No. 1 Draft pick Skenes gets promoted to Double-A

August 21st, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- One month into his professional career, Paul Skenes is already halfway to Pittsburgh.

The Pirates announced on Monday that Skenes, the first overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, has been promoted from Low-A Bradenton to Double-A Altoona and is expected to start against the Akron RubberDucks on Saturday at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

“I think as we’ve gone through the year, we knew there was going to be a progression to where he was going to go, and we’re just taking another step in the progression,” said Pirates manager Derek Shelton. “Having just watched the starts on video, he’s done a really nice job and been very impressive, so we’ll continue to progress him as our baseball ops group feels is appropriate.”

Skenes has wasted no time proving why he was worthy of going first overall. In three outings between Bradenton and the Rookie-level Florida Complex League Pirates, Skenes has pitched four scoreless innings with five strikeouts, allowing only one hit and no walks. Four innings may not sound like much for a starting pitcher, but that’s roughly one-fifth of the workload that the Pirates will allocate to Skenes for the remainder of the season.

Skenes, the No. 3 overall prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, pitched 122 2/3 innings with LSU during the college baseball season, a total that would’ve led the Pirates' staff at the time of the MLB Draft (Mitch Keller had thrown 117 innings at the All-Star break). Along with the raw innings, Skenes averaged about 103 pitches in his 19 outings for the Tigers, throwing at least 100 pitches in 13 games and at least 120 pitches in three games.

With about four weeks remaining in Altoona’s season, Skenes would be in line to make roughly four more appearances, should he advance no further than Double-A. Regardless of how many appearances Skenes has the rest of the season, the right-hander is extremely unlikely to toss more than a couple innings per outing.

“I don’t anticipate that we’re going to be building pitch count up,” general manager Ben Cherington said. “We don’t anticipate [more] than 20 innings total for him this year in Minor League games. If you do the math, every outing is going to be on the shorter side. … I think it’s good that he’s pitching in competitive baseball games. 

“We think it’s helped him be fully engaged in the work between starts and have a more normal pitcher experience even if we’re being conservative with the volume, then help him get into a normal offseason to prepare to be a starting pitcher in 2024, wherever that begins.” 

Skenes’ promotion comes on the heels of outfielder Dylan Crews, the second overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft and Skenes’ teammate at LSU, being promoted to Double-A in the Nationals organization as well.