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Paul Skenes

From BR Bullpen

Paul David Skenes

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Paul Skenes was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2023 College World Series, helping to lead Louisiana State University to the title. A few weeks later, he was selected first overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2023 amateur draft.

Skenes was well-known even before these two events. He was a member of the USA College National Team that won Gold at the 2022 Haarlem Baseball Week and he and teammate Dylan Crews were dominating speculations about who would be selected first overall of the 2023 amateur draft, with a chance that the pair would go first and second, something unseen in the history of the amateur draft; this is in fact what happened. Crews had won the Golden Spikes Award as the best college baseball player in the country on June 25th, and the next day LSU defeated the University of Florida in the College World Series' final game to win the seventh title in school history. Skenes had gone 12-2, 1.69 in his junior season, becoming the first college pitcher to top 200 strikeouts in 12 years when he finished with 209 in 122 2/3 innings. He had transferred from the United States Air Force Academy where he had gone 10-3, 2.73 as a sophomore in 2022. That year he also won the "John Olerud Award" as the best two-way player in college, as he also hit .314 with 13 homers in 52 games as a catcher and DH when not pitching. With LSU, he was used exclusively as a pitcher and many scouts called him the best college pitcher they had seen since Stephen Strasburg, which justified Pittsburgh's choice to take him with the draft's top selection. On July 18th, the Pirates signed him with a bonus of $9.2 million, the highest ever.

He was assigned to the FCL Pirates to begin his pro career. In his first game on August 10, 2023, he retired all three batters he faced while flashing triple-digit heat. He immediately moved up to the Class A Bradenton Marauders for his next start on August 15th, striking out two in a scoreless inning of work. The Pirates were clearly looking to limit his innings while getting him acclimated to the pro game. Overall, he made 5 starts but totaled just 6 2/3 innings with 4 runs allowed, 2 walks and 10 Ks. There was a lot of excitement around his presence at the Pirates' spring training camp in 2024, with some speculating that he could make the team's opening day starting rotation, but GM Ben Cherington threw some cold water on that on March 5th when he stated that while Skenes would remain in the big league camp for a while, he would still start the season in the minors. He was assigned to the AAA Indianapolis Indians of the International League and was outstanding, not giving up his first run until his fifth start, on April 24th, although he did not have any decisions because the Pirates were keeping him on a very low pitch count, meaning he rarely stayed in the game beyond the 4th inning. His first run was given up to the Omaha Storm Chasers in the first outing in which he was allowed to pitch into the 5th inning and he racked up 7 strikeouts, giving him 34 in 17 innings. The first run came in the 2nd inning, on a triple by CJ Alexander followed by a single by Nate Eaton, who was thrown out attempting to advance to second. He allowed another run, unearned this time, in the 4th. He had no decisions with a 0.99 ERA in 7 starts and 27 1/3 innings when the Pirates announced on May 8th that he was being called up to Pittsburgh in order to make his debut within a few days.

Skenes' major league debut came on May 11th as the starting pitcher against the Chicago Cubs when he went 4 inning, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks, whole striking out 7 opponents. He was not involved in the decision as the Pirates ended up 10-9 winners. He struck out the first two batters he faced in the game, Mike Tauchman and Seiya Suzuki, before walking Cody Bellinger and his pitches were clocked above 100 mph 17 times during the outing; the first run he allowed came on a solo homer by Nico Hoerner in the 4th, and the other two came in the 5th after he left after allowing the first two batters he faced to reach base. He again faced the Cubs in his second start on May 17th, and this time was absolutely dominant. He struck out the first seven batters he faced, and left after six innings, not having surrendered a hit and with 11 Ks to his name. He was credited with a 9-3 win, his first in the majors. On May 29, he fanned nine on his birthday, a record for a Pirates pitcher on their birthday. After his tenth start on July 5th, a 14-2 win over the New York Mets, his record stood at 5-0, 2.12 with 78 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings. Not only had he been everything that the Pirates expected, but there was a push for him to be named to start the 2024 All-Star Game - even before he was named to the team. It was of course the first time that a player who had been the first overall pick in the previous year's draft had been selected to play in the Mid-summer Classic. His final start before the All-Star break, on July 11th against the Milwaukee Brewers, was perhaps his best so far: he pitched seven innings without allowing a hit or a run, walked just one, and added 11 strikeouts to his growing total. The Bucs won the game, 1-0, and he was removed after seven innings, having thrown 99 pitches, and Colin Holderman gave up back-to-back singles to Jake Bauers and Garrett Mitchell, the first two batters he faced in the 8th, but those were Milwaukee's only two hits of the game. The win gave him a record of 6-0 with an ERA of 1.90 and 89 strikeouts. Nolan Ryan was the only prior major leaguer to have two starts of 11+ K and no hits in a season (in Ryan's case, both of the starts were complete game no-hitters). It seems that that latest performance was the clincher in securing the starting nod in the Midsummer Classic. The last rookie to start an All-Star Game was Hideo Nomo 29 years prior and the last Pirate to start on the hill was Jerry Reuss 49 years earlier. Skenes' 11 games played were the fewest of anyone selected to an All-Star Game ever.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • NL All-Star (2024)

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "Get to know Pirates' No. 1 pick Paul Skenes",, July 9, 2023. [1]
  • David Adler: "Get to know MLB No. 1 pitching prospect Paul Skenes",, May 8, 2024. [2]
  • Justice delos Santos: "Pirates make LSU ace Paul Skenes No. 1 overall pick",, July 9, 2023. [3]
  • Justice delos Santos: "No. 1 Draft pick already dominating pro hitters with triple-digit heat",, August 10, 2023. [4]
  • Anthony Gharib (USA Today): "Pirates sign RHP and No. 1 overall draft pick Paul Skenes to record deal, per reports", Yahoo! Sports, July 18, 2023. [5]
  • Thomas Harrigan: "Top moments from Skenes' historic debut",, May 11, 2024. [6]
  • Thomas Harrigan: "6 ways the Paul Skenes-Jared Jones duo stands out",, June 9, 2024. [7]
  • Brian Murphy: "Smart start: Skenes fans 2 in 1 frame in Single-A debut",, August 15, 2023. [8]
  • Brendan Samson and Alex Stumpf: "Skenes allows first run at Triple-A level, still fans 7 over 4 1/3 IP",, April 24, 2024. [9]
  • Alex Stumpf: "Pirates tell Skenes he won't make Opening Day roster: No. 3 overall prospect will remain in big league camp, however, per GM Cherington",, March 5, 2024. [10]
  • Alex Stumpf: "Top MLB pitching prospect Skenes getting called up to Pirates",, May 8, 2024. [11]
  • Alex Stumpf: "The making of Paul Skenes, a 'one in a decade' kind of pitcher",, May 9, 2024. [12]
  • Alex Stumpf: "Seven straight K's and no hits: Skenes dominates in 2nd start",, May 17, 2024. [13]
  • Alex Stumpf: "Skenes' first 10 starts put him in rare MLB company",, July 6, 2024. [14]
  • Alex Stumpf: "Phenom Skenes, Reynolds earn All-Star selections for Pirates",, July 7, 2024. [15]
  • Alex Stumpf: "Skenes joins Nolan Ryan in record books with 7 no-hit innings, 11 K's: Rookie All-Star finishes 1st half with 1.90 ERA, making strong case to be Midsummer Classic starter",, July 11, 2024. [16]

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