In the first real big trade of the offseason, the Seattle Mariners continued their teardown of the major league roster by sending LHP James Paxton to the New York Yankees for a prospect package of LHP Justus Sheffield, OF Dom Thompson-Williams and RHP Erik Swanson.
The initial consensus is that it’s a light haul for a pitcher that’s shown low-end SP1 talent the last two years albeit with the major caveat that health issues dog him throughout his career.
Paxton’s 2018 was his most robust, as the lefty fireballer finished with 160.1 innings, a career high. Among left-handed starters who pitched at least 100 innings this year here is where he ranks:
32.3 K% - 2nd
25.7 K-BB% - 2nd
1.10 WHIP - 6th
3.24 FIP - 5th
.287 wOBA - 6th
And this was a continuation of his 2017 where his dominance was more pronounced primarily thanks to better home run suppression.
While the wins are going to likely come pouring in for Paxton, it’s fair to wonder the effects of Yankee Stadium. According to ESPN Park Factors, Yankee Stadium played as the sixth-best run producing park last year whereas Safeco ranked 27th. Paxton also had some odd splits last year, letting same-handed batters slash .327/.378/.495 against him in 112 plate appearances. Now in the best lefty park for home runs in the American League, he can’t repeat those mistakes.
Lower back inflammation landed him on the DL for three weeks and an unfortunate line drive gave him a forearm contusion that forced him to miss two weeks. In 2017, a strained left forearm and a strained left pectoral muscle cost him two months of action. In short, he’s been on the DL at least once every year he’s been in the bigs and while the injuries aren’t to the same areas of the body (I don’t conflate a line drive and a left arm strain), it’s not unfair to assume he could struggle surpassing 180 innings.
Overall, Paxton should produce the numbers of an SP2 and help anchor your fantasy rotation. In drafts you’d be wise to safeguard and nab another pitcher that’s a workhorse on either end of him. That’d be someone like Gerrit Cole on the front end or Jack Flaherty a round or two later.
Projection for 2019: 16 W/3.47/1.12/216 K in 175 IP
Justus Sheffield, LHP - Sheffield is the easy headliner in the package. Here ‘s what Yankees system expert Jason Woodell wrote when he ranked him number one in our Top 30 post a little over a month ago.
Sheffield commands four pitches. His fastball touches 96 and under the tutelage of C.C. Sabathia has seen improvement on his cutter. The slider flashes plus with the changeup lagging a bit behind. The emergence of the cutter adds a fourth pitch to the mix which makes him a viable starting pitcher. Sheffield profiles as a low ceiling, high floor mid-rotation starter. ETA: 2019
In 116 innings last year (88 in Triple-A), he had a 2.48 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 123 strikeouts. Though it’s worth pointing out that in Scranton he struck out 8.6 K/9 (23 K%). He finished the year in the Yankees bullpen where he pitched a forgettable 2.2 innings. Sheffield is immediately thrust into redraft league relevancy as he might legitimately crack the weak Seattle rotation. I doubt Roenis Elias, Casey Lawrence or Max Povse will threaten him. The new park is enticing but temper your expectations for now. Sheffield will likely be a good streaming option off your bench in mixed leagues.
Projection for 2019: 9 W/4.34/1.23/112 K in 120 IP
Erik Swanson, RHP - The 25-year-old Swanson is another near-MLB ready pitcher that should see time in the Mariners rotation should they continue depleting it or when injuries sprout up. He ranked 14th in our Top 30. He’s of an interest in AL-only leagues and very deep mixed leagues where his innings-eating style will provide value simply by sheer volume.
Jason’s Report: Swanson has a prototypical pitcher’s body at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds. His fastball touches 97 with run and generates swing and miss. He is a fastball-dominant pitcher and occasionally loses command within the zone, leading to some hard contact. He also throws a slider and changeup with the slider flashing tight spin and generates swing and miss. In order to reach his ceiling as a fourth or fifth starter, Swanson needs to improve his sequencing and command within the zone. Otherwise, he could be a valuable bullpen arm due to his plus fastball. ETA: 2019
Projection for 2019: 5 W/4.12/1.14/57 K in 64 IP
Dom Thompson-Williams, OF - A 5th round pick in 2016, Thompson-Williams had an appealing 23 HR/20 SB campaign in 100 games, 90 of the in High-A where he finished the season. His first real big test will be in Double-A next year where it’s time to see if his strikeouts (25 K% in Tampa) will climb higher or get honed in.
Jason’s Report: DTW is an athletic player with strong wrists. I don’t love the hands when he loads. He drops them low and keeps them low but he has made it work. I spent all season waiting for pitchers to expose the hole in his swing. As the months went by, he kept hitting. I do think he will struggle in the upper minors, but he is an above average runner whose baseball IQ allows his speed to play up in game action. ETA: 2021
Projection for 2019: Won’t Play in MLB