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.

Oct 192014
 

Saturday Smorgasbord
Post number 2000 is a bit of a smorgasbord, which many of these weekly posts have been and probably will be this offseason. So let’s just jump into it…

AFL UPDATE
Without the daily coverage, and with less-than-stellar performances, the four-game win streak by the Mesa Solar Sox seems a bit anti-climactic to pass along. Felipe Rivero got the Jack Morris win in the 8-4 triumph, allowing three runs in two and 2/3rds innings, though Derek Self would have gotten it in a regular-season contest for his two and 1/3rd scoreless innings of relief. Tony Renda tripled in two while Pedro Severino hit a sac fly. Matt Grace also turned in an efficient outing of five outs on 14 pitches, nine for strikes.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
Michael Taylor was voted the #1 prospect in the Eastern League, which is actually a bit of a shock when you consider that the #2 prospect, Mookie Betts played 52 games for the Red Sox (losing rookie status doesn’t disqualify players from these lists). In the “chat,” others brought up that point, noting how much better Betts performed at AAA and in the majors. Josh Norris defended his decision thusly: “In reality, it’s not 1 and 2 for me, it’s 1 and 1a. The difference for me is Taylor has the potential for more power, is a true center fielder with game-changing range in the outfield and has a well above-average arm.”

A.J. Cole was “only” the #15 E.L. prospect but ranked as the #7 I.L. prospect, which is only dissonant to the folks who mistakenly believe AAA is the highest level for prospects, as opposed to a place for refinement and a holding ground for replacement-level players. While noting his propensity to give up the longball, the scouts project the turns-23-in-January righty as a No. 3 starter, praising improvements in his secondary pitches. Steve Souza was ranked #5 while former farmhands Robbie Ray and Alex Meyer were nos. 8 and 9 respectively.

TRANSACTION UPDATE
It’s not clear which Felix Taveras the Nats signed in the latest missive from BA, but the list of catchers that signed or re-signed is awfully familiar:

  • Jeff Howell
  • Devin Ivany
  • Sean McCauley
  • Andruth Ramirez

Before folks get too excited, recall that McCauley spent 2014 as a player-coach and appears headed towards the same role. Given that Ivany and Ramirez did not play this past season, it might be fair to guess that one or both will be serving in the same capacity.

MORE ON THE MINORS LAWSUIT
One of the ugly truths about the minors is how poorly these guys are paid. At some levels, the guys washing the uniforms make more than the guys wearing them. That’s not news per se, but earlier this summer, a class-action lawsuit was filed by former Giants prospect-turned-lawyer Garrett Broshuis on behalf of former minor-leaguers (a group that includes former Nats farmhands Tim Pahuta and Brett Newsome) has generated headlines and more interest in the subject. This week, Toronto Star reporter Brendan Kennedy filed this story that goes into detail about the economics of minor-league baseball, and makes some rather telling comparisons to minor-league hockey.

THE HAGERSTOWN SUNS
The Suns lost in the Sally League Finals for the second straight year but won 87 regular-season games and nearly took both halves. Despite fielding a winning team with exciting prospects, the locals voted with their feet and stayed away as attendance — which is routinely exaggerated anyway — fell to below 1,000 at 979 per date (also consider that the #13 team averaged 1,925). While the PDC was renewed, it’s doubtful this trend will reverse itself until the team is under new ownership and/or the facilities are renovated or replaced.

As you might expect from the second-best team in the league, the Suns leveraged strong pitching (4.11 R/G; Lg. Avg 4.58) and strong hitting (4.99 R/G) while committing the fewest errors (118 vs. 152). The old-for-the-level report: 22.2 vs. 21.5 for the bats, 21.8 vs. 21.8 for the arms. Expectations for this crew to match the 2013’s effort in the Carolina League will probably be high.

