Name: Tyler Skaggs
Notable 2011 Stats: 3.22 ERA, 2.65 FIP, 6 HRA, 34 BB, 125 K, and 50% GB% in 100 2/3 IP with Visalia (High-A);
2.50 ERA, 2.45 FIP, 4 HRA, 15 BB, 73 K, and 40% GB% in 57 2/3 IP with Mobile (AA);
2.96 ERA, 2.58 FIP, 10 HRA, 49 BB, 198 K, and 46% GB% in 158 1/3 IP total
Why He’s This High: When I discussed #31 prospect David Holmberg, I mentioned how Skaggs (and Holmberg) was one of just seven teenage High-A starters from 2005-11 to strike out over a batter per inning in over 30 IP as a starter. That’s an exceptional accomplishment in itself, and it immediately paints Skaggs as a player to watch, especially since he struck out 11.18 per nine innings with Visalia–he wasn’t just barely over the 1 K/IP line like Holmberg was.
But then the lefthander ascended to High-A and slightly increased his strikeout rate (to 11.39 K/9) while cutting his walks (and it’s not like he was wild in the first place). So basically, right around his 20th birthday, he was a true ace in the Southern League.
Skaggs has a prototypical pitcher’s frame and a clean, easy delivery. He works in the 90-94 mph range with his fastball and also throws a plus curveball and above-average changeup. His frame, mechanics, and arsenal bring Jon Lester to mind, and he may end up even better if things break right. In some ways, he even recalls the one pitcher ahead of him on this list (spoiler, yes, but you had to know that), Matt Moore.
Why He’s This Low: Sometimes, there are nitpicks surrounding Skaggs often throwing just 91-92 mph with his fastball, which doesn’t bring the “ace” designation to mind to a lot of scouting types. I understand the trepidation there, and I do see it as possible that he’s just more of a #2/#3 starter, but he remains projectable and already throws harder than most lefthanded starters. His merely above-average velocity was more of a concern when he was just a lower-minors pitcher, but now that he’s emphatically transitioned to the upper minors, I think those concerns should be mostly thrown out. Perhaps, however, they should be kept in the back of the mind.
Understandably, Skaggs could stand to get more consistent with his secondary pitches–he doesn’t turn 21 until July, after all.
Conclusions: There is a fair gap separating Skaggs from the top 4 prospects on this list, but he’s a very special prospect who doesn’t get the attention he deserves. His performance for his age in Double-A was borderline historic, and he’s at least above-average on every scouting attribute, and he could improve further due to his youth and projection. He is very much a potential #1 starter, and being a mid-rotation lefthander seems to be his downside.
Check out all of the Seedlings To Stars 2012 Top 100 Prospects here!
For more on the Diamondbacks, check out Venom Strikes!