The Nationals selected Skole in the fifth round of the 2011 draft after he hit 47 home runs over three seasons at Georgia Tech. However, the 6’4” left-handed hitter’s power didn’t translate that summer in the New York-Penn League, as he amassed only five home runs in 72 games.
Skole was assigned to Low-A Hagerstown for his full-season debut in 2012 and thrived as a 22-year-old facing mostly younger pitchers. Playing in 101 games, Skole paced the South Atlantic League in home runs (27), on-base percentage (.438), slugging percentage (.574) and walks (94), and he also ranked second in RBI (92). The overwhelming success at the level ultimately earned him a late-season promotion to High-A Potomac and posted an .841 OPS with 10 doubles in 18 games.
Following the season, Skole was named the Nationals’ 2012 Minor League Player of the Year.
Moved up to Double-A Harrisburg for the 2013 season, the 23-year-old appeared in only two games before an injury to his non-throwing elbow required season-ending Tommy John surgery. Although he probably could have returned to the field before the end of the regular season, the organization decided to err on the side of caution knowing he’d participate in the AFL.
Skole has continually surpassed expectations since turning pro and put himself on the major-league radar with his impressive 2012 campaign. Now regarded as one of the better Three True Outcome hitters in the minor leagues, Skole does an excellent job controlling the strike zone, and he isn’t afraid to let the ball travel deep and work the count. And while most of his power came to the pull side in college, the left-handed hitter has since learned to consistently jump the yard to the opposite field.
Although he’s played third base almost exclusively since signing, it’s difficult to envision him remaining there as he moves up the organizational ladder. When I saw Skole play two games at first base last fall, I was impressed with his positioning, range and overall agility.
And with Adam LaRoche under contract through the 2014 season, don’t be surprised if Skole mans first base for the Nats in 2015.