PITTSBURGH — On Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to place top prospect Paul Skenes on the development list, which in turn will end his 2023 season.
The move came as a surprise as Skenes was scheduled to pitch for Double-A Altoona on Thursday night. In that game, Skenes would have faced former LSU teammate and No. 2 overall pick Dylan Crews, who is with the the Washington Nationals Double-A affiliate.
Instead, Skenes will not toe the rubber in a game again this season and will gear up for the offseason and 2024.
“Our pitching and development group, as they would on most Mondays, kind of assessed the week and planned ahead. As they got deeper into those conversations, they made the recommendation that they looked at Paul like he’s checked all the boxes that we wanted him to check post-draft as a pro in 2023,” general manager Ben Cherington said.
“Let’s focus on a full offseason and full 2024. We got that recommendation from them later last night and communicated with Paul today. Simple as that. We just felt like he’s checked the boxes that we wanted him to check for this year.”
As for some of those boxes that Skenes was able to check in his brief time pitching in affiliated baseball, there were some both on the mound and off of it.
The Pirates were pleased with what he showed in his first go-around as a professional.
“Experiencing affiliated baseball, the schedule, the travel, the routine. He checked that box at two or three different levels,” said Cherington. There was some pitch design, working on a slightly different shaped breaking ball, working on a two-seam a little bit more than he had toward the end at LSU. There were some pitch design things. Experiencing both a four-day rest and five-day rest pitching routine.”
Between three levels in the Pirates’ minor leagues this year, Skenes made five starts and threw a total of 6.2 innings. In those five starts, Skenes allowed four runs — all of which came in one start — allowed five hits, walked a pair and struck out 10.
This, of course, goes on top of his workload with LSU this season as he helped lead the Tigers to the College World Series title.
In Baton Rouge, Skenes totaled 122.2 impressive innings across 19 starts. He finished the year 12-2 and struck out 209 batters.
In an on-air interview on AT&T SportsNet during the Pirates’ win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday, Skenes admitted his body was feeling a bit more fatigued, but Cherington indicated that was not the reason for the decision to end his season.
“It would be pretty typical, pretty common for most pitchers this time of the year to feel that,” Cherington said. “You’re not going to recover the same way you do in February or March, so not surprised he would say that. I’m sure our staff in Altoona and our pitching group would have been aware of that too. That wasn’t a driver behind the decision or anything like that, but it would be pretty typical for a pitcher this time of year.”
For now, Skenes will remain in Altoona with the team. As for what his next steps are following the conclusion, there’s nothing exactly set in stone yet.
Essentially, though, Skenes will go through a typical offseason for a pitching prospect.
“There’ll be a transition. I don’t know off the top of my head every detail of where his offseason will be. I know he’ll spend some of it in Bradenton, I’m sure,” Cherington said. “We’ll get into that. But he would be like any other minor league starting pitcher — his offseason will track like that.”