Luke Erickson

Luke Erickson is a season-ticket holder for the Potomac Nationals, but makes a point of seeing games in Hagerstown and Harrisburg at least once a summer. When the PNats are away on the weekend, Luke finds a minor-league game somewhere to watch, and generally attends 70-80 baseball games a year up across several states. A former sportswriter with newspapers in Massachusetts and Oregon, Luke lives in Western Fairfax County with his wife and two sons.

Sep 022014
 


Hagerstown Suns first baseman Jimmy Yezzo has been named the South Atlantic League’s Player of the Week for August 25th to September 1st.

The 22-y.o. smacked two doubles and three home runs during the week and scored six runs while driving in eight. Overall, Yezzo posted a line of .435/.458/.913 with one walk and just three strikeouts.

The New Jersey native was drafted in the 7th Round of the 2013 Draft out of the University of Delware. Yezzo finished the 2014 season with 126 hits, including 22 doubles, a triple, and 13 home runs — second-best on the Suns behind Sally League MVP Wilmer Difo (14) — while driving in 56 in 123 games played.

Aug 312014
 

The Hagerstown bullpen served as an operator, twice connecting long distance balls from home plate to the trees lining South Cannon Avenue in a 7-4 loss to Lakewood. Thanks to the Intimidators, who beat the Grasshoppers 3-1, the Suns still remain a game up with two to go in the race for the second-half division title.

It’s hard to believe, but this game was a pitcher’s duel through five innings with Hagerstown’s Reynaldo Lopez trading doughnuts with Ranfi Casimiro. The hype about the heat from Lopez? Believe it. His first five pitches were 96-96-98-98-98 in a whiff of BlueClaw leadoff man Malquin Canelo.

Part of the joy of following prospects is seeing the development, and this was a different pitcher than the one I saw in June. The curve, which might be the only thing he throws below 90mph, was more than a show-me this time around — especially when he dropped it over the back corner for a called third strike to end the 2nd.

Lopez finished with five shutout innings with one hit — by Canelo, and it was a clean single — two walks and five strikeouts. In addition to the high-90s four-seamer, he brought a mid-90s two-seamer and a Strasburg-like low-90s change. Perhaps most impressively, everything seemed to have some kind of movement — a tail, a dip, a break.

Unfortunately, Lopez had but one run to work with, which came in the 1st when Rafael Bautista doubled over the left fielder’s head, stole third after Wilmer Difo flew out to CF, then teamed up with Austin Davidson on a double steal after Davidson walked. Speed giveth, speed taketh away as Davidson was caught trying to match Bautista’s feat (feet?) to effectively kill the rally.

Ryan Ullmann was the first man out of the Suns to start the 6th, and when he threw the ball away for a three-base error, it wasn’t difficult to predict this would be a bad outing. The next batter missed a home run by about a foot to tie the game at 1-1. The third batter blasted a two-run shot to put Lakewood on top 3-1. A walk, another double — that’s five straight batters without an out — pushed the score to 4-1.

Ullmann struck out the sixth batter he faced, then induced a flyout to right before giving up his fourth hit, a single to center that Narciso Mesa managed to skip to home on five or six bounces to get the lead-footed Zach Green at home for the third out.

The Suns answered with one in the 6th on a Bautista single followed by Difo double, and tied it in the 7th with a two run golf shot by Wilman Rodriguez off the pavilion beyond LF, scoring James Yezzo who had gotten with the first of his two singles.

Justin Thomas followed Ullmann in the 7th and turned in two scoreless before giving up back-to-back singles to start the 9th, then the second Lakewood home run to Andrew Pullin for an Earl Weaver special. Thomas retired the next three in order, but it was too little, too late.

Yezzo singled again in the 9th with one out but was picked off to end the Suns hopes of yet another tie or walkoff as they fell, 7-4.

Nick Pivetta (13-8, 4.24) gets the call tonight against Lakewood’s Matt Imhof (0-2, 4.10) followed by Wander Suero (4-1, 2.13) vs. Jon Prosinski (5-5, 3.50) tomorrow afternoon as the Suns wrap up the regular season in preparation for their best-of-three playoff series against the Grasshoppers, which begins on Wednesday at the Muni.

Aug 282014
 


With a long weekend to get the hell of out of Dodge enjoy, league offices aren’t waiting until the regular season is over to churn out the postseason accolades.

