Nationals will focus on prospect Skole’s footwork in 2012

Single-A short season Auburn Doubledays manager Gary Cathcart raved about the progress he saw in Georgia Tech third baseman Matt Skole during his rookie campaign. The 2011 fifth-round selection certainly delivered at the plate, hitting .290 with 23 doubles, one triple, five homers and 48 RBIs in 72 games.

Skole also concentrated on his fielding and overall defense, especially with the one-on-one coaching provided by Nationals infield coordinator Jeff Garber and others.

Garber said Skole has a solid base to work from and the physical tools the 6-foot-4, 23- lb., left-handed hitter displayed with his glove surprised a lot of people. But there is still is work to do.

“Matt has a lot to learn defensively,” Garber said. “He is athletic, much more athletic than what people want to give him credit for. He was labeled an offensive guy and probably his defense was a little bit limited, but to me there is so much more upside there.

“He is more agile than people thought. It is exciting to work with him. He does a lot of things naturally. I like his throwing accuracy. He has got good fundamentals of throwing.”

Garber said the Nationals’ will work on improving Skole’s foo work as spring training and the 2012 campaign nears.

“(Skole) is a big, tall guy,” Garber said. “He really needs to work on his foot work and understanding how to get himself into position to field the ball and get to the ball so his hands will play.

“I think his hands are good. But he has got to continue to work on his foot work. I think he has a very true, accurate and strong arm. This is a good thing.”

Garber said footwork is critical to how good a third baseman is because of the quick movement necessary to field the ball, bring it up and throw to first base.

“For fielding and their hands, third base is pretty difficult as it is,” Garber said. “You take any shortstop you move over to third base (and) it is more difficult because your feet have to work. It is a reactionary position. If your feet are lazy or you get dead feet, where you freeze when the ball is hit, you got to be able to work your feet and be quick. It doesn’t mean you have to have super range, but you got to be able to be quick with it and react to the ball.”

Is it harder for a taller third baseman to get down on the ball and does that take work to perfect that motion?

“When you are a smaller guy, you are lower to the ground, and right in position (to make the play),” Garber said. “When you are a taller player (like Skole), he is going to lean over and he (could) stumble over his feet.

“That is something that a taller guy has to (account for when he plays third). Look at (Ryan Zimmerman’s) feet. His feet are unbelievable. He is so quick and so agile and that what makes his hands play so well.”

It has been a very good start for Skole, and he adds to the depth the Nationals are building behind Zimmerman at third base, including Anthony Rendon, Blake Kelso, Justin Bloxom and Diomedes Eusebio.

I will have updates on Rendon and Kelso coming up later next week.

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