Royals have their eyes on Mariners prospect James Paxton

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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.

Blue Jays shut down Steve Pearce for the rest of 2017

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The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.

Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.

With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.

Brewers’ Julio Mendez remains hospitalized after hit by pitch

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Brewers’ minor league infielder Julio Mendez remains in “critical but stable condition,” club GM David Stearns announced Friday. Back in August, Mendez suffered a cardiac event after he was inadvertently struck by a ball from the Angels’ Austin Krzeminksi during a game between the rookie-level affiliates. The 20-year-old was removed to a Phoenix-area hospital for treatment following the incident and has recently been transferred to a hospital in his native Venezuela.

Mendez was in his fourth season with the Brewers’ organization. He spent the majority of his 2017 run with the rookie-level AZL Brewers, slashing .255/.294/.355 with 10 extra-base hits, 16 RBI and four stolen bases over 119 plate appearances. He currently holds a career .241/.324/.309 batting line, 33 extra bases and a .633 OPS through 668 PA.

Baseball is still on the back burner, however, as Mendez appears to have made little progress nearly a month following the hit by pitch. Thoughts go out to his family during this difficult time.