Last season, during the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft, the Kansas City Royals selected Eric Skoglund in the third round. A 6’7″ 200 lb lefty, Skoglund featured a fastball in the low 90’s with a solid slider and change. However, last season, Skoglund struggled with the Idaho Falls Chukars, posting a 5.09 ERA and a 1.696 WHiP.
This season, the Royals moved Skoglund up through the system aggressively, assigning him to the Wilmington Blue Rocks. After his struggles last season, it would not have been a surprise to see Skoglund once again have some difficulties, especially given the improved competition.
Instead, Skoglund has put together a truly excellent season. In his twelve outings for Wilmington, Skoglund has posted a 6-2 record with a 2.77 ERA and a 0.991 WHiP. His control, which was decent at 3.5 walks per nine innings in 2014, has gotten even better. Thus far, Skoglund has walked a mere nine batters in 74.2 innings, or 1.1 walks per nine. Last season, Skoglund walked nine batters in 23 innings.
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Aside from that improved control, perhaps the biggest difference for Eric Skoglund this season is his luck with the batted ball. Last year, opponents hit Skoglund at a .316/.381/.453 rate, buoyed by a .412 batting average on balls in play. This season, the tall lefty has allowed a .236/.267/.324 batting line, giving up a .291 batting average on balls in play.
While Skoglund has been a slight bit lucky on balls in play, given that the league average is at .315 for the Carolina League, any regression to the mean may not be that bad. Skoglund has been approximately league average with his ball in play rates, with his line drive rate only two percentage points above average. That is offset by his overall fly ball rate, which is three points below average.
With his performance thus far, Skoglund has to be putting himself into the conversation as one of the Kansas City Royals better pitching prospects. At the start of the year, Skoglund was not even in most site’s Top Twenty list. On other sites that went more in depth and listed the Top Thirty Royals prospects, Skoglund was barely listed as an honorable mention, falling behind players like Cole Way, who had not played baseball since high school.
Now, while Skoglund may not have forced his way into the Sean Manaea and Christian Binford tier of prospects, the Royals third round pick last year has served notice that he is more than an afterthought. In fact, if Skoglund continues to pitch this well, and makes an appearance at the AA level this season, it would not be a surprise to see Skoglund appear in the Top Ten for Royals prospects next year.
Eric Skoglund may not have been on a lot of people’s radar at the start of this season, but that is quickly changing. If he keeps performing like this, Skoglund could be one of the Kansas City Royals top pitching prospects next season.