Now, for the obligatory Top 5’s…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Wilmer Difo, 2B/SS, .280 GPA, 14HR, 49SB 1. Lucas Giolito, RHP, 2.20/3.16/1.00, 10.1 K/9, .196 OBA
2. Spencer Kieboom, C, .283 GPA, .500 SLG% 2. Austin Voth, RHP, 2.45/2.68/1.05, 1HR in 69.2IP
3. Drew Ward, 3B, .257 GPA, 42BB 3. Wander Suero, RHP, 2.13/3.16/0.97, 1.38 BB/9
4. Rafael Bautista, CF, .249 GPA, 69SB 4. Justin Thomas, LHP, 2.78/3.01/1.08, 1.39 BB/9
5. James Yezzo, 1B, .239 GPA, .991FA 5. Jake Walsh, LHP, 1.45/3.33/0.87, .152 OBA


Honorable mentions go to Carlos Lopez and David Napoli, as we hit the point where all things are not equal and performance relative to age takes greater precedence. A couple of the bats were also held back for consideration for the Potomac list. As always, if you’d like to see the entire team’s stats, just click here.

Oct 182014
 

neilholland101713
As some of you have noted already in the comments, the numbers haven’t been pretty thus far. According to manager Patrick Anderson (via Byron Kerr), it’s been “some pitches up to some decent hitters” (Felipe Rivero) and “balls right on the nose right at people” (Tony Renda). But it is what it is, the numbers don’t always tell you the real story, and it’s still early, right? Many of these things are true, or have a modicum of truth, but if I don’t mock the coachspeak, who will?

Now, for the numbers…

BATTERS

PLAYER G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Tony Renda 7 23 1 2 2 0 0 0 1 6 .087 .125 .174 1
Spencer Kieboom 3 10 1 5 1 0 1 3 2 1 .500 .583 .900 0
Pedro Severino 3 9 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 2 .111 .200 .111 0

PITCHERS

PLAYER W L SV ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Felipe Rivero 0 2 0 6.23 2 2 8⅔ 10 6 6 1 3 5 1.50
Derek Self 0 0 0 1.80 3 0 5 3 1 1 1 3 3 1.20
Neil Holland 0 1 0 14.73 3 0 3⅔ 7 6 6 1 3 2 2.73
Matt Grace 0 0 0 8.10 3 0 3⅓ 4 3 3 0 3 5 2.10


And now some more pics from Lee (don’t worry this isn’t in lieu of tomorrow’s scheduled post, it’s to get these pics in!)

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MattGracePitching101714 DerekSelfPitching101714
Oct 122014
 

SpencerKieboom101114 copy
OK, so I haven’t come up with a name for this post yet. “This Week In The Nats Minors” or “The Washington Farm Report” seem a little too been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. “Next-Gen Nats?” Um, sure, but I’ll have to change my site’s color scheme to teal, purple, and black. I’m open to suggestions… In the meantime, let’s do this weekly thing again.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
Thanks to a rainout — the first since 2011 — the Mesa Solar Sox have played just four games, losing the first three by a collective score of 30-9 before finally getting a win with a 6-3 decision last night. As you might imagine, the stats thus far aren’t pretty, so let’s hold on posting them. I am thinking another picture-gallery post midweek might be in order.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
As noted in the comments, Pedro Severino edged into BA’s Carolina League Top 20 at #18, which is actually a mild surprise given the size and talent of the league, but not undeserved. Severino’s ballyhooed defense actually fell short of the hype during last offseason, but that’s not to say he’s not a good defender. Perhaps not at the level of Sandy Leon at the same (st)age, but not far off either. Like Leon in 2011, the 21-year-old Severino’s bat came alive in 2014, particularly in the second half, and that’s what caught the attention of scouts. The hope/unknown is whether that’ll continue in 2015.

TRANSACTION STUFF
Greg Dobbs, we hardly knew ye, as the 36-y.o. who stapled a .483 OPS in 13 games with the big club and thumbtacked AAA pitchers for a .635 mark in 36 games has declared free agency.

