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Pirates prospect update: Pitcher Paul Skenes

The Pirates have gotten it right this year, taking LSU pitcher Paul Skenes with the first pick in the draft.

2023 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship
Pitcher Paul Skenes was one of the top pitchers in College Baseball, leading to him being picked first overall.
Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

On this edition of the Pittsburgh Pirates prospect update, we take a look at the first overall pick in the MLB’s 2023 draft, pitcher Paul Skenes.

In an already loaded farm system for the Pirates, they bolstered it even more by taking Skenes with the top choice in this years draft. Almost instantly, every media outlet was re-affirming that Pittsburgh got it right, making the risky but wise choice to go big with a college kid that can make an immediate impact in the major leagues. Foregoing the route of taking the top high school talent available, could ensure the Buccos starting rotation continues to get stronger faster.

Skenes grew up in Lake Forest California, and coming out of high school was recruited by the Air Force Academy. Air Force bias aside, Skenes played incredibly during his time in Colorado Springs. A two way player at the time, his freshman season saw him take home the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year award, as well as being named an All-American from several publications. He is also the only player in 2022 to have reached double digits in wins, and home runs in the same season, and was named the best two way player and received the John Olerud Award.

At LSU, Skenes joined an already stacked class, with many wondering if teammate Dylan Crewes would be selected before him. 2023 saw the Tigers win the College World Series, of which Skenes was named the most outstanding player. He brought home some more individual awards, winning the National Pitcher of the Year and Dick Howser Trophy.

Skenes would also lead NCAA Division I in strikeouts (209, breaking Ben McDonald’s school and SEC record) compiling a 12-2 record with a 1.69 ERA. In his college career, the pitching phenom would go 23-6 with a 2.18 ERA.

When the pick was announced it’s fair to say it was uninanimous joy felt throughout the fanbase, as the Pirates landed the top college pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg in 2009. At 6’6 and 235 pounds, Skenes is already a monster athlete with a monster arm. Topping out at 102 mph, the 21-year old would averaged 98 mph at LSU which would rank third in the majors. A polished arm like his is primed for big league play.

2023 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship
Paul Skenes following the 2023 College World Series.
Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

Now the typical thing for a rookie is to start out in the minor leagues. For a player of this caliber, they usually go to high-a or single-a, with college players often seeing a faster path to the majors. While it is very unlikely that they do this, GM Ben Cherrington was clearly being aggressive in drafting a player that is ready to play now. So why not play him? He would be an instant boost to the Pirates’ rotation, and could easily be a great number two behind Mitch Keller. The prospect of a rotation with Keller, Skenes and Quinn Priester, sounds too good to be true, but it could be unfolding faster than we think.

Regardless of when he makes his big league debut, it’s fair to say the Pirates got it right this year by drafting Paul Skenes out of LSU.