Pirates' Paul Skenes dominates in Triple-A debut

The top pitching prospect in baseball did not allow a baserunner and routinely exceeded 100 MPH.
Mar 3, 2024; North Port, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Skenes (30) throws a pitch
Mar 3, 2024; North Port, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Skenes (30) throws a pitch / Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Pirates' top prospect and 2023 #1 overall draft selection Paul Skenes made his 2024 debut on Saturday against the Louisville Bats, the top affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The new level of competition did not appear to be much of a challenge - Skenes pitched three perfect innings on 46 pitches.

But to say that Skenes dominated might actually be an understatement. Of the nine batters he faced, five struck out, and the other four averaged a measly 80-MPH exit velocity on two groundouts and two flyouts.

The right-hander's stuff was as advertised. He threw 21 four-seam fastballs, mixed in a slider, his new pitch he calls a splinker, and sparingly used his curveball and changeup. Across all five of his offerings, he generated a whiff on an astonishing 52.2 percent of swings and produced a CSW rate (called strikes and whiffs over total pitches) of 39.1 percent of his pitches.

The fastball was electric, averaging 100.1 MPH and topping out at 101.2. The pitched netted him a strike over 71 percent of the time and induced a whiff on six of 14 swings. The slider, an especially effective out pitch against right-handed hitters, averaged 87.5 MPH, registered two called strikes, and had three of four swings result in a swing-and-miss. His new splinker, a sinker/splitter hybrid, was only thrown nine times, but ranged anywhere from 93-99 MPH, and of those nine pitches, three were called strikes, two were whiffs, and one was a foul ball.

Skenes' stuff is pretty clearly MLB-ready, but he is starting the season in the minor leagues as he stretches back out to a starter's workload. He peaked at Double-A Altoona last season but did not surpass two innings pitched or 33 pitches in any of his minor league games. This would mean that today's three-inning, 46-pitch outing was his longest since the College World Series last June.

It's only a matter of time before Paul Skenes joins the Pirates' starting rotation.

When he does, he should join Mitch Keller and Jared Jones who, as of this writing, is presently carving up the Marlins in his MLB debut, as a formidable trio atop Pittsburgh's rotation for years to come.