WINTER LEAGUE
Folks are hungry to know who’s playing winter ball. The Mexican Pacific League and the Venezuelan Winter League started up this weekend, and a scan of the rosters has turned up three pitchers:

Rafael Martin (Hermosillo, MWL)
Paolo Espino (Anzoategui, VWL)
David Ramos (Aragua, VWL)

The Dominican Winter League starts on this Friday, while the Puerto Rican and Australian winter leagues both start up on the 30th.

THE AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS
The Doubledays couldn’t help but improve on 2013, which won the fewest games (26) since the ’06 Lake Monsters (23) and was dead last in pitching and third-worst in hitting. The 2014 crew, which included a sizable contingent from the ’13 GCL squad, broke the 30-win mark and performed to its pythagorean projection of 34-41 with 299 runs scored (3.99/G) and 332 allowed (4.43) with the league averaging 4.15 runs per game. After years of being among the league’s oldest teams [insert college-senior drafting remark here], the Doubledays hitters were slightly older (21.2 vs. 21.0) while the pitchers were the fourth-youngest crew in the league (20.9)

And with that I’ll leave you with the Top 5’s…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Raudy Read, C, .265 GPA, .462 SLG% 1. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, 0.75/3.14/0.83, .124 OBA
2. Jose Marmolejos-Diaz, 1B, .250 GPA, .996FA 2. Robbie Dickey, RHP, 2.25/2.74/1.05, 1.35BB/9 allowed in 20IP
3. D.K. Carey, CF, .248 GPA, .353 OBP 3. Travis Ott, LHP, 3.05/3.98/1.24, 6.7 H/9
4. Cody Gunter, 3B, .239 GPA, 23BB in 54G 4. Mario Sanchez, RHP, 4.11/3.50/1.17, 2.8 BB/9
5. Austin Davidson, IF, .231 GPA, 4.89 RF/G (2B) 5. Chase McDowell, RHP, 4.50/3.16/1.54, 0.98 BB/9


Honorable mentions go to Matthew Page and Austen Williams, but like the GCL crew, it was not easy after the first two or three names — especially in a year where the Nats had several multiple-level pitchers. As always, folks who want to see the numbers for the full team, can find them here.

Oct 072014
 
FelipeRivero100714 PedroSeverinoBatting100714
TonyRendaFielding100714 SpencerKieboom100714

The weekly posting plan still remains, but with a little time to spare — and some great pics to share — I’d figure I’d do a quick post to give folks a taste of fall ball while you await the outcome of the NLDS.

The Solar Sox were eclipsed by the Desert Dogs by a score of 9-3 this afternoon. As you can see, Felipe Rivero got the start but remained in 2014 Harrisburg form with four runs allowed on seven hits and two walks. He struck out three and gave up a solo home run.

Tony Renda and Pedro Severino both started on offense, but went 0-for-3 with a walk and 0-for-2 respectively.

Matt Grace and Derek Self both appeared in relief and both struggled, with Grace giving up two runs in one inning and Self giving up a HR in two innings of work.

See you on Sunday with a summary of the week’s happenings in the minors (and some more pics, no doubt).

Oct 052014
 

Renda-Bunting-2014I had been hoping as I plugged away at this week’s column/post during my time confetti to be able to make some reference to how the parent club is doing in the playoffs. Now, I’m just hoping this will get read between wailing and second-guessing from last night’s 2-1 loss in 18 innings.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
The “other” fall baseball starts up on Tuesday, with sponsor-contrived exhibition festivities held last night (hence, the pic). It looks like there won’t be a taxi squad guy this year, as the Nationals also officially placed the seven players named in late August onto the roster of the Mesa Solar Sox.

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
The love-fest for Reynaldo Lopez continues as Baseball America named him the #2 prospect in the New York Penn League, citing what we all know now: a 96-99 FB, a killer 11-5 CV, and a devastating changeup. Also named (#13) was catcher Raudy Read, who may be more intriguing given how thin the position had gotten. The trio of Pedro Severino, Read and Reetz are all under 22 and should populate the rosters at AA, Low-A, and SS-A with a resurgent Spencer Kieboom the likely starter at High-A (though he’ll be 24).

