Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz
As is the case so often, it comes down to pitching. Past, present and future. And we are only talking about American Association hurlers and how they can impact major league planning.
Today’s examples are James Paxton, Tim Adleman, Aaron Wilkerson and Tanner Scheppers.
Paxton always projected as strong major league talent, even when he left the University of Kentucky and made his first four professional starts back in 2010 for Grand Prairie. It took some time for the big lefty to live up to all the hype, but there is no question today as the record-setting Seattle Mariners power arm and reigning American League Pitcher of the Week is on a great pace.
“I actually didn’t even know there was an award for the week,” he told The Seattle Times. “It’s really cool. I’m honored.”
While the text notifying him that he had won was a surprise, what he had done to major league hitters to start the season has been a dominating headline. Paxton was honored because he allowed only six hits while striking out 17 in 15 scoreless innings in his two starts during the week which has increased his franchise-record streak to start a season to 21 scoreless frames. He has tossed at least six shutout innings in each of his three starts, becoming only the 10th pitcher in MLB history since 1900 to start the season this way. He has given up only eight hits while striking out 22 batters.
This is what 710ESPNSeattle said about the Canadian native: “Paxton had an eye-opening 2016 (although he was only 6-7, 3.79 in 20 starts), adding velocity to his fastball and extra bite to his curveball, but the 28-year-old southpaw looks like a different pitcher altogether from even a season ago. He doesn’t just have stuff. He doesn’t just have the ability to throw a complete-game shutout every once in a while. He’s become downright sensational on the mound, but not only does he have pitches that are hard to hit, he is now completely confident in what his plan is coming into every outing, and he has the ability to adjust that plan if necessary.”
Adleman Steps Up for Reds–Again
Tim Adleman (Lincoln and El Paso, 2012) isn’t at Paxton’s level although the Cincinnati Reds are feeling very good about the righthander, who came back from a short stint in the minor leagues and immediately kept the team in a game with four relief innings in which he allowed just two hits and a run while striking out five.
“Shoot, you kidding me,” Reds manager Bryan Price told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “That was exactly what we had to have. That was like what he did last year, we brought him up…and pitched very, very well.” He went 4-4 with a 4.00 ERA for 13 starts in his first major league season.
Asked if he felt he had been overlooked in spring training, Adleman told the newspaper: “That’s hard to say. It’s one of those things that as a player is out of your control. All you can do is execute and do your job. If you do that, you put yourself in a good position and the chips will fall your way, so to speak.”
Wilkerson Still Solid
Aaron Wilkerson (Grand Prairie, ’13-’14), still trying to get to the major leagues during the regular season for the first time after being given only a short look by Milwaukee during spring training, is another player who seems to keep his chin up and moving forward.
The latest outing by the 27-year-old right-hander was a four-hit, 5-0 shutout in a rain-shortened five-inning triumph for Double-A Biloxi. He improved his record to 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA. Wilkerson has struck out 20 Southern League hitters while allowing 14 hits (three walks) in 15.2 innings.
Scheppers Back on the Mound
Tanner Scheppers is in a good news-bad news stretch with Texas. Injury-plagued for much of the last three seasons after the onetime St. Paul righty was the Rangers’ Opening Day starter in 2014, he has been taken off the parent club’s 40-man roster. The good news for the 30-year-old is that he is once again able to take the mound, pitching three times in relief so far in the new season for Triple-A Round Rock with a 3.38 ERA.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and his book, “The Passion of Baseball”, came out in October and is available at traditional book-buying sites, or at www.WirzandAssociates.com.