First Impressions: SP Tarik Skubal

First Impressions: SP Tarik Skubal

Written by: Danny Hacker
Follow him on Twitter: @theGREATdanny94
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On Monday, the Tigers made known that they were promoting three of their top prospects to debut over the course of their series with the White Sox in the form of Isaac Paredes on Monday, Tarik Skubal last night and Casey Mize tonight. Tarik Skubal got the ball first and is the #5 Prospect in the Tigers system in John Moore’s Top-20 Tigers Prospects.

He was drafted in the 9th Round of the 2018 MLB Draft from Seattle College and has gained quite some major hype as he has risen through the Tigers system. Having to face an explosive White Sox lineup is not the ideal way to make your MLB debut and it showed quite a few flaws in Skubal as he did not make it very far at all in his first career start.

The Line: 2.0, 4ER, 4R, 7H, 1K, 1BB on 52 Pitches (1 Home Run)
The Pitch Breakdown: 52 Total Pitches (33 for Strikes, 63.4%)

Pitch:Number/%CSW%Avg VeloMax VeloSpin Rate
4 Seam Fastball29 (56%)24%95.2 mph97 mph2,416 RPM
Slider9 (17%)22%85.9 mph87.7 mph2,258 RPM
Changeup8 (15%)25%82.8 mph84.1 mph1,612 RPM
Curveball6 (12%)0%76.8 mph78.1 mph2,204 RPM
Pitch by Pitch Breakdown

Skubal is a four pitch pitcher who has heavily relied on his Fastball and Slider throughout the minors and last night wasn’t even reliant on the Slider, it was just mostly fastballs and that doesn’t bode well at all when you have iffy control/command to begin with and can’t set it up with the secondaries (more on that in a minute). Skubal’s Fastball sat around 95 mph all night with a spin rate of 2,416 RPMs, which is a pretty solid to average spin rate, throwing a whopping 29 of them equaling 56% of his pitches and a 24% CSW%. Skubal got burned early and often on his fastball with Tim Anderson immediately sitting on one during the first batter he faced for a home run. Talk about welcome to the majors. After that, Skubal continued to try and throw mostly fastballs which didn’t get him very far as Yoan Moncada laced one into centerfield right after that before getting Eloy to bounce into a double play and McCann to fly out to end the inning. In the first inning, Skubal threw 18 of 30 pitches as fastballs and ultimately got out of the inning but it wasn’t exactly pretty. As you notice on the pitch chart, he threw all of his fastballs either down the heart of the plate or up and in (including Anderson’s home run) which is a problem especially if he can’t create a concrete separation in the fastball and other secondaries to make hitters not sit on the pitch all night which is what ultimately happened. It’s worth noting in the first inning the pitch had a 28% CSW% vs the second inning in which it had just an 18% CSW% meaning hitters were not as fooled on it the second go around and there was a lot of loud hard contact.

Skubal has three secondary pitches; a slider, a changeup and a curveball in which he struggled all night to place them in the zone. His Slider sat around 85.9 mph with a spin rate of 2,258 RPM which resulted in a 22% CSW% on the pitch. He got his only strikeout on the night on it getting a swing and miss from Eloy Jimenez to end the second inning but of the 9 times it was thrown, 4 were to Eloy (3 in the first inning). He didn’t trust his slider really at all, or rather any of his secondary pitches, and it was one of the biggest reasons in my opinion that his outing went so south. His Changeup sat around 82.8 mph with a spin rate of 1,612 rpm which resulted in a 25% CSW% while his Curveball sat around 78.1 mph with a spin rate of 2,204 rpm which resulted in a 0% CSW% of the 6 times he threw it. In the first inning, all three pitches (thrown a combined 12 times) resulted in a 0% CSW%. They were not fooling anybody and like I said above, that definitely would cause an inning/outing to fly south in a hurry. He didn’t throw a single changeup for a strike, he didn’t throw a single curveball for a strike (though one was fouled off) and hitters weren’t fooled on the slider. There was reports and talks he was revamping them which could have caused such a crazy outing from them especially in the first inning but this is definitely something to watch moving forward, especially if Skubal wants to remain a starter.

Control/Command has been an on and off issue with Skubal and why some people believe he will ultimately end up in the bullpen. While he didn’t technically struggle throwing strikes (in which I was really surprised that it was 63.4%), he struggled to throw his secondaries for strikes and that ultimately led to his demise like mentioned above. Skubal needs to improve on that if he wants to remain in the rotation long term like mentioned above. He only walked one, a first inning walk to Edwin Encarnacion, which in all the madness of the outing is a good sign of sorts that his wildness didn’t at least lead to a lot of walks like what was seen in AA last year.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed in Skubal’s debut because I really thought he would go a lot longer and ultimately have better control/confidence of his secondaries. He barely threw them and bad things will happen when hitters start sitting on your fastball all night long.

Moving forward, I am not sure where I lie on what Skubal’s future role will be. Last night definitely let all the reliever talk creep into the back of my mind but I still have some confidence he can correct his secondary issues and right the ship to be a starter long term. One thing is certain though and that’s if he doesn’t learn to trust his secondary pitches, he definitely will not start long term as the other Tigers pitching prospects start to come up.

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