Detroit Tigers: 5 scouting reports on possible 2023 MLB Draft targets
5. Paul Skenes - RHP/RHH
Last but certainly not least is Paul Skenes, who needs to be on the Detroit Tigers' list of targets as they continue to profile players for their draft class. Skenes is an Air Force Academy transfer who joined the party in Baton Rouge as a part of the 2023 LSU Tigers.
Needless to say, he's going to be a massive difference-maker for LSU on both sides of the ball. Though, I'm pretty certain he can put the bat down and still walk away with a nice chunk of change come draft time.
Skenes stands 6-foot-6 and weighs in at 235 pounds, with some physical traits and a good feel for his body. He's listed as a pitcher, catcher, and designated hitter, but he likely will headline the LSU rotation in '23 and focus on his craft on the mound, still hitting but having it take a backseat role. But, to review him, let's look at both sides of the ball with Skenes.
Skenes is a right-handed hitter. In 2022, Skenes logged 52 games where he slashed .314/.412/.634 with ten doubles and 13 home runs while managing 38 RBI over 153 at-bats. In his freshman campaign, he played in 48 games, slashing ..410/.486/.697 with 21 doubles and 11 home runs with 43 RBI over 188 at-bats.
Needless to say, the bat plays quite well and was a huge part of the Air Force lineup the last two seasons. He has not hit yet in '23 for Jay Johnson at LSU, but he could find at-bats earmarked to him. He took BP before his start last weekend but did not pick up a bat come game time.
He starts with an upright stance, standing tall in the righty box with the barrel pointed up, hands set high, and back elbow up. His feet are slightly open, and he keeps a pretty even base. He sinks into his load with a big leg lift. The hands drop into a hitting position, and he's able to rotate hard through contact.
Skenes shows off good turns through the zone with a feel for the barrel; given his larger frame and strength present, he can muscle balls out of the park when he gets on plane and drives pitches. Overall it's a whippy barrel with a simple operation. But that's just half of his game, and I believe his abilities on the bump are even more impressive.
The clip above shows an extended look at Skenes going out and absolutely carving against the Western Michigan Broncos. He threw 98 mph on his 98th pitch of the day and was able to finish off six innings of shutout ball. Skenes allowed just three hits while walking only one, striking out 12 in his first start of 2023.
Before he donned the purple and yellow Tigers jersey, Skenes was a part of the Air Force rotation. In 2022, Skenes made 15 starts, pitched to a 2.73 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP, and punched out 96 while walking just 30 over 85.2 innings pitched.
Let's talk through Skenes' operation a bit further. Working out of the wind-up, he starts with the left foot slightly forward and faces home plate while toeing the first base side of the rubber. He uses a side step and drops the glove to the belt before getting his right foot on the mound with a placement step.
He gets into a leg lift up around the letters with the hands being up around his head with slight separation. It's a short and quick-arm action as he works through release. He pitches from a three-quarters arm action. There's some serious quickness to his arm stroke.
Skenes repeats the delivery well and stays in control of himself with a balanced front side moving down the slope. Out of the stretch, he deviates just a bit. He works to be quicker to the plate with a leg lift that only gets just above the letters, and the hands stay parallel and slightly below the letters. It's still a quick arm stroke, and the front side moves well, but he deviates to control the run game and avoid being too long to the plate.
In terms of stuff, Skenes has a fastball that works into the upper-90s, touching 99 mph in his first start of 2023. It's incredibly firm, with plenty of carry that can overpower some hitters. Now, his slider is also impressive, working the mid-80s and getting into the upper-80s at times. It has good tilt and horizontal break to it.
He's able to pull the string on that slider and miss barrels. It's sharp, but he does lose the pitch at times. When he has it working, that sharper break is problematic for the opposing hitters. Rounding things out is a split-change that has demonic drop to it. It misses bats and gets some hitters getting way out front.
The only thing that is a knock on Skenes on the mound is that hitters can pick up his pitches at times. While Western Michigan stood no chance, and he has top-level stuff, that's the knock on Skenes. A bit of a flatter approach angle means it can be easier to pick up out of hand at times. But, when it's thrown at 99 mph, it will still take a good hitter to get on time and on plane to do damage.
Keep an eye on Skenes this Spring, on both sides of the baseball, as the Detroit Tigers continue to piece together who is on their draft board for their first pick, no.3 overall.