Will Paul Skenes Be as Good a Pro Pitcher as His Teammate?

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

In a stunning revolt against Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, the answer is almost certainly yes. But now that you’ve clicked, you might as well stick around to find out why I asked the question. All season, the conventional wisdom has been that an LSU Tiger would be the best prospect selected in last night’s amateur draft. Since last season, outfielder Dylan Crews has topped most draft big boards, and a winter of tutelage from outgoing Tigers pitching coach Wes Johnson moved Skenes from a top-10 prospect to the no. 1 overall pick. The pair are the first teammates to be taken first and second overall in MLB draft history.

But over the last week or so of the NCAA tournament, a third LSU player emerged as a potential first-rounder. The last time scouts laid eyes on Ty Floyd, the right-hander struck out 17 Florida Gators in Game 1 of the College World Series final. That’s no mean feat; that same Florida lineup — featuring no. 4 pick Wyatt Langford and potential 2024 top pick Jac Caglianone — hung 24 on LSU the following afternoon. Floyd’s 17 strikeouts equaled a 51-year-old record set by Arizona State’s Eddie Bane, best known now as the scouting director who drafted Mike Trout (along with Randal Grichuk, Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, and Patrick Corbin, in what must be the best two-round run by any team in draft history).

Floyd made himself a lot of money in Omaha, and he and Skenes are now in select company: Pitchers from the same team who went in the first round of the same draft. And if you think the first two paragraphs of this post were a fire hose of useless trivia, well, strap in, because we’re just getting started.

Having spent the afternoon abusing the draft search function on Baseball Reference, I was able to find 20 other sets of teammates since 2000 who had been drafted in the first round out of the same pitching staff. (For these purposes, “first round” includes any supplemental or compensatory picks that take place before the first pick of the second round.) That list comprises 19 pairs and one trio, 17 sets of college teammates and three sets of high school teammates.

And — back to the original question — it’s not a slam dunk that the pitcher drafted first will go on to have the better career. (Though, again, I strongly suspect that will be the case for Skenes and Floyd.) So let’s go back and look at these sets of teammates, and see how they did in the majors.

Rice University, 2001
Year Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
2001 Kenny Baugh 11 Tigers 0 Null Null
2001 Jon Skaggs 42 Yankees 0 Null Null

It turns out, not all of them did that well! Baugh made it to Triple-A, Skaggs to Double-A, but no further. Let’s move on.

Ball State, 2002
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
Bryan Bullington 1 Pirates 81 2/3 -0.2 -0.1
Luke Hagerty 32 Cubs 0 Null Null

This was the famed Moneyball draft, but the greatest omen of what was to come was the Pirates trying to save money with the top pick and biffing it. Bullington had a cup of coffee in the majors; B.J. Upton went second overall, Zack Greinke sixth.

Cypress Falls High School, 2002
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
Clint Everts 5 Expos 0 Null Null
Scott Kazmir 15 Mets 1701 25.1 4.8

Our first set of high school teammates. Everts seemed to be developing well until he tore his UCL; drafted in 2002, he didn’t throw a pitch in Double-A until 2009. Once there, he put up good numbers as a reliever, but after 12 seasons in the minors and independent ball, the call never came.

Kazmir, as you know, was a big leaguer at 20, and by his 25th birthday had made two All-Star teams, picked up an AL strikeout title, and started Game 1 of the World Series. Two years after that he looked cooked. He had to reinvent himself in order to earn a career renaissance in the mid-2010s, which included a third All-Star appearance. Then he got hurt again, reinvented himself again, won a silver medal at the Olympics in 2021, and had a final stint in the majors at age 37. You couldn’t make a movie out of Kazmir’s career because you wouldn’t be able to fit all the twists and turns into two hours of screen time.

University of Houston, 2003
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
Ryan Wagner 14 Reds 165 1/3 0.2 0.3
Brad Sullivan 25 Athletics 0 Null Null

In case you doubted the primacy of Texas in American pitching development: Three of the first four schools on this list are in Houston.

Wagner spent just nine innings in the minors before making his big league debut a month after he was drafted and just four days after he turned 21. (This was the season after everyone lost their minds over a 21-year-old Francisco Rodríguez pitching the Angels to a World Series title.) As a rookie with the Reds, Wagner went 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA in 17 relief appearances and struck out more than a batter an inning… which constitutes the bulk of the positive impact these two pitchers made in the majors.

