Pittsburgh Pirates: Rum Bunter's Top 10 Prospects

A Look at our top ten Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects
Jul 18, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Skenes (left) is
Jul 18, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Skenes (left) is / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Number One - Starting Pitcher Paul Skenes

Unsurprisingly, Paul Skenes was the unanimous no. 1 Pirate prospect among the writers who voted. Skenes was probably the most hyped pitching prospect in the draft since Stephen Strasburg back in 2009. Skenes has the potential not only to be an ace, but his ceiling may just be one of the best pitchers in baseball.

In his last season at Louisiana State University, Skenes pitched to a 1.69 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, and an astounding 10.45 K:BB ratio. Skenes struck out a whopping 209 batters in 122.2 innings of work. That’s a strikeout rate of 45.2%. He also dotted up batters, hitting the black with consistency and holding them to a walk rate of just 4.3%. Skenes also only allowed seven home runs, good for a 0.51 HR/9 rate.

Skenes throws hard, very hard. He sits 97-100 and tops out around 102 MPH. As a starting pitcher, that’s not just elite. That’s 80-grade. His slider is another pitch that’s nearing elite levels. While his change-up is by far his worst pitch, that’s only in context of two offerings that might have been the best in the draft. It’s still an above average third offering. Skenes isn't effectively wild either, as he’s displayed plus control and command over his stuff.

The Pirates have put Skenes on a strict innings regiment. He’s only pitched 4.2 innings through 4 starts. He’s looked decent when he has pitched, though they’re being cautious with the flamethrower. He already started 19 games and pitched over 120 innings with LSU, including some 100 pitch outings. It’s probably best he takes it easy until next year.

Skenes is an athletic pitcher as well. The Pirates even offered to let him be a two-way player, as he was a catcher/first baseman/designated hitter at the Air Force Academy before transferring to LSU. He was a pretty good hitter too, batting for a 1.046 OPS and hitting 13 home runs in 182 plate appearances in ‘22. Skenes declined the offer, wanting to only focus on pitching. 

Skenes is the complete package: a great pitch arsenal, good control/command, all the athleticism that you’d need, a low-effort and repeatable delivery, and a strongly built 6’6”, 235 pound frame. There’s a very good chance that Skenes is headlining a Pirates rotation by the 2024 trade deadline, if not before that.