Scouting Yankees Prospect #29: James Pazos

The Yankees selected left-handed pitcher James Pazos in the 13th round of the 2012 MLB Draft out of the University of San Diego. He immediately became a 'sleeper' prospect due to his power arm, saw his stuff increase significantly the following season, and followed that up by becoming one of the more consistent performers in the Yankee farm system last season.

Vital Statistics:
Name: James Pazos
Position: Pitcher
DOB: May 5, 1991
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 230
Bats: Right
Throws: Left

The metamorphosis of Pazos on the mound over the past two and half seasons has been nothing short of dramatic. He debuted with a 1.79 ERA for the Staten Island Yankees back in 2012 and did it mostly on the strength of his power four-seam fastball.

Despite missing a good chunk of time in 2013 with a torn muscle in his pitching shoulder, he was still able to post a more than respectable 4.05 ERA campaign with the Charleston RiverDogs but behind the numbers he saw significant development with both his changeup and slider.

He broke out a bit in the Arizona Fall League later that offseason, posting a 1.74 ERA in the hitting-friendly AFL, and many team insiders believed he was set for an even better 2014 campaign.

His transformation continued last season too, going primarily from a four-seam hurler to mostly a sinking two-seam pitcher, and the results followed. He posted a combined 2.42 ERA between high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton but it was with the Thunder where he started putting it all together, posting a 1.50 ERA in 28 appearances and holding opposing batters to a .190 batting average.

"What we found out as he throws more sinkers is that his swing and miss rate has actually gone up and the velo has stayed the same," Yankee pitching coordinator Gil Patterson said. "That's a nice little get.

"I'll tell you what, you talk about a funky lefty with some deception you certainly have got it with 'Paz'. I tell you what, I wouldn't be comfortable against him.

"Forget about being a left-handed hitter and not being comfortable, I wouldn't be too comfortable against him as a right-handed hitter [either]."

The numbers certainly bear that out too as Eastern League hitters batted just .163 against him in 2014 and right-handers mustered just a .204 average. Pazos has reinvented himself on the mound to not only become one of the more unheralded pitching prospects in the organization but one the Yankees fully believe they can count on long-term.

"He's got great movement on the fastball, a really good changeup, and the breaking ball is still in that 'let's get a little more consistency' mode," Patterson said. "There's a pitcher named [Tony] Watson, one of our coaches did a nice comparison to him.

"Sometimes you make a comparison to a guy in the big leagues who maybe has a similar repertoire or delivery and you kind of try to match them up. This Watson guy gets a ton of ground balls, he gets some swings and misses with his sinker and changeup, and we were talking in meetings the other the day that maybe 'Pazi' could help us like that."

He hasn't been in the organization for very long and he has amassed just 141.2 innings in his career thus far after dealing with the injury in 2013, and yet while there are some other left-handers garnering a little more notoriety lately, namely Jacob Lindgren, the Yankees believe Pazos could be one of these pitchers who could surprise some folks at the big league level, perhaps as soon as 2015.

"I think you nailed it. Right now we have this nice three left-handed pitcher mix with Pazos, [Tyler] Webb, and [Jacob] Lindgren. I'm not sure that they could call any of three up and any of them wouldn't make an impact. We like all of them," Patterson concluded.

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2014

Trenton

0-1

6

42.0

28

19

42

1.50

2014

Tampa

0-2

4

25.0

23

6

33

3.96

2013

Charleston

3-1

1

33.1

27

8

32

4.05

2013

Staten Island

0-0

0

1.0

1

1

1

0.00

2012

Staten Island

2-2

3

40.1

29

19

39

1.79



Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball. Fastball-wise is where Pazos has really transformed himself. Once solely a power four-seam guy, one who would sit anywhere from 91-97 mph with his fastball, he has gone almost exclusively to throwing sinking two-seamers. While the high-end velocity range has dropped somewhat, going from 93-96 mph in 2013 to more of a 91-95 mph realm, he will still pop some 96s and 97s but the contact out percentage has dramatically risen in his favor. He also generates a lot more movement with the two-seamer so even though he has lost a tick changing the seam grip his swing and miss rate has increased too.

Other Pitches. Pazos' transformation hasn't been just with the fastball though. His changeup, once a show-me pitch he would occasionally mix in to give hitters a different look, went from an average pitch with plus long-term potential to now a borderline plus pitch with the fade, depth, and consistency he gets with it. It looks exactly like his two-seam fastball now. He has vastly improved his slider over the years too, going from throwing a loopy 77-80 mph slider to a harder one now with better late breaking action and better depth, and better velocity [sitting mostly 84-86 mph]. Like the changeup it's an above average, borderline plus pitch. Just a little more consistency command-wise is all that is needed.

Pitching. His approach has completely changed too. Not one who would try to induce a lot of early count contact when he began his career, that is absolutely his goal now, especially being armed with a fastball-changeup arsenal built to do so. One who used to struggle keeping the ball down in the lower-half of the strike zone, Pazos is now completely on the opposite end of the spectrum -- everything is down! In fact, he is one of the absolute best at keeping the ball in the yard now, allowing just three career home runs in 99 appearances, and his consistency getting outs should only be aided more once the defenses behind him get better too. Obviously extremely coachable, he is very business-like on the mound and doesn't let his emotions get the best of him.

Projection. While nearly everything in his game has changed over the past couple of years, what hasn't changed is his long-term big league projection. Always considered more of a potential big league setup man because of his power fastball and ability to throw two secondary pitches, that potential is more realistic than ever these days simply because of how far his arsenal and command have come. There were some early thoughts he compared best to a Mike Dunn type relief pitcher given his power but the complete about-face with his stuff and approach has that projected style changing. Patterson nailed it; Pazos compares favorably to Pittsburgh's Tony Watson. Like Watson, Pazos best projects as left-handed setup man who could occasionally come in to close out games when the need arises.

ETA. 2015. A strong argument could be made that Pazos is big league ready right now. With the depth of left-handed relieving options the Yankees have Pazos will almost assuredly get some more minor league seasoning, however. He will most likely open up in Triple-A Scranton to start the 2015 season and could see his first big league action later in the year.


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