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.

Feb 062015
 

Picking up where we left off, here are Washington’s nos. 16 through 31 in the 2015 Baseball America Prospect Handbook:

16. Taylor Hill 21. Spencer Kieboom 26. Drew Vettleson
17. Jake Johansen (8) 22. Raudy Read 27. Hector Silvestre
18. Felipe Rivero 23. Matt Grace 28. John Simms
19. Jefry Rodriguez (21) 24. Matt Skole (4) 29. Robbie Dickey
20. Rafael Bautista (28) 25. Victor Robles 30. Nick Lee (26)
31. Wander Suero


One of the things that struck me was how some of the prospects remained on the list despite injuries and/or poor performance, which may be acceptable for a younger player, but not so much for the older player. Yes, the Nationals skew older because they draft older, but it sometimes feels like incumbency (or dexterity) is given far too much credence.

Almost half of the 2015 list was not on the 2014 list, which is not unusual given the nature of the beast. Let’s take a look at how the newcomers break down:

2014 Draft — Erick Fedde (4), Jakson Reetz (14), Robbie Dickey (29)

2013 Draft — John Simms (28)

2012 Draft — Spencer Kieboom (21)

2011 Draft — Taylor Hill (16)

2010 Draft — Matt Grace (23)

Int’l Free Agent — Reynaldo Lopez (3), Wilmer Difo (7), Raudy Read (22), Victor Robles (25), Hector Silvestre (27)

Trade — Felipe Rivero (18), Drew Vettleson (26)

As alluded yesterday, there seem to be some returns coming out of the Dominican Republic five years past the “Dark Times of 2009,” with five of the newcomers and nine overall signed by the Nationals from the Caribbean nation, all since 2010. That may not be enough to satisfy the tastes of the folks who want Puig-like spending, but perhaps aren’t aware of the gamble that entails (3rd graf).

BA’s pandering to fantasy baseball fans three-year projection is back, but before I reveal it, a reminder of what BA projected in 2012* about the 2015 Washington lineup:
* The 2012 book went to press before the Gio Gonzalez trade; originally the nos. 3-5 pitchers were Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole, and Matt Purke.
C – Wilson Ramos
1B – Michael Morse
2B – Anthony Rendon
SS – Danny Espinosa
3B – Ryan Zimmerman
LF – Jayson Werth
CF – Brian Goodwin
RF – Bryce Harper
#1P – Stephen Strasburg
#2P – Jordan Zimmermann
#3P – Gio Gonzalez
#4P – Matt Purke
#5P – Sammy Solis
CL – Drew Storen

And what we could see in 2018 (pay no attention to injuries, trades, or free agency):

C – Wilson Ramos
1B – Ryan Zimmerman
2B – Tony Renda
SS – Ian Desmond
3B – Anthony Rendon
LF – Steven Souza** Brian Goodwin
CF – Michael Taylor
RF – Bryce Harper
#1P – Stephen Strasburg
#2P – Jordan Zimmermann
#3P – Lucas Giolito
#4P – Doug Fister
#5P – Gio Gonzalez
CL – Reynaldo Lopez
** Same logic applied as in 2012 edits: Goodwin selected because he was the next-highest-rated OF

Feb 052015
 

I might not have been waiting by the mailbox as I did in years past, but the arrival of the Baseball America handbook still merits the stop-drop-and-read treatment. Over the next couple of posts, I’ll pass along my thoughts.

You’ll not be shocked to learn that — yet again — the moves the Nats made in December were not reflected in the book. As much as I understand it, I do have to wonder if the folks in Durham are doing enough to account for this. In the meantime, you’ll have to adjust your reactions to some of the rankings.

Without the Souza trade, the Nats were still ranked 12th — up from 21st in last year’s book. As you might imagine, a lot of weight is given to yet-to-throw-a-professional-pitch Erick Fedde, viewed through a prism of praise for past gambles on injury-risk players that have paid off (Anthony Rendon) or seem about to (Lucas Giolito). Obviously, the additions of Trea Turner and Joe Ross would have to improve that ranking; how much is the stuff that comment sections were made for ;-)

Let’s review how last year’s Top 30 fared:

Graduated (2) — Aaron Barrett, Blake Treinen

Traded (3) — Robbie Ray, Nathan Karns, Zach Walters

Rule 5 (1) — Adrian Nieto

Waived (1) — Eury Perez

Released (1) — Christian Garcia

Dropped Out (5) — Matt Purke, Jeff Kobernus, Brett Mooneyham, Robert Benincasa, Erik Davis

Perhaps the most encouraging trend is that we’re finally seeing a Top 30 with only “one hand” of 25-or-older guys (including Souza), though eight of them will turn 24 by the end of July. So this might be a hiccup unless we see more guys from the D.R. bubble up (hey, that rhymes!) the way eight of the top 30 have over the past two years.

With that, I’ll close with the Top 15 from the book and pick up on nos. 16-31 in the next post. Last year’s ranking, if applicable, in parentheses:

1. Lucas Giolito (1) 6. A.J. Cole (2) 11. Austin Voth (15)
2. Michael Taylor (7) 7. Wilmer Difo 12.Tony Renda (13)
3. Reynaldo Lopez 8. Drew Ward (17) 13. Pedro Severino (16)
4. Erick Fedde 9. Brian Goodwin (3) 14. Jakson Reetz
5. Steve Souza (10) 10. Nick Pivetta (22) 15. Sammy Solis (6)
Jan 312015
 

Morning Reading 2If you’re here to find out which team Kim Kardashian’s favorite prospect thinks will win the Super Bowl, well then maybe the SEO ad partner I hired isn’t so bad after all.

As the post title and pic suggests, here are few items to stew on while the dreaded month of January comes to a close.