Rice University, 2004
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
Philip Humber 3 Mets 371 2.5 3.1
Jeff Niemann 4 Devil Rays 544 1/3 6.6 2.8
Wade Townsend 8 Orioles 0 Null Null

This is the only set of three teammates to go in the top 10 picks of the same draft. Around the turn of the century, Rice was a college baseball powerhouse. These three won a national title together in 2003, and their professional careers are a big reason why Rice isn’t a college baseball powerhouse anymore. Humber needed Tommy John surgery before he threw a pitch in the majors, while Niemann battled shoulder injuries throughout his career. Townsend didn’t sign with the Orioles in 2004, was back in the draft a year later, and got picked eighth overall again by the Devil Rays. He suffered injuries to both his elbow and shoulder and never threw a pitch in the majors.

University of Texas, 2004
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
J.P. Howell 31 Royals 619 2/3 4.3 1.5
Huston Street 40 Athletics 680 10.6 2.3

These two went to three College World Series together at Texas, winning it all in 2002 and returning to the national championship series in 2004, before embarking on decade-long careers as big league relievers. Finally, a happy ending.

Russell County High School, 2006
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
Kasey Kiker 12 Rangers 0 Null Null
Cory Rasmus 38 Braves 123 -0.1 0.7

The second- and fourth-most famous baseball players to come out of Russell County High School in Seale, Alabama. (No. 1 is obviously Colby Rasmus, the greatest postseason hitter of all time. No. 3 is former Auburn star and Arizona Diamondbacks first-round pick Anfernee Grier.) If you’re having fun saying “Kasey Kiker,” you’re going to love Russell County alum and former Reds draft pick Rock Rucker.

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 2006
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
Andrew Miller 6 Tigers 829 12.8 2.9
Daniel Bard 28 Red Sox 438 2/3 5.5 1.8

The two anchors of a rotation that lost the national championship series to Oregon State in 2006. (A year after losing Bard and Miller, UNC added Kyle Seager and Dustin Ackley, went to the national championship series again, and lost to Oregon State again.) The biographies of first-round pitching teammates seem to be heavy on long arcs of redemption and self-discovery, and Miller and Bard are no different.

Vanderbilt University, 2007
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
David Price 1 Devil Rays 2143 2/3 42.5 6.7
Casey Weathers 8 Rockies 0 Null Null

There’s a lot of Vandy to come, and these two represent the two ends of the bell curve for pitcher draft outcomes. Price was in the majors by the end of his second full season of professional baseball, then spent 10 years as one of the game’s top pitchers. Weathers got hurt and never made it out of Double-A.

University of Arizona, 2008
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
Ryan Perry 21 Tigers 169 1/3 0.3 0.5
Daniel Schlereth 26 Diamondbacks 93 -0.7 0.1

This duo is a rarity in that both of them pitched primarily out of the bullpen in their draft years. Usually, major league-quality pitchers tend to filter into college rotations. While there are exceptions in the form of dominant college closers who turn into dominant professional closers — Street being one of the best examples of this type — it’s unusual for college relievers to get drafted in the first round.

The hope in these cases is that a college reliever can move through the minors quickly; sure enough, Perry and Schlereth both made the big leagues within a year of being drafted. But neither made much impact after being called up.

Indiana University, 2009
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
Eric Arnett 26 Brewers 0 Null Null
Matt Bashore 46 Twins 0 Null Null

Pass.

I will note here that one-time University of Missouri teammates Aaron Crow and Kyle Gibson were both drafted in the first round in 2009. But Crow had spent the previous season playing in independent ball after going drafted and unsigned in 2008, so they don’t make this list.

Kennesaw State, 2009
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
Chad Jenkins 20 Blue Jays 100 2/3 0.2 0.2
Kyle Heckathorn 47 Brewers 0 Null Null

Jenkins was a useful Quad-A arm for the Blue Jays for a couple years despite not striking anyone out, which is good enough to get one over on Heckathorn, who stalled out in Triple-A and has been out of baseball since 2015.

