VIERA, Fla. -- After missing most of the 2013 season because of Tommy John surgery, infielder Matt Skole, ranked as the sixth-best prospect in the Nationals organization, had a tough time at the plate last year.
Skole, 25, said he developed some bad habits at the plate. He kept his hands down too low, and that caused him to be late on the fastball.
For the season, Skole hit .241 with 14 home runs and 68 RBIs for Double-A Harrisburg. That's far worse than the numbers he put up in 2012, when he combined for 27 homers and 104 RBIs for Class A Hagerstown and Class A Advanced Potomac while batting .291.
"After taking a year off, it was more difficult than I thought it would be," the left-handed-swinging Skole said. "But coming back, I turned some corners, made some strides as far as getting to know myself as a player and know the things I need to fix. I think everything I did last year was a steppingstone for this year."
After the season came to an end, Skole worked with hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich in Viera for a month, and Skole learned to keep his hands up in order to hit the ball consistently.
Skole also lost some weight. He looks more slender than he did the year before. He credits eating right and working out as the reason for his great shape.
"This offseason, I had a little more time to work on my body," Skole said. "I really got after it in the weight room. I ate right. I ate healthy. I think that was probably the biggest difference for me. I'm about the same weight as I was. I just leaned out a little bit. I'm eating healthy and working hard."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.