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.

Nov 222011
 

Now that the season reviews are done and the Top 10 (or 11, or 15, or 20) lists are around the corner, I’ve decided it’s time to start looking towards building the 2012 Watchlist. I’ve gone through this year’s season reviews, the Florida Instructional League invitees, and put them in a format similar to last year’s.

A few caveats…

It’s not a depth chart — I’ve arranged this by the highest level played thus far, with some exceptions (Anthony Rendon, who may not even stick at the position). Clearly you can see some gaps, but the point here is to list the players we’ve got our eye on — organizing it by position is just a logical extension.

It’s based on 2011 usage — We’ve already begun speculating about position changes, but until they actually occur, we default to how they were last used. I don’t think, for example, that Justin Bloxom will be the starting third baseman for the Senators, but I do think he’ll be on the roster.

It’s preliminary — Before John Sickels finalizes his lists, he takes feedback from his followers and I’m no different. I’ll listen to pitches for and against inclusion before I finalize it, but I also want to keep the list a manageable size (though easier than last year, I’m still going to have write reports for everybody).

It’s broken into two parts — So I can get in two posts before the Thanksgiving throngs hit the roads, the malls, and the liquor cabinet (preferably in that order). It’s infielders and catchers today, pitchers and outfielders tomorrow.

A couple final reminders: One, I tend to favor performance and a track record over reputation and youth. Two, remember that players’ families and friends are reading here and most are not like Dirk Hayhurst’s grandma*. You don’t have to be relentlessly positive, but try not to be needlessly negative (yeah, yeah: pot, kettle).
*I finished my master’s degree while renting out a room from a retired IRS agent just like her; I’m fairly certain he’s not exaggerating.

C 1B 2B SS 3B
Derek Norris Chris Marrero Steve Lombardozzi Zach Walters Justin Bloxom
Sandy Leon Tyler Moore Jeff Kobernus Jason Martinson Blake Kelso
David Freitas Steve Souza Adrian Sanchez Rick Hague Anthony Rendon
Adrian Nieto Justin Miller Hendry Jimenez Bryce Ortega Matt Skole
  Arialdi Peguero “Fred” Ortega Wilmer Difo Jean Carlos Valdez
Jose Marmolejos-Diaz Junior Geraldo Diomedes Eusebio
Nov 212011
 

Our weekly look at the Nationals players in the Winter Leagues, with all statistics as of 12:50 a.m. on November 20, 2011.
AFL HITTERS

AFL PITCHERS

DWL HITTERS

DWL PITCHERS

VWL HITTERS

VWL PITCHERS

MWL PITCHERS

PRWL PITCHERS

PRWL HITTERS

For those of you that dig the superfluous, you’ll be pleased to learn that Bryce Harper and Derek were both named to the inaugural 2011 AFL Top Prospects team.

Nov 202011
 

[Ed. Note: Another guest column from frequent commenter BinM]

Here’s an alternative rating to how well (or poorly) the Washington Nationals prospects performed with Scottsdale in the AFL this year, using simple stock market terminology. Did they either gain, lose, or maintain value in your eyes, based on their AFL results (Buy, Sell, or Hold)?

These are solely my opinions, and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and/or its employee

Bryce Harper, OF — 2010 Draft Pick (#1 overall, 19yo)
Coming off an injury out of AA Hagerstown, he delivered as expected in a repeat role for Scottsdale, producing an offensive line of 25GP, .333BA/.400OBP/.634SLG/.338BPA, 14EBH, 4SB with a 16-game hitting streak to boot. His OF errors still show he has room for overall improvement in the field.
Opinion: He’s only 19; still an unquestionable ‘Buy’ player for 2012.

Pat Lehman, RHP —2009 Draft Pick (13th round, 25yo)
Coming off a solid season divided between High-A and AA, this , 25yo) stumbled when presented with a chance to move up in the Nationals RP rankings. His final line of 12GP, 14⅔IP, 1.98WHIP, .382OBA, 4.3:1K-W, 2BS, 0-4 W-L left more than a bit to be desired for a prospect.
Opinion: Sell. This is basically the same kind of results seen from Jeff Mandel and Josh Wilkie in 2009, who also had chances to move up but posted uninspiring AFL results and slid into OG status.

Rafael Martin, RHP — 2010 Int’l Free Agent (27yo)
Signing with Washington just weeks shy of age 26, he entered the 2011 AFL season as a bit of a wildcard, with no real expectations. His season in Scottsdale yielded an overall line of 10GP, 12IP, 1.17WHIP, .200 OBA, 1.3:1K-W, showing both a cut fastball and a sinker.
Opinion: Hedging toward a ‘Buy’ status, but may still cap off at the AAA level.

Derek Norris, C — 2007 draft pick (4th round, 22yo)
Coming off a decent season at Harrisburg, Norris compiled a very good results in his second pass at the AFL, with a 21GP, 90PA, .276BA/.367OBP/.382SLG/.261BPA, 22RP, 4SB offensive line, as well as a 17-game on-base streak. The bat is there for this converted catcher, but the defense still needs work.
Opinion: Buy. His eye at the plate is rock-solid, he’s quicker than you think on the bases, and that bat should play somewhere in the field in the next year or two.

