All-Star reliever Aaron Crow wants spot in Royals’ rotation

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Aaron Crow made the All-Star team as a rookie and finished the year with a 2.76 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 62 innings, but now the Royals are giving the 25-year-old former first-round pick a chance to win a rotation spot in 2012 after he started in college and the minors.

Crow told Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that he’s “comfortable” starting and is “going into spring training with the goal of making the rotation.”

As is the case with most young pitchers it makes sense to find out if Crow can thrive in a 200-inning role before locking him into a 70-inning role, but control problems could derail his attempts to become a top-of-the-rotation starter. He walked 3.5 batters per nine innings as a starter in the minors and issued 31 free passes in 62 innings as a reliever with the Royals,

Crow seems to recognize that, telling Dutton that “the biggest thing for a starter is to keep your pitch count low, pound the strike zone and get quick outs.” If he can effectively do that Crow certainly has the raw stuff and multi-pitch repertoire to succeed as a starter, but “pound the strike zone” seems easier said than done for a 25-year-old with a history of iffy control.

Yankees acquire James Paxton from Mariners

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The Yankees announced that the club has acquired starter James Paxton from the Mariners in exchange for three prospects: pitcher Justus Sheffield, outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams, and pitcher Erik Swanson.

Paxton, 30, has been among the game’s better starters over the past few years. In 2018, he went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and a 208/42 K/BB ratio in 160 1/3 innings. The lefty has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining after earning $4.9 million this past season.

Sheffield, 22, is the headliner in the Mariners’ return. He made his major league debut in September for the Yankees, pitching 2 2/3 innings across three appearances. Two of those appearances were scoreless; in the third, he gave up a three-run home run to J.D. Martinez, certainly not an uncommon result among pitchers. MLB Pipeline rates Sheffield as the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect and No. 31 overall in baseball.

Thompson-Williams, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. This past season, between Single-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, he hit .299/.363/.546 with 22 home runs, 74 RBI, 63 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 415 plate appearances. He was not among the Yankees’ top-30 prospects, per MLB Pipeline.

Swanson, 25, was selected by the Yankees in the eighth round of the 2014 draft. He spent most of his 2018 campaign between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Overall, he posted a 2.66 ERA with a 139/29 K/BB ratio in 121 2/3 innings. MLB Pipeline rated him No. 22 in the Yankees’ system.

This trade comes as no surprise as the Yankees clearly wanted to upgrade the starting rotation and the Mariners seemed motivated to trade Paxton this offseason. To the Mariners’ credit, they got a solid return for Paxton, as Sheffield likely becomes the organization’s No. 1 prospect. The only worries about this trade for the Yankees is how Paxton will fare in the more hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium compared to the spacious Safeco Field, and Paxton’s durability. Paxton has made more than 20 starts in a season just twice in his career — the last two years (24 and 28). The Yankees are likely not done adding, however. Expect even more new faces before the start of spring training.