Special to Sports News Highlights

(SNH) — Paul Skenes, the No. 1 overall pick in last season’s MLB draft, has had an impressively quick impact this season for the Pirates.

He made just seven starts in AAA this season ahead of his May 11 major league debut and has a 2.25 ERA across three starts this season for Pittsburgh, with his last coming May 23 against the San Francisco Giants.

His rapid rise to success begs the question of who will be the next college pitcher to make such a quick impact for a ballclub. Ahead of the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament, here are seven pitchers currently putting together the best seasons on the mound in Division 1 baseball (All stats as of May 28):

Hagen Smith, Arkansas, SEC

The junior left hander leads the SEC and Division 1 baseball in just about every pitching category this season. In 79 innings pitched, he’s struck out a staggering 154 hitters and opponents are hitting .139 against him. His ERA (1.48) is the lowest in the nation across 14 starts and also a marked improvement from last season’s ERA (3.64), which he accomplished in 18 appearances.

Smith is currently ranked as the No. 4 overall prospect in the upcoming 2024 MLB draft and is widely regarded as the top pitcher coming out of college. His success has led Arkansas to a 43-14 record and he has a record of 9-1 this season.

Chase Burns, Wake Forest, ACC

Burns, the seventh ranked prospect in the upcoming MLB draft, leads the nation in strikeouts with 184 in 95 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting .171 off him this season and he’s 10-1 with a 2.46 ERA in 15 starts.

The Tennessee transfer has had an outstanding junior season after going 5-3 with a 4.25 ERA in 18 appearances for the Volunteers last season.

Trey Yesavage, East Carolina, American Athletic Conference

The 6-foot-4 righty has been tearing up the American Athletic Conference with 139 strikeouts in 86 innings pitched and opponents hitting .162 off of him.

He leads the AAC in wins (11), ERA (2.09) and strikeouts while issuing just 28 walks and 48 hits. Unfortunately, he’s unlikely to pitch in the AAC tournament after a partially collapsed lung sent him to the hospital recently.

Yesavage is the 11th ranked prospect in the 2024 MLB draft.

Luke Holman, LSU, SEC

The former Alabama hurler has been a bright spot in the Tigers’ lackluster season, securing nine of the team’s 13 wins this season while pitching 85 innings with a 2.54 ERA and 116 strikeouts.

Holman, a 6-foot-6 junior, has dramatically improved his numbers from last season when he went 7-4 with a 3.67 ERA and 87 strikeouts for the Crimson Tide. He’s ranked 56th overall in the upcoming MLB draft.

Ryan Prager, Texas A&M, SEC

The 6-foot-3 lefty is the third SEC pitcher to make this list. While he doesn’t have the gaudy stats like Hagen Smith, he has a lower ERA than Luke Holman and similar strikeout numbers.

Through 15 starts, Prager is 8-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 79 innings pitched with 106 strikeouts. Hitters are batting .210 against him and he’s allowed just 15 walks all season. Prager ranks 54th among the top 100 prospects.

Ryan Johnson, Dallas Baptist, Conference USA

Johnson, a junior right hander, has really found his stride on the bump for Dallas Baptist in his third year at the college. He has an 11-2 record with a 2.07 ERA and 147 strikeouts in 100 innings across 15 starts, including two complete games.

Opponents are hitting .208 off of him this season and he’s a big part of Patriots’ 41-13 season that includes victories over #15 Alabama, #14 Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

He has surged up draft boards and is currently the #58 prospect for the upcoming draft.

Brett Sears, Nebraska, Big Ten

At 2.00, Sears has the second-lowest ERA among D1 starting pitchers and ranks top 10 in the nation for innings pitched (99).

The senior right hander is undefeated in 15 starts, picking up 8 wins and going the distance once this season. He made just 11 appearances last season for the Corn Huskers, but opponents are hitting .176 off him this season compared to .324 in 2023.

Follow Sports News Highlights on Facebook and X platform to get our headlines in your social feeds.

Copyright 2024 Sports News Highlights. All rights reserved.