Pirates Draft Prospects: Paul Skenes is Exceeding Very High Expectations

Our weekly spotlight of 2023 draft prospects began with a closer look at LSU outfielder Dylan Crews, who many people have as the top prospect in this draft class. We then moved on to Chase Dollander, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Tennessee. Our third profile article looked at high school outfielder Walker Jenkins. Here’s our draft preview article in case you missed it.

Our fourth article looks at another player from LSU. Paul Skenes has been beyond dominating this year. His fifth start last week left him with a  5-0, 0.59 record, with a .115 BAA in 30.1 innings, to go along with a 4:59 BB/SO ratio. An updated draft prospect ranking from Baseball America this week lists him as the third best prospect in this class. We will talk about this weekend’s performance for Skenes in our weekly recap article for the top draft prospects.

Skenes has the workhorse frame that scouts dream on when they look for a pitcher. He stands 6’6″, 235 pounds. He doesn’t turn 21 years old until late May. He went undrafted out of high school in 2020, then attended Air Force for two seasons. He’s called a two-way player, but his domination on the mound has the pitching well ahead of the hitting.

He had a 2.70 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in 26.2 innings as a freshman. He hit .410/.486/.697 that year in 48 games. He hit very well last year over 52 games, though it came with a 137-point drop in his OPS, mostly due to dropping to a .314 average. The pitching was just as strong with more work. He had a 2.73 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP and 96 strikeouts in 85.2 innings. He transferred to LSU for the 2023 season. He hasn’t hit at all this year.

MLB Pipeline rates him as having a 70 grade fastball, a 60 grade slider and a 50 grade for his changeup, along with a 50 grade for his control. His fastball has been in the 95-99 range. His mid/high-80s slider shows sharp break, though they note it can be inconsistent at times. His changeup sits 88-91 with fade, and they believe it can be a solid offering in time.

They call him athletic on the mound, with the ability to throw strikes and repeat his delivery well. According to Pipeline, his biggest knock is that batters can pick up the ball well out of his hand.

Baseball America has a report very similar to Pipeline, describing the slider and changeup the same, as well as his velocity on his fastball and the athletic delivery. They note that scouts have told them that he has the chance for three above average pitches with above average control. That control seems to be there already, with four walks in 30.1 innings going into this weekend.

I usually include scouting reports from Fangraphs here too, but they talk more about his hitting and have slower velocities for his pitches, so it’s best to not include it before they update it.

Skenes made a lot of progress during the fall after joining LSU, so he improved his draft stock a lot. He was rated highly coming into the year, but there were still some questions and inconsistency with pitches. He has a special combo of pitches/frame/control, that could really be taken to elite levels now that he’s only pitching.

There seems to be a question about how he will hold up over a full season of work, so that is something to watch as this year progresses. That big frame should help him out. He’s going to go high in this draft, but just how high might depend on the stuff he’s showing at the end of the year.

Here’s the only video you need to see. This is amazing from Kyler Peterson, who put together his entire start from earlier this year, complete with info on his pitches and some warmup pitches as well. There’s a great view on everything here


John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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Solid 6’6″ and his delivery looks pretty effortless. If he continues to pitch this well, I won’t be unhappy with him as the pick.


Great article here mostly about his Air Force>LSU transfer that comes with a link to another piece on his LSU pitching coach. Basically sounds like he’s getting pro instruction already.




What’s not to like?


So, a Plus and possibly Plus, Plus FB, an above average Slider, an Average or better Changeup, and better than average control. If he continues this performance in the SEC, somebody will have to truly excel to edge him out of the 1-1. How about we draft him, wait to start him until 2024 and put him and Jared Jones together at the same level – probably AA. Think on that one a while!


Add in Bubba and MadBum Jr, and now we got the makings of something magical.


Extend Keller to be the veteran leader when these guys are ready, and then we’re really talking about something potentially magical.


And, Carlos Jimenez. Pitching has always been the Gold Standard, and the Pirates are not about to buy a FA SP for $200+ mil. Therefore, we have to find them, whichever way we can, and hope for good luck, and when it’s time, a good trade.

Gerrit Cole to Joe Musgrove to David Bednar, Endy Rodriguez, Hudson Head, Omar Cruz

Jameson Taillon to Roansy Contreras, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Maikol Escotto

Adam Frazier to Jack Suwinski, Tucupita Marcano, Michel Milliano

Jacob Stallings to Kyle Nicolas, Connor Scott

Daniel Vogelbach to Colin Holderman

Quintana, Stratton to Johan Oviedo, Malcom Nunez


Remember 1-1 oitghee’s who have succeeded are few and far between.


This is bothering me. How do you say his last name? Rhymes with jeans?


Losing Skenes? :🤣🤣🤣


Certainly not a scout, but there’s a lot to like about Skenes game. Good velo. Nice run to his fastball. Sharp break to his slider.

Not a fan of how he separates his hands during the delivery. Maybe that’s the reason JD said the ball was easy for batters to pick up?

Certainly on a the short list of 1-1 selection. Even more so if he continues to mow down SEC hitters all season.


Not a fan of the hand separation either but a big fan of the short arm action. Theoretically it relies more on the biceps, back and legs which can handle the stress better than the elbow and shoulder.


I am not enamored with taking a pitcher 1st overall, BUT Skenes makes me think twice about that. Crews had a big and last night against #9 Arkansas…


I always prefer a position player over a pitcher, this high, unless the pitcher is clearly ahead. Skenes pitched well also, 12 Ks, and only 2 hits, but did walk 3 in the game. I still favor Crews right now. He just keeps on hitting, and is still hitting over .500.


By the looks of it, Skenes dominated a lineup that put up 8 runs in 3 innings against LSU’s bullpen. I’m leaning Skenes because it’s so hard to acquire an ace, but I also think John’s right that much will depend on whether he can continue his performance through the season. There’s a long way to go.


Could boil down to BC’s personal opinion on hitter vs pitcher. Both look worthy of 1-1 status.


And as a longtime beat down Pirate fan, if given the choice we will take the wrong one of the two. 😄😢😢😢


Hush now child!

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