BA loves to double-dip, which is why Lopez got the nod as the #3 prospect of the South Atlantic League, two spots behind Lucas Giolito. In a bigger market, or a true baseball town, these two would have a nickname by now (Giopez?) though I suspect they won’t be teammates again until they’re both in AA. Coming in at #14 for the Sally Top 20 was Wilmer Difo, which I suspect is a function of his age (22) as twelve of the thirteen players ranked above him were 21 or younger.

TRANSACTION STUFF
So far, it’s quiet, which is the norm. Thus far, two players have been re-signed for next year — IF Cutter Dykstra and RHP Sam Runion. As much as we’d like to read into that, Occam’s Razor suggests it’s simply that both the organization and the player are content to continue with the 2014 arrangement for 2015.

2014 AFFILIATE SHUFFLE
Thankfully, the Nats affiliates will remain the same for another two years, which is hardly a shock — even with the rumblings in Hagerstown and Fredericksburg, which continues to be more talk than walk. It does however mean that they’ll be seeing some new opponents, as the Rockies join the Eastern League and the Cubs join the Carolina League, replacing the Twins and Rangers, respectively. Jamestown will be moving to Morgantown, which will require some new scheduling for Auburn and longer bus rides for everyone.

THE GCL NATIONALS
Let’s face it: No matter what this team did in 2014, it would be a disappointment compared to 2013. It also bears repeating that folks shouldn’t get too high or too low about performance in the short-season leagues (and yes, I’ve been guilty of that “crime”). So even though the team reverted to the mean — 25-35, .417 — there’s still some kids to get excited about (ok, that sounds a little creepy).
Offensively, the team was pretty much league average (4.32 vs. 4.37) but the pitching was second-worst in the league, giving up nearly a run more per game (5.32 vs. 4.37).

Without further ado…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Jakson Reetz, C, .285 GPA, 26BB in 43G 1. Jean Ramirez, RHP, 3.41/3.60/1.45, 0HR allowed in 36⅔ IP
2. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B, .250 GPA, .934FA 2. Luis Reyes, RHP, 4.42/3.86/1.42, 2.95 BB/9
3. Aldrem Corredor, LF, .256 GPA, .411 OBP 3. Yorlin Reynoso, LHP, 3.38/3.97/1.75, 73.8 LOB%
4. Thomas Alvarez, 2B, .253 GPA, 4.65 RF/G 4. Maximo Valerio, RHP, 5.23/4.28/1.45, 7.3 K/9
5. “Fred” Aguero, IF, .249 GPA, .400 SLG 5. Jose Morales, RHP, 4.68/4.58/1.68, 3.03 BB/9


I’d give an honorable mention to Edwin Lora who batted .293 and stole 13 bases, but worry about the lack of doubles (just eight out of 53 hits). It was a stretch to name five pitchers, as it seemed like the best you could say for most of these guys is that they were still teenagers. Folks who are interested in seeing the entire team’s stats, should click here.

Sep 282014
 

Letstrythisweeklything
Bear with me — without the structure of the regular season and the divergence from what I’ve done in past offseasons, the first couple of posts might be a bit of a dog’s breakfast.

The most obvious thing to me is to touch upon what I would have written about in shorter form until the AFL starts up (good news — our man out there says he’ll continue to take pics and share with us). Then, the weekly posts will be AFL-centric with some news and notes thrown in.

THE STATE OF THE FARM
It’s been rebuilt and it’s churning out talent, though the run of uber-prospects (Strasburg-Harper-Rendon) may be over once Lucas Giolito makes his way to Washington. That’s okay because that’s how it supposed to work with World Series contending organizations. I’m still concerned that the organization runs old and that it relies very heavily on the Dominican Republic for its teenage talent, but it’s hard to argue against the results even when some of the injury gambles don’t pan out (see Solis, Sammy; Purke, Matthew).

