Ben Cherington didn't overthink things. With the no. 1 overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft he selected a potential future Cy Young candidate in Paul Skenes. Where does he fit into the Pirate farm system?
With the no. 1 overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft the Pittsburgh Pirates seemed to be facing an easy decision. You had the best hitting prospect and best pitching prospect in 10+ years on the board. Selecting one of them was th easy move, right?
Well, in the days leading up to the draft, especially the day of, there was plenty of smoke that the Pirates may overthink this. They might focus too much on going under-slot to save money for later in the draft, leading to them passing on both of the generational talent. Thankfully, they did not overthink things and they took elite LSU pitching prospect Paul Skenes with the pick.
Skenes has been hyped up as the best pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg.
After starting his college career as a catcher/relief pitcher at the Air Force Academy, Skenes transferred to LSU where his career took off. Skenes capped off his collegiate career by posting a 1.69 ERA with just 20 walks and 209 strikeouts in 122.2 innings pitched.
Skenes was named the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series. With this, Skenes joins Adley Rutschman, Dansby Swanson, Pat Burrell, Phil Nevin, and Bob Horner as the only players to ever be named CWS Most Outstanding Player and then go no. 1 overall in the draft.
What does Skenes bring to the table?
Skenes has all the tools needed to be an elite MLB pitcher.
His fastball averaged 98 MPH this past season and touched as high as 102 MPH. His fastball is one that has a lot of carry to it. He throws a slider with great break that is a big time swing-and-miss pitch, and his power changeup gives hitters fits as well.
MLB Pipeline gives Skenes fastball an 80 grade, rates his slider as a 70 grade pitch, and the changeup as a 50 grade pitch. His control is a 55 grade, and his future value (FV) is a 65 grade. Make no if, ands, or buts about it, Skenes has the makeup to be the best starting pitcher in baseball.
Where does Skenes fit in the farm system
Skenes because the organization's best pitching prospect and by a wide margin. This is no knock on Jared Jones or Anthony Solometo who are both quickly climbing prospect boards, but Skenes is just on a different level.
Termarr Johnson is currently the top Pirate prospect with a FV of 55. Johnson slides in as the 27th best prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline. Skenes will settle in as the top prospect in the Pirate farm system and could be one of top in all of baseball. Jackson Holliday and Elly De La Cruz are the only prospects with a 65 FV per Pipeline.
When will Skenes arrive?
Possibly the most encouraging part of selecting Skenes is that he could arrive in the majors in a hurry. To be honest, Skenes could join the Pirate bullpen today and be their best reliever not named David Bednar.
The most likely timeline for Skenes, however, is for him to join the Pirate starting rotation next summer. The Pirates will likely be careful with Skenes the rest of this summer. Similar to what the Washington Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg, it would not be a surprise to see Skenes work in the instructional league and then go pitch in the AFL.
This could then put Skenes in position to start next season with Double-A Altoona or Triple-A Indianapolis, before joining the Pirate rotation some time next summer.