UCLA, 2011
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
Gerrit Cole 1 Pirates 1767 41.1 7.5
Trevor Bauer 3 Diamondbacks 1297 2/3 21.7 5.8

These were two of the biggest stars in the 2011 draft, one of the few in the 21st century as loaded at the top as 2023. For better or worse, the rivalry between these two dominated pitching discussion in the late 2010s. Cole is working his way into a Hall of Very Good career at least. Bauer, suffice it to say, is highly unlikely to pitch in the major leagues again.

Vanderbilt University, 2011
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
Sonny Gray 18 Athletics 1486 2/3 27.9 4.5
Grayson Garvin 59 Rays 0 Null Null

This is one of those partnerships that stretches the definition of “first-round pick.” Gray was a top-20 pick in the aforementioned loaded 2011 draft; the nine pitchers selected ahead of him included Cole, Bauer, Dylan Bundy, Archie Bradley, and José Fernández. Position players selected ahead of Gray included Anthony Rendon, Francisco Lindor, Javier Báez, George Springer, Brandon Nimmo, and C.J. Cron. Loaded draft, like I said. Sure enough, Gray went on to an impressive big league career, and at age 33 just made his third All-Star team.

Garvin was the second-to-last player selected in a 60-pick first round. (MLB changed the compensation pick rules a year later.) He battled injuries and spent just one season above A-ball before throwing his final professional pitch in 2016.

Harvard-Westlake High School, 2012
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
Max Fried 7 Padres 658 1/3 14.4 5.0
Lucas Giolito 16 Nationals 934 2/3 14.5 5.2

Fried and Giolito were two-thirds of one of the most celebrated high school rotations of all time. (When they were seniors, Jack Flaherty was a sophomore.) In reality, it didn’t last long, as Giolito was hurt for most of his draft year, which dropped him from the discussion for no. 1 overall back into the teens. You’d struggle to find two more stylistically different pitchers than Fried and Giolito, but their professional results have been eerily similar to date. I don’t think there’s a pair of teammates on this list whose careers are harder to rank.

Given the choice right now, most people would probably take Fried, who seems to have dodged a Tommy John scare for the time being, but the pendulum has swung back and forth between these two several times already, and they’re not even 30 yet.

Vanderbilt University, 2015
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
Carson Fulmer 8 White Sox 130 2/3 -0.8 0
Walker Buehler 24 Dodgers 638 1/3 15.1 5.5

A year earlier, Vandy rode a weekend rotation of first-round picks (Fulmer, Buehler, and 2014 first-rounder Tyler Beede) to a national title. In 2015, they returned to the CWS final but lost to Virginia. Nevertheless, that 2015 team was loaded. The midweek rotation and bullpen included future first-rounders Kyle Wright and Jordan Sheffield, and the top of the lineup included Dansby Swanson and Bryan Reynolds.

Fulmer and Buehler were both curious draft prospects because of their lack of size. Fulmer was a little stockier and threw harder, but his cartoon tornado delivery made him polarizing. The White Sox punched his ticket at no. 8 overall, but Fulmer validated concerns about his command with a 5.6 BB/9 ratio in the majors.

Buehler, who was not only short but skinny, fell to the Dodgers at 24. He needed Tommy John surgery before he threw a pitch in the pros, but made it to the big leagues by the end of his first full professional season, and you know the rest.

University of Florida, 2016
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
A.J. Puk 6 Athletics 120 1.4 0.7
Dane Dunning 29 Nationals 391 1/3 4.8 1.8

When I was thinking about an unheralded late first-rounder outshining his heralded teammate in the pros, this was the duo I had in mind. If I’d had the no. 1 overall pick in 2016 (admittedly one of the weakest drafts of the 21st century), I would’ve used in on Puk. I’ll spare you my usual hagiography of the 2016 Florida Gators — which features heavily in the article I wrote on Dunning a month ago — but Puk was a huge prospect, while Dunning couldn’t crack Florida’s weekend rotation in his draft year.

Dunning has turned into a highly effective finesse starter. Puk couldn’t stay healthy enough to stick in a big league rotation, and it took until his late 20s for him to throw enough strikes to become an impactful relief pitcher. It’s a right-tail outcome for Dunning and a left-tail outcome for Puk, but neither pitcher’s career path would be greatly surprising on its own. It is a little weird that both of their careers turned out this way. But if Floyd does end up outshining Skenes in the pros, it’ll probably end up looking something like this.

