Independent Baseball Insider by Bob Wirz, Vol. 12, No. 24, August 21, 2014

“I think this kid has greatness written all over him.”

Not bad praise for a pitcher who was not yet 10 starts into his major league career at the time.  That was what Seattle Manager Lloyd McClendon said to The Tacoma News Tribune of James Paxton (pictured), who threw his first professional pitches for Grand Prairie, TX (American Association) back in 2010, prior to the lefty’s next to last start, six innings of one-run work in a 7-2 triumph at Detroit for the playoff-hopeful Mariners.

“He can get it to 99 (MPH),” said McClendon, not considered normally a boastful person.  “And it’s effortless.  He’s 6-7 (6-foot-4, in reality) with that (Clayton) Kershaw over-the-top (delivery).  You just don’t see it.  It’s a different angle, and it’s very difficult on hitters.”  After losing 4-3 in Philadelphia this week when his own throwing error led to two of three unearned runs, Paxton is 6-1 with an earned run average of 1.91 for 10 career major league starts.

Oh, Those Strikeout Hurlers

One needs to look no further than the recent sales of Rob Wort and Matt Nevarez to realize how much major league organizations covet strikeout pitchers, yet at least one more K artist from the same league, the American Association, is still out there to make scouts pay attention.

Right-hander Jon Link, who tasted the majors briefly with the Los Angeles Dodgers four years ago, was the headliner of an extraordinary game Sunday when he fanned 16 Grand Prairie, TX hitters in only seven innings, helping Wichita, KS take a 1-0 lead in an eventual 2-1 victory.

Link, 30, who shares the league lead with teammate Jason Van Skike with 11 victories and has the fifth best earned run average (3.26), had multiple strikeouts in every inning while only allowing two hits and a walk.  Link’s performance was nearly overshadowed because AirHogs starter Danny Gutierrez did not allow a hit in the first seven and two-thirds innings.  Link easily erased Wichita’s single-game strikeout record, and now has 98 strikeouts in 126 innings over his 19 starts.

Wort had his Sioux City, IA contract purchased by Arizona when his earned run average for 24 relief outings was 0.97 and he had struck out 58 American Association hitters in only 37 innings.  The 25-year-old former Washington Nationals farmhand has struck out eight in his first 4.1 innings for Hillsboro, OR of the Northwest League while picking up a victory.  He has allowed one run with two hits and a walk.

Pittsburgh bought Nevarez’s contract from Wichita, where he had been in the mid-season All-Star Game and had 23 saves in 24 opportunities plus a 4-0 record and 1.58 ERA while striking out 42 in 34 innings.  The 27-year-old is in Class AA at Altoona, PA where he earned a save in his first appearance despite giving up a hit and two walks in one inning.  He struck out two.

(Fan may subscribe at newly-reduced rates to this Independent Baseball Insider column, which will be published 36 times in 2014, at  Bob Wirz provides supplemental stories about Independent Baseball on his blog,  The author has 16 years of major league baseball experience with Kansas City and as chief spokesman for two Commissioners, and lives in Stratford, CT.)                    



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