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.

Shelby Miller will undergo Tommy John surgery

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Last we heard from Shelby Miller, the Diamondbacks’ right-hander was contemplating Tommy John surgery for a partial UCL tear in his right elbow. Now, he appears to have decided to go through with the procedure.

Miller decided to skip Tommy John alternatives like plasma-rich platelet injections or stem cell treatment, which have been used to varying degrees of success by other major league pitchers with similar injuries. The surgery will set him back an estimated 12-18 months, FanRag Sports’ Tommy Stokke reports, which puts Miller’s estimated return date somewhere in 2018 if all goes well.

The 26-year-old starter was off to a rocky start this season, posting a 2-2 record and 4.09 ERA through 22 innings and striking out just 20 of 99 batters faced. This was his sophomore campaign in Arizona after muddling through the 2016 season with a 3-12 record, 6.15 ERA and 0.5 fWAR over 101 innings with the club.

Steven Souza Jr. exits game after injuring his hand on a hit by pitch

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Rays’ right fielder Steven Souza Jr. left Saturday’s game after getting hit on the left hand by a pitch from Blue Jays’ right-hander Joe Biagini in the seventh inning. The pitch appeared to hit the top of Souza Jr.’s hand, causing the outfielder to crumple at the plate and requiring assistance from assistant athletic trainer Paul Harker as he exited the field. Postgame reports from the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin revealed that Souza Jr. sustained a left hand contusion and is scheduled to undergo further evaluation on Sunday.

While the diagnosis isn’t as bad as it could be, it’s still a tough break for the right fielder, who missed 40 days of the 2015 season after sustaining a fracture in his left hand on another hit by pitch. The team has yet to announce any concrete timetable for Souza Jr.’s return, though manager Kevin Cash indicated that they’ll be taking things day to day for the time being.

Souza Jr. is batting .326/.398/.543 with four home runs and 17 RBI through 104 PA in 2017. He went 1-for-2 with a base hit and a walk prior to his departure during Saturday’s 4-1 loss.