Feb. 7, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Former Kentucky standout pitcher James Paxton was named by Baseball America as the fourth best prospect in the Seattle Mariners organization, it was announced.
A native of Ladner, British Columbia, Paxton was a member of the World Team in the Futures Game during the 2011 All-Star Weekend in Arizona. Baseball America’s staff tabbed him as the fourth-best prospect in the organization after being drafted by the Mariners in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB draft.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound southpaw checks in as the third-best pitcher for the Mariners minor league organization and the second best left-handed hurler, also ranking Paxton as having the best curveball in the organization.
“Paxton is the rare power lefthander who combines high strikeout totals with above-average groundball rates,” Baseball America’s Conor Glassey said in the prospect breakdown. “His fastball sits at 91-95 mph and peaks at 98. He can pitch up in the zone effectively but has just as much faith in his two-seam fastball as he does his four-seamer. He can use his plus 76-79 mph curveball to get ahead in counts or put away hitters. His changeup made a lot of progress after he switched to a circle grip in 2011, and should be at least solid in the future.”
The Delta Secondary School product pitched in 17 games (17 starts) between low A Clinton and double-A Jackson. Paxton ended his 2011 minor league season with a 6-3 record while registering a 2.37 ERA while holding opposing batters to a .204 average. Paxton, who starred at UK from 2007-09, also struck out 131 batters, while only issuing 43 walks in 95 innings on the bump. His two most notable performances came in double-A against the Carolina Mud Cats where Paxton went five innings allowing one earned run and fanning 11. The next performance came vs. the Huntsville Stars when Paxton pitched seven strong innings of four hit, one earned ball while striking out 10 and not issuing a walk.”
“Paxton has a number two starter ceiling,” Glassey detailed. “He could reach Seattle at some point in 2012.”
During his three-year UK career, Paxton appeared in 55 games with 24 starts, totaling an 11-5 record and a 4.91 ERA, striking out 168 in 148.1 innings. As UK's Friday night starter in 2009, Paxton ranked third in the NCAA in strikeouts per nine innings (13.2), fanning 115 in 78.1 innings. In 13 starts in 2009, Paxton totaled a 5-3 record and a 5.86 ERA. With 115 punchouts, Paxton ranked fifth-best in the history of the Kentucky program, marking just the 10th player in program history to eclipse 100 strikeouts in a season. Paxton, southpaw Chris Rusin (108 strikeouts in 94.1 IP) and then-freshman right-hander Alex Meyer (80 strikeouts in 59.2 IP) teamed to help UK set a new season strikeout record, as the UK staff fanned 523 in 2009, breaking the previous record of 502 team strikeouts in 1995. Paxton's ERA was inflated in 2009 courtesy of three outings that saw the lefty allow five or more runs. Without those three outings, Paxton totaled a 5-0 record and a 3.95 ERA in 10 starts, hurling 66 innings with 101 strikeouts and a .218 opponent batting average. Seven times in 2009, Paxton struck out 10 or more hitters in a game.