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 202011
 

Yesterday was Derek Norris’s day to silence the haters doubters. The 22-year-old catcher went 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBI and even stole a base.

Meanwhile, the Scottsdale Scorpions lost 6-5 on two runs given up in the 9th to stop their one-game win streak and fall to 4-9 for the season. Zach Walters also appeared in the game and went 1-for-2 with two walks while playing third base (one assist).

Norris also threw out two runners, which prompted lightning-rod Keith Law of ESPN to remark/answer:

Q: How has Norris’ receiving looked? Can he catch in the majors?
A: Fine. Yes.

Law also remarked that the HR came on a 96mph fastball that Norris lined over the left-field fence in the 8th inning. The three hits raised Norris’s oft-criticized batting average to .286, his on-base percentage to .364 while the six total bases improved his slugging percentage to .429.

Oct 192011
 

Scottsdale’s skid ends at five with an 11-10 win in 10 innings that featured a breakout performance by Bryce Harper.

Playing left field, Harper was a triple shy of the cycle while going 3-for-4 with a single, double, homer, two walks, two runs scored, and three RBI. Defensively, Harper had no putouts and made a throwing error, his second of the AFL season.

Derek Norris started off slow, striking out twice and flying out to center before drawing two walks and singling in the game-tying run in the top of the ninth. He was the Scorpions’ designated hitter.

Sammy Solis continues to struggle, allowing four runs on five hits (including a home run) and four walks while striking out four over three innings. After three starts, opponents are batting .325 against him and he’s walked eight in 10 innings.

Lastly, in a non-AFL note, the Nationals returned Rule 5 pick Elvin Ramirez to the Mets after spending the season on the D.L. after shoulder surgery.

Oct 182011
 

It’s starting to feel like the GCL in the AFL, as the Scottsdale Scorpions were stung for their fifth straight loss by a 7-4 count.

Just one National farmhand saw game action, as Bryce Harper doubled to lead off the 4th inning in the course of going 1-for-4. He was later thrown out at the plate trying to score on a two-out single.

Harper made two putouts while playing right field. Some folks have contacted me regarding Harper’s defense and let me quote the following replies I got from Dave Gershman via Twitter. Gershman writes for MarlinsDaily and covers the New York-Penn League:

Harper made a few lackluster plays, including one where he rushed a throw and missed the plate…needs to take better routes but the bat is way more important than the glove.

My personal takeaway from this is that this is Harper’s first full year in the outfield and he’s still learning to translate his raw tools into skills. I’d like to see him get more time in center next season, even if it’s merely to serve the purpose of giving him a day where he doesn’t have to worry about angles so much. My only fear is that he’ll take out a teammate trying to make a play that he should defer to the more experienced outfielder.

Oct 172011
 

As was brought up in the comments from yesterday’s post, the early numbers from the Arizona Fall League aren’t pretty. But they’re not quite 9-of-22 with 4 INT, either. So we lift the coffee mug of small sample size and take a look…

                                          #                                     #                                     #

The Domninican Winter League started up on Friday and a handful of Nats players have been spotted in the box scores:

  • Eury Perez – Escogido
  • Wilman Rodriguez – Escogido
  • Jhonatan Solano – Licey
  • Atahualpa Severino – Licey

A couple of other notes…

…Chris Marrero is supposedly on the Licey Tigres as well, but is not listed on the roster and/or has not appeared in a game.

…Wilman Rodriguez played outfield for the D-Nats this past summer, but has appeared as a pitcher thus far. Considering that this was in a game that was 1-1 at the time, and that he is no longer a teenager, the deduction is that a conversion to the mound may be in the process.

Oct 162011
 

Make that five straight losses for Scottsdale, as Pat Lehman surrendered a two-run homer in the bottom of the 8th that snapped a 6-6 tie. Derek Norris hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 9th but the Scorpions rally fell short for the eventual 8-7 score.

