Depending a little on the quality of the farm system in question, being the second best prospect in a team’s minor league system isn’t a bad position to be in. Assuming the system in question is average or above, being the second best prospect means having a great shot to make the majors and a decent shot at being an everyday player. What it does not mean, however, is the wider name recognition that comes with being the big dog in the minors. Trevor Bauer’s early season dominance of the minor leagues meant that the #FreeTrevorBauer hashtags came out every time a Diamondbacks starter faltered even slightly. He eventually did win his freedom, only to go 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP in the majors before heading back to Triple-A. I still have pie-in-the-sky hopes and expectations for Bauer’s future, especially as he’s back in Reno making a mockery of PCL and its so called “hitters parks”, but the future of the Diamondbacks’ pitching staff is hardly dependent on just one man.
There was no such clamor for Tyler Skaggs, despite the fact that he’s been nearly as good as Bauer in the minors this season. Their WHIP and ERA figures are close — Skaggs’ WHIP was slightly better at 1.22 compared to Bauer’s 1.30, but Bauer’s 2.39 ERA bests Skaggs’ 2.87 — though Bauer’s incredible strikeout numbers give him the leg up on Skaggs in terms of overall potential. Skaggs does hold one major advantage over Bauer as the fantasy season hits the stretch run: He’s the only one of the pair currently in the major leagues.
After dominating Double-A and putting up strong numbers at Triple-A at just 20, Skaggs won his first major league start against the Marlins despite walking five and striking out just four hitters. The walks stood out as a serious aberration from Skaggs’ typical control; it was the first time since joining the Diamondbacks that he had walked more than four and the first time since April of 2011 that he had walked more than three hitters in a start.
Monday night’s start against Cincinnati may have been Skaggs’ impression of his former teammate — pitch count issues prevented him from completing six innings of work, something Bauer did just once in his four starts — but superior control should make this an isolated incident. Rather than repeat the mistakes he made against the Marlins, Skaggs walked just a pair of hitters and neither came around to score. He had other issues — giving up a home run to the opposing pitcher not only cost him the game, but also probably cost him a few dollars in Kangaroo Court — but there isn’t anything consistent between his two starts that makes me particularly concerned.
If extrapolating from one start is allowed, the one thing I noticed that could be an issue going forward is Skaggs’ reliance on his fastball with runners on base. Of the 48 pitches he threw with at least one base occupied, 37 were fastballs. I’m putting little stock into the pitch breakdown of one start, but it is something I’ll be keeping an eye on the next time Skaggs gets the ball. His fastball is good, but major league hitters aren’t going to miss a pitch that tops out at 93 mph and sits closer to 90 mph when they know it’s coming. Every single hit Skaggs gave up on Monday came on his fastball.
Assuming September call-ups don’t alter the Diamondbacks’ rotation too much, Skaggs will make his next two starts on the road, first against the Dodgers in Los Angeles and then against the Padres in San Diego. In fact, since Skaggs is currently slated to be the only Diamondbacks starter not subjected to the airy realms of Coors Field, Monday’s start at home against the Reds was absolutely his toughest park/opponent combination, making him a relatively easy plug-and-play option from here on out.
He may not post gaudy strikeout numbers, but Skaggs’ typically good control and favorable matchups make him a good option for anyone whose rate stats have taken a beating lately. Fishing for wins is always risky bet at best, but he’ll likely get the Padres twice and Rockies once in the last month of the season, which can’t be a bad thing. In particular, anyone still banking on Lance Lynn for anything more than holds and the odd strikeout might do better to switch to Skaggs, since Lynn’s return to the rotation is theoretical at best.
Dan enjoys black tea, imperial IPAs, and any competition that can be loosely judged a sport. Follow him on Twitter.