Pirates Poised to Promote Paul Skenes Few Obstacles Remain

Top pitching prospect stirs controversy with minor league stint

by Zain ul Abedin
Pirates Poised to Promote Paul Skenes Few Obstacles Remain
© Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

At 13-13, the Pittsburgh Pirates have built themselves into a really good spot during this baseball season to make noise and get their first winning season since 2018. However, recent play and deciding to keep top pitching prospect Paul Skenes down in the minor leagues despite his great work have got the rumor mill roiled up.

Drafted out of Louisiana State University number one overall in the 2023 draft, Skenes has rated as one of baseball's top pitching prospects since. Between an elite fastball and a slider that is the envy of most, Skenes has been outstanding in the minors this season; his statistics are eye-popping.

He's made five starts in Triple-A, where he has a minuscule 0.53 ERA and an absurd strikeout rate well north of major league averages.

Pirates' Financial Strategy

While the Pirates' starting pitching has shown promise this year, Skenes' performance begs the question of why he remains sidelined in the minors.

The organization's decision appears to be financially driven, with the potential to manipulate Skenes' service time to retain control over him for a longer period. By delaying his MLB debut until June, the Pirates could prevent him from reaching arbitration sooner and delay his path to free agency.

Critics would see this as using financial considerations over the best success of the team. When the Pirates had been stumbling along just below .500 and the playoffs in reach, the decision to keep Skenes in the minors seemed a baffling one, especially when some opportunities had arisen due to injuries in the pitching rotation.

Notably, the anticipation surrounding Skenes' potential debut could inject excitement into Pittsburgh's baseball scene, potentially boosting attendance and fan engagement. With playoff odds on the line, every game matters, and Skenes' talent could provide the spark the Pirates need to make a postseason push.

As the debate over Skenes' promotion continues, the Pirates face mounting pressure to prioritize on-field performance over financial considerations. With fan expectations rising and playoff hopes hanging in the balance, the decision to keep Skenes sidelined may prove costly for a team seeking to reignite baseball fervor in Western Pennsylvania.