2011 MLB Draft – picks 26-33: Reds select high school right-hander Robert Stephenson

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Red Sox selected high school catcher Blake Swihart with the 26th overall pick in Monday’s draft.

Swihart has great arm strength, but the Red Sox could quickly decide to move him away from catcher to save his legs. The 19-year-old from New Mexico swings well from both sides of the plate and could develop 20-homer potential. He’s committed to Texas, so the Red Sox will have to lure him away from college life.

Reds selected high school right-hander Robert Stephenson 27th overall.

With most of the high-profile college pitchers already selected, the Reds went with a young right-hander with some serious upside. Best known for throwing back-to-back no-hitters this season, Stephenson sits in the low-to-mid 90s with his heater and throws a promising curveball. Standing at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, there’s still some projection left.

Braves selected FSU left-hander Sean Gilmartin with the 28th pick. 

The Braves don’t go the college route in the first round very often, but they were known to be on the lookout for a left-hander. While Gilmartin doesn’t have the ceiling of current Braves’ left-hander Mike Minor, he is similarly known for his plus-changeup.

Giants picked St. John’s shortstop Joe Panik 29th overall.

It’s bit of a reach, as there were players with higher upside (Michael Levi) left on the board at the time, but the Giants decided to play it safe and draft for slot. Panik, a left-handed hitter, may eventually have to move to second base due to his arm, but could be a No. 2 hitter because of his pitch recognition and contact ability.

Twins selected North Carolina shortstop Michael Levi with the 30th overall pick in the draft.

If Michael was a lock to stay at shortstop, he would have gone in the top 15. Many, though, believe he’s destined to end up at second base. He has a nice all-around bat and pretty good speed. He’s also about as close to the majors as any college position player in the draft.

Rays selected LSU outfielder Mikie Mahtook with the 31st overall pick.

Quite a nice get for the Rays, as Mahtook fell a bit from early projections. The 21-year-old led the Southeastern Conference this season in stolen bases, walks and slugging percentage. The big question is whether he’ll be able to stick in center field. If he does, he has the chance to be a solid regular.

Rays selected high school shortstop Jake Hager with the 32nd overall pick in the draft.

Hager would be a reach under normal circumstances, but the Rays have so many picks that they can afford to gamble on someone who may take a few years to develop. While the 6-foot-1 shortstop has a commitment with Arizona State, it’s very likely he’ll be swayed if he is paid first-round money.

Rangers selected high school left-hander Kevin Matthews with the 33rd pick.

Matthews is a bit undersized at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, yet he still manages to sit in the low-90s with his heater. However, with durability concerns, it’s very likely he ends up in the bullpen in the long-term. The young southpaw is currently committed to the University of Virginia, though the Rangers don’t expect to have trouble signing him.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.