Matt Purke, LHP — 2011 Draft Pick (3rd round, 21yo)
Purke was a slightly suprising addition to the Scottsdale roster who seems to have settled down after a horrid start. His final line of 7GP, 7⅓ IP, 2.05WHIP, 1.2:1K-W, .353BAA shows some additional work is needed.
Opinion: Hold. I’m not yet convinced that he’s completely healthy, and might spend at least a partial season in a minor-league bullpen before returning to a starters’ role. As a result, he could still be a year or two out.

Sammy Solis, LHP — 2010 Draft Pick (2nd round, 23yo)
An up-and-down fall season for the southpaw, following a regular season shortened by minor injuries. His final line of 7GS, 26IP, 4.50ERA, 1.73WHIP, 1.4:1K-W, while still possessing a high-end FB, and the ongoing development of a solid overhand curve bodes well for his future with the organization.
Opinion: Buy, but don’t overcommit. He’s a LH with a likely #3SP role in the majors as his top end, but could still be two years away.

Zach Walters, IF — 2010 Draft Pick by Arizona (9th round, 22yo)
Coming from the Diamondbacks in a July trade for Jason Marquis, Walters was a steady player at SS in Potomac late in 2011. Shifted to 3B by other prospects in Scottsdale, he compiled a less-than-impressive 24GP, 89PA, .205BA/.253OPB/.301SLG/.189BPA, 6EBH, 14RP, 5.3:1 K:W overall line, with a high number of errors (albeit out of position).
Opinion: Hold. He was clearly ‘in over his head’ this fall season, but that doesn’t preclude some growth as a player going forward. A player to watch in 2012.

Nov 192011
 

Now that the dust has settled from the Rule 5 deadline, let’s take a look at who’s eligible. One mistake I made was overlooking the Dominican League players, hence missing Eury Perez. Thus, I spent some time putting into a spreadsheet all the DSL and GCL players from 2007 forward that appear to be still active. That’s where things get tricky, of course.

Because it’s a maintenance nightmare, I’ll keep that list offline but refer to it next November. I’ve been told that even folks in the MLB front offices are befuddled by this exercise, so I feel a little less stupid. As Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus tweeted yesterday: “Who does/doesn’t get added to the 40-man says as much about the player as it does the chances of him getting hid on a roster for a year.”

So here’s my latest pass at who’s eligible for the Rule 5 draft for the first time this year:
Manuel Rivera
Carlos Alvarez
Adrian Sanchez
Angel Montilla
Hendry Jimenez
Brett Newsome
Marcos Frias
Sandy Leon
Francisco Soriano
Steve Souza
Josh Smoker
J.R. Higley
Jose Lozada
Chris Curran
Pat McCoy
Tanner Roark
Erik Komatsu

The odds are better than even that I missed someone, so my apologies in advance. Like the watchlist, it’s in order of the highest level played, which is roughly short-season A to AA. I wish I had more information about the minor-league phase of the draft, but as I mentioned in the comments, who’s protected isn’t readily available thus it’s nearly impossible to speculate on who might be taken. As you can see from last year’s results (scroll down), it’s mostly pitchers and catchers that get moved around.

Likewise, here’s a thumbnail list of who’s eligible for the first time next year. With the college tilt of the past few drafts, you can see that a couple of these names are likely to be gone by next April, never mind next November:
Nathan Karns
Bobby Hansen
Taylor Jordan
Paul Applebee
Shane McCatty
Matt Swynenberg
Chad Jenkins
Andruth Ramirez
Justino Cuevas
Jeff Kobernus
Justin Bloxom
Destin Hood
Adrian Nieto
J.P. Ramirez
Paul Demny
Trevor Holder
Dean Weaver
Mitchell Clegg
Rob Wort
Pat Lehman
Danny Rosenbaum
Sean Nicol
Evan Bronson

The folks that were dismissive of the ’08 DSL champs can have their “told you so” — Justino Cuevas is the sole rookie from that team still in the organization (Andruth Ramirez played for the “JV” DSL Nationals 2) and has yet to play at the AA level. The ’09 rookies aren’t looking much better, with none thus far having played full-season baseball. But as I’ve stated previously, the reliance on the DSL for teenage talent really shows up when you look ahead to the the ’13-’15 drafts: 13 of 31, 12 of 37, and 27 of 28 (Deion Williams is the sole 2015 American-born Rule 5 candidates.

Nov 182011
 

It’s like so weird…

According to multiple online sources, the Nationals have re-claimed Cole Kimball, who had been placed on waivers by Toronto Blue Jays in the wake of tonight’s midnight deadline to submit 40-man rosters for the the Rule 5 draft.

According to Mark Zuckerman
, the move was required when the Blue Jays claimed another pitcher (Andrew Carpenter) off waivers from the Padres and were trying to clear room for him.

