Cubs Likely to Face Paul Skenes Twice in Next Week

The Cubs have managed to cling to a virtual tie for first place by virtue of the Brewers going 4-6 over their last 10, and being six games over .500 despite myriad injuries is actually pretty admirable. However, they’re 1-3 in extra innings with a 9-10 road record and the offense has averaged under three runs per game over their last dozen contests. That doesn’t really bode well considering they’re on the road for the next six games, three of which are in Atlanta, before hosting the Braves in a little less than two weeks.

In between those series sit a pair of matchups with the Pirates that might otherwise have seemed like welcome reprieves given Pittsburgh’s 17-21 record and -22 run differential. Ah, but the calculus changed in a big way when it was announced that top pitching prospect Paul Skenes is being promoted to make his MLB debut this Saturday. Assuming they maintain a standard rotation, he’ll be in line to make another start against the Cubs next Thursday.

Wonderful stuff.

No, seriously, he’s got wonderful stuff. The top overall pick last summer probably shouldn’t have spent any time in the minors at all because it’s not like he needed to prove anything. His 80-grade fastball touches 102 and sounds like a shotgun when it pops the catcher’s mitt, but it’s also got the kind of carry that makes the velocity play up even more. He faced 105 batters at Triple-A, striking out 45 of them and walking just eight while allowing three earned runs on 17 hits.

Skenes also has a firm 70-grade slider that gets whiffs, many of them quite ugly, at over a 60% rate. Then there’s the low-90s changeup that could end up being a real weapon if he’s able to develop it over time. A former two-way player who goes 6-foot-6 and around 240 pounds, Skenes is a large athlete who is going to be a very serious problem for NL Central opponents until the Pirates trade him to the Yankees in a few years.

Lots of pitchers throw hard, but doing so as a starter with very good control could vault Skenes right to the top of the rookie class in no time. Hell, he should immediately become one of the best pitchers in the game, period.

As cool as it is to see a super-hyped prospect make his debut, it sucks that it’s happening against the Cubs. Unless, of course, they provide ol’ dude with a humbling welcome-to-MLB moment that sees all the sailors on the Jolly Roger jumping off the plank. That would be more than a little fun, I just don’t see it happening more than once even if the Cubs’ bats can wake up from their nap here soon.

Here’s to hoping my karmic influence remains strong enough that my fear of being shut down twice in five days by baseball’s top pitching prospect sees the Cubs coming through with a pair of wins.

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