MLB.com Columnist

Bernie Pleskoff

Skaggs has bright future with solid three-pitch mix

Skaggs has bright future with solid three-pitch mix

Jerry Dipoto was not the interim general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks for very long. In fact, he served in the role only from July 1, 2010, until Kevin Towers was appointed on Sept. 22nd that same year.

In less than three months, and with one masterful trade, Dipoto was able to transform the D-backs pitching staff.

On July 25, 2010, Dipoto traded ace Dan Haren to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for left-handed pitchers Joe Saunders and Patrick Corbin, right-handed reliever Rafael Rodriguez and a player to be named later. That player was left-handed starter Tyler Skaggs.

Today, Haren has moved on to the Washington Nationals, Saunders to the Seattle Mariners, and Corbin and Skaggs could form the nucleus of a tremendous Diamondbacks pitching staff for years to come. Both lefties have tremendous upside and could become top starting pitchers in the game.

Skaggs is a 6-foot-5, lanky 215-pound crafty lefty with a three-pitch arsenal that he can control and command. He projects to miss bats with his two most developed pitches -- his four-seam fastball and his 12-to-6 curveball. His changeup remains a work in progress, but it is certainly a solid pitch for his repertoire.

Skaggs attended Santa Monica (Calif.) High School. He grew up rooting for the Angels and realized a dream when the Angels selected him No. 40 overall in the supplemental first round with their third of five first-round and supplemental-round selections in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. Randall Grichuck (No. 24) and Mike Trout (No. 25) were selected by the Angels in the first round prior to Skaggs being taken in the supplemental round.

Skaggs began his career playing at two classifications in 2009. He had no decisions in five appearances, pitching 10 total innings for the rookie league Orem club in the Pioneer League and the Angels in the Arizona League. He allowed nine hits and only two earned runs. He struck out 13 while walking only two. With his 1.10 WHIP, Skaggs showed he belonged in professional baseball.

In 2010, Skaggs played for two organizations -- the Angels' Class A Cedar Rapids team and the D-backs' Class A South Bend squad. He threw 98 1/3 innings and finished with a combined record of 9-5. He had an ERA of 3.29 and a WHIP of 1.180, striking out 102 and walking 25. A pattern of quality pitching was emerging.

While pitching for Mobile at age 19 in 2011, Skaggs was part of an incredible Double-A rotation that at one point or another included Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer, Charles Brewer, Jarrod Parker, Wade Miley and Skaggs. It doesn't get much better than that. Bauer is now with Cleveland and Parker with Oakland, while Corbin, Brewer, Miley and Skaggs remain with the D-backs. Relievers Bryan Shaw and Ryan Cook were in the bullpen. Oh, and did I mention Paul Goldschmidt was at first base? He hit 30 homers and drove in 94 runs. Former first-round selection A.J. Pollock and Adam Eaton were in the outfield. What a team.

Skaggs went 4-1 at Mobile, but he also pitched very well at Advanced-A Visalia that same season. He threw 100 2/3 innings at Visalia and had an ERA of 3.22. But after he was promoted to Mobile, he did even better. His ERA dropped to 2.50 in 10 games, covering 57 2/3 innings. It was a terrific year, and frankly, it was the season that put many of the players such as Goldschmidt, Miley, Corbin and Skaggs on the map.

After that great 2011, Skaggs kept improving his command and location and showed that he could pitch against more advanced hitters. On Aug. 22, 2012, at age 21, Skaggs got a taste of Major League life. He was summoned to the D-backs to pitch six games, throwing 29 1/3 innings. His command suffered a bit on the larger stage, as he walked 13 and struck out 21 on the way to a 1-3 record and 5.83 ERA.

Skaggs has a quality I admire greatly as a scout. He isn't afraid to pitch inside. Better yet, he knows how to pitch inside, especially to left-handed hitters.

Skaggs' fastball won't blow hitters away, as he sits at 90 MPH with the focal-point pitch of his repertoire. But it's his Barry Zito-type, lengthy 12-6 curveball with sharp bite and late break that is his best pitch. Of course, he has to be careful not to hang one in the eyes of the hitter. His changeup is a nice offering that is getting better, and he can use it most effectively against right-handed hitters.

Skaggs has a very mature and advanced presence on the mound. He carries himself as though he is in charge -- which he is. That's a great quality. He owns the at-bats, not the hitter. Pitching downhill with that large frame, Skaggs looks like all arms and legs coming directly at the batter's box.

When I have watched him pitch, Skaggs has had a relatively smooth but deceptive delivery. There are times I've seen a slight jerk prior to the release of the ball. That may be the only minor inconsistency in an otherwise efficient, three-quarters arm-slot motion. That little movement isn't always there. In most cases Skaggs repeats a clean delivery with good finish to his pitches.

After beginning this season at Triple-A Reno, Skaggs was called upon to make a spot Major League start Monday in a day-night doubleheader against a very strong hitting Rangers club. Skaggs threw six innings of three-hit ball, striking out nine and did not receive a decision.

Ranked as the D-backs' top prospect by MLB.com, Skaggs projects as a high-quality starting pitcher with a great future. He will likely be part of a rotation that comes close to duplicating the 2011 Mobile effort. D-backs fans would love that.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.