At virtual press, 16 of the 30 MLB teams have added players thus far, per MLBDepthCharts.com

UPDATE:
As pointed out below, the Nationals have announced the following four players have been added to the 40-man roster:

  • 1B Tyler Moore
  • C Jhonatan Solano
  • CF Eury Perez
  • C Derek Norris

The selection of Solano is the most curious, and one has to think that this means that either Jesus Flores or Norris could be traded, with Solano as the fallback option. Perez is a close second, especially for a position player that hadn’t reached AA.

Thus, notable names that appear to be eligible:
Adrian Sanchez
Marcos Frias
Hector Nelo
Josh Smoker
Sandy Leon
Pat McCoy
Stephen King
Erik Komatsu
Tanner Roark
Brad Meyers

None of these is terribly surprising, and yes, that includes Brad Meyers. As previously reported, players with an injury history are often left unprotected, as are position players with either little AA or AAA experience (e.g. Leon) or coming off subpar seasons (e.g. McCoy).

Nov 182011
 

Bryce Harper singled and tripled in the Arizona Fall League finale, which the Scottsdale Scorpions lost, 6-2.

The 2-for-3 effort pushed the 19-year-old’s batting average to .333, thanks to a 16-game hit streak and a .424 finish (28-for-66) over his last 18 games. Of course, Harper also struck out and was picked off first and made no putouts in left field, but those are nits for the Nats bandwagon, as I’m sure we can expect the drum for Harper to be the next Heyward all winter long (pay no attention to the latter’s .227/.319/.389 sophomore slump and make no correlations, right?).

Derek Norris went 0-for-3 to lower his line to .276/.367/.382 but threw out a baserunner and stole a base himself (#4). Despite the 0-for-13 finish, Norris is still a near-lock to be added to the 40-man roster and start 2012 in Syracuse. He reached base 18 of 21 games.

Zach Walters stayed off the interstate by going 1-for-3 with an RBI double to finish with a .205 mark. Not bad for a kid that began the year as a 21-year-old in Low-A. The signs of Josh Johnson and Chris McConnell above him on the Nats ladder make Potomac his most likely starting point for 2012, not to mention his mere 30 games of High-A experience.

Scottsdale finished the 2011 season with a 14-22 mark, last in the East division of the Arizona Fall League and tied with Phoenix for the circuit’s worst record. Last year, Scottsdale won the AFL championship.

And as if yesterday’s chill rains weren’t a talisman, winter has “officially” begun.

Nov 172011
 

Since the minor-league free agency period began a couple of weeks ago, the Nationals have re-signed four of their own free agents…

  • Josh Johnson (Harrisburg)
  • Seth Bynum (Syracuse)
  • Carlos Maldonado (Syracuse)
  • Jesus Valdez (Harrisburg/Syracuse)

This, of course, is relatively old news to the diehards, but I’m also aware that not everybody sticks around to read the comments; hence this post. For folks that can’t wait, here’s the Calgon. For the folks under 40, that’s a reference to this classic, not exactly PC, 30-second TV ad.

Nov 172011
 

Just two Nats relievers got into last night’s 4-3 loss by Scottsdale.

Pat Lehman got back on the horse with a scoreless inning, allowing one hit, but no walks and no strikeouts to drop his ERA to three digits at 9.82.

Rafael Martin walked one but also laid a goose egg on the scoreboard, allowing no hits and striking out none in his single inning of work.

The AFL wraps up this afternoon as the Scorpions visit the Solar Sox. Sammy Solis is not listed as the starter, so it’s most likely one more start for the position player trio of Derek Norris, Zach Walters, and, um, whatshisname, oh yeah… Bryce Harper.

Nov 162011
 

Well, it wouldn’t be any fun if we could predict every move, right?

As the headline says, Cole Kimball was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays while Corey Brown cleared them and was outrighted to Syracuse. Kimball is an interesting risk for the Blue Jays, given that he’s unlikely to pitch until mid ’12 after undergoing surgery this past July. Brown had the beginning and end of ’11 cut short by injuries, but did get a September call-up.

The moves knock down the Nationals’ 40-man roster to 32 ahead of the Friday deadline for the Rule 5 draft. As mentioned in the comments, it’s fair to speculate that these may not be the only players dropped, given that the most recent waiver period only began a few days ago, and these two move were most likely made on Monday morning (the waiver period is 48 hours).

Nov 162011
 

Bryce Harper continued his torrid hitting while Scorpions remain tepid, losing again by a 4-1 count.

Harper went 2-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and a stolen base. Defensively, he caught a foul fly but committed his sixth error on a missed catch.

Derek Norris remained ice-cold with another oh-fer, striking out twice in four at-bats and also committing an error on a throw. That was his seventh miscue of the fall.

Zach Walters wouldn’t be left out of this mistake-fest, committing his sixth error while playing third base. Offensively, he went 1-for-4 with a strikeout.

On the pitching side, Matt Purke turned in another scoreless outing, his fourth straight. He allowed a hit but struck out two, throwing 12 of his 16 pitches for strikes.

Scottsdale hosts Peoria for its final home game tonight, before finishing up the 2011 season tomorrow afternoon. Sammy Solis is not listed as a starter for either game.