BA TOP 20 PROSPECT LISTS
In years past, the first couple of weeks of BA issuing its Top 20 lists could be summed up in a picture or two for Washington fans. For the second straight year, the Nats have a GCLer on the list, as Jakson Reetz was named the #14 guy. A third-round pick in June, Reetz posted a line of .276/.431/.376 line as an 18-y.o. catcher, which of course, has drawn comps to 2007 4th Rd. pick Derek Norris. Defensively, he’s considered ahead of the A’s backstop at this stage in his career.

THE 2014 WATCHLIST
After clinching all that can be clinched in the day game on Friday — sounds a little dirty, no? — the Nats trotted out what some Twitterati geniusly called “your 2014 Syracuse Chiefs” on Friday night; an observation sharp enough to slice warm butter. Thankfully, there are those who understand how things work better than that. That said, it pains me a little to know two things: (1) A lot of the names are going to change in the 2015 edition (2) that edition is going to have to be smaller and less comprehensive. The alternative, of course, is to scrap it altogether, which, as you can see, I’m trying to avoid.

THE DSL NATIONALS
The trend of getting younger and better has continued — the average bat was 17.7 years old, the average arm was 18.4 years old; a half-year younger than the league averages for both. Despite their youth, the D-Nats were among the more potent offenses, tied for 4th at 6.19 R/G (lg. avg. 4.98) and leading the circuit in HRs. The flip side is that the pitching (5.36 R/G) and the defense — with the exception of the stolen-base prevention (2nd in CS%, 48; lg. avg. 34) — were both below average (.942FA, .951 lg avg.).

Cutting to the chase…

TOP 5 BATS TOP 5 ARMS
1. Davinson Pimentel, C/1B, .337 GPA, 6HR 1. Joan Baez, RHP, 1.15/2.96/0.91, 2.8 BB/9
2. Telmito Agustin, LF/CF, .310 GPA, 25SB, 10 3B 2. Steven Fuentes, RHP, 2.30/2.90/1.23, 10.2 K/9
3. Victor Robles, CF, .305 GPA, 22SB 3. Angher Cespedes, RHP, 3.94/2.52/1.16, 11.0 K/9
4. Israel Mota, RF, .281 GPA, 8HR, 47RBI 4. Yonathan Ramirez, LHP, 2.63/2.60/0.91, 2.0 BB/9
5. Andres Martinez, SS, .280 GPA, .908FA 5. Juan Bermudez, RHP, 2.08/3.55/1.05, 2.97 BB:K


Honorable mentions go to Jeyner Baez, an 18-y.o. catcher with a 50% CS rate and a .256 GPA, and Wilber Pena, an 18-y.o. RHP who led the team in IP and tied with Bermudez with 14 games started. Folks can see all the team stats here.

Sep 212014
 


As promised, I’m providing a spot for discussion, even if there ain’t a whole hell of a lot to talk about in terms of the farm. Ordinarily by now we would have heard/read/seen who’s going to instrux or who the Nats Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Year are, but so far… nada. I hope this is just a byproduct of the parent club chugging towards the playoffs, but it still seems a little weird to me.

If you missed it in the comments, Karl Kolchak has begun a blog with a minors focus, which began with a post about the DFA of Eury Perez and is now counting down his Top 30 prospects.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t pass along Zach Spedden’s post wrapping up the 2014 Minor-League Season, which is written through the lens of the 2014 Draft Class. Spedden also runs the Hagerstown Suns Fan Club.

I think that’s about it for now. Please feel free to discuss things in the comments and keep the conversation going until my next post.

Sep 172014
 


I don’t want to say this is the end of the road, but there’s a good chance that it is.

When I took over this site four years ago, I was stay-at-home parent to two elementary-school-aged sons with special needs. Like many things in life, this wasn’t something I had planned (the stay-at-home part, not the parent part), but it was something I had to deal with. It was also what I really needed to distract from the day-to-day drudgery; an opportunity to employ my passion via my lost profession.

Even though I tried to keep the scope of the site manageable in the event that I would return to work — the pseudonym that I used (Sue Dinem) from January 2010 until January 2012, was largely motivated by that concern — it grew too large. I may have succeeded in building something good, something to be proud of, but I failed to keep it modest enough to withstand the changes in my offline life.

