VISALIA, Calif. — Talk about local boy makes good.
Former Santa Monica High School standout and current member of the Visalia Rawhide Tyler Skaggs has been named to his second single-A all-star game, this time in the California League, it was announced last week.
The tall left-handed pitcher with a wicked curve ball, who is considered one of the top prospects in the Arizona Diamondback’s organization, will get another chance to showcase his talent on Tuesday in Modesto as the game’s starter. He will be facing off with all-stars from the Carolina League.
“I didn’t expect it to go this well,” Skaggs said of this season. “I’m pretty excited about it.”
Skaggs’ rise to baseball notoriety has been swift. Since being drafted by the Los Angeles Angels with the 40th pick in the Major League Baseball Draft in 2009, Skaggs has already been a part of a major trade involving fellow hurler Dan Haren and, for a time this season, led all minor leaguers in strikeouts. He’s currently in the top five with 95 punchouts.
He also leads his team with four wins and a 3.51 earned run average.
While Skaggs, 19, began his rise on the baseball field at Samohi, his work with pitching coach and former Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek has produced marked improvement this season.
Drabek, who starred for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the early 1990s, said that Skaggs is finally starting to work on other pitches besides his curveball to finish batters off, something that is key if he’s going to continue his path to the big leagues.
Most apparent is Skaggs’ ability to use his fastball as an out pitch. Clocked at 90-92 mph, Skaggs’ fastball has become a strength as the lefty racks up strikeouts. Drabek is also pleased to see Skaggs cut down on his pitch count, giving him a better opportunity to show off his development.
“He’s progressing a lot,” Drabek said of his star pupil. “He’s pitching a little more, not just throwing.”
More than anything else, Drabek said that Skaggs’ willingness to learn has helped him become one of the D’Back’s top pitching prospects. From what he’s seen, Drabek said that Skaggs appears to be ready to be promoted to double-A, but ultimately that decision is up to Arizona’s brass.
“I think he has a good chance of getting there,” Drabek said. “He’s able to adjust, which is sometimes a hard thing for a young kid to do.
“He has the ability to do it, all he has to do is keep doing what he’s doing.”
For Skaggs, that means staying humble and picking his spots.
He added that Drabek has been instrumental in his development during the pair’s first year together in Visalia.
“It’s been fun,” Skaggs said of working with Drabek. “He’s had a lot of time in the big leagues, he’s really helped out.”
Skaggs believes that Drabek has primarily helped him with his mental approach to the game. Drabek has helped him take his bullpen sessions more seriously, among other things.
“He’s taught me to put conviction behind every pitch,” he said.