The Charleston (WV) Gazette is reporting that the Astros have signed pitcher Ben Paxton.
Paxton spent four years at Western Kentucky, starting seven of 93 career games with a career 5.27 ERA/1.58 WHIP. However, he did spend last season with Evansville in the independent Frontier League, going 1-1 with a 1.12 ERA in 40.1IP - and that was only because he allowed 4ER in his last outing. Before that, his ERA was 0.23.
Thus, Paxton was named independent league Prospect #4 by Baseball America. What did BA say?
An extreme groundball pitcher who relies on his defense (28 of his 34 hits allowed were singles), Paxton was pitching in front of the second-worst defense in the league (146 errors in 94 games) for a team that finished the season 28-66—no other pitcher on the team had an ERA below 4.60.
But Paxton's stuff stood out as a diamond among rhinestones. Paxton went 4-1, 3.62 as a sophomore in 2007 and 1-1, 3.41 as a junior in 2008 and seemed to be a potential senior sign as a later-round draft pick. But Paxton, who had converted to a sidearm delivery as a sophomore, struggled with his release point as a senior to slump to 1-1, 6.06.
Paxton adoped a higher low three-quarters delivery at Evansville. The new release point allowed him to add some velocity (he touched some 92s) and helped give his slider some newfound bite that made him more effective against lefties. Paxton found that his stuff actually plays better in pro ball. His 88-89 mph fastball has a natural boring action that can break wooden bats on pitches that were jam-job singles against metal.
Paxton will be assigned to Lancaster come 2010.