2012 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Report: Arizona Diamondbacks' Tyler Skaggs

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2012 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Report: Arizona Diamondbacks' Tyler Skaggs
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Although it’s yet to be confirmed, Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic reports Arizona Diamondbacks’ left-handed pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs will make his major league debut Wednesday against the Marlins.

Skaggs was a “healthy scratch” from his Triple-A start at Reno on Monday, where he owns a 2.91 ERA in 52.2 innings (nine starts), with a 45:16 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Diamondbacks host a doubleheader Wednesday, which—in addition to Skaggs’ healthy scratch—fueled speculation of his promotion.

Tyler Emerick of MLB.com reports either Skaggs or fellow prospect Trevor Bauer are the most likely candidates to get the start, although Kirk Gibcon told Emerick that nothing has been finalized.

Whether or not he starts Wednesday, fantasy owners should be aware of Tyler Skaggs. Taken 40th overall by the Angels in the 2009 draft—one pick ahead of the Diamondbacks—Skaggs was the crown jewel of the Dan Haren trade that sent him to Arizona two summers ago. The 6'4", 195-pound southpaw has advanced three levels since, and is now regarded as one of the top prospects in baseball. In fact, Baseball America ranked Skaggs as the seventh overall prospect on their midseason top-50 list last month.

Here’s an excerpt from BA‘s preseason scouting report on Skaggs:

Skaggs’ money pitch is his 12-to-6 curveball with late, sharp break that’s a true swing-and-miss pitch. He sets it up by moving his lively 88-93 mph fastball around the strike zone. His fastball velocity increased in 2011, sitting in the low 90s more consistently, and he may add more as he fills out his projectable frame. His changeup is at least an average pitch, a 78-82 mph offering that sinks below the zone with a side-to-side curl. Skaggs repeats his delivery well and throws strikes. Originally projected as a No. 3 starter, Skaggs has revised that outlook and now looks like he can pitch at the front of a rotation.

BA graded Skaggs as a future 65/low, meaning his ceiling is that of a No. 2 starter/perennial All-Star and the risk of that not happening is relatively low.

Unfortunately for Skaggs, the Diamondbacks' ballpark isn’t exactly pitcher-friendly. Last season, it had the third-highest “basic park factor” according to FanGraphs—only Coors Field and Arlington had higher marks.

On the flip side, Skaggs isn’t what you would call a fly ball pitcher, as he’s yielded outfield flies at a rate of 29.1 percent this season. He has allowed 12 homers this season though, four of them coming at Triple-A.

He’s worth being owned in 10-team mixed leagues, but like most young pitchers, he’s going to be difficult to trust until we see him a few times. It’s entirely possible that—assuming he does start Wednesday’s doubleheader—the Diamondbacks will option Skaggs back to Triple-A following the game. In that case, he’s only worth a look in keeper and dynasty leagues.

As FanGraphs’ Mike Newman wrote in May (with video), most left-handers with a plus-breaking pitch dominate in the minors, so it’s important not to get too caught up in Skaggs hype. His upside is high. Not Stephen Strasburg-high, but Newman offers an Erik Bedard comparison (career 3.68 FIP, 8.74 K/9, 3.58 BB/9), and I think it fits. Between several injuries, Bedard has flashed brilliance. A healthy Bedard was, at times, downright filthy. Thus, Skaggs’ owners should be cautiously optimistic. The 21-year-old could be a valuable fantasy asset in the near future.

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