Paul Skenes Signs With Pirates, When Will He Reach the Majors?

The LSU ace is going to come quickly.
Wake Forest v LSU
Wake Forest v LSU / Jay Biggerstaff/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Pirates surprised some when they selected LSU pitcher Paul Skenes with the top pick in the 2023 MLB Draft. A dominant righty, Skenes was long pegged as the second-best player in his class behind teammate Dylan Crews. It didn't seem Pittsburgh could go wrong either way as both players were excellent in helping to lead LSU to a College World Series title. On Tuesday, Skenes officially signed with the Pirates and it likely won't be long until he's on an MLB mound.

The Pirates gave Skenes a $9.2 million bonus, the biggest in MLB draft history. It's not surprising they did, given that he and Stephen Strasburg are considered the best pitching prospects of all-time. At 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, Skenes has the size to be a workhorse starter for a long time. And his stuff is absolutely elite.

Skenes features a fastball that sits at 98 mph and hits triple-digits often. It was up to 102 mph for LSU this season. The crazy thing is, that fastball isn't his best pitch. The righty features a nasty, wipeout slider that sits in the high 80s and garners crazy swing-and-miss rates. He also features a solid changeup that often comes in the low 90s. It has good movement but is a pitch he'll need to refine a bit as his career progresses.

Skenes grew up in Southern California and went to the Air Force Academy out of high school. He spent two years there before transferring to LSU prior to his junior season. He was already a touted draft prospect when he joined the Tigers, but his stock exploded once he was on the mound facing SEC hitters.

In 2023, Skenes made 19 starts. He went 12-2 with a 1.69 ERA and a WHIP of 0.75. He struck out 209 batters in 122.2 innings and only walked 20. His K/9 rate was an absurd 15.3. It's worth reiterating that he was in the SEC, facing the best college hitters in the nation nearly every start.

Skenes is also a great athlete, not just a really good pitcher. As a sophomore at Air Force, he was a two-way player. He went 10-3 with a 2,73 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP, with 96 strikeouts in 85.2 innings on the mound. In addition to that, he hit .314 with an OPS of 1.046, 13 home runs, 38 RBI and 21 walks against 40 strikeouts in 153 at-bats. When he arrived at LSU, he focused solely on pitching.

The Pirates have said they do think Skenes will be able to pitch in the minor leagues before the 2023 season is over. That's a strange path for a guy who threw 122.2 innings this season and hasn't pitched since the College World Series. But don't expect him to be in the majors this year. Skenes will likely get work in the Florida Complex League to start out as the team assesses where he is physically. I'd imagine he'll be ticketed for Double-A to start the 2024 season.

I'd imagine the target for Skenes to hit the big leagues would be midway through the 2024 season. As long as he doesn't have any bad injury luck or some kind of setback, he doesn't have much left to prove.

Baseball fans shouldn't be waiting too long to see Skenes on a major league mound.