SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Kentucky junior left-handed pitcher James Paxton has been selected in the supplemental first round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays with the 37th overall pick, it was announced at the MLB Network Studio 42 Tuesday night.
Paxton, a native of Ladner, British Columbia, becomes the fourth all-time Kentucky player to be taken in the first round of the MLB Draft, becoming the highest pick since 2008 World Series Champion Joe Blanton, a starter for the Philadelphia Phillies, was taken with the 24th overall pick of the 2002 MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics. In 1996, outfielder Chad Green was selected with the eighth overall pick by the Milwaukee Brewers. Outfielder Everett Murray remains the highest drafted UK player in program annals, selected with the fifth overall pick of the 1975 MLB Draft – the secondary draft held in June of 1975, which consisted of just four rounds.
The supplemental first round consists of compensation picks for MLB teams that have lost free agent players during the offseason. Toronto received the 37th overall pick in the draft and the fifth pick of the supplemental first round after Type A free agent pitcher A.J. Burnett signed with the New York Yankees in the offseason.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder finished the year with a 5-3 record and a 5.86 ERA, ranking third in the NCAA in strikeouts per nine innings (13.2), just behind No. 1 overall pick Steven Strasburg of San Diego State – considered to be the best draft prospect in MLB history – and Oral Roberts hurler Mark Serrano. Paxton fanned 115 in 78.1 innings in 2009, issuing just 20 walks while holding opponents to a .266 average. In his three-year career, Paxton has totaled an 11-5 record and a 4.91 ERA, appearing in 55 games with 24 starts. Paxton has two career saves in 148.1 innings, allowing 149 hits, while striking out 168. Paxton’s 115 strikeouts in 2009 check in fifth-best in the 105-year history of the Kentucky program, marking just the 10th player in program history to eclipse 100 strikeouts in a season. Paxton and UK senior southpaw Chris Rusin (108 strikeouts in 94.1 IP) teamed to help UK set a new season strikeout record, as the UK staff fanned 523 in 2009, breaking the previous record of 502 team strikeouts in 1995.
Last year, a school-record seven UK players and nine signees were drafted in the 2008 MLB Draft, including first-team All-American outfielders Sawyer Carroll and Collin Cowgill. Carroll was picked with the 111th overall pick in the third round by the San Diego Padres, just behind right-hander Scott Green, who was nabbed with the 99th pick of the third round.
The draft will continue through the first 111 overall picks, which includes round one, compensation round A, round two, round three and compensation round B. Wednesday, the draft will resume in the fourth round at noon ET and will be tentatively scheduled to go through the 30th round. The draft will conclude Thursday with the 31st through 50th rounds, beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET.