Eric Skoglund is a guy the Royals really like. He is a guy they think can be in a big league rotation for a long time. And hopefully that is what happens for Skoglund in KC.
The 2014 3rd round pick out of the University of Central Florida made his MLB debut last year on May 30 when he matched up against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. Miguel Cabrera even had a thumbs up for him during the first inning before reaching base. Skoglund then was able to retire JD Martinez two batters later for his first MLB strike out. Things look absolutely incredible for Skoglund who retired the next 14 batters he faced having a brilliant MLB debut. But the good times never last. In his next three starts, Skoglund got shelled and ended up out of the rotation and back in Omaha.
If you look at the 5 starts Skoglund made last year, you have the gem in his debut, and then four duds. Skoglund went a total of 7.2 innings in those 4 starts yielding 15 ER on 23 hits and 8 walks. He still managed 6 Ks in that time period, but you can’t walk more batters than innings you pitch. That is a terrible recipe for success and rarely works. If you take the pitch data for those games, Skoglund only had 11 swings and misses from batters including a zero from one of those starts. In his debut, Skoglund had 8 swings and misses. His overall strike percentage was down and his line drive allowed rate was sky high with 16 line drives in those 7.2 innings. In his debut, Skoglund allowed one line drive.
Skoglund is still a really good prospect. He had a little taste of the big leagues with immediate success and then being crushed. This is going to give him a mentality that he has something to prove when he comes back up. And it should be fuel to drive him. If you look back at his pedigree it is solid. Skoglund has been in the top prospects for the Royals for a few years now. He doesn’t normally have control issues like he showed in the bigs last year only walking 90 batters in 367.2 minor league innings. That’s a rate of around 2.2 BB per 9. Skoglund also has given up fewer hits than innings pitched in his minor league career which is an indicator of future success. Combine that with his 8 K per 9 rate and you should have a successful future MLB player.
Skoglund throws from a three-quarter arm angle. It’s not as low as some of the lefties the Royals have been targeting in the past but it isn’t high either. There were some comparisons to Sale when he was first drafted being the tall and lanky lefty but Sale throws from a lower slot. Skoglund does release the ball at a more extreme angle than the normal LHP however, which can lead to it being tougher to pick up the ball and square him up. At 6’7” it would be tough for him not to.
Skoglund doesn’t blow hitters away working in the low 90s and getting up to the mid-90s. He relies more on command and control than shear velocity. This is one reason that he is hittable at times, as evidenced by his 2017 MLB season. He also tends to get the ball up in the zone at times and when he does, it flattens out and doesn’t have the same life on it making it easier to hit. Skoglund also throws a change that is better than his curve. The change has some armside run and sink but again, at times he ends up pushing it putting it up in the zone. His curve, which has more of a sweeping action, isn’t especially sharp although it looks a little tighter now than it did when Skoglund was first drafted. The fear is that Skoglund will not quite develop enough to be a consistent big league arm and will end up as a AAAA type of guy. The hope is that he will end up being a guy who constantly gets 180+ quality innings a year. 2080 Baseball compared Skoglund to Jeff Francis a year ago today. That seems like a solid comparison and we hope Skoglund has a lot of 2007 Jeff Francis type of years in KC.
Photo Credit: NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANTHONY REYES and MLB.com