2024 Pittsburgh Pirates Rum Bunter staff prediction: Noah Wright

What do I see the Pittsburgh Pirates doing in 2024?
Miami Marlins v Pittsburgh Pirates
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Cy Young and Rookie of the Year: Paul Skenes

Many people will have Mitch Keller as the team's best pitcher, and I believe that's possible. I think Keller is going to be great this year. But I'm going to go a little bold and say that not only is Paul Skenes the Pirates' best rookie, but he end up as their best-starting pitcher by the end of the 2024 campaign. That's no knock on Keller but rather a major compliment to Skenes.

Once you look at some of Skenes' college numbers and his overall stuff, you'll see why. Skenes pitched 122.2 innings for Louisiana State University, working to a 1.69 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, and 10.45 K:BB ratio. He struck out 209 batters and had a strikeout rate of 45.2%. For reference, no pitcher in MLB history has ever struck out 200+ batters in less than 150 innings. But he also had a walk rate of just 4.3% and an HR/9, clocking in at 0.51.

Skenes' stuff is off the charts. A 6'6", 235-pound imposing force on the mound, Skenes regularly runs his stuff up into the triple-digits. He sits 97-100 but was topping out at 103 for LSU. His slider has 11 inches of horizontal break and glides away from hitters with sweeping action. Then there's his change-up. Both his fastball and slider are 70, maybe even 80-grade pitches, and while his changeup may not be on that level, it's still a plus offering.

Skenes has displayed plus command as well. He is an athletic pitcher who played some catcher and corner outfield while at Air Force before transferring to LSU. His motion is fluid, and even though he can run the heat into 100+ MPH territory, he has a low-effort delivery, which should help even more with his ability to locate in the long run.

I think Skenes will come up sometime in early June at the latest, right around the time the Pirates gain the extra year of control over him. Not only do I think he will end up as the Pirates' best pitcher and their best rookie, but don't be shocked if he is in contention for the Rookie of the Year award this year.