Eric Skoglund will make his Major League debut for the Royals tonight, taking the place in the rotation for Nate Karns, who is expected to be out until next week. The injuries have taken a blow to a Royals rotation that has pitched quite well so far, but with the season looking like a lost cause, this creates opportunities to see what young Royals players can do. So who, exactly, is Eric Skoglund?
Skoglund carries a tall and lanky 6’7’’ frame as a left-hander, with a loose delivery that at least physically, brings about comparisons to Chris Sale. Skoglund, however, lacks the velocity that Sale brings, instead throwing in the low 90s.
He was already a standout by the time he graduated from Sarasota High School in Florida. A thumb injury hurt his draft status, where he was selected in the 16th round by the Pirates, but he spurned their offers to go to nearby Central Florida. In his junior season, he posted a 2.54 ERA in 15 starts and was named American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year. He also impressed with his musical talents.
Baseball America ranked him #100 on their draft board, writing that he had a tall frame to work with and a loose, repeatable delivery, but that his secondary stuff lagged behind his fastball. The Royals selected him in the third round, 92nd overall, in the 2014 draft.
After nine games in Idaho Falls in 2014, Skoglund jumped all the way up to High A Wilmington in 2015, where he fared well with a 3.52 ERA in 15 starts. His strikeout rate was less-than-impressive at 7.0 per-nine-innings, but he excelled at throwing strikes with just 1.2 walks-per-nine-innings. His strikeout rate inched upwards the next year at Northwest Arkansas, up to 7.7 per-nine innings, and have increased again this year with 8.2 at AAA Omaha. Skoglund put together a fine season in 2016 for the Naturals with a 3.45 ERA in 27 starts, and was promoted to Omaha after just one start with the Naturals this year. He has pitched well for the most part, but allowed 16 runs over two starts to begin May, which have skewed his numbers a bit. Skoglund struck out nine with no walks over seven innings his last time out against Reno on May 22.
The evaluators at 2080 Baseball assessed Skoglund’s repertoire of pitches as still needing some work.
The fastball gets two-seam tail to the arm side, and while it will flatten out upstairs, he gets some late life in the zone and the ease of his arm action works to play up the average velocity. The breaking ball is more of a slurvy offering that he can fchange the shape of and dial up some chase versus left-handers, but it lacks much bite or snap even for put away, making it a fringe average pitch that he has to locate. The changeup might be his best secondary offering with some late dive when he gets the hand out front. However, he will push it at times and see it sail up and arm side.
Shaun Newkirk ranked him as the #10 prospect in the Royals system before this season, while John Sickels at Minor League Ball ranked him #4, writing:
Texas League observers were impressed with his composure and pitching instincts; potential number four starter.
Despite his imposing stature on he mound, Skoglund doesn’t seem to ever be a guy that will rack up strikeouts. His success will likely hinge on his ability to keep the ball on the ground - his home run-to-flyball ratio has been rather high in his minor league career. He has put up pretty good numbers everywhere he has gone, so despite the lack of big-time velocity or plus secondary offerings, Skoglund has the potential to be a back-of-the-rotation starter. However, you have to wonder with his lanky build if he could be more suited towards being a situational lefty if he could work in a more deceptive delivery.