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.

Apr 092015
 


It’s a full slate today for minor-league Opening Day for the second straight season as the Chiefs visit the RailRiders, the Senators host the Curve, the P-Nats host the Hillcats, and the Suns visit the Crawdads.

Well, weather permitting. Again. The first-pitch forecast is 47 degrees and a 50% chance of rain in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; 50 and 45% in Harrisburg, 55 and 35% chance in Woodbridge, and 75 and 85% in Zebulon, NC.

Team Today’s Game Pitching Matchup (’14 Stats at Level)
Syracuse @ Scranton/Wilkes-Barre,
7:05 p.m.
Cole (6-3, 2.92) vs.
Mitchell (4-2, 3.67)
Harrisburg vs. Altoona,
6:30 p.m.
Voth (1-3, 6.52) vs.
A. Sanchez (0-2, 4.32)
Potomac vs. Lynchburg,
7:05 p.m.
Pivetta (13-8, 4.22 @ Low-A) vs.
Baker (3-3, 4.05)
Hagerstown @ Hickory,
7:00 p.m.
A. Williams (4-3, 4.66 @ SS-A) vs.
Jurado (2-1, 1.62 @ AZL)


Just the annual reminder: These pitchers are not necessarily the team’s #1 starter. They are, within a slot or two, how the Nationals would like the starters to align from Low-A to MLB in the event of promotions or injuries.

Based on what I’ve been able to gather (or been told, H/T Mayflies’ Mick Reinhard), here’s how the rest of the starting rotations will round out:

TEAM Game 2 Game 3 Game 4 Game 5
Syracuse Jordan Hill McGregor Billings
Harrisburg Ross Espino Alderson Swynenberg
Potomac Rauh Schwartz TBD TBD
Hagerstown Bach L. Reyes TBD TBD


Obviously, there’s some intrigue as to who will start Games 4 and 5 for the “A” teams. Potomac, for example, has Nick Lee, Matthew Spann, Dakota Bacus, and Wander Suero as candidates while Hagerstown has R.C. Orlan, Drew Van Orden, and Andrew Cooper. As the press release cycle starts up, we’ll know more.

And another reminder: These rotations are very likely to be short-lived, especially with the likes of Reynaldo Lopez, Robbie Dickey, Jefry Rodriguez, and some other guy expected to arrive within three weeks or so.

Apr 082015
 

Yesterday, the Washington Nationals affiliates officially announced the 2015 Opening Day rosters. Let’s take a look at who landed where to begin the season.

SYRACUSE
Watchlist Pitchers — A.J. Cole, Felipe Rivero, Taylor Hill, Matt Grace
Watchlist Position Players — Cutter Dykstra

HARRISBURG
Watchlist Pitchers — Abel de Los Santos, Bryan Harper, Gilberto Mendez, Joe Ross, Austin Voth
Watchlist Position Players — Pedro Severino, Stephen Perez, Tony Renda, Matt Skole, Shawn Pleffner, Drew Vettleson

POTOMAC
Watchlist Pitchers — Jake Johansen, Nick Pivetta, Matt Spann, Wander Suero, Justin Thomas, Jake Walsh
Watchlist Position Players — Spencer Kieboom, Chris Bostick, Wilmer Difo, Drew Ward, John Wooten, James Yezzo, Isaac Ballou, Rafael Bautista

HAGERSTOWN
Watchlist Pitchers — None
Watchlist Position Players — Raudy Read, Austin Davidson, Jose Marmolejos-Diaz, D.K. Carey

M.I.A. — Robbie Dickey, Ian Dickson, Lucas Giolito, Cody Gunter, Brian Goodwin, Reynaldo Lopez, Jefry Rodriguez, Hector Silvestre, Sammy Solis, John Simms, Kylin Turnbull.

Obviously, there are more that fall into that last batch… but for the sake of expediency, I’m limiting my analysis to the watchlist.

