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Rumor: Pirates to Promote Top Prospect Soon

This past weekend the rumor surfaced that the Pittsburgh Pirates soon will promote top prospect Paul Skenes to the big club. It’s the news Pirates fans – indeed, all baseball fans – have been waiting for. It was first mentioned, rather casually, on the Pirates’ telecast on Friday. It has since been repeated in the local papers. (Or what passes for local “papers.” They’re mostly digital now.)

For the benefit of those readers who have been living under a rock since last summer, Skenes was the Pirates’ No. 1 draft pick, and the first pick overall, in the 2023 MLB June Amateur Draft. The six-foot-six, 235-pound right-hander was said to be the best pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg in 2009. Pitching for the 2023 College World Series winner Louisiana State University, he had a season for the ages. In 19 games covering 122 2/3 innings, he was 13-2 with a 1.69 ERA, 0.750 WHIP, 209 strikeouts, and 20 walks. Doing the math, that’s 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings and a 10.45 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His fastball has been clocked as high as 102 mph.

Rumor: Pirates to Promote Skenes Soon

Coming Soon to a Ballpark Near You

The rumor is that the Pirates will promote Skenes after he makes three more starts in Triple-A. The Pirates themselves have been silent regarding any timetable for Skenes’ arrival in Pittsburgh. It’s unknown whether they even had a date in mind or are playing it by ear. They’ve spoken only of a plan to gradually build up his innings and pitch count. However, it’s reached the point where he has nothing more to prove in the minors. Opposing hitters would likely testify that he’s looked plenty “built up” from their vantage point.

In four starts with the Indianapolis Indians covering just 12 2/3 innings, Skenes has yet to give up a run. He’s struck out an astounding 27 of 47 batters faced. That translates to 19.2 strikeouts per nine. So far, the biggest mystery is how he’s managed to give up five hits.

“I Wasn’t Happy”

As one might expect, Skenes is a competitor. While seeming to understand the program, he dislikes coming out of games because of a pitch limit when he’s winning. In his most recent start against the St. Paul Saints, Skenes struck out eight, including former major leaguer Tony Kemp, in 3 1/3 innings before he was removed by Indians manager Miguel Perez. By then Skenes had thrown just 65 pitches, 34 of which exceeded 100 mph. Skenes admitted to Sam Dykstra of, “I wasn’t happy. But it’s over (Perez’s) head. It’s over my head.”

The Last Word

When the rumor becomes reality and the Pirates promote Skenes, it will liven up a fan base – and perhaps a team – demoralized by the Bucs’ present six-game losing streak. Of course, the big issue behind these recent losses has been a lack of offense. Skenes won’t help there. (Although he could. He was also used as a catcher and designated hitter in college, where he hit .367/.453/.669 with 24 HR and 81 RBI in 341 at-bats.)

An interesting sidelight is the fact that his girlfriend is gymnast Livvy Dunne, internet sensation and the NCAA’s top NIL earner. The Pirates should hope that the story of their romance becomes as wearisome to the sports public as that of Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift. That will mean Skenes and the Pirates have become regulars in that annual prime-time drama known as the baseball postseason.


Photo Credit: © Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports


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