Running down the individual performances…

  • Norris went 1-for-4 with a double and two RBI, but also grounded into two double plays
  • Zach Walters went 1-for-5 with with double but struck out three times and committed an error
  • Matt Purke threw two innings and gave up an earned run on a hit and walk and had one strikeout
  • Lehman pitched the final two innings and gave up two runs (one earned) on two hits and a walk while striking out two

Bryce Harper did not play. Today is his 19th birthday.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the AFL stats to date. The Scorpions host Phoenix on Monday, visit the Desert Dogs on Tuesday, host the Solar Sox on Wednesday, then finish out the week with visits to Mesa, Surprise, and Phoenix on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday respectively. It’s afternoon games on every day this week but Tuesday.

Oct 152011
 

The Scottsdale spiral continues with a fourth straight loss, this time by a 14-5 count. Three Nats saw game action…

  • Bryce Harper drove in two with a 7th-inning triple and went 1-for-4 overall while playing left field
  • Zach Walters went 0-for-4 while playing third base, where he made two putouts and had an assist
  • Rafael Martin was touched for a home run and a double over his 1⅓ innings of work, but walked none and struck out two

The Scorpions and Javelinas rematch this afternoon to finish out the second week of AFL play.

Oct 142011
 

Scottsdale lost its third straight last night by a 3-1 tally to the Salt River Rafters to drop the Scorpions’ record to 3-5.

Bryce Harper was the sole National to appear in the game. He went 1-for-4 and made two putouts while playing left field.

The Scorpions finish the week with a home-and-home against Peoria tonight and tomorrow afternoon.

In other winter-league action…(why yes, I am stretching here to fill out the post)

  • Gregory Blanco went 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI for La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League (VWL)
  • Jesus Flores went 3-for-5 with a double, homer, two runs scored, and three RBI for Magallanes (VWL)
  • Seth Bynum went 0-for-3 with a walk for Zulia (VWL)
  • Carlos Maldonado went 0-for-2 with a walk for Zulia (VWL)
  • Ryan Tatusko got knocked from the box early with a run given up on a hit and three walks over 2/3rds of an inning in his first start for Margarita (VWL)
Oct 132011
 

After wading through the worst affiliate last week, it’s time to look at and reflect on what was — on won-loss basis anyways — the best. It’s also a yardstick of sorts for the 2011 draft*, which was decidedly tilted towards college players in general (36 of 51 drafted, 26 of 30 signed) and seniors in particular (13 of those 26). Consequently, the Auburn team was the second-oldest in the league and that does in part explain some of their success.

*I’m no draft expert and am quite honest in my distaste for discussing it, but it’s not lost on me that this emphasis on upperclassmen isn’t ideal — especially when the new normal for player advancement is one level per year. It’s great that Washington is putting more money into the D.R. and getting more players to come stateside, but that can’t be the only source of teenage talent. I can understand shying away from drafting high school pitchers (before you chime in with Peacock, Cole, or Ray, remember McGeary, Smoker, and Willems) but it just seems to me that now might be the time to start taking chances again on some high school hitters.

As we’ve done the two reviews prior, let’s take a look at how Auburn compared to the rest of the league…
HITTING
PITCHING
Too old or not, the Auburn Doubledays were the class of the New York-Penn League on offense, leading the league in runs scored, hits, doubles, RBI, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. They could also run, finishing third in the league in total steals with 95 but were caught just 16 times for an 85.5% success rate.

The pitching was pretty close to league average in nearly every stat, with the rather notable exception of HRs allowed (fewest in the league), strikeouts (11th of 14 teams), and hits allowed (4th least). Unlike last season, the pitching didn’t take a nosedive. Of course, it helped to get some rehab innings from Brad Meyers, eight starts from the MIA in ’09 and ’10 Nathan Karns, and 18 innings from a AA reclamation project in the person of Christian Garcia.