• For those of you who haven’t heard, Giolito and Lopez are both being held back in XST, and that’s presumably the case with most of the other pitchers.

• If indeed Lopez and Giolito are activated in late April, the best bet is for them to debut at the Pfitz during the midweek games of the first homestand in May.

• That Brian Goodwin isn’t ready is in line with our suspicion that he’s much further behind in his recovery than team officials have stated, which is hardly a shock given the amount of time it took for them to divulge that he had labrum surgery at all.

• It’s interesting that players on the DL have not yet been identified. While not a surefire indicator, it’s a least a hint as to where they might end up.

• Folks shouldn’t read too much into Hagerstown having no watchlist pitchers — they do have five 2014 draft picks, and one of the flaws of the watchlist is that short-season guys can (and do) get shortchanged if they don’t succeed right away in the GCL or the NYPL.

• It’s tough to make out what the plans are for Matt Skole with his placement at Harrisburg, but it may be more of a comment on the club’s wanting Ian Stewart and Kila Ka‘aihue in Syracuse and available as replacements for Ryan Zimmerman and/or Anthony Rendon.

• Felipe Rivero is not starting for Syracuse; the team announced a rotation of Cole-Jordan-Hill-McGregor-Billings.

• Austen Williams is the only other Opening Day starter that’s been announced.

• Finally, longtime Nats/Expos farmhand Devin Ivany is listed as a coach for the Senators.

As always, feel free to discuss in the comments. Opening Night — weather permitting :-( — is tomorrow!

Apr 062015
 

Catching Up On Transactions
While others were hitting refresh on the Washington MLB.com 40-man roster yesterday, confirming that the Michael Taylor era has begun (as well as yet another Rizzo-era Arizona draftee making the cut), we were scanning the wires for the latest moves in the minors…

SYRACUSE
• Released C Omir Santos

GCL Nationals
• Released RHP John Costa

DSL Nationals
• LHP Isaias Silfa retired

Admittedly, it’s not much. Santos hadn’t been more than a backup since 2009 and played just 11 games in 2014. Costa was drafted in the 13th round in June 2013 as a TJS gamble that didn’t pan out (yes, it happens). Silfa appeared in one (1) DSL game last summer as a 20-y.o. lefthander and finishes with a career 0.00 ERA (and a 9.00 BB, K, and HBP per 9IP).

Should the Baseball America weekly dispatch include others not listed here, this space will be updated. Otherwise, we await the release of the rosters tomorrow and Wednesday.

Apr 032015
 

Morning Reading
We’re still here, just waiting out the rest of spring training. As is my offseason custom to keep the site from going stale, here are some stories to read.

Games start up on Thursday in the minors and I’m anticipating rosters to be released on the 7th. With a shorter window to work with in the mornings, I may not be able to write them up with much or any commentary, so my apologies in advance.

John Sickels has released his rankings of the MLB farm systems, with the Nationals coming in at No. 16, up from No. 22 last year. That’s what’s more important: not the ranking, but the acknowledgement that the system has improved.

Washington also came in at No. 16 on BA’s 2014 International Spending By Team. Be sure to read the caveats for they are significant, particularly as they relate to Cuban FAs.

Lastly, I’d like to give some play to a blog by San Francisco minor-leaguer Matt Paré called “Homeless Minor Leaguer,” recently featured on NBC Sports’ HardballTalk. I’m hyperlinking there because I think it’s the best place to start.

I’m always fascinated by these kinds of first-person accounts, even if many of them don’t live up to the standard set by Dirk Hayhurst. Sadly, the Nationals once had such a player but basically ordered him to stop.

That’s all for now. Next up (most likely) another transaction update.

