Cactus League Game 8, Indians at Mariners
James Paxton vs. Travis Banwart
At this point, James Paxton seems to be slotted in the M’s rotation and it would take an odd set of circumstances for him to start off in the bullpen or Tacoma. As his performance in his call-up showed, he’s blessed with extraordinary talent, but results – or rather, consistent results – have often lagged his “stuff.” Part of that’s been command problems (the projections systems, using his minor league track record, forecast a big increase in his walk rate in 2014), part of it’s been injuries, and a part seems to be that he’s susceptible to swings in velocity.
All of these factors came together when he was first drafted in 2009. He was hitting the mid-high 90s with Kentucky, and posted a 115-20 K:BB ratio in 78 1/3, but gave up 83 hits, 11 HRs and *52* runs that season too. He failed to sign with Toronto, but was barred from returning to college when Toronto mentioned that they’d had direct talks with Scott Boras and, in a preview of the Ben Wetzler situation this year, the NCAA said Paxton’s lost his amateur status. So he signed on with an indy league team, and this time his so-so results matched some so-so scouting reports (specifically, it sounded like , and that led to his draft stock falling significantly; the M’s grabbed him in the 4th round.
Last spring, his velocity dropped again – from 95 in the 2012 Arizona Fall League to 90 in Peoria the following February/March. If he’s on, Paxton can help the M’s compete for a wild card. If it takes him half a season to get his mechanics to click, or to build arm strength, then he and the M’s will suffer. As I mentioned a few days ago, he’s clearly ahead of last year’s pace – velocity wise – but how he looks throughout March is going to be a big story. Er, big for the Cactus League, anyway.
Travis Banwart is a non-roster invitee who came to Cleveland after toiling for years in the Oakland system. Banwart was a rotation cog for the Sacramento RiverCats for the past four years, but couldn’t crack the A’s solid roster. If he stays with Cleveland, he may get to spend some time in the International League and hang out in a different state capital.
1: Almonte, CF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cano, 2B
4: Smoak, 1B
5: Morrison, DH
6: Ackley, LF
7: Saunders, RF
8: Franklin, SS
9: Zunino, C
Speaking of guys who’ve put in a lot of PCL time, Mike Curto was the guest on the BP daily podcast today. The episode’s dedicated to examining the M’s chances in 2014, and after Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller chatted with Curto, there’s also an interview with Ryan Divish. Check it out here.