James Pazos is not among the names most mentioned as far as Yankees bullpen prospects are concerned.
In fact, the talented 23-year-old lefty almost got lost among the chatter involving fellow southpaws Jacob Lindgren and Tyler Webb as they moved through the system in 2014.
After watching the native of Gilbert, Ariz., improve and emerge as a closer-type in Trenton down the stretch this past season, there is little doubt this determined pitcher, who has the perfect makeup and mental approach to help the back of the Yankees bullpen sooner than later, belongs in the same conversation as Lindgren and Webb.
“James has certainly showed us something while he was here,” said Trenton pitching coach Tommy Phelps. “He’s got the kind of stuff that can play in the major leagues. There is some refining to do, but he’s on his way.
Trenton manager Tony Franklin certainly agreed.
“James showed he could handle late-inning situations,” said Franklin. “I can certainly see him helping the big club in the future.”
Pazos appeared 28 times for Trenton, recording an 0-1, 1.50 mark and recording six saves in s many opportunities. His strikeout/walk ratio was 42-19. Eastern League hitters batted a paltry .167 against him. Including his time with Tampa last season, Pazos was 0-3, 2.42 in 67 innings with 10 saves and a strikeout/walk ratio of 75-25.
Taken in the 13th round of the 2012 draft – he was previously selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 40th round in 2009 but did not sign – from the University of San Diego, Pazos keeps hitters off-balance with a funky delivery that produces a fastball that registered 94 mph at times in Trenton mixed with a hard slider.
He gets his share of strikeouts, but also can lose the plate at times. He showed ability to battle back from adversity and gained confidence as the season drew to a close.
“I need to be consistent every time out,” said Pazos. “I just want to get to the point where that is the situation every time out. I enjoy being put in the position of pitching in the late innings.
“Eventually I want to be a key member of the (Yankees) bullpen in whatever role they need me.”
Pazos, a New York-Penn League All-Star at Staten Island in 2012, mixed his fastball and slider well in Trenton, while also throwing a developing changeup at times. A consistent changeup would augment that fastball-slider mix that Double-A hitters found so hard to deal with.
Overall, Pazos had his best year since joining the Yankees system in 2012. He moved past others such as Branden Pinder and really had an overall better year than Webb and Nick Rumbelow, another bullpen prospect who made some strides in 2014.
He needs to tighten up on his control a bit, perhaps throw a few less pitches and cut down on walks. He’ll surrender a home run here or there, but nothing at a frequency that is any cause for alarm.
“The key for a player like James is to get better every year,” said Franklin. “I’ve seen him in spring training each year he has been in our organization. I see how he’s making progress having him in Trenton to finish the year.
“He’s certainly doing what he has to.”
Pazos is an example of what teams find in the 12th round, and how that player can develop. If you haven’t heard of James Pazos, the prediction is you will sooner rather than later.