Well, two can play at that game. Here’s a look at the how the Nationals have been honored thus far this week…

SYRACUSE
Steve Souza was named the International League’s MVP and Rookie of the Year (an award that meant more prior to expansion) while necomer Billy Gardner took home Manager of the Year honors. Souza was also named to the postseason All-Star team along with teammates Emmanuel Burris and Brandon Laird.

HARRISBURG
Amid the worst season the Senators have had since the Expos became the Nationals, Michael Taylor was a bright spot until his callup to Syracuse (and briefly, Washington) as he was named the Eastern League’s MVP and Rookie of the Year as well as a postseason All-Star.

POTOMAC
The full list has not yet been announced, but should be soon as former National Michael Burgess was named to the C.L. Team and the Frederick folks have been quick to publicize the exploits of a 25-year-old in his fifth year at the High-A level.

UPDATE: Tripp Keister was named the Manager of the Year while IFs Stephen Perez, Shawn Pleffner, Tony Renda, and Oscar Tejeda were named to the Carolina League Postseason All-Star Team.

HAGERSTOWN
Lucas Giolito was named both Most Outstanding Pitcher and the Most Outstannding Prospect for the Sally League while Wilmer Difo was the third Nationals farmhand to garner an MVP title. Joining them on the All-Star team is outfielder Rafael Bautista, who leads the league with 66 steals.

The GCL, which finishes today, and the NYPL have not yet announced their postseason teams/awards.

Aug 262014
 

While it seems later than in years past, the Arizona Fall League rosters were revealed today, the final Tuesday in August as they were last year. The following Nats farmhands will be headed southwest to help fill out the Mesa Solar Sox roster:

• LHP Matt Grace

• RHP Neil Holland

• C Spencer Kieboom

• 2B Tony Renda

• LHP Felipe Rivero

• RHP Derek Self

• C Pedro Severino

Like last year’s contingent, none of the pitchers are Rule 5 eligible for the first time this December, which seemed to be de rigeur until the past couple of AFL seasons. But more encouraging — no returnees.

The catching tandem of Kieboom and Severino should also prove to be interesting, particularly as both backstops have made strides on offense this season (Severino may be one of the most improved hitters on the Potomac team) and will get some extra time with the coaches to fine-tune their defense.

Having been hurt for most of 2014, it’ll also be interesting to see how Felipe Rivero will fare in the the usually pitcher-unfriendly league, especially after having made two decent starts to distract from the death spiral that has been the Senators since the All-Star Break.

It’s also possible that one more National may be named as a “Taxi Squad” member — eligible to play twice a week — which has included players such as Steve Souza, Jason Martinson, Zach Walters, and Bryce Whatshisname.

Aug 222014
 

Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 75-55, 1st place I.L. North, 2½ games ahead

Good Matt Grace .114 OBA vs. LHBs
Bad 16-19 record in one-run games
Interesting 53 steals allowed, 2nd fewest in the I.L.



HARRISBURG SENATORS 49-81, 6th place E.L. West, 22½ games behind (eliminated)

Good Matt Skole 69BB, 2nd most in E.L.
Bad Team 21 holds, 2nd fewest in E.L.
Interesting 49 wins fewest since 2007, chance to “beat” 2004 team at 52 wins


POTOMAC NATIONALS 32-22, 1st place C.L. North Division, 5 games ahead (70-53 overall)

Good Kylin Turnbull 2-0, 0.79 ERA, 1.15 WHIP in August (5 appearances)
Bad Randolph Oduber 100K, 14BB in 112G
Interesting 17-17 road record, 1st half; 16-6 road record, 2nd half


HAGERSTOWN SUNS 38-22, 1st place Sally League North Divison, 2 games ahead (82-48 overall)

Good Reynaldo Lopez 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.52 WHIP, 16K since return to Low-A (23IP)
Bad Suns bullpen 5.81 ERA in August
Interesting 59-18 record when scoring first


AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 27-36, 5th place Pinckney Division, N.Y.-Penn League, 11 games behind

Good Luis Torres 1-1, 1.63 ERA, 1.16 WHIP in 10 appearances (27⅔ IP)
Bad Osavldo Abreu 17E in 47G
Interesting 45 Pitching HBP, 2nd in 14-team NYPL