Mar 282015
 

So Long
Yesterday, there was another round of cuts in spring training… the big one that usually comes earlier in March, but was most likely delayed this year due to the bevy of injuries. In the latest transaction post from Baseball America today, we learned the following Nationals minor-leaguers have been released:

  • OF Garrett Gordon (Auburn)
  • RHP D.J. Jauss (GCL)
  • RHP Jean Ramirez (GCL)
  • UT Mike McQuillan (Potomac)
  • LHP Brandon Sisk (Offseason pickup)

The closest thing to a surprise was the release of Jean Ramirez, but that’s primarily because of his age (20). This is the flip side to the free-agent signings in the offseason — to make room, some guys are going to be let go, which for most means their days as a pro baseball player are over.

Mar 242015
 

Shifting-GearsOrdinarily, the decision to stop spring-training coverage is based on a large set of cuts or the manager stating he’ll be playing the regulars, but this year, I’m simply making the call based on a gut reaction: It’s time to step back and wait for the minor-league seasons to start.

Thanks to injuries, it does seem rather obvious that Michael Taylor has a good chance to make the big club. Aside from that, there’s not as much intrigue or enough of an excuse to continue writing every day. I’ve gotten back into the rhythm, and feel like I’ll be ready to go in a couple weeks (and a couple of days) from now.

This is where I might remind folks about what to expect in the coming months, but what hasn’t changed is that I have less time than in years past. Some features will go away, others will be shifted to the weekend, and some coverage will be reduced, if not eliminated.
All I can promise is to deliver what I can, when I can, and the best that I can in the time that I do have.

Mar 232015
 

The Nats rallied for three in the bottom of the 7th to overcome a 6-4 deficit and held on for 7-6 win that brings Washington’s 2015 spring record to .500 at 9-9-3.

Doug Fister was dinged for four runs on seven hits, including two home runs as he pitched four and a 1/3rd innings in his fourth Grapefruit League start.

Drew Ward made his first major-league spring start and singled in his first at-bat to load the bases, pushing along Michael Taylor and Clint Robinson who had drawn one-out walks in the second. Ward would finish 1-for-2 while Taylor singled and scored in the 4th to go 1-for-3 on the day.

Among the notable minor-leaguers to appear off the bench:

  • Tony Renda entered the game in the 6th as the 2B and went 0-for-2 in place of Ward in the lineup.
  • Stephen Perez pinch-ran for SS Ian Desmond, scored in the 7th and took over shortstop duties in the 8th.
  • Likewise for Drew Vettleson for RF Bryce Harper.
  • And the same Matt Skole for 1B Ryan Zimmerman.
  • Cutter Dykstra flew out to RF as a pinch-hitter in the 7th.
  • D.K. Carey replaced Taylor in CF but did not come to bat.

Following the game, the Nationals optioned RHP Taylor Jordan to AAA while reassigning 1B-3B Matt Skole and RHP Evan Meek to minor-league camp. RHP Heath Bell, who earned a save for closing out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth, was released.

Mar 222015
 

The Nats used the longball to score in five straight innings to build a 6-2 lead but the ‘pen gave it away with two in the 7th, and solo HRs in the 8th and 9th innings for a 7-7 tie.

A.J. Cole stepped in for Stephen Strasburg and shut down Detroit on the first turn through the lineup but was dinged for his fourth HR in four appearances with the big club, finishing with two runs allowed on the one hit and two walks with five strikeouts over three and 2/3rds.

Tanner Roark turned in his second clean outing in relief of Cole, getting the last out of the 4th and pitching around a pair of singles in the 5th.

Michael Taylor homered twice off Tiger ace Justin Verlander to lead off the 3rd and 5th innings and finished the afternoon at 2-for-3, which raised his spring batting average to .324 (11-for-34).

Out-of-options Sandy Leon also started and went 1-for-3 with an RBI. In ten appearances, he’s 6-for-19 with three RBI.

Coming off the bench were…

…Delta Cleary Jr., who struck out in his lone at-bat as Taylor’s replacement.
…Cutter Dykstra, who subbed for Dan Uggla at 2B and was 0-for-1.
…Randolph Oduber, who pinch-ran for Tyler Moore and scored and later singled and scored a second run.
…Matt Skole, who pinch-ran for Ian Stewart and drove in Oduber with an 8th-inning single. He was later caught stealing to end the 8th.
…Spencer Kieboom, who followed Leon and was 0-for-1.

