Perhaps the most glaring Achilles' heel for the Yankees last season was a lack of consistent frontline starting pitching. Yankees manager Aaron Boone believes that newly acquired starter James Paxton can fill that void.
Paxton, a lefthander, was acquired from the Mariners early last week for three prospects, including highly touted lefthander Justus Sheffield. Paxton went 11-6 last season with a 3.76 ERA, 208 strikeouts and 42 walks in 28 starts for Seattle.
In 102 starts across six seasons with Seattle, Paxton was 41-26 with a 3.42 ERA, 617 strikeouts and 168 walks.
“He’s been a really good pitcher in this league for a few years now,” Boone said after visiting with fifth-graders at Mount Pleasant Elementary School in Smithtown on Tuesday morning. “We think he’s going to continue to get even better. We feel like he’s a guy that we can add to the top half of our rotation and a guy that has the ability to shut down even the best of lineups when he’s at his best. Hopefully, we can help him go to another level, because he has got about as much talent as anyone.”
Boone, who said he’s already spoken to Paxton "a couple of times," believes his new starter will fit right in with the rest of the clubhouse.
“He’s really excited,” Boone said. “I think he understands the opportunity that he has coming here, and the chance to win big, and he’s really excited to be on board.”
As long as Paxton can stay healthy, production is a high likelihood. He’s made seven trips to the disabled list since 2014, but had career highs in both starts (28) and innings (160 1/3) last season.
Boone is happy that he’ll get to call on Paxton’s dominant raw stuff every five days.
“It’s an elite fastball, mid-upper 90s,” Boone said. “He has the ability to cut his fastball, which really helps him dominate righthanded hitters. He has a real put-away curveball. He’s got all the weapons that you look for in an ace pitcher. He has that kind of stuff that allows him to be [among the best pitchers in the game].”
Paxton lost both of his starts against the Yankees last season, pitching to a 6.55 ERA, with eight runs and 12 hits allowed, including four home runs, in 11 innings.
He won’t have to face that young, potent lineup anymore – one that includes two of last season’s rookie of the year candidates, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres.
Andujar and Torres lost the Rookie of the Year balloting to Angels pitcher/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani. While Boone said he was hoping the award would go to one of his young stars, he wasn’t surprised that the honor went to Ohtani.
“He had an amazing season,” Boone said. “Obviously, I was hoping one of our guys would win it between [Andujar] and Gleyber because they had two amazing seasons and, I think, were worthy of the award, but it’s hard to argue with Ohtani because, being that unique two-way player, he did a lot of neat things this season.”
Andujar hit .297 with 27 home runs and 92 RBIs in 149 games last season and Torres hit .271 with 24 home runs and 77 RBIs in 123 games.
Between his two young hitters and a shiny new arm at the top of the rotation, Boone is hoping that a lot of neat things happen in the Bronx next season.