A combined .291/.426/.559 line between Low-A Hagerstown and High-A Potomac earned Matt Skole, who turned 23 on July 30, 2012, recognition as the Washington Nationals' Minor League Player of the Year for the '12 season. The Nats' 2011 5th Round pick out of Georgia Tech impressed this spring as well, in his first Spring Training with the Nationals, going 6 for 24 (.250/.406/.333), with two doubles, seven walks and eight Ks in 14 Grapefruit League games.
"Big swinging left-hander," Davey Johnson told MLB Network hosts Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy when asked if anyone in particular had impressed him this spring. "Has got good hands at third base. He can play third and first. Showed me good command of the strike zone and he's got some pop and I like his approach, I like everything about him, make-up all the way down the line."
Skole's strong campaign in his first full season in the Nationals' system landed him 4th overall on Baseball America's list of the Nats' Top 10 prospects behind only 2011 1st Round pick Anthony Rendon amongst infielders in the organization. Since both of them started their 2013 campaigns at Double-A Harrisburg, and both of them were drafted as third baseman, the Nationals decided to have Skole shift over to the right side of the infield to play first occasionally with Rendon moving around and playing third, second and short. Two games in, however, Skole suffered a torn UCL in his left elbow on a defensive play at the new position.
"Throw into the runner and the runner took his elbow and popped his UCL," Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier this past April. Rizzo said then that he hoped Skole could return late this season or at least get some at bats in Winter League action, while adding that the injury was a big disappointment. "It was a shame," Rizzo said, "he had such a great Spring and he's got such a great future that he's going to have to waste a season."
Skole was able to work his way back in time to participate in the Arizona Fall League. It's his second go-round in the AFL. Playing for the Salt River Rafters last season, Skole was 18 for 59 (.305/.419/.525) with four doubles, three home runs, 14 walks and 18 Ks in 17 games. Skole started his 2013 AFL campaign tonight with a 2 for 3 game as the Mesa Solar Sox' DH, hitting a two-run home run and driving in three runs in what ended up an 8-8 tie with the Glendale Desert Dogs. Brian Goodwin, the Nats' 2011 1st Round pick, was 2 for 5 with a walk and a K.
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