Yankees: Just How Good Is James Paxton?

Last week, the Yankees checked off one of the “elite” starting pitchers they were seeking with the acquisition of James Paxton. But just how good is the left-hander?

As it sits right now, the Yankees 2019 probable rotation will line up something like this:

  1. Luis Severino RHP
  2. James Paxton LHP
  3. (Offseason Acquisition)
  4. Masahiro Tanaka
  5. CC Sabathia

The No. 3 spot could be filled via either the return of free agent J.A. Happ or the 29-year-old Patrick Corbin. However, what’s certain is the lock of Paxton as the club’s No. 2 or 3. It’s safe to say that if the Yankees can get at least 190 innings worth of “Big Maple”, they’ll be getting their money’s worth. It’s no secret that when healthy, the 30-year-old is among the games best southpaws.

In 24 starts this past season, Paxton posted a 3.76 ERA/3.24 FIP, 11.68 K/9 and a 3.8 fWAR in 160.1 innings. In the past two seasons, among all MLB starters with 200 innings pitched, he ranks 5th in FIP, 7th in xFIP, 25th in ERA, 4th in K/9. Although the 160.1 mark was a career high, if you spread his numbers over 200 innings, Paxton’s strikeout totals amount to roughly 260 K’s, which would place him 3rd in the American League.

Paxton’s arsenal as described in a scouting report via

His four-seam fastball generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ four-seamers, is blazing fast and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ four-seamers. His curve is thrown extremely hard, generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ curves and has primarily 12-6 movement. His cutter generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ cutters, is blazing fast and has some natural sink. His sinker generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ sinkers and is thrown at a speed that’s borderline unfair. His change (take this with a grain of salt because he’s only thrown 10 of them in 2018) is thrown extremely hard and is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers’ changeups.” 

Despite his history on the DL, the main cause of concern for Paxton in pinstripes would be the 23 home runs he allowed in 28 starts in 2018. Project that over a full season’s worth (33 starts) and it comes to 27 longballs. With that said, his 41.1% fly ball rate is certainly a statistic the Yankees will try and lower in 2019.

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