Keith Law has ranked the Nationals farm system 9th overall, up from No. 18 last year, and the highest he’s ever ranked the Nationals (H/T Todd Boss, who lays down some more Law in his latest post).

MLB.com, who seemed to know that its audience was probably home, unveiled its Top 100 prospects last night on the MLB Network. Lucas Giolito (6th), A.J. Cole (52nd) both moved up from last year’s rankings (44 and 69 respectively), while Michael Taylor debuted at No. 42 and “San Diego” shortstop Trea Turner came in at No. 62. Baseball Prospectus has yet to reveal its Top 101, while Law put six Nats in his Top 100.

In transaction news, Baseball America notes that the Nationals have signed former Reds OF Derrick Robinson, who missed 2014 due to shoulder surgery, and IF Grant DeBruin, who spent the past two seasons in the Frontier League after going undrafted in 2012 after playing for Div. II Univ. of Alabama-Huntsville.

Finally, MASN has announced there will be seven games broadcast this year (all times 1 p.m. except March 26, which is at 5 p.m.):

• Sat., March 7 vs. Cardinals • Mon., March 9 vs. Braves • Wed., March 11 vs. Tigers • Mon., March 16 vs. Astros
• Mon., March 23 vs. Yankees • Thu., March 26 vs. Mets • Sat., April 4 vs. Yankees  
Jan 252015
 

Somehow, we almost made it through January without having to do this annual “feature” about how (almost) nothing’s going on.

How bad is it? Beat writers have resorted to noting that the Rangers now have two former Nationals pitchers named Ross

We’re also at the point where the signing of non-roster invitees is over-reported. If the Rule 5 Draft is the most overblown aspect of the offseason, the annual parade of has-beens, never-weres, and favors-to-the-agents through camp is a very close second.

The latest BA transaction post refers to those two along with the re-signing of C Brian Jeroloman while noting the releases of RHP Pedro Encarnacion, LHP Elisaul Gomez, and C Kyle Bacak, who was released shortly before being suspended for 50 games for testing positive for amphetamines which will probably end his career if his 4-for-30 effort in 12 games between the GCL and Auburn did not.

Aside from the shocking* news that the Hagerstown Suns haven’t been able to get a naming-rights partner, there’s not much else.
* Well, no, not really

Jan 182015
 

Watchlist Added3The first pass at the player reports for the 2015 Watchlist is now done. Basically, I write up the Top 10 guys, the players I saw this past season at Potomac, the short-season guys, and the essays for the M*A*S*H and Notables.

The Baseball America handbook and John Sickels’s prospect PDF have been ordered, so now we wait until they arrive to fill in the gaps, which I’ve labeled “Report Not Yet Written,” because I believe one or the other will cover the player.

The latest BA Transaction post only covered two players that hadn’t been previously reported: 1B Mike Carp, another 4A non-roster invitee; and RHP Williantony Uribarri, presumably an IFA destined for the DSL.

As always, feel free to discuss in the comments.

Jan 142015
 

So Long
Today the Nationals announced the trade of LHP Danny Rosenbaum for AAA veteran Dan Butler, as part of an offseason push to replenish the upper minors with catchers.

Rosenbaum was a 2009 pick out of Xavier University who quickly established himself as a workhorse, throwing 140+ innings in his first three full seasons (2011-2013). That also earned him a Rule 5 look-see during the 2012-13 offseason before developing Nationals elbow last spring. He was expected to spend 2015 rehabbing in the GCL and perhaps Auburn before becoming a six-year free agent.

As noted in the link above, Roberts is one of several minor-league veteran catchers (Steven Lerud, Omir Santos) added in the wake of the departures of 40-man backstop Jhonatan Solano as well as AA/AAA reserves Brian Jeroloman and Mitch Canham.

Jan 112015
 

Transactions for NPP 2
After a two-plus week hiatus, Baseball America has made its latest transaction post for the period of December 24, 2014 to January 8, 2015. Among the transactions not previously reported:

SIGNED
• OF Kevin Mattison

RELEASED
• RHP Travis Henke
• C Austin Chubb
• SS Willie Medina

Mattison was released from Milwaukee’s AAA affiliate in August following an 0-for-19 slump in his final 14 games. The 29-y.o. centerfielder was drafted by the Florida Marlins in 2008 in the 28th Rd. out of the Univ. of North Carolina at Asheville.

Henke was a 2011 pick who topped out at High-A with 5-2, 5.24 record with Potomac over part of 2013 and all of the 2014 season. Chubb was drafted in 2012 but was a backup backstop in all three of his seasons, finishing with a .622 OPS in 21 games with Hagerstown. Medina had the plug pulled after just two seasons as the 31st Rd. pick out of High Point Univ. began 2014 in Hagerstown but was demoted to Auburn after hitting just .207 over 44 games, and finished up with a .247 mark over 27 games for the Doubledays.

Jan 102015
 

This morning John Sickels released his Washington Nationals Top 20 list. Here’s a look at how it breaks down by letter grade:

A Lucas Giolito
B+ Michael Taylor, A.J. Cole
B Trea Turner, Joe Ross
B- Wilmer Difo, Erick Fedde, Reynaldo Lopez, Drew Ward
C+ Brian Goodwin, Austin Voth, Rafael Bautista, Jakson Reetz, Felipe Rivero, Pedro Severino, Raudy Read, Spencer Kieboom, Tony Renda, Chris Bostick
C Nick Pivetta

Let’s revisit my explanation for the layout…

The primary focus here is on letter grades, not numerical rank, which you can get by going top to bottom, then left in each row. Lucas Giolito is #1, Michael Taylor is #2, A.J. Cole is #3… Chris Bostick is #19, Nick Pivetta is #20.

The secondary focus is on improvement by letter grade, which you