The Nats return to Viera tomorrow to host the Yankees. The game will be broadcast live on MASN and on the radio at 1580 and 1500 AM.

Mar 212015
 

Split Doubleheader
The hometown fans left the park happy today, as the Nats doubled up the Marlins, 4-2 in Viera while the Braves followed the Disney fun mandate with a 5-2 triumph in Orlando.

At Space Coast, the Nats scored all four in the 3rd inning as Wilson Ramos plated two with a one-out single, then Dan Uggla homered to erase an early 1-0 deficit. Jordan Zimmermann went five innings total in his fourth spring start, scattering eight hits while walking none and fanning four.

The Marlins got their final run in the 9th off Rafael Martin, who issued a one-out walk and gave up a two-out double, but was credited with the save.

At Champion Stadium, a 2-0 lead vanished when journeyman reliever Evan Meek allowed the first five runners to reach base in the 4th and three of them came around to score. Taylor Jordan got the start and allowed just a hit and a walk over three innings.

Michael Taylor got the start in CF for the visiting Nats and went 2-for-3 with a run scored.

Here’s a rundown of how the notable minor-leaguers fared in Viera:

  • Kevin Keyes subbed for Bryce Harper in RF and was 0-for-1 with a strikeout.
  • Shawn Pleffner followed Ryan Zimmerman at 1B and struck out in his lone at-bat.
  • Chris Bostick took over at 2B from Uggla and singled in the 8th inning.
  • John Wooten subbed for Danny Espinosa at 3B and was 0-for-1.
  • Cutter Dykstra grounded out to first as a pinch-hitter.

And in Orlando:

  • Rafael Bautista followed Taylor in CF and went 0-for-1 with a whiff.
  • Matt Skole was 0-for-1 in relief of Mike Carp at 1B.
  • Tony Renda went 0-for-1 as the sub for 2B Kevin Frandsen.
  • Sandy Leon was 0-for-1 as the replacement for C Jose Lobaton.
  • Drew Vettleson drew a walk as the second RF, following Clint Robinson.

The Nats make their second trip to Lakeland to visit the Tigers, with A.J. Cole getting the start in place of Stephen Strasburg. The game can be heard locally on 1580AM.

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In the latest transaction report from Baseball America, we learned that RHPs Richie Mirowski and Melvi Salazar joined Jeff Kobernus on the list of released players over the past few days. Mirowski was a 45th Rd. pick in 2011 and came into the 2014 season with much promise after a strong AFL campaign in the fall of 2013, but struggled in his second go ’round in AA, posting a 6.23 ERA in 10 appearances before dropping down to Potomac. Salazar, who turned 20 in December, hit the wall in the GCL with 25 baserunners allowed in 15⅓ innings. In 2013, he had been 4-0 with 13 saves and a 0.98 ERA in his second DSL season.

Mar 202015
 

Washington scored four times in the 1st and withstood a pair of late rallies by Houston to win, 7-5. Starting pitcher Max Scherzer was dinged for a solo HR but gave up just three hits total in his five innings of work to earn the win. He struck out six and walked none.

With the 25-man candidates playing longer, the Nats gave most of the veterAAAAn reserves time off the bench in preparation for the second and final split-squad doubleheader tomorrow. Just three watchlist players appeared in this afternoon’s game:

  • Cutter Dykstra, who was 0-for-2 with a strikeout while playing 2B in place of Dan Uggla
  • Sandy Leon singled twice in two ABs while subbing for C Jose Lobaton
  • Matt Skole struck out as a pinch-hitter for Scherzer

As aforementioned, the Nats will host the Marlins while sending a second team to the House of Mouse to visit the Braves. The Viera game will be broadcast locally on 1580 AM while the Orlando contest can be heard on MLB Radio.