Following a standout sophomore season, Paul Skenes had a choice.
After completing his second year as a cadet at the United State Air Force Academy in 2022, Skenes had positioned himself to be a potential high-round draft pick in 2023. But if he stayed at the academy for his junior year, his post-graduation commitment would kick in, keeping him from realizing a dream of playing professionally. If he left, however, his desire to serve his country would be lost.
Ultimately, the dream won, and he received plenty of support for that decision from his teammates and coaches at Air Force. But little did Skenes know that not only would he position himself to become a high first-round draft pick – maybe even No. 1 overall – but he also would become one of the most dominant pitchers in the history of college baseball.
Skenes found a home on the roster of an LSU team that was already loaded to the gills. His presence just put the Tigers over the top as the overwhelming choice for preseason No. 1, and the Tigers would hold the top spot for much of the regular season. Skenes became, and thrived as, the Tigers’ top weekend starter and put together one of the best seasons in LSU baseball history.
For his efforts, Skenes is the winner of the 2023 Pitcher of the Year Award, awarded by the College Baseball Foundation, which will be presented at a later date. He becomes the first player in CBF history to win two separate awards presented by the foundation, taking home the 2022 John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award.
“Paul is a great selection for the National Pitcher of the Year,” award co-chair Chris Snead said. “He is a leader on a very good team and his numbers aside, he is great individual off the field as well.”
After dominating the Mountain West Conference as a sophomore, Skenes dominated Southeastern Conference hitters as a junior. Possessing a 100-plus mph fastball and nasty off-speed pitches, Skenes has compiled a 12-2 record prior to the Tigers’ appearance at the College World Series. In 16 appearances, all starts, he has a 1.77 ERA and 188 strikeouts in 107 innings. His strikeouts are the most of any pitcher in the country, and his ERA ranks fourth.
He is ranked the No. 2 overall prospect by Baseball America in the upcoming Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft behind teammate Dylan Crews.
The 6-foot-6, 247-pound native of Lake Forest, California, has been named a finalist for both the Golden Spikes and Dick Howser awards, which honor the top amateur player in the country regardless of position. He also was named first-team All-American and National Player of the Year by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and the SEC Pitcher of the Year.
This comes after a sophomore season at Air Force where he played in 52 games, starting 51, and hit .314 with 13 home runs and 38 RBIs while compiling a 1.046 OPS. He also committed just two errors on the season. On the mound, he served as the Falcons’ Friday starter, going 10-3 with a 2.73 ERA. In 15 starts, he struck out 96 and walked just 30 in 85.2 innings while holding opponents to a .224 batting average.
“The season that Paul put together is one that will go down in history as truly dominant,” said award co-chair Brian Melakian. “His performance on the field paired with how he carries himself off the field makes him the obvious choice.”
For more information on the Pitcher of the Year Award, visit the College Baseball Foundation website at www.collegebaseballhall.org.