GCL NATIONALS 25-28, 3rd Place GCL East, 5 games behind

Good Jakson Reetz .341/.436/.477 in August (14G)
Bad McKenzie Mills 2.10 WHIP in 20IP
Interesting 8SV, tied for fewest in GCL


DSL NATIONALS 42-28, 3rd Place Boca Chica South Division, 8½ games behind (eliminated)

Good 17-y.o. Yonathan Ramirez 29K in 27⅓ IP
Bad 17-y.o. Luis Perdomo .520 OPS
Interesting 17-y.o. Telmito Agustin, 40BB, 25SB, 7CS



Editor’s note: The next GBI will be published in two weeks, after the close of the regular season.

Aug 192014
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Lost, 6-2 @ Scranton/Wilkes-Barre,
7:05 p.m.
TBD vs. Nuding (3-5, 5.89)
Harrisburg OFF DAY vs. Portland,
7:00 p.m.
Voth (1-2, 3.52) vs.
Diaz (3-3, 4.01)
Potomac OFF DAY @ Lynchburg,
5:05 p.m.
Silvestre (1-1, 5.09) and
Turnbull (2-3, 5.54) vs.
Parsons (4-5, 4.52) and
Watts (2-4, 5.29)
Hagerstown OFF DAY vs. Greensboro,
7:05 p.m.
Lopez (2-1, 1.76) vs.
Adames (1-1, 2.90)
Auburn ALL-STAR BREAK ALL-STAR BREAK N/A
GCL Nationals Lost, 6-2 @ GCL Marlins,
12:00 p.m.
TBD vs. TBD
DSL Nationals Lost, 4-2 @ DSL Mariners,
10:30 a.m.
W. Pena (4-4, 2.78) vs.
Asencio (3-4, 3.58)


Rochester 6 Syracuse 2
• McGregor (L, 1-1) 6IP, 6H, 3R, 3ER, 3BB, 3K
• Mattheus 1IP, 2H, 2R, 2ER, 2BB, 0K
• Leon 1-3, R, HR, 2RBI
• Perez 1-3, BB

Sandy Leon’s two-run shot in the 8th highlighted an otherwise flaccid night for the Chiefs, as the RedWings tripled them up 6-2. Scott McGregor took the loss with three runs given up on six hits and three walks. Leon and Eury Perez both went 1-for-3 while Destin Hood singled in four trips to the plate to account for the three (3) Syracuse hits.
Roster moves: RHPs Aaron Barrett, Blake Treinen placed on the 7-Day DL; OF Destin Hood activated from 7-Day DL.

Harrisburg — OFF DAY
Going for .400 sounds like a great goal for a batting average but as a team winning percentage? Not so good. With last place all but assured, avoiding the worst finish since 2007 (55-86) will require the Seantors to get seven wins over the next two weeks; breaking .400 will require eight.

Potomac — OFF DAY
The quest to win both halves for the second straight season begins tonight with a doubleheader in Lynchburg. For the scoreboard watchers, red-hot Salem plays the “other Salem” while third-place Wilmington takes on Myrtle Beach. The Red Sox have not lost since they left Woodbridge (eight straight) and trail the Pelicans by just a game in the second-half race, however, their series against the Dash can effectively clinch a playoff spot by knocking the Hyphens too far back to catch either Myrtle Beach or Salem.

Hagerstown — OFF DAY
The Grasshoppers are in town for three games, giving the Suns a chance to extend their one-game lead in the Northern Division and prevent a double-half win. Third-place Hickory is lying in wait, thus this is Hagerstown’s best chance to take care of business.

Auburn — ALL STAR BREAK
Tonight is the New-York Penn League’s All-Star Game, to be held in Brooklyn. Jose “Orange” Marmolejos-Diaz and Mario Sanchez will represent Auburn.

GCL Marlins 6 GCL Nationals 2
• Yrizarri 5IP, 3H, 1R, 0ER, BB, 4K, HBP
• Salazar (L, 0-1) 1IP, 4H, 4R, 4ER, 0BB, K, HBP
• Guzman 2-4, BB, OF assist at 2B
• Reetz 1-4, R, BB

The G-Marlins broke a 2-2 deadlock with a four-run 11th to win 6-2. Deibi Yrizarri started and let in one unearned run on three hits and a walk. The loss went to Melvi Salazar, as he was torched for all four G-Marlins runs in the final frame. Luis Guzman led the G-Nats offense with two singles and a walk.

