 by the Mariners in the 4th round. In 2011 he worked his way up to Double A Jackson and in 2012 went 9-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 21 starts for the Generals.
The 2012 season was an up and down year. He was called up to Tacoma where he went 8-11 and his ERA ballooned 4.45. He struggled at times with consistency and finding the strike zone however he was able to improve his numbers and earned a call up to Seattle in September.
In four big league games Paxton went 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA, earning himself another spring training invite this year, and minus an implosion, a spot in the rotation.
He is a tall (6’4″) lefty with a mid-90’s fastball for both a 2 and 4 seam, a plus curve (Baseball America called it the best curve in the Mariners system), and a serviceable change-up. He likes to sink his fastball which, along with the hammer curve induces a lot of ground outs.
He has received comparisons to Clayton Kershaw. In fact, after struggling with arm position and command of the strike zone, he started watching Kershaw and recognized some differences in arm potion. Almost immediately there was a difference in his control.
Paxton is highly intelligent. He was SEC Honor Roll all 3 years in college, with a 3.3 GPA while majoring in Accounting. When his friends all made an all-star team in high school back in Ladner, B.C. and he did not, he could have moved on, gave up, or just been a kid.
Instead he decided to get better so he could be on that all-star team. He threw hundreds of pitches and made that team the next year. Paxton puts his mind to something and makes it happen. That’s the kind of kid we want on this team. He has the “stuff”, the mental fortitude, and intangibles to become a front line starter.