23 June 2011
Walking out from the Everett home opener last night, Churchill and I were talking about potential Futures Games rosters and when they might be announced. In other seasons, it seemed like there would have been a few more logical choices, but with the Mariners promoting most of the guys in triple-A who could hit a bit and Pineda already locked into the rotation, we were left digging a little more. Sending Taijuan Walker wouldn't quite make sense because the representatives usually come from advanced-A or high, though on numbers and stuff, he had a case. More likely, we concluded, we'd see James Paxton, who mostly needed to log innings, but was flashing ace stuff at times in Clinton. Today, we have that announcement of Paxton on the team, with the addition of Rainiers third baseman Alex Liddi.
Paxton probably would have been the pick for most people to represent that Mariners this year. As I love pointing out, he's tenth in the league in strikeouts with seventy-three (the leader has ninety-one), but everyone ahead of him has made between three and five additional starts. Paxton has been quite dominant at times, but the knock against him is that he's also up there on the leaderboards ranking twelfth in walks, the guys ahead of him ranging from two to five more starts again and the leader logging fifty-three. This is not good, certainly, but he also appears to be settling in. Month to month, his BB/9 has gone from 6.0 in his one April start, to 5.60 in May and down to 4.86 for June. These aren't monumental leaps, but they're noticeable ones, and seem to emphasis that getting back to the routine of pitching every five days is really the most important thing for him.
Liddi is more of a surprise, although I had thought that he had already played in two of these, and that tends to be the cutoff. That's not to knock Liddi, because he's having a pretty solid season in triple-A. We are seeing offense up throughout the league, but a .260/.326/.471 line isn't bad, certainly, and with thirteen home runs, he's two away from tying his total for all of last season (the triples, meanwhile, have vanished). He's also having a fine season with the glove. Last season, he didn't show well, and certainly not as well as he did when he was in the Cal League the previous year, but now we're seeing him with scattered starts at short in place of Rodriguez/Kazmar/whomever and that's just not something that we're accustomed to seeing out of him. He's played more games at short than at first this year. But, since I can't seem to avoid being something of a buzzkill, he's striking out in nearly a third of his at-bats, which is BAD, and after hitting .308/.382/.567 in May and looking like quite the baseball player, he's .239/.280/.443 in June, with a worse batting eye. BA says he's on the cusp of taking the third base job, but I just don't see that happening. More likely, Liddi will need another year or so of seasoning in triple-A before I see him emerging as a truly viable candidate.
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