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Top 30 Pirates Prospects No. 1: What Does ’24 Hold for Paul Skenes?



Paul Skenes, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pirates prospects

This is one in a series of stories breaking down PBN’s Top 30 Pittsburgh Pirates prospects.

The Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves in a pickle. With the news of Johan Oviedo, they are left very thin in the starting pitcher department. 

One potential option to fill that role could be 2023’s first overall pick, Paul Skenes. This may be an unwise decision, but the option is still there nonetheless. 

Skenes’ advanced status and upside on the mound are why he’s considered our No. 1 Pirates’ prospect, and why he’s in the discussion to soften the Oviedo blow out of the get-go if needed.

The hype surrounding Skenes was apparent. Building up to the draft, and even directly after it, he’s all that was talked about. Let’s dive into Skenes’ college career. 

College Career

Skenes started his college career at the Air Force Academy. In his Freshman year, Air Force primarily used him in the backend of the bullpen. Skenes accumulated 11 saves in 18 total games and posted an ERA of 2.70. 

In his Sophomore year, Skenes strictly came out as a starter, and he started to ramp up his hype. In 15 games (15 starts), Skenes posted a 10-3 record, an ERA of 3.15, struck out 96 and walked 30 in 85.2 innings pitched. 

The Skenes hype reached its zenith when he transferred to LSU his junior year. 

When he reached LSU, Skenes’ velocity jump was significant, reaching up to 103 mph, and his strikeout numbers more than doubled from his sophomore year.  In 19 starts, Skenes held a 12-2 record, an ERA of 1.69, struck out 209 and walked 20 batters in 122.2 innings pitched.

Considering all of his eye-popping numbers in ’23, Skenes led the country in most of the major categories. The righty finished first in ERA and strikeouts.

In addition, Skenes’ advanced numbers were impressive, too. Skenes held an SIERA of 0.39, an xFIP of 2.50, an opposing slash line of .165/.206/.243, which equates to an OPS of .449. 

This conglomeration of impressive stats led us to where Skenes is today with the Pirates. 

What Now?

I don’t think we expected much from Skenes this past season in terms of workload. Considering the amount of innings he pitched for LSU, you can understand why the Pirates’ leash was extremely short. 

The 21-year-old pitched in five games in the Pirates’ minor league system and didn’t pitch more than two innings in any start. So the bloated 13.50 ERA in Altoona isn’t all that concerning. 

With advanced metrics on fastballs becoming more of a thing, there are questions about Skenes’ fastball, which would be categorized as a “dead zone” fastball. 

In past interviews, Skenes mentioned that he grew up throwing his changeup a ton. In addition, Skenes throws a slider and a curveball. 

The slider looks like it needs some fine-tuning, and I haven’t seen much of the curveball to give an honest opinion on it. The ultimate question is how will Skenes’ fastball play?

Can the velocity hide some issues? Can he fix the movement? I guess all of that will be answered in 2024 and beyond. 

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