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How good can Paul Skenes be? What to know about Pirates prospect and his 100 mph fastball before MLB debut

How good can Paul Skenes be? What to know about Pirates prospect and his 100 mph fastball before MLB debut


Paul Skenes, the No. 1 pick in last summer’s draft by way of LSU, had become the subject of weekly check-ins over the season’s first month-plus. Everyone who has seen Skenes, and who has become enamored with his extreme brand of power pitching, had the same inquiry on their mind: when, oh when, will the Pirates promote him? We got the official answer on Wednesday.

Skenes is being called up by the Pirates and will make his MLB debut on Saturday against the Cubs.

Skenes made seven starts in Triple-A this year, amassing a 0.99 ERA and a 5.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 27 1/3 innings. He’s struck out 42.9% of the batters he’s faced thus far this season, suggesting that he is more than ready for his promotion. 

To honor Skenes’ call-up, and to indulge in everyone’s blooming fascination with him, we’ve answered four pertinent questions about him and his game below. Those questions include what makes him so notable, why he’s remained in the majors, and when we think he’ll debut. Now, let’s get to it.

1. What makes Skenes so notable?

In our estimation, Skenes’ mainstream appeal can be attributed to a confluence of factors. He throws extremely hard. He was the No. 1 pick in last summer’s draft after playing ball for a prestigious program. He throws extremely hard. He’s part of a power couple. And did we note that he throws extremely hard? Velocity sells, baby; always has, always will.

Beyond that, Skenes was something of a polarizing prospect in last summer’s draft. CBS Sports spoke to several scouts and analysts who did not consider him the best choice at the top of the draft because of reasons we outlined at the time:

Skenes is an imposing figure with upper-90s velocity and a strikeout rate near 48% against SEC hitters. About 15 years ago, that would’ve been enough to land him higher on this list (and the belief is he might go as early as No. 2 overall, with several sources identifying him as the Nationals‘ kind of pitcher). Those within the industry are convinced that ball-tracking data has improved their ability to evaluate pitches. Those advancements have made Skenes a divisive figure, with scouts and analysts who spoke to CBS Sports expressing reservations about his fastball shape. The short version is that his four-seamer features minimal separation between its induced vertical break and its horizontal break, putting it in the “dead zone.” The fear is Skenes’ four-seamer will…

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