DSL Mariners 4 DSL Nationals 2
• Rosario 4IP, 4H, 1R, 0ER, 0BB, 2K, WP
• Y. Garcia (BS, 1: L, 0-1) 2IP, 2H, 2R, 0ER, 2BB, 3K, WP
• Peguero 2-4, R
• Je. Baez 3-4

The D-Mariners scored three unanswered runs over their last two “ups” to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 win. Ramses Rosario gave up just an unearned run on four hits and no walks but the decision went to Yordani Garcia, who was also charged with unearned runs, tow of them, to suffer the blown-save-loss. Jeyner Baez and Francys Pegeuro combined for five of the nine D-Nats hits.

Aug 182014
 

Ian DicksonAfter eight innings of one-hit, shutout ball thrown on Saturday, it should come as no surprise that Ian Dickson’s masterpiece would garner him the Carolina League’s Pitcher of the Week honors for the week of August 11-17.

Dickson tied his season-high of eight strikeouts (third time) while setting a career-long for innings pitched, which is particularly interesting for a guy who’s spent both this season and last alternating between starting and middle-to-long relief.

Since returning to the rotation in late July, Dickson is 2-0 with a 1.85 ERA and a WHIP of 1.23 over four starts, which is in line with his the resurgence he’s had since the C.L. All-Star break (6.25 ERA before, 3.12 ERA after).

Originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 35th Rd. of the 2011 Draft, Dickson was acquired in June 2013 when the Chicago Cubs became the latest organization to attempt to turn right-handed thrower Henry Rodriguez into a pitcher after the Nationals gave up. He spent the remainder of the 2013 season with Low-A Hagerstown where he compiled a 5-3, 4.39/3.72/1.25 line in 16 appearances (10 starts), earning him a spot on the 2014 Watchlist as a “Notable Arm.”

Aug 182014
 

If Potomac clinches both halves, the proper thing to do is to send a “Thank You” to Carolina.

That’s because the Mudcats lost to the P-Nats for the ninth straight time on Sunday night by a 7-6 score. Combined with yet another loss by the Hillcats, Potomac now leads the Northern Division by three games with two weeks left to go.

By no means of course, has it been easy. All three games this weekend were one-run decisions, which even Harold Reynolds could tell you means that just one break or play that had gone other way could have reversed the outcome.

Early on, it certainly looked like Carolina was about to get some semblance of payback — overall, it’s been 15 of 19 games won by
Potomac — as they jumped on Matt Swynenberg for three runs in the 1st on a single-triple-double-error sequence with two outs.

Following a 1-2-3 bottom of the 1st, the Mudcats loaded the bases in the top of the 2nd with a single and two walks before hitting a long flyball to deep center that Isaac Ballou ran down for the third out.

Potomac went in order again in the 2nd, but got things going in the bottom of the 3rd. IF Khayyan Norfork caught his counterpart at 3B napping with a perfectly placed bunt for the first P-Nat baserunner. Brandon Miller and Pedro Severino both walked to get the bases tipsy.

After a nifty snag of a popup by the Mudcat dugout, Tony Renda steered one into right for a 1-0 score. Carolina got pinch-hitter Estarlin Martinez (no word on why Pleffner was lifted) to strike out, Randolph Oduber got the Homer Simpson RBI with a HBP, then Stephen Perez laced one into right-center for a two-run single and a 4-3 P-Nats lead.

Swynenberg worked through the 4th, retiring the last seven batters for an uneven performance of three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks. Potomac added one more in the 4th, two more in the 5th to open up a 7-3 lead.

The game seemed in hand when Bryan Harper took the hill in the 9th — following two and 2/3rds scoreless relief from Cody Davis, who got the win — having retired three of four batters faced by way of the K, beginning with a whiff that stranded two in the 7th.

Give credit to the Mudcats, as they loaded the bases with two singles and a walk to chase Harper, then unloaded them against Jake Walsh with a walk and a single before Walsh got his bearings and retired the next three batters for the save, his first at High-A.

