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Is it Time for the Diamondbacks to Call Up Tyler Skaggs? | August

Tyler Skaggs has been pitching extremely well for AAA Reno, giving up just 4 ER in his last 40.2 IP, for an ERA of just 0.89 over the last month. In eight starts in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, he has allowed 1 ER or less in 7 of his 8 outings. Overall, Skaggs has a 9-5 record with a 2.38 ERA between AA and AAA, with very good strikeout (8.6K/9) and walk rates (2.7 BB/9). He has been very effective against right-handed hitters (.231/.287/.331, .618 OPS in 332 PA), and solid against lefties (.261/.323/.395, .718 OPS in 131 PA).  Skaggs has been keeping the ball on the ground (42.3% GB rate), and keeping it in the yard (0.80 HR/9). So Skaggs is doing pretty much all he can to earn a promotion to the Majors - but is there a spot for him on the Major League roster?

Right now, all five starters for Arizona are pitching well, so there doesn't seem to be a spot in the starting rotation for Skaggs:

Ian Kennedy 145.0 10 9 4.34 99 1.32 4.05 1.3 1.9 7.8
Trevor Cahill 139.0 9 9 3.76 115 1.32 4.12 0.8 3.5 6.5
Wade Miley* 132.2 12 7 2.85 151 1.09 3.21 0.7 1.7 6.6
Joe Saunders* 113.1 6 8 3.52 123 1.31 3.92 1.0 2.2 6.1
Patrick Corbin* 51.0 3 4 3.53 123 1.29 3.63 0.7 3.2 7.4

The worst numbers in the rotation belong to Ian Kennedy, who is not going to be moved out. There were trade rumors around Saunders at the July 31 trade deadline, but he is pitching too well to be dealt now. The pitcher with the shortest leash is probably Corbin, but his last two starts have been very good (2 ER in 12 IP, 14K/5 BB).

It's in the bullpen where I think Skaggs could find a role. Three spots in the bullpen appear to be set, with closer J.J. Putz, setup man David Hernandez, and ground-ball specialist Brad Ziegler. Newcomer Matt Albers has pitched very well since arriving, but the final three spots are a little shaky - Takashi Saito, Josh Collmenter, and Mike Zagurski. Saito allowed 2 runs and 4 baserunners without recording an out in his last outing, and at age 42, his health is always a concern. Collmenter made some key starts for the Diamondbacks in July, but his last three outings have not been good - a combined 7 ER in 8.1 IP.  And Zagurski, the only LHP in the bullpen, has a 5.06 ERA and 13 BB in 26.2 IP. 

Would it help the Diamondbacks to replace one of the current pitchers with Skaggs? One problem is that Skaggs has not pitched in relief at all in 2011 or 2012. So a big factor is how comfortable Skaggs and the team management would be with Skaggs coming out of the bullpen. If that can be overcome, I think it might be a good idea to call up Skaggs. Former Orioles' manager Earl Weaver's 8th Law is "The best place for a rookie pitcher is long relief," because it keeps the pressure off them, and also helps to limit their innings. Skaggs has already pitched 117 IP this year, and will probably end up in the 150s if he continues to start for Reno, and then could see another 10-20 IP during a likely September callup. That would be a total in the 170 IP range, which is not bad for a 21 year old, but the team might want to cut back on that a little. So pitching in relief down the stretch could help limit Skaggs' innings.

I think it is clear that Skaggs is a better pitcher right now than Zagurski, Collmenter, and probably Saito. Calling him up now would help the Diamondbacks through the final 50 games of the season, and would also make him eligible for the postseason roster. Right now, Skaggs' consistency and command make him more ready for the Majors than teammate Trevor Bauer. The only issues are whether Skaggs can handle pitching in relief for two months, and if it will hinder his development as a starter. I think he can handle the role, and as we have seen from rookies Wade Miley and Patrick Corbin, a stretch in the bullpen does not seem to have any negative effect on their future as a starter.  The extra service time he may get in August should not be a big financial concern. We'll see if the Diamondbacks decide to call up Skaggs - he started for AAA Reno on Wednesday August 8th, so he probably couldn't work in relief until this weekend. But I think he's ready, and the Diamondbacks could really use him now.

Edit: Skaggs was a healthy scratch from his start on Sunday, August 19, leading to speculation that he will be called up to start one of the games in Wednesday's doubleheader against the Marlins.

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