Spring training is approaching quickly, and District on Deck is committed to bringing you the best Nationals coverage around. Currently, we’re profiling all of the players who will be joining the Nats as non-roster invitees. Recently, we’ve covered Cutter Dykstra and Pedro Severino. Today, we’ll be taking a look at Matt Skole, an infielder who specializes at the corners.
Matt Skole was drafted by the Nationals in the fifth round of the 2011 draft out of Georgia Tech. In college, Skole was a standout player, making the 2010 All-ACC first team when he hit .335 with 20 homers and 63 RBIs. He spent most of his time at third base, though he also logged time at catcher and DH.
During his four seasons in the Nationals farm system, Skole has experienced somewhat mixed results. During 2012, Skole played 101 games for Class A Hagerstown, where he hit .286/.438/1.013 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs. Those numbers were impressive enough to earn Skole the South Atlantic League MVP, and, as a result, he entered the 2013 season ranked as the Nationals fourth best prospect by Baseball America.
The last two seasons, however, have been less than impressive. Skole played in only 17 games during 2013 due to Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. Last season in Harrisburg, Skole hit just .241/.352/.399 with 14 homers and 68 runs driven in over the course of 132 games. While those numbers don’t seem terrible in a vacuum, they are disappointing given what Skole did in the past.
One of Skole’s key deficiencies lies in his tendency to strike out. In 2014, Skole struck out 127 times in 544 plate appearances, a strikeout rate of just under 25%. Even when he was South Atlantic MVP, Skole still managed a troubling strikeout rate of 25.9%. He appears to be the sort of player that’s feast or famine, and that isn’t likely to help his roster chances.
Skole spent most of his time in college at third, but the Nats have moved him across the diamond to play first base, which means his biggest competition for a roster spot will likely be Tyler Moore. Moore has spent the last three seasons with the Nationals as a backup first baseman, logging limited time and posting fairly unimpressive offensive numbers.
It isn’t hard to see Skole making the active roster if he can outperform Moore, though a lot of that will come down to how much Rizzo prefers the more experienced Moore (age 28) to the younger Skole (age 25) and whether Skole can cut down his strikeout numbers. Ryan Zimmerman is firmly entrenched as the starter at first, but if he should manage to miss any time due to injury, which is all too likely a possibility given his past, Skole might still see his first major league action in 2015.