Minor League Prospect Report: Matt Skole, 3B, Washington Nationals
Washington Nationals prospect Matt Skole has been one of the most productive sluggers in A-ball in 2012. He began the season with Hagerstown in the Low-A South Atlantic League, where he hit .286/.438/.574 with 27 homers, 94 walks, and 10 steals in 343 at-bats. Promoted to Potomac in the High-A Carolina League earlier this month, he's hitting .327/.357/.519 in 13 games. Overall, he's batting .291/.429/.567 on the season, with 26 doubles, 27 homers, 102 RBI, 11-for-11 in steals, and 97 walks.
Let's take a look at this intriguing bat.
A three-year starter at Georgia Tech, Skole was a highly productive college slugger, hitting .302/.390/.600 in 2009, .335/.446/.682 in 2010, and .348/.445/.545 with the less-potent metal bats introduced in 2011. Questions about his glove and body hurt his draft stock, knocking him to the fifth round in the '11 class, but he hit well in short-season ball (.290/.382/.437) and has been even better this year in full-season leagues. He has two flaws in his stats: a high strikeout rate (he's whiffed 129 times this year) and some occasional troubles with left-handed pitching.
Skole is a left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, born July 30th, 1989. Listed at 6-4, 230, he lacks running speed (although he's been an efficient stealer this year) but provides impressive, and usable, power. That last point is critical: some players with physical strength and "raw power" don't present it in actual games against real pitching, but Skole does. He's rather pull-oriented and prone to strikeouts, but he also shows patience and draws walks. I suspect we'll see a batting average decline against better pitching, but he should be able to maintain his power and OBP ability.
The main issue is defense. Skole has a strong throwing arm that works at third base, but his lack of lower-half mobility hinders his range, and he's prone to errors. His hands are quick enough and I suspect he would be a good defender at first base, but of course he's more valuable if he can stick at third. Unfortunately, that's still an open question, although so far the Nationals have been patient with him at the hot corner. He's not a lost cause and it makes sense to give him more time to improve, but in the end a position switch may be inevitable.
Skole should move to Double-A in 2013. Although his long-term roster slot is uncertain, his bat certainly merits close attention. I had him as a Grade C pre-season, but I think he's at least a C+ and probably a B- at this point.