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Fantasy Fallout: What to expect from Paul Skenes

Skenes should be stashed in fantasy baseball
Paul Skenes has the potential to be a fantasy force with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but first, he needs to be called up from the Minor Leagues.

After dominating in the minors over the first month of the season, the Pirates ready to add Paul Skenes to their roster, and he’ll make his MLB debut against the Cubs on Sunday.

Here’s a look at what to expect from Skenes not just for that outing against Chicago, but for the remainder of the 2024 campaign.

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Reason for optimism: Skenes was the first-overall pick of last year’s draft after dominating in his lone season at LSU after transferring from Air Force. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound right-hander can blow hitters away with a fastball that can get as high as 102 MPH and routinely is in the high 90s with a solid — if unspectacular — amount of life to the offering. On top of that heater, Skenes will throw a slider that elicits plus-plus (70 on the 20-80 scouting scale) grades with late tilt that can get swings-and-misses from hitters on either side of the plate. He also has a “splinker” and cutter to keep hitters honest with a traditional change that has seen vast improvement — and considerably more usage — since joining the pro ranks.

While Skenes doesn’t have elite command of those offerings, he typically does a good job of filling up the strike zone, and he has only allowed one homer thus far in his 27 1/3 innings with Triple-A Indianapolis. Command shouldn’t be a significant issue for Skenes now or in the future.

Reasons for pessimism: That inning count I just mentioned. Skenes has made seven starts thus far in 2024, and he has gone more than four innings twice. It’s worth noting that those outings are his last two, but the fact of the matter is that Skenes has been treated with kid gloves in his first full professional season. The Pirates appear to be loosening the chain a smidgen, but this is not a starter that fantasy managers should expect to see consistently go six-plus innings in starts. There will be outings he doesn’t even get five, and the fact that’ll prevent him from win chances is something that needs to be considered.

And, of course, this is still a player with limited experience that is going to be playing the hardest sport in the world. We have seen a plethora of elite prospects struggle in their first taste of MLB action. You know how this can go. It’s still worth pointing out.

Should you get him? Yeah, even with the concern laid out, Skenes should be rostered. There aren’t many MLB pitchers — must less prospects — who have the ability to miss bats that the 21-year-old does, and it should come with solid rates across the board. The fantasy potential for 2025 and beyond is even more exciting, but that doesn’t mean that Skenes can’t be a tremendous help to fantasy rosters in 2024, as well.