Most of the readers of Seedlings To Stars come to this website to get information, news, and insight on their favorite team’s prospects and minor league systems. I understand that to the true “die-hard” baseball fan, you can never have too much baseball. Here we are in late January with the pitchers and catchers getting ready to report, winter league baseball is winding down and we can’t help but to look forward to spring training.
We get so pumped for March to roll around and we watch the games and see this young 21 year old infielder wearing number 89 and we think, “Who the heck is that dude roping doubles off the left-center wall?”. That is where this awesome website comes into play. That kid wearing number 89 may end up being your favorite player in five years and even the announcers are scrambling for the roster to find his name. Say… many seasons pass and number 89 from spring training is now getting his number retired on the left-center wall he left dented from countless amounts of RBI doubles before.
Starting this week I will find those prospects that will eventually jump up to the majors and bring glory to your favorite team and I will compare them to someone you’ve already seen at the big league level. Of course I will be wrong sometimes and right sometimes, but you may be able to connect one’s unknown ability to one that is known already.
Skole was taken by the Washington Nationals in the 5th round of 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of Georgia Tech. At Georgia Tech, Skole batted .319 with 37 HR’s and 121 RBI’s in 448 at bats. He was also named First Team All-ACC in 2010.
At the age of 21, Matt began his first season of minor league baseball at the Nationals’ Low-A affiliate Auburn Doubledays. He played 72 games there in the New York – Penn. Lg while batting .290 with 5 HR’s, 48 RBI’s, 52 strikeouts, and 42 walks.
Last season he was promoted to Single-A Hagerstown, Maryland in the South Atlantic league. In Maryland, Skole hit .286 with 10 SB’s, 94 walks, and 116 strikeouts in 101 games. Matt also led the South Atlantic League with 27 HR’s and placed second with a 1.013 OPS.
After his very good performance there, the Nationals promoted him to the Carolina League. At High-A Potomac, Skole played 18 games and hit .314 with 17 strikeouts and only 5 walks.
Skole was moved to first base this fall in the Arizona Fall League. While in the desert, Matt hit .305 with 5 HR’s, 15 RBI’s and had 18 hits in 17 games. Earlier this month, Jake Skole, Matt’s brother mentioned on twitter that his big bro was being invited to spring training this year with the Nationals.
Baseball America ranked Matt Skole as the number 4 prospect in the Washington Nationals organization. They also said he was the best power hitter in the Nationals’ system and showed the best strike-zone discipline in the entire South Atlantic League last year. That statement was determined simply because he was walked more than any other player, either in fear of giving up a mammoth bomb or because he showed discipline.
Skole has the perfect frame and strength for a future big league power hitter at 6’4″ 230 pounds. He has proven that he can smash at every level but the question that most people see when evaluating Matt is his alarmingly high strikeout numbers. For power hitters, two things are normally true in this case: (A) The hitter has trouble hitting off-speed pitches or, (B) The batter has a lack of plate discipline and patience. In Skole’s case, option A is most likely the cause of the high K numbers.
That brings the question up, “Can Matt Skole continue to hit for big power as he faces continually better opposing pitchers?” I think his power numbers will stay close to the same, but I also think his strikeout rate will stay about the same or curve downwards as he matures as a baseball player. That being said, Skole has shown he can hit for a good average and he doesn’t have terrible speed either. Those two qualities can only help him going forward.
When it comes down to it, you can’t fail to mention that Anthony Rendon is a year younger and considered one of the best prospects in baseball. He, like Skole, is also a third baseman. Rendon is very polished with his bat and his glove, which leaves him as being more suitable for the third base job when they reach the big leagues. Skole will most likely need to move to first base (as he did in the Arizona Fall League) to have a chance at cracking the MLB lineup. With that said, Adam LaRoche just signed a two year, $24 MM deal to hold the first base spot for the next couple of years. I think 2015 may just be the estimated time of arrival for Skole in the nation’s capital, which happens to be the year LaRoche is likely to become a free agent.
Comparison: When I see Matt Skole, my mind tells me that he will end up being another Mark Reynolds. A corner infielder with good power and a high strikeout rate at the dish. But I think Skole will prove to be a more polished hitter with less power than Reynolds. He has shown an ability to take pitches and draw walks at a high pace. Reynolds has averaged over 200 strikeouts during his MLB career and also has a career batting average of .232. I think Matt is better than that. I said my mind tells me that Skole is Mark Reynolds Jr., but my gut tells me that he will be closer to a J.T. Snow type player.
J.T. Snow finished his career with about 20 HR’s per season and over 100 strikeouts. He also played almost all of his professional games at first base. Snow was a big left handed batter with broad shoulders, like Skole, and also showed an ability to draw walks consistently throughout his career. Snow’s career 162 game average triple slash line was: .268 / .357 / .427. J.T. was known for his great defense at first base, I am not at all saying Matt Skole will win a Gold Glove but their offensive capabilities line up perfectly. Snow was an average to above average baseball player for most of his career and I think Matt Skole can be that same type of player for years to come as well.