After seven seasons Jake Skole found himself out of affiliated baseball in 2016. He was done with baseball when he stepped off the field for the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League that season. Fast forward to 2021, Skole found himself back playing professional baseball with the Gastonia Honey Hunters of the Atlantic League. He’s still with the Honey Hunters in 2022 and he’s been one of the overlooked gems of the ALPB in his time with the league.
The former first-round pick of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft hasn’t found himself on the radar of any MLB clubs since he made his way to the unaffiliated leagues. I’m honestly not sure why that is as you’d have a hard time finding a more complete hitter over the past two seasons than the Honey Hunters’ slugger. He’s been everything that a 2021 expansion club turned dominant force in 2022 could have hoped for and then some.
Last year Skole slashed .271/.400/.527 with 23 home runs in 458 plate appearances. He also stole 30 bases in 35 attempts, good for an 85.7 SB%. At the same time, he was an above-average outfielder with the glove, capable of playing all three positions in the pasture. He was one of the few bright spots for a Honey Hunters club that had a rough go of it in their inaugural season. Most of the fanfare for the Honey Hunters’ debut season went to Josh Sale. That’s understandable, I too was very enamored with Sale’s monster numbers in his return to baseball.
In 2022 Sale is back in the affiliated minors, but Skole returned to the Honey Hunters. So far this year he’s been just as shiny as he was last season. He’s slashing .254/.385/.524 with 21 home runs in 385 plate appearances. He’s swiped 24 bases in 30 attempts for a SB% of 80. His defense has been above average once again, and again he’s done it at every outfield position. His numbers took a little dip but they remain well above average and leave no doubt that he’s one of the best players in ALPB. He’s also the catalyst for a Honey Hunters club that now finds itself as a threat to win the title.
MLB clubs haven’t come calling for Skole quite yet, but I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I want them to. Instead of him playing the affiliated minors game and not getting paid his due I’d love to see him playing winter ball in the Caribbean and maybe find his way to Japan and a Nippon Professional Baseball club next year. His style of baseball, the meshing of speed and power, is tailor-made for either NPB league. He’d definitely fit right in with any of the Caribbean winter leagues.
It’s hard for me to imagine him not excelling at higher-level unaffiliated leagues and he’d get paid handsomely for his efforts so here’s hoping he can move from an overlooked gem to a player that is recognized for the strides he’s made since he returned to professional baseball in 2021. Jake Skole isn’t a failed first-round pick, he’s a player who’s found his groove and is simply waiting for his chance to bash and dash at a higher level.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Gaston Gazette