MIAMI — Matt Skole, the Nationals' minor-league position player of the year in 2012, had Tommy John surgery today to repair a torn ligament in his left elbow, a freak injury that will sideline the first baseman for most of this season.
General manager Mike Rizzo said Skole will likely need four months to make a full recovery, the timetable much shorter than most players who suffer a torn UCL both because the 23-year-old is a position player and the injury occurred to his non-throwing elbow.
Skole hurt himself while in the field April 5 at Class AA Harrisburg, in only his second game of the season. Reaching to tag an opposing player, his left arm suffered the brunt of a collision.
"You're reaching into the runner, and boom, you feel it," Rizzo said.
Skole also hurt his wrist on the play, and that was initially believed to be the only damage suffered. But it turns out the damage to his elbow was far more significant.
"He didn't hyper-extend the elbow or break any bones," Rizzo said. "It's just that the ligament snapped."
A fifth-round draft pick in 2011 out of Georgia Tech, Skole was rated the Nationals' fourth-best prospect by Baseball America entering the season. He hit .291 with 27 homers and 104 RBI last season between low-Class A Hagerstown and high-Class A Potomac, earning organizational player of the year honors and his first invitation to big-league camp this spring.
Drafted as a third baseman, Skole has since moved to first base. Rizzo said there's a chance he'll return to play for Harrisburg before the end of the season. After that, he could play in the Arizona Fall League and/or in winter ball.
"It's 500 at-bats he's got to make up somewhere, that's how I look at it," Rizzo said. "But it won't affect that he's going to have the same skill-set that he's always had. It'll push him back 500 at-bats or so, and then he'll have to make it up somewhere."