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The Newest M's, Laffey and Paxton

James Paxton
Thanks to a busy work schedule, it has been forever since I posted. Plus, let's be honest, the most exciting thing about the first week of spring training is that baseball is back. The games themselves... well, are baseball in name.

Still, a weekend post on the first week of spring training is likely in order. For now though, why not talk about a pair of southpaws the Mariners have added since opening up camp?

Let's start with Aaron Laffey, whom the Mariners acquired from the Indians for minor league infielder Matt Lawson. Both players are nearly the same age, but Lawson is yet to play above AA, while Laffey has a few years of extended time in the majors under his belt.

Given the M's collection of late-20-early-30-something mediocre middle infielders (maybe they should get a nickname, like the Josh Wilson pawn army or something), they did not need Lawson for organizational depth at this point. His skillset was already repeated four times or so by players that were above him on the depth chart.

Meanwhile, Laffey didn't have a spot on Cleveland's team, after a mostly uninspiring run at the major league level over multiple seasons. He has bounced between the starting rotation and bullpen, never finding a home in either. The Mariners have already told him that he will be a reliever, which he is happy about.

If it weren't for the switch to exclusive bullpen work, I'd say that Laffey looks like another Luke French, but perhaps the shorter role will make him something a little different. Aaron claims that he tops out at 92-93 miles an hour, but his pitch f/x data suggest it's more like 87 mph - though again, those numbers were accumulated in mixed pitching roles. It is possible that Laffey will emerge as a pleasant surprise with new surroundings in a new role that is the most defined of his MLB career. I wouldn't count on it, but the Mariners don't have anything to lose here. Why not add another arm to the mix?

The Mariners definitely did not lose anything when they inked fourth round draft pick James Paxton this week. Since he was a college senior, he was not subject to the August 15 deadline for a majority of draftees.

Paxton's road to the M's is an interesting one. It started when he turned down the Blue Jays after they made him a supplemental first round pick. Upon turning the Jays down, he returned to school - only to have the NCAA rule him ineligible because of his contact with Scott Boras as he went through the draft process his junior season. The end result was a year off for James Paxton, save four mediocre starts for an independent league team weeks before the 2010 draft. The M's ultimately took him in the fourth round.

It's easy to dream on James Paxton. He is a lefty with good size, a fastball that reaches into the mid-90s, and a breaking ball that compliments his fastball nicely. Paxton has struck out guys wherever he has pitched, but high ERAs in the SEC kept me from ever falling in love with him. Still, I personally like him more than Anthony Ranaudo, the hard-throwing SEC darling from this past season that went in the supplemental first round this year. Paxton was a nice pick by the Mariners in the fourth round.

Plus, Paxton is from beautiful British Columbia, and I like it when the home team nabs home-grown (or rather close to home) talent.

So, there they are, Laffey and Paxton, one lefty for now, another for the future. The long list of pitchers in camp is bound to shrink one of these days.