Williams likens prospect Skole's power to Thome

Williams likens prospect Skole's power to Thome
February 17, 2014, 10:00 am
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VIERA, Fla. — Matt Skole doesn't figure into the Nationals' immediate plans, and his stint in big-league camp this spring likely won't last long.

Many in the organization, though, see big things from the young slugger down the road, perhaps as soon as later this summer.

Skole, the Nationals' minor league player of the year in 2012 after hitting .291 with 27 homers, 104 RBI and a stout .426 on-base percentage at Class A, suffered a setback only two games into 2013 when he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left (non-throwing) elbow on a freak play at first base.

Fully rehabbed from a rare Tommy John surgery for a position player, Skole is back in major-league camp this spring and showed off his skills Sunday during a batting practice session for early reportees.

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"I like Skoley," manager Matt Williams said. "He had a tough break last year. Saw him a little bit in the [Arizona] Fall League. He had just come back, those were his first at-bats. So I anticipate he will look for his timing early this spring, because he really hasn’t played in a year. So it's gonna be tough for him early.

"But [hitting coach] Rick Schu is working with him now every day. We'll get his timing back, try to get him a lot of at-bats in spring and get his feet back under him. It's difficult when you lose that much time. But he'll be fine. He drives the ball the other way well. He can play both corner positions. So I think he's got a bright future."

Skole plays both first base and third base and could be a long-term answer for the Nationals if Adam LaRoche doesn't return in 2015. His left-handed power swing, combined with his right-handed defense at the two infield corners, leaves Williams remembering a former teammate of his from Cleveland.

"He reminds me a little bit of Thome, the way that Jim Thome used to hit the other way so well," Williams said. "Skoley does that good. And he takes the ahead-in-the-count fastball, breaking ball, and drives it to his pull side. But he stays on the ball well."