It’s their last scheduled off day today before Potomac begins a stretch of 17 games in 14 days — all against the rest of the Northern Division. They’re in the driver’s seat, though, leading Lynchburg by five in the loss column with four games left (this Tuesday through Thursday), Wimington by five with five games left (next Tuesday through Friday), and Frederick by seven with eight games left.

Aug 162014
 

After losing four straight to the resurgent Red Sox, the prospect of a fifth straight loss seemed quite possible as the P-Nats fell behind 5-1 after five and a half innings.

Matthew Spann had started but struggled through four innings, giving up three runs on a 2nd-inning HR and three hits total. He walked three and struck out three. Kylin Turnbull followed but was touched for single runs in the 5th and and 6th innings.

Then came the bottom of the 6th, in which Potomac jumped on the Carolina bullpen for five runs, having been stifled by Joe “I got my Dad’s 1970s haircut” Clevinger for five innings.

Isaac Ballou got things going with a leadoff walk. Tony Renda lined one into right, with Ballou taking third with no hesitation. Shawn Pleffner lifted a high fly to center that Renda judged would not be caught, enabling him to score all the way from first on the double.

A grounder to second pushed the big man to third while Stephen Perez laced one up the middle to plate Pleffner and send Clayton Cook to the bench in favor of Michael Peoples.

The power was not with Peoples but with John Wooten, who clubbed his second homer for the P-Nats to give them a 6-5 lead and atone for his sixth error that let the fourth Mudcat run score in the 5th.

Travis Henke, who’s often called upon when the game’s not on the line, responded to the pressure situation with two scoreless innings in the 7th and 8th, walking one and striking out three to earn his team-leading fifth hold.

Henke gave way to Gilberto Mendez in the 9th. Facing the heart of the Carolina lineup, Mendez mowed ‘em down in order — flyout, strikeout, groundout — to earn his 10th save in 12 chances.

The win, combined with a Lynchburg loss, puts Potomac back up a game in the Carolina League North while Carolina sinks to third place in the C.L. South, a half-game behind Salem which won its sixth straight.

The series continues tonight with Ian Dickson (3-8, 5.16) taking the hill against D.J. Brown (2-6, 4.57).

Aug 152014
 


Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 71-53, 1st place I.L. North, 1 game ahead

Good Brandon Laird .372/.386/.744, 3HR, 14RBI last 10G
Bad 787 pitching K fewest in I.L.
Interesting Six weeks without any news on the health or status on Brian Goodwin



HARRISBURG SENATORS 49-74, 6th place E.L. West, 20½ games behind

Good Tyler Herron 0-0, 2SV, 0.73 WHIP last 10G
Bad 60 of 123 games started by Washington-drafted pitchers
Interesting Bullpen ERA is 2.89 since July 1 (H/T Sens PR staff)



POTOMAC NATIONALS 26-22, 1st place C.L. North, .004 W% ahead (64-53 overall)

Good Randolph Oduber .350/.366/.600, 2HR, 11RBI in last 10G
Bad Travis Henke 7HR allowed in 52⅓ IP
Interesting Tied with Lynchburg for fewest CGs, SHOs (0)



HAGERSTOWN SUNS 35-19, 1st place Sally North, 1 game ahead (79-45 overall)

Good Wander Suero 0-0, 2SV, 1.52 ERA, 0.74 over last 10 appearances for the Suns
Bad David Masters .188 BA last 10G
Interesting 212 Team SBs = Most since becoming Nationals affiliate in 2007



AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS 26-32, 5th place Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 8 games behind

Good Bryan Mejia .367/.406/.533 in last 10G
Bad James Bourque 1.75WHIP, 5HBP in 28IP
Interesting 384 pitching K = 13th in 14-team NYPL



GCL NATIONALS 25-24, T2nd GCL East, 4 games behind

Good Jean Ramirez 3-0, 1.95 ERA, 1.30 WHIP in 11 appearances
Bad Conor Keniry .035 ISO
Interesting 19-y.o. Thomas Alvarez .407 SLG%



DSL NATIONALS 37-27, 4th place Boca Chica South, 8½ games behind

Good 18-y.o. Israel Mota 8HR (T1st, DSL), 47RBI (4th)
Bad 17-y.o. Malvin Pena 5.84 ERA, 1.66 WHIP in 12 appearances (24⅔ IP)
Interesting Avg. Pitcher Age = 18.4; League Avg. = 18.9