The top of the 2023 draft class was one of the most hyped group of players in ages. The Pirates, who had the number one pick, drafted Paul Skenes, and signed him to a record breaking bonus. The Pirates were extra cautious with Skenes’ usage in his first look against pro players. Skenes pitched just 6.2 innings, but struck out 10, only walked two, and didn’t allow a single home run.
It’s understandable why the Pirates put Skenes on a strict innings regiment after getting drafted. Skenes had already tossed 122.2 innings for Louisiana State University, which led all of D1 NCAA baseball with over 230 innings in total throughout his college career. Skenes pitched phenomenally last year, and that may be an understatement. He owned a 1.69 ERA, a WHIP of just 0.75, and K:BB ratio of 10.45. Skenes only allowed seven home runs all year, with a 45.2% strikeout rate and walk rate clocking in at just 4.3%.
Skenes' worst pitch still has plus potential, and that’s his change-up. Both his fastball, which sits 97-100 MPH, and his slider, which has extreme late break to it, are elite offerings that could get MLB batters out right now. On top of that, he can locate everything, at least to an above-average level.
Skenes is an athletic pitcher as well. The Pirates even offered Skenes the opportunity to develop as a two-way player. After all, he had a 1.046 OPS at Air Force before transfering to LSU. Skenes caught a handful of games during his first two college seasons, played a couple of games at first base, and a game in left field.
There’s a reason why Skenes is one of the best prospects in all of baseball. Many see him as the best draft prospect, at least pitching wise, since Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. It’s more than likely we get to see Skenes sometime next season in the Major Leagues. I honestly believe that if the Pirates had stayed in the Wild Card race into late August, we may have seen him at least make an appearance out of the bullpen, if not taken over a regular starting rotation spot.