University of Florida, 2018
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
Brady Singer 18 Royals 440 2/3 7 2.9
Jackson Kowar 33 Royals 57 2/3 -0.5 0.1

Singer and Kowar were freshmen at Florida when Dunning and Puk were juniors. This is the only pair of college rotation-mates in the 21st century to be drafted in the first round by the same team in the same year. And it’s worked out… pretty well for Singer so far. He’s getting knocked around a bit this year, but his ERA is a run and a half worse than his FIP and he’s pitching in front of a pretty terrible Royals team, so I’m inclined to cut him some slack.

Not so much Kowar, who has the worst career ERA (9.83) of any pitcher in AL/NL history with at least 50 innings pitched.

University of Louisville, 2020
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
Reid Detmers 10 Angels 235 1/3 3.9 2.3
Bobby Miller 29 Dodgers 44 0.9 0.9

The five-round 2020 draft, coming off a season that ended in March, will go down as an all-time anomaly. With so little recent information about the prospects in question, basically only college players got drafted. Two of those were Detmers and Miller, who played for a Louisville team that had gotten plenty of exposure the previous two seasons.

And the early returns on their pro careers have been quite good. I’d call Detmers the Angels’ best non-Shohei Ohtani pitcher this season by a hair of Patrick Sandoval. Across the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, Miller has been good in his first season with the Dodgers. And he’ll only improve once he combines powers with Mason Miller and Bryce Miller to form Mecha-Miller, which will terrorize our cities and strike out 21 batters per nine innings.

Vanderbilt University, 2021
Name Pick Team Career IP Career WAR Best Year WAR
Jack Leiter 2 Rangers 0 Null Null
Kumar Rocker 10 Mets 0 Null Null

Rocker is the only college starter of the past decade to generate anything like the buzz Skenes has gotten this year. As a freshman, he threw a no-hitter in the NCAA tournament and led Vandy to a national title. And Rocker’s star has been on the wane basically ever since. Leiter joined the Commodores in 2020, and gradually eclipsed his teammate, culminating in Rocker sliding to the Mets at 10 in 2021, then not signing over medical concerns. A year of indy ball later, the Rangers shocked everyone by taking Rocker third overall in 2022.

While Leiter’s professional career has not been without its own bumps, Rocker hasn’t paired his ungodly slider with similar fastball velocity and command. He’s currently recovering from Tommy John surgery.

So what does all this mean, apart from a deluge of fun facts and nostalgia?

Well, comparing the early-2000s high school and college arms to their contemporaries from the late 2010s and 2020s, it’s clear how much better the industry has gotten at understanding what makes pitchers work and how to develop them. That’s doubly true for advances in medicine that have turned Tommy John from a career-threatening procedure to something fairly routine.

But those advances have not been distributed evenly. Using Buehler and Miller as examples, a team like the Dodgers can get more out of a pick in the 20s than many teams can get out of a pick in the top 10. Going to the right club can be a career-maker for a pitcher in Floyd’s position. The Reds have some success developing young pitchers recently — consider Andrew Abbott — and a strong incentive to move their college arms quickly. That includes Floyd, as well as no. 7 overall pick Rhett Lowder. Floyd isn’t the generational talent Skenes is, but he could be an impactful player for Cincinnati soon if circumstances play into his favor.





Michael is a writer at FanGraphs. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Ringer and D1Baseball, and his work has appeared at Grantland, Baseball Prospectus, The Atlantic, ESPN.com, and various ill-remembered Phillies blogs. Follow him on Twitter, if you must, @MichaelBaumann.

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abpow
7 months ago

Interesting piece. It’s probably worth mentioning that the Rice guys all suffered from overuse by their coach Wayne Graham, and that Humber despite his fairly undistinguished career did pitch a perfect game for the White Sox in 2012.

TKDCmember
7 months ago
Reply to  abpow

Yeah, that was the subtext I assumed from the statement about them losing their esteem, but I don’t think even most die hard fans know about the ebb of the Rice baseball program, so maybe worth spelling this out (I also understand the desire to keep each blurb short).

Websmember
7 months ago
Reply to  TKDC

As a Rice alumnus, I know.

Go Dane Myers!