The Pittsburgh Pirates are calling up star prospect Paul Skenes, and the hard-throwing right-hander is expected to debut Saturday at PNC Park against the Chicago Cubs.

Considered the best pitching talent in a generation, 21-year-old Skenes will arrive in Pittsburgh after dominating Triple-A, allowing three earned runs in 27⅓ innings and striking out 45 batters.

After one of the finest seasons ever for a college pitcher, Skenes went to the Pirates with the No. 1 pick in the July 2023 draft and signed for $9.2 million, the largest bonus for an amateur in baseball history. Pittsburgh limited his workload after a taxing junior season at LSU in which he struck out 209 hitters and walked just 20 in 122⅔ innings while going 13-2 with a 1.69 ERA.

Although evaluators believed Skenes to be major-league-ready when Pittsburgh drafted him, the Pirates entered 2024 wanting to build him up slowly and avoid a potential midseason pullback on his innings. By limiting Skenes’ pitch count in the minor leagues — he hasn’t thrown more than 75 pitches in a Triple-A start this year — the Pirates hope he can join a rotation that also includes hard-throwing rookie Jared Jones for the remainder of the season.

How to handle elite pitching prospects has long been a mystery for front offices, particularly with the proliferation of arm injuries to hard-throwing starters this season. The two closest facsimiles to Skenes in terms of college production and major league readiness were Washington Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg and Cubs right-hander Mark Prior, both of whom were brilliant for flashes in the big leagues but ultimately had their careers shortened by arm injuries.

At 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, Skenes assumes the mantle as the hardest-throwing starter in the game — and perhaps the highest-velocity rotation member in baseball history. At Triple-A Indianapolis, Skenes’ four-seam fastball has reached over 102.1 mph. He also mixed in a splinker — a combination splitter and sinker thrown by Minnesota Twins closer Jhoan Duran — at 95 mph, complemented it with a slider in the mid-to-high 80s, added a softer changeup that runs at 88 mph, and occasionally turned to a slower curve.

Although the Pirates currently occupy last place in the National League Central, that is due more to their hitting woes than to their strong set of arms. Few starters in the NL have been as impressive as 22-year-old Jones, and with Skenes joining veterans Mitch Keller, Martin Perez and Bailey Falter, the Pirates now have arguably the best rotation in the division.