As before, I’m listing the Top 12 hitters and pitchers in terms of plate appearances and innings pitched and using defensive games played for the listing of position. The full statistics for the team can be found here.
(* = 2010 Draft Pick   ** = DSL Graduate   Italics = 2009 or earlier Draft Pick)

Defensively this looks like a poor bunch, but the Doubledays were actually second in the league in terms of fielding percentage, fourth in terms of fewest errors committed. Unfortunately, the catchers were abysmal at throwing out runners, with a team rate of 23% and Nieto showing serious rust (14%) before returning to form in Hagerstown (36%).

Five of these twelve hitters were assigned to the FIL (Skole, Burns, Ramsey, Ortega, Nieto). Last year, I was fooled into thinking that at least one of them might skip over Hagerstown, and even though three of them will turn 23 this fall, I will make no such assertion for 2012. But I will repeat the guess that the Suns offense should be decent again.

On to the pitchers…
This year’s draft picks made 26 of 75 starts, a marked increase from the 11 of 74 the year before (hey that rhymes!). Unfortunately, much of this can be attributed to the aforementioned upperclassmen taken. None of the starters were lights-out — Brian Dupra had the lowest ERA and WHIP of 3.46 and 1.207 respectively among the Top Five — and a fair amount of relief innings (134) came from guys with ERAs above 4.00. Ultimately, when you have a team that can mash, the pitching need only be mediocre for the team to be a winner and that’s pretty much what it was.

OBLIGATORY TOP FIVE LISTS
For the second straight year, I was able to make it to the NYPL, so it’s not completely sight unseen as it is with the GCL and DSL. Without further ado…

Top 5 Batters
1. Bryce Ortega
2. Matt Skole
3. Hendry Jimenez
4. Adrian Nieto
5. Billy Burns

Top 5 Pitchers
1. Wirkin Estevez
2. Taylor Hill
3. Brian Dupra
4. Manny Rodriguez
5. Christian Meza*

* This is a tough choice because I’m disinclined to choose an older player simply for the sake of have five players ranked. Digging deeper into his numbers, what jumped at me was the differential between his ERA (5.68) and FIP (3.31). Considering his age (turned 21 in August) and low HR and BB rates, I’m giving him the edge over older players (e.g. Colin Bates) or players that weren’t among the Top 12 in usage (e.g. Richie Mirowski).

Oct 132011
 

Scottsdale was doubled up 10-5 for its second straight loss.

Sammy Solis was knocked around for four runs on six hits and a walk over his four innings of work, giving up a pair of runs in the first and third innings. He threw 63 pitches, 42 for strikes while getting six outs on the ground and three flyouts.

Derek Norris was the designated hitter and went 0-for-2 with a run scored. He walked twice and struck out once.
                                          #                                     #                                     #

As mentioned earlier this week, winter leagues in Mexico, Venezuela, and the Dominican are starting up this week. The editorial plan is to feature the AFL on a daily basis, but check in on the other Nats on a weekly basis. As expected, just one Nat farmhand is playing in the Mexican League (Pat McCoy) while roughly a dozen or so are in the Venezuelan League.

Oct 122011
 

A much busier day than usual for the Nats prospects in yesterday’s 3-2 loss by the Scottsdale Scorpions. The highlights:

  • Bryce Harper went 0-for-3 with a walk while playing RF, where he made two putouts and had a triple go off his glove. On his walk he stole second but was caught trying to steal third with one out and the Scorpions trailing 3-1
  • Derek Norris caught and went 1-for-3 with a run scored, but committed an error while attempting to throw out a runner at second
  • Zach Walters went 2-for-3 with an RBI while playing 3B, where he had one assist
  • Rafael Martin made his first appearance, tossing a scoreless inning while issuing a walk and striking out one
  • Pat Lehman suffered through two innings, giving up two runs on four hits, including a solo HR

Scottsdale returns to .500 (3-3) with the loss. Sammy Solis is slated to start tonight’s game against the Salt River Rafters.