Pirates calling up top pitching prospect Paul Skenes

Skenes, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, began this season in Triple-A

The Pittsburgh Pirates are making a big move.

The Pirates announced Wednesday on social media that they are calling up right-hander Paul Skenes, the organization's top pitching prospect and a top-10 prospect across all of MLB.

Skenes, who will be 22 on May 29, has been on the fast track to the majors since he was drafted by the Pirates with the first pick in the 2023 MLB Draft. He made five starts across three levels of pro ball last year, going from rookie ball to Double-A over the course of August and September.

Prior to that, Skenes was the terror of the SEC last year. He spent 2023 baffling batters with LSU, helping to lead the team to a College World Series title with a 1.69 ERA and 209 strikeouts across 19 starts.

The Pirates had Skenes start in Triple-A this season, and he has been mowing hitters down. After his seventh start of the season on Sunday, Skenes had an 0.99 ERA with 45 strikeouts and just eight walks. He surrendered the first home run of his professional career on Sunday as part of his two earned runs, which bumped his ERA from a minuscule 0.39.

While some of those numbers make it appear that Skenes was MLB-ready long before now, they don't tell the whole story. He has made seven starts but is averaging less than four innings per start. He has still not thrown more than 75 pitches in a game, and he didn't throw more than 65 until April 24.

Those are not major-league-caliber numbers, but there's a strategy behind it. The Pirates have been trying to stretch Skenes out slowly, adding a bit more work to each outing. They need him to improve his stamina to be an effective major-league pitcher — but not at the cost of his health.

Skenes' last Triple-A start on Sunday wasn't his best, but his outing the week before was arguably his top performance of the season. Against the Buffalo Bisons on April 30, Skenes gave up four hits and zero runs over a season-high six innings, striking out seven and walking one.

Skenes is expected to make his first start for the Pirates on Saturday, when they host the Chicago Cubs.