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Thursday, September 28, 2017

2017 FANTASY BASEBALL POSTSCRIPT: JAMES PAXTON SP SEATTLE MARINERS

When it came to putting together sleeper lists for 2017 fantasy baseball, there was almost no doubt that Seattle Mariners emerging power lefty James Paxton was a fixture on most of those compilations.  While Paxton's injury history was quite scary and pronounced; the stuff screamed out "future ace" which made many in the fantasy baseball community reach for him in drafts last March.  Having logged a 3.79 ERA and bumped his K/9 to a career-best 8.70 in an injury-interrupted 2016 campaign, Paxton looked to be on the verge of stardom.  And stardom Paxton reached from the jump in 2017 as he logged a silly 1.34 ERA in April and then was at an even better 0.84 in May before the injury big reared its ugly head again with a scary left forearm strain.  Fears of needing Tommy John surgery were thankfully unfounded and so Paxton returned in June to pick up where he left off.  While Paxton hit the DL yet again in August (this time for a pectoral strain), he ultimately finished with a terrific 3.12 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and a career-best 10.18 K/9.  The strikeout rate really stands out here as it marked the fourth straight season of improvement in that category for Paxton and 147 K's in 130 innings qualified him as a supreme power arm.  With ratios that also check out for front-of-the-rotation status, Paxton has every box checked but the one for health.  And that ultimately is the issue with Paxton who simply can't make it through a season without at least one DL stint.  It is possible that the extreme velocity Paxton throws with (average fastball of 96.0) doesn't allow him to make more than 5-7 starts in a row before trouble begins to brew and so that needs to be taken into consideration when cutting the check at the draft table this spring.  You always want to construct a roster with as little health volatility as possible and so Paxton would appear to be a no-go using that as a strategy.  However the talent is so impressive here that an exception needs to be made when it comes to Paxton.  In the end you want to draft Paxton as your SP 3 in order to protect yourself from the inevitable injuries.  Anything higher than that level makes Paxton a bit too much of a risk.
2018 PROJECTION:  14-8 3.05 ERA 1.12 WHIP 177 K  

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