Though he finally got his first taste of the big leagues as one of the top pitching prospects in the majors, Tyler Skaggs‘ road to a starting job with the Arizona Diamondbacks will be significantly rougher in 2013.
No, he won’t have Trevor Bauer to worry about anymore, as the trade with the Cleveland Indians took care of that. But then, the team added Randall Delgado to the mix in a trade with the Atlanta Braves, and all of a sudden, Skaggs finds himself in a three-way competition with Delgado and Patrick Corbin headed into Spring Training.
Although Skaggs likely has the highest upside of the trio, it’s not as though Corbin and Delgado were walkovers last season, either. The 23-year old Corbin was didn’t come with as much hype as Bauer or Skaggs in 2012, but shot through two levels of pro ball in 2012 anyway, becoming first of that group to make the majors in large part because of his MLB-ready polish. It’s something he showed over his 17 starts, as the lefty posted a clean 3.44 K/BB, and was a 1.5 fWAR pitcher for the Diamondbacks over 107 innings, with a 4.54 ERA.
Those are numbers that would be perfectly playable for a fifth starter. Ditto Delgado, the former Braves prospect who put up a 4.54 ERA over 17 starts and 92.2 innings. Where Corbin has better control, Delgado had better stuff.
As for Skaggs? Well, to win in this race, he’ll have to show that he could be a happy medium between the two in the immediate term, while demonstrating his eventual upside as a middle-of-the-order arm.
Looking at the small sample numbers from last year, the talented lefty looks like he could be just that: his .254 BAA over 29.1 innings suggests that he’s probably a little harder to hit than Corbin’s .275, and Skagg’s 3.99 BB/9 just edges out Delgado’s 4.08; though, unlike Delgado, Skaggs has always shown good control in his ascent through the minors, which bodes well for that skill being translated during Spring Training and onwards.
The Diamondbacks have compelling reasons to start the 21-year old down at AAA for more seasoning, and making every Spring Training start count will be crucial for Skaggs.
It’s a job he won’t have an inside track for, but even in the event that he does blow away his competition in Spring Training, the biggest roadblock is yet to come in the form of a returning Daniel Hudson, the 25-year old former ace of the club who could be back from Tommy John surgery in the summer.
Skaggs isn’t going to worry about that for now, though. Now that he’s had his first taste of the majors, he will be looking to stick as one of the team’s core pieces for the future as soon as 2012. To do that, he has to beat out Corbin and Delgado first.
Hudson looms in the distance, but he can’t look ahead that far. Not while he doesn’t have the job to lose yet.