clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Amateur Draft Profile: James Paxton, LHP, Grand Prairie Air Hogs



A draft-eligible player in independent ball who would have been a senior this season had he remained in school, Paxton was drafted in the supplemental round of last year's draft, but did not sign. He's projected to go in the same area this year, but he's gotten less attention among draft analysts this season, so due to the limitations of my information, some of the profile below may be dated.

Paxton is a big, hard-throwing lefthander who can get his fastball up as high as 98 MPH, and his slider has plus potential. He has great stuff, especially for a lefty, but there are many who believe he will be a relief pitcher at the next level.

Ed. note - Paxton was ruled ineligible for the 2010 season by Kentucky (to head off NCAA sanctions) after his agent, Scott Boras, negotiated directly with the Blue Jays. More evidence that Boras cares more about himself than his clients.


Paxton's floor may be as low as any similarly-aged potential first rounder in this draft class. He does have two good pitches, but his command isn't great, and there are concerns about his ability to remain healthy due to his stressful mechanics. The safest route might be to follow the same path the Washington Nationals laid out for 2009 draft pick Drew Storen and make him a relief pitcher immediately, putting him on the fast track to contribute in the back end of a big league bullpen.


If you're willing to gamble, it's easy to dream on the potential of Paxton's plus fastball/plus slider combo as a starting pitcher. He'd need to add an effective third pitch and improve his control, but lefthanders who can crank it up to the high 90s don't come along often, and he has a chance of turning into a good #2 starter on the strength of his pure stuff.

Will the Astros pick him? If so, where?

On the one hand, the Astros do have an organizational need for left-handed pitching, and they like tall, hard-throwing relievers. They also like signable players, and Paxton likely feels great pressure to sign this year. On the other hand, there may be concerns about his makeup due to a prolonged legal battle and subsequent departure from college for indie ball. I very much doubt the Astros would take him at #33 in the supplemental first round, but they might give him a hard look if he were still available later in the draft, in the second or third round.

Where is he projected to go right now?

Frankie Piliere does not have him being drafted in the first round.

Andy Seiler does not have him in the first round.

Deep Leagues has him at No. 22 to the Rangers.

Jonathan Mayo does not have him in the first 20 picks.

Keith Law does not have him in the first round.

Perfect Game USA does not have him in the first round.

Baseball America does not have him in the first round.

Bibliography (scouting reports and video)

Below the jump.

Baseball Rumor Mill

Keith Law's take:

Paxton has been 89-93 to 90-95 in his early work for Grand Prairie, where he's working after the NCAA hounded him out of the University of Kentucky.

He gets on top of the ball with good downhill plane and there's not much effort to his velocity. His breaking ball hasn't been as sharp as it was last year; he flashes a slider at 80-82 with good tilt, but throws more 77-79 mph slurves with curveball shape but not much depth. He has a straight change at 83-85 with almost no action. His delivery is pretty clean and he repeats his arm action well.

He's a good two months behind the college starters with whom he's competing for draft position, and it's possible that he will just be rounding into mid-season form as the draft takes place.

Andy Seiler's take:

It's a little strange to see Paxton's name in a writeup on Texas ballplayers, but that's what Paxton will be when he makes his debut with Grand Prairie in a few weeks. Paxton's story is well-known by now. The latest in the NCAA's crusade against student-athletes using agents in negotiations with pro teams, Paxton left school at Kentucky this spring after refusing to submit to an interview about his use of Scott Boras in negotiations with the Blue Jays after being picked in 37th overall last June. Whether scouts agree with the NCAA's position or not, there is general disappointment that there will only be limited looks at Paxton before a major decision has to be made regarding drafting him at a high draft slot. He featured an easy plus fastball in the 92-94 range a year ago, along with a plus curveball on some days, and that two-pitch mix made him the envy of all left-handed pitchers. However, despite having plus control, his command is quite spotty, and when he doesn't hit his spots, he's hit fairly hard. He does project to be a better pitcher as a pro against wood bats than against metal bats in college, but the fact still remains that he hasn't had a true successful collegiate season under his belt. Paxton does have #2 starter upside, and he's still only 21, but he needs to prove he can be healthy for a full season and command his stuff deep into starts. Projected Draft Range: Mid 1st Round - Late 2nd Round

Lincoln Hamilton's take, ranked No. 18:

Former Kentucky star will play Indy ball, fastball 92-94 w/ life, slider is potential plus pitch