The Detroit Tigers have several high-profile pitchers in the minor leagues who have the potential to be solid major-leaguers, guys like first-round picks Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and Beau Burrows. They represent a big portion of the hope for the future.
However, another guy – a ninth-round selection – has burst into that group, and we should see him start the season for the Toledo Mud Hens next spring. His name is Tarik Skubal, originally drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 29th round of the 2017 draft. He did not sign, and the Tigers took him in the ninth round of the 2018 draft.
Skubal is not totally in the same group as Mize, Manning, Faedo and Burrows. Those four all throw right-handed, and Skubal is a lefty, which makes his rise all the more interesting.
Skubal attended Seattle University – did you even know there was a Seattle University? It is a NCAA Division I school that is a member of the Western Athletic Conference and has never had a baseball player reach the major leagues. Skubal is on the road to be the first.
It is understandable why Skubal was not selected higher. He missed two seasons after his sophomore year because of Tommy John surgery, and when he returned for his senior year, he had a 4.16 ERA with 56 walks in 80 innings at Seattle. But he also had 106 strikeouts, and that had to be the thing that stamped Skubal as a logical pick in the ninth round.
So far, Skubal has been anything but overmatched in professional baseball. Check out his year-by-year progression in the minors:
2018: 3-0, 0.40 ERA, 0.851 WHIP, 33 strikeouts and 4 walks in 22 and one-third innings. OK, that’s dominating, but it’s also a very small sample size. We need to see more against better competition.
2019: 6-8, 2.42 ERA, 1.011 WHIP, 179 strikeouts and 37 walks in 122 and two-third innings between Class A Lakeland and Class AA Erie. Wow. Forget that won-lost record and close in on 179 strikeouts and 37 walks in 122-plus innings. A 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ration is considered good, so what is a 5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio?
Skubal throws a fastball that tops out at 97 miles per hour, and he his slider and curveball are considered above average. He also is developing a change-up.
Skubal has shot up to the No. 4 prospect in the organization behind Mize, Manning and Riley Greene – all prized former first-round selections. That’s pretty good company for a guy who already has had Tommy John surgery and was taken in the ninth round from a school that has never produced a major-league player.