While he’s a step down from fellow Mariners prospects Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen, James Paxton is regarded by many to be among the minors’ top 20 or so pitching prospects. He’s also the one of the trio working in the Arizona Fall League right now, and the Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker noted several Royals scouts watching him recently.
Paxton, 23, went 9-4 with a 3.05 ERA and a 110/54 K/BB ratio in 106 1/3 innings for Double-A Jackson this year. He pitched well in his first two AFL starts before struggling his last two times out. Overall, he has a 6.75 ERA and a 14/6 K/BB ratio in 10 2/3 innings.
Baker speculates that the Mariners would view Paxton as expendable if the right big-league hitter came along. And the Royals are likely in the market for a hitting-for-pitching deal. Still, there’s no obvious fit here. Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and top prospect Wil Myers are all clearly more valuable commodities than Paxton, and the Royals lack players from the next tier. They do have Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain, but they’re not the kind of power hitters the Mariners are looking for.
Perhaps there would be some potential for a bigger deal. The Royals could use a second baseman, and the Mariners have three guys who could well be most valuable at second in Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager and Nick Franklin. They’re content to use Seager at third and they haven’t given up on Franklin at shortstop, but if they’re willing to pair someone from that group with Paxton, it would seem to bring the bigger Kansas City talents into play. Butler for Seager and Paxton could work out well for both teams.