After the jump, we continue by taking a look at the #19 player in the LSB Community Prospect Rankings, outfielder Jake Skole...
Jake Skole is a 20 year old, 6'1", 190 lb. outfielder from Woodstock, Georgia drafted by the Rangers in the first round of the 2010 draft with the compensatory pick they received after not signing Matt Purke. Skole was seen by many Rangers fans as a reach when Texas took him at #15 overall, and Randy Galloway wrote a column ripping the Rangers for promoting their farm system by touting where it ranked in Baseball America's rankings, and then drafting a player who didn't even make BA's pre-draft top 200 list.
However, Skole was seen as a "helium" guy, a player who rise very quickly in the days leading up to the draft. Baseball America's final mock draft had the Rangers taking Skole at #15, but also linked him to Boston and Tampa.* And while some observers saw the Rangers as reaching with Skole, preferring to see Texas take him later on, there was certainly reason to think he wouldn't be available when the Rangers picked again at #22, much less in the supplemental first round or in the second round.
* One of the things I noticed in the 2011 draft was that a lot of players who were linked to Texas in the first round (which, of course, Texas ended up not taking, since they grabbed a couple of guys no one was talking about) were also linked to Boston and Tampa. It is interesting that three of the organizations that are very well regarded as it relates to finding and developing young talent were all seemingly in on the same guys.
After signing very quickly after being drafted, Skole spent most of the remainder of the 2010 season with Spokane in the short-season A Northwest League, competing primarily against recent college draftees. The third-youngest position player in the league, Skole struggled but wasn't overmatched, putting up a .254/.327/.348 line in 57 games while playing exclusively centerfield when in the field. Particularly encouraging for a young, athletic player without a lot of baseball experience was his strikeout to walk ratio, as Skole walked 23 times in 228 plate appearances, striking out 52 times. Skole showed enough that he was one of six Spokane Indians to land in Baseball America's NWL top 20 prospect list after the 2010 season, checking in at #13, with BA praising both his foot speed and his bat speed.
2011 saw Skole move to low-A Hickory, where he spent the entire season and held his own as, once again, one of the youngest players in the league, putting up a .264/.366/.389 line, stealing 21 bases in 35 attempts, and walking 65 times in 501 plate appearances while striking out 138 times.
Skole is a hard player to get a handle on right now, with most people who rank the Rangers prospects having him in the 20s, a disappointing showing for a player who was taken at #15 overall in the draft just a year and a half ago. Skole's problem stems from the fact that, while he's fairly solid across the board, he lacks a real defining tool that projects as well above-average. Skole is also something of a tweener, as he seems destined for a corner outfield spot, rather than centerfield, and while he has some power potential, some patience, and some speed, he doesn't seem likely to have enough of any of those qualities to make him an above-average hitter at a corner outfield spot. There were some rumblings that the Oakland A's were interested in him in trade talks with the Rangers involving Andrew Bailey, and that would make sense...Skole seems to fit the profile of every Oakland outfielder from the last few years, a guy who projects to do lots of things at least average but nothing exceptionally well.
2012 is a significant year for Skole, who seems like to start the season at high-A Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League. If Skole can continue to progress in terms of translating his athleticism into baseball skills, he could potentially take a significant step forward and move quickly up the prospect charts...given the lack of hitting prospects in the Rangers system, having Skole establish himself as a viable outfield prospect would help fill a big hole in the Texas system. Otherwise, Skole is in danger of ending up on the Johnny Whittleman career path, having his prospect status de-railed by a slide down the defensive spectrum and an inability to do enough with his hit tool to succeed at the upper levels.