The Texas Rangers clearly have plenty of confidence in outfielder Jake Skole.
Though Skole missed over two-thirds of his season at Blessed Trinity Catholic High School earlier this year, the Rangers snagged him with the 15th overall pick in June's MLB Draft.
Few scouts doubt Skole's raw tools. His excellent speed and athleticism earned him a football scholarship to Georgia Tech, where he was set to play safety. The left-handed swinger, right-handed thrower also has a strong arm and intriguing raw power in a mature 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame.
However, scouts simply didn't get much of an opportunity to see Skole this season due to an injury to his left ankle. And as a result, Skole didn't generate much buzz. But shortly after returning to his club's lineup, just in time for the playoffs, he belted home runs in six consecutive games.
Skole signed immediately after the draft for a slot-level $1.557 million bonus. He then reported to the rookie league in Arizona but wasn't there for long.
After going 8-for-28 (.286) with two doubles and five walks in eight rookie ball contests, the Rangers showed that confidence in Skole by bumping him up to short-season Spokane.
As an 18-year-old two-sport star, Skole not only missed much of his 2010 high school campaign––he also had never played baseball full-time. Still, the Georgia native held his own in the circuit loaded with much older competition.
Skole played 57 regular season games with Spokane, batting .254 with nine doubles, two triples, and two home runs. He had 23 walks, 54 strikeouts, and six steals in 10 attempts.
The center fielder is currently refining his skills at Fall Instructional League in Surprise. Lone Star Dugout caught up with him after a recent game.
Jason Cole: What did you take away from your first summer in professional ball?
Jake Skole: I've enjoyed it a lot. Seeing different places of the country and getting to know new guys to play ball with was great. I learned a lot. It has been a fun ride, just getting to know my swing and getting to play so many games. I haven't done that in awhile.
Cole: What was it like coming into pro ball and quickly making the jump to Spokane after playing only a few high school games this year?
Skole: It was good. It was a good challenge for me. I hadn't played that kind of competition before. But I think I was pretty prepared. I went to Arizona for the first two or three weeks and learned the basics of what I needed to do.
It was fun. I got challenged a little bit up there––didn't hit as well as I thought I should have. But it was good to go into a slump and figure out how to work out of it.
Cole: What was the feeling like at first in Spokane? Was there ever a time that you felt a little overmatched, or did you always feel sort of settled in?
Skole: I felt settled in, for the most part. It was just getting to know the pitching more. There was a lot more offspeed and not as many hittable pitches. It was just not taking the pitch you can hit, because you probably won't get it again. Maybe more disciplined and it taught me a lot hitting-wise.
Cole: It seemed that your numbers in Spokane gradually improved as the season progressed. What went into that improvement? Did you make any adjustments?
Skole: A little bit. Growing up, I was bigger and stronger than most guys my age. I could hit pitches that were out of the zone with a metal bat. I kind of put it into perspective where I needed to do the right things, take the right pitches, and take pitches I'm looking for instead of swinging of balls that aren't in the zone.
Cole: So I guess part of it was just having more of a plan at the plate?
Skole: Yeah, just a better plan and a better approach. Then I went from there.
Cole: The Rangers often won't make any major swing adjustments in a player's first summer unless the player asks. Did you undergo any changes there?
Skole: A little bit. The first month or so, I started out pretty shaky. Or the first 10 or 15 games. And all the rovers were running through––the hitting guys––and they changed it a little bit.
It was just making sure I stayed square. They made it so I could see pitches a little bit better. I wasn't as jumpy toward the ball and I was more under control and more fluid in my swing.
Cole: Tell me about the day-to-day grind of your first professional season and how it compared to your expectations when you signed.
Skole: Spokane was a lot like it. When I got to Arizona, I didn't realize how easy it would be just living in the hotel and walking over here and working out every day. So that part was good. Seeing Spokane––staying in hotel rooms and long bus rides––that was kind of how I pictured it. It turned out to be all that I thought it was going to be.
Cole: You guys had some long bus rides out in Spokane. How was adjusting to getting off the bus, getting minimal sleep, and then playing a game? I know you don't have many days off in the Northwest League.
Skole: It was tough. We traveled 10 hours to Vancouver and Boise and we'd come back the next day and get home at around 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. Then, like you said, we'd have to play the next night. There were some games we would just have to show and go. It teaches you what you need to do––how to get prepared for the game.
Cole: Now that football season is going on, I have to ask if you miss it at all. Do you ever think about being out there on Saturdays?
Skole: Here and at the complex, my mind is on baseball and stuff. But come Saturday morning and watching games on Saturday afternoon, I kind of itch to put the pads on a little bit. It's okay until Saturday rolls around.
Cole: Tell me about your first instructs. How do you feel it's going so far?
Skole: It's good. It has been long days. We're getting a lot of work in. It has been hot so far. But it's fun. We're getting to work with all the hitting coaches throughout the whole organization. It has been a lot of work––we've gotten a lot done. It has been fun.
Cole: Even though you didn't have the whole high school season, are you feeling a little tired at this point in the year?
Skole: A little bit. This is probably the most I've played for a whole year. I've been playing the whole summer, anyway. It has been a long season for me. A lot of the college guys are used to a long season.
I've played games over the summer, but last summer was cut short a bit with an injury and my high school season was cut short. So it has really been almost a year since I've played games in a row like this. It's good to get out and play every day and learn to make adjustments each day.
Cole: What do you really want to improve upon while you're out here for the remainder of instructs?
Skole: My ankle has still been bugging me a little bit. But once I get back and get some rest, I think I need to start running a little bit more. I didn't steal as many bags as I think I should have this summer. I didn't have as many bunt hits. That left ankle has been a little tired, so I'm looking forward to resting that and coming back to Spring Training and hitting the ground running.
For more information on the 2010 Fall Instructional League, check out this thread on our subscriber-only message board.
Skole ready to rest ankle
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