This isn’t a knee-jerk decision. It’s been in the back of my mind for most of the summer, as it became harder and harder to publish as I had less and less time (and energy) to do it, despite having significant help from Jason Crocker and Julie Goldberg. I’ve been working part-time for quite some time now, but it’s been steadily ramping towards full-time.

I wish I could say that I’m excited about that (the work part), but I’m not. It’s a matter of doing what’s best for my family financially in the short-term while I continue to look for something more rewarding in the longer term. The kids getting older (they’re now in high school and middle school) actually makes this possible (and necessary).

I’m not looking to elicit sympathy — unless it’s a job with Fred Flintstone hours and/or Phillip Drummond pay — after all, I’m not shutting down the site just yet. If it continues, it’s going to be different, and less intensive. I just don’t know yet; I’m going to take a few months to figure that out.

But if this it, it’s been quite a ride. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, too.

Sep 142014
 

The Tourists scored in the 1st, built a 4-0 lead after four innings, and cruised to a 4-1 win to take the 2014 South Atlantic League Championship, three games to two. It was the second title in three years for Asheville, and back-to-back Finals losses for Hagerstown.

Nick Pivetta was more effective than he was in Game One, making it through five frames, but allowed all four Tourist runs (three earned, though the error was his) on six hits and two walks while striking out five. His counterpart, Konner Wade, was just as brilliant as before — tossing seven scoreless innings to run his total to 12 for the series.

The Suns were limited to six hits — all singles — and one walk. The lone, unearned run came in the bottom of the 8th as Rafael Bautista reached on an error, took third on a Wilmer Difo safety, and scored on a groundout by Narciso Mesa. Drew Ward was the sole Hagerstown batter to reach base twice, singling in the 7th and drawing a leadoff walk in the 9th.

Hagerstown finished the 2014 season with 87 wins in the regular season and 91 wins overall, both the most since the Suns joined the South Atlantic League in 1993. They’ll start the 2015 campaign on the road in Hickory, NC on April 9th and open at home against Lakewood on April 16th.

Sep 132014
 

Asheville built a 3-0 lead on a pair of home runs to send 19-y.o. starter Travis Ott to the showers after just two and 1/3rd innings. With no tomorrow, Hagerstown manager Patrick Anderson turned to former starter Jake Johansen — who was removed from the rotation in late July, and quite frankly, wasn’t any less ineffective as a reliever — to eat innings and hope for the bats to come alive.

The comeback came three innings later with some “help” from the Tourists defense, as Jimmy Yezzo connected for a two-out, two-run triple, then tied it up on error by third baseman Ryan McMahon. Cody Dent, who had homered once in his professional career prior to last night, got his second to give the Suns an improbable 5-3 lead. I’ve heard there’s a family history of this.

But perhaps more unexpected was the performance that Johansen turned in. During the regular season, he was scored upon in all 18 starts and either gave up an inherited runner or one of his own in 10 of 11 relief outings. That one other scoreless outing, however, was against last-place Lakewood.

A reasonable expectation: one or two runs over three or four innings. Instead, Johansen shut down the league’s most potent offense for three and 2/3rds innings with just one hit allowed, no walks, and two strikeouts.

Hagerstown would get an insurance run in the 7th, again with the help of some defensive incompetence. A dropped third strike following back-to-back two-out singles loaded the bases for Yezzo, who delivered another RBI knock with a single to plate the sixth and final Suns run. Yezzo would finish the night at 3-for-4 with a run scored and three RBI to lead Hagerstown’s 12-hit attack.

The run wouldn’t be needed as Justin Thomas, who took over for Johansen in the 7th, faced the mininum of nine over three innings with three strikeouts to earn the save.

Nick Pivetta (13-8, 4.22) and Konner Wade (8-8, 3.61) will rematch in Game Five, and will likely be a lower score than the 16-7 result in Game One.