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Why Paul Skenes Should Start MLB All-Star Game — This Year

Imagine a Skenes vs. Gunnar Henderson showdown?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better, more captivating story in the first half of the MLB season than what Paul Skenes has been able to do in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates phenom seemingly rewrites the record book every time he takes the ball. His most impressive outing might have come in his final start of June when he went six strong innings against a loaded Atlanta Braves lineup. Skenes went toe-to-toe with Max Fried, allowing just one run over those six frames on six hits with two walks while striking out nine against the World Series hopefuls.

He followed that up with another ho-hum, seven-inning, two-run, eight-strikeout performance against the Mets on July 5, two days before he was named to the National League All-Star team, becoming the first player ever to make the Midsummer Classic one year after going first overall.

Skenes through his first 10 big league starts has yet to suffer a loss, allowing more than two runs in just two of those games. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft now has 78 strikeouts in those 10 starts. Only seven pitchers in baseball history have more punchouts in their first 10 games than Skenes.

You could find many ways to point out how historically good Skenes has been this early in his career. Considered the top prospect in baseball basically since the Pirates took him No. 1 overall last summer, the LSU product has been everything the team could want and more.

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Quite frankly, he’s been everything baseball could want, too, and he should be in the discussion not just to make the National League All-Star team. He should start the game for the Senior Circuit in Texas later this month.

There’s no denying that such a decision would be made at least in part to generate interest in the game itself. One could easily make the case that proven veterans like Tyler Glasnow, Logan Webb or even Chris Sale have earned that honor more than Skenes. You could even argue giving the ball to someone like Philadelphia’s Christopher Sanchez, the most valuable pitcher (3.0 fWAR) on arguably the best team in baseball makes more sense for this year.

With all due respect to those established hurlers, none of them move the needle like Skenes does or would. MLB All-Star Game ratings continue to plummet. Just 7 million people watched the Midsummer Classic a year ago, roughly half of what the audience was 20 years prior and a sizable drop-off from just six years prior when more than 9 million watched the 2017 game.

Would Skenes alone reverse that trend? Maybe not. But it’s at least worth trying. His fastball alone is box-office stuff (while the “splinker” has taken the baseball world by storm), and building a few days of excitement around his lightning bolt of a right arm could drum up some interest.

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Plus, could you imagine Skenes taking the rubber in Texas to face an American League lineup that goes something like Gunnar Henderson, Juan Soto and Yordan Alvarez to start the bottom half of the first inning? The Skenes-Henderson matchup, pitting the best young pitcher in the world against the best young position player would be an instant moment, and isn’t that what the All-Star Game is all about?

Ultimately, the honor will probably go elsewhere, largely because Skenes will have plenty of chances to earn the starting nod over what is shaping up to be a legendary career. That doesn’t mean NL manager Torey Lovullo or anyone else involved in the decision-making process shouldn’t at least give the idea some earnest consideration. It could be the best thing for baseball.

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Featured image via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images