Pittsburgh Pirates: Recapping Paul Skenes 2023 Season

Paul Skenes, who was drafted no. 1 overall in July and could quickly become a contributor in the majors

Altoona Curve v Erie Seawolves
Altoona Curve v Erie Seawolves / Justin Berl/GettyImages
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How early in the 2024 season could Paul Skenes join the starting rotation of the Pittsburgh Pirates?

With the no. 1 overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft the Pittsburgh Pirates selected pitcher Paul Skenes. The best pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg, Skenes immediately became one of the best pitching prospects in baseball and appears to be on the fast track to the majors.

In his final season at Air Force in 2022, Skenes won the John Olerud Award, which is given to a player who is the best two-way player in college baseball. After his 2022 season, Skenes transferred to LSU, where he did nothing but dominate.

At LSU in 2023, Skenes led his team to the National Championship, where they won it all. While the team was stacked, Paul Skenes shined the brightest with a record of 12-2 and an ERA of 1.69, he was nothing but dominant. Over 19 games, he pitched 122.2 innings, equaling out to 6.43 innings per outing, which is between 6.1 and 6.2 innings per game.

Many college players deal with control problems. In 122.2 innings, he struck out 209 batters while only walking 20, leading to an insane 10.45 strikeouts for every walk. To put this into a different perspective, former Pirate Gerrit Cole, who was also drafted 1st overall at UCLA, had 119 strikeouts to 24 walks in 114 innings, a rate of 4.96 strikeouts for every walk. This means strikeout-wise Skenes was twice as dominant.

Batting average is higher in college than in MLB, but in 122.2 innings, Paul Skenes only gave up 72 hits, which again, is elite. He also broke Ben McDonald's SEC and LSU records for most strikeouts in a season with his 203rd, finishing with 209. Along with winning the National Pitcher of the Year Award and the Dick Howser Trophy.

Due to his arm being weakened in the College World Series, the Pirates decided to limit his innings. In rookie ball, he pitched 1 inning with a strikeout, groundout, and fly out. In his second game at Low-A with the Bradenton Marauders, he pitched 1 shutout inning with 2 strikeouts. By his third game, he pitched 2 innings and had another 2 strikeouts.

After getting called up to Double-A Altoona Curve, he started to struggle, facing 7 batters, walking 2, and giving up 3 hits, earning 4 runs while striking out 2. By his 4th and final start, he pitched 2 innings of 1-hit ball, striking out 3 before going on the Pirates' "Development List" and being shut down for the rest of the season. It's likely that sometime next season he will be called up, but it fully depends on the franchise, many fans think he could start the season with the team.

Skenes finished his 2023 Pirates' Minor League campaign with 5 starts, 6.2 innings pitched, 10 strikeouts, and 2 walks. He only had 1 bad start and finished with a 5.40 ERA. He gave up 5 hits and 4 earned runs in those 6.2 innings. Showing great potential once he reaches MLB.

It, obviously, remains to be seen where Skenes will start his 2024 season. Will it be with the Pirates? As a wise man once said, time will tell. If it is in the minor leagues it will mostly likely be with Triple-A Indianapolis.

Even if Skenes begins the 2024 season in the minor leagues it should not take him long to reach the majors. By next summer at the latest, Skenes should be a key cog in the Pirate starting rotation and an early frontrunner for National League Rookie of the Year.

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