Detroit Tigers: The Paul Skenes debate

Jun 17, 2023; Omaha, NE, USA; LSU Tigers starting pitcher Paul Skenes (20) throws against the
Jun 17, 2023; Omaha, NE, USA; LSU Tigers starting pitcher Paul Skenes (20) throws against the / Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Should the Detroit Tigers draft LSU pitcher Paul Skenes if he's there at 3 in next month's MLB Draft?

Another year, another draft where we're debating whether or not the Detroit Tigers should draft a pitcher in the first round. This really has become an annual event at this point. But to be fair, this time is a bit different.

LSU's Paul Skenes is widely considered to be the best pitching prospect to come out of the MLB Draft since Gerrit Cole in 2011. He's incredibly polished for a college arm. He throws 97-100 with his fastball and has pinpoint command with it as well.

He slider is nasty as well. He's just a freak on the mound. People are now talking about him being big league ready straight out of college. That doesn't come up very often. He sure sounds like a guy the Detroit Tigers could use, right?

Hold on a second here. He's a pitcher, which means some people are going to write him off immediately if he's drafted by the Tigers. It's understandable given the lack of success the Tigers have had with pitchers taken in the first round over the years.

Casey Mize was the consensus best prospect in the 2018 draft when the Tigers took him first overall, but even he hasn't panned out so far. We'll see how he looks when he returns from Tommy John surgery, but it has't been great for him despite a solid rookie season in 2021.

And then there's Jackson Jobe. Most of the other pitchers the Tigers have taken high over the years have been out of college, not high school, like Jobe. He's an entirely different case. He was also selected over the consensus best player in the 2021 draft, who fell right into the Tigers' lap. But we'll skip whining about that here.

Skenes is an entirely different prospect than the likes of Mize, Alex Faedo, Matt Manning, or even Tarik Skubal. He is a horse. He's an ace with ace stuff. He's generational.

I was very vocal last year about the Tigers not drafting a pitcher in the first round, but there wasn't a Paul Skenes in last year's draft. Then again, he likely would have been gone by the time the Tigers picked anyway since they picked 12th overall, but the point stands. There wasn't anybody nearly as good as Skenes in last year's draft.

Most mock drafts have Skenes going No. 2 overall to the Washington Nationals, but there's a real possibility he's available when the Tigers pick at No. 3 overall. Wyatt Langford and Dylan Crews are both outstanding college bats. Crews is considered by some to be the best overall prospect since Adley Rutschman in 2019.

Plus there's always the possibility of either the Nats or the Pittsburgh Pirates cutting an underslot deal with one of the high school bats. The Pirates have already been rumored to be interested in doing that with OF Max Clark, and they've done that type of thing before.

There's more than one scenario in which Skenes is on the board at 3. Should the Tigers pull the trigger and draft him?

It really depends on who's left besides him. If both Crews and Langford are gone, I wouldn't mind taking a chance on Skenes. He could help out the Tigers sooner rather than later, while a high school bat like Clark or Walker Jenkins would take a few years to develop.

I totally understand the reluctance to draft another pitcher in the first round. The Tigers' track record with those is well documented, and injury risk is always there. But Skenes is different animal. He's going to be an ace at the major league level.

This is also a different front office. Al Avila is gone. He can't hurt us anymore. Give Scott Harris a chance here. This is his first draft, after all.

I would prefer to take a college bat at No. 3, but if the Tigers wind up taking Paul Skenes, I won't be complaining.

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