Minor leaguers Skole and Karns honored at Nationals Park

The Nationals’ Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Year were honored and picked up their awards during a pregame ceremony at Nationals Park before Friday’s series opener against the Miami Marlins.

Third baseman Matt Skole, a 2011 fifth-round selection out of Georgia Tech, was the Nationals’ Minor League Player of the Year. His power numbers were jaw-dropping - he had 27 homers and 92 RBIs for low Single-A Hagerstown. He was named the South Atlantic League Player of the Year and was named a midseason All-Star.

His overall numbers were a batting average of .291, including .314 in 18 games with high Single-A Potomac. Skole smacked 28 doubles, one triple, 27 homers, 104 RBIs, stole 11 bases and recorded 99 walks. His on-base percentage was .426 and his slugging percentage totaled .559.

“Big thanks to the guys we played with down the road in Hagerstown and Potomac,” Skole said. “These guys were a huge help to me, especially me being my first year. Nate (Karns) helping me out just letting me know what the grind was like, going through 140 games for the first time in my life.

“The coaches were unreal from top to bottom, from the coordinators to the guys coming down helping us out to the coaches in Hagerstown and (managers) Brian Daubach and Brian Rupp. It has been an awesome year for me. I am very pleased with the way it went and looking forward to next year already.”

Right-hander Nathan Karns, a 12th-rounder in 2009 from Texas Tech, was honored as the Nationals’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Karns went 11-4 with a 2.17 ERA in 24 games, including 18 starts. In 116 innings, Karns struck out 148 batters and allowed just 28 earned runs. He was twice named Carolina League Pitcher of the Week.

“It is just a really awesome feeling,” Karns said in the Nationals’ dugout before the game. “I played with Matt pretty much the whole year. We were lockermates in Hagerstown. To experience this with him and to play with him the whole year is phenomenal.

“It was great seasons for the both of us but we couldn’t have done it without our teammates and coaches. I would like to give out big thanks to those guys, because they got us here.”

Skole will play in the instructional league in Florida later this month. Karns will rest after having his innings capped at 116. Karns missed 2010 because of shoulder surgery and threw just 55 1/3 innings in 2011, so he will get some rest before beginning offseason conditioning.

It is critical to note the impact this award has had on the most recent winners within the Nationals organization. Since 2007, seven winners are still active in the majors, and include pitchers John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann and Tom Milone, as well as position players Justin Maxwell, Derek Norris, Tyler Moore and Steve Lombardozzi.

With the way Skole and Karns performed this season, I expect them both to begin next season at Double-A Harrisburg, taking on the best prospects in the Eastern League.

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