James Paxton used to have a distinct delivery, in which he leaned back during his stride and pointed his glove high toward the sky. It was an aspect of his mechanics for years, but he made a major adjustment that improved his balance by largely eliminating the lean-back in his delivery, and the glove came down in conjunction. With these improved upper-body mechanics, Paxton was able to better line up the gears of rotation for his fastball, and the result was the fastest average heater (97.3 mph) of his career by nearly two full ticks. Overall, he threw his most pro innings since 2013, trimmed the walks and maintained nearly a strikeout per inning. The 28-year-old Paxton is beyond the point where we can call him a post-hype sleeper, but the improvements that he made last year appear to be legit, giving him significant upside that may still be lurking under the radar.
Paxton was impressive in his first bullpen session of camp Thursday, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. The 28-year-old southpaw reportedly flashed impressive velocity during his session, an encouraging sign for a pitcher the Mariners are hoping can finally break out in 2017. Paxton has been solid over 50 major league starts across his first four seasons, going 18-15 with a 3.43 ERA. However, he's yet to surpass 121 innings or six victories in any of those campaigns, and his 20 starts in 2016 represented a career high. Paxton is currently penciled in as Seattle's third starter behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma heading into spring training.
Paxton agreed to a one-year deal with the Mariners on Friday, avoiding arbitration, MLB.com's Greg Johns reports. This was Paxton's first year as an arbitration-eligible player. The terms of the agreement were not announced. He is a trendy breakout candidate this season, as he showed velocity gains and posted a 2.80 FIP in 20 starts last season, which was not reflected in his 3.79 ERA.
Paxton (6-7) allowed three runs on six hits, struck out eight and walked one over 5.0 innings in a victory over the Astros on Wednesday. Seattle's offense spotted him six runs in the first two frames, so there wasn't any real need to push Paxton on Wednesday. He threw 91 pitches, 66 of which were for strikes. In his final three outings, he posted a 11.37 K/9 rate. Overall, Paxton finishes 2016 with a 3.79 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 117 strikeouts in 121.0 innings.
Paxton allowed one run on five hits and one walk Friday with seven strikeouts in seven innings in a win at the Twins. Better defense and Paxton might not have given up any runs. In his last three starts, Paxton has a 2.25 ERA with 19 strikeouts and two unintentional walks. Paxton's summer was interrupted by forearm tightness and then a broken fingernail, but since July 22, he's allowed two runs or less in six of 10 starts. Saturday he easily pitched in the high 90s and had excellent command of his curveball.
Paxton took a no-decision after allowing two runs on five hits and two walks with three strikeouts in six innings during Sunday's 3-2 win over the A's. Paxton delivered his first quality start since August 7, but didn't factor into the decision as Seattle didn't plate the game-winning run until the ninth inning. He also got his ERA (3.97) back under four with the outing despite walking multiple batters for the first time since July 2. He'll look to build off Sunday's success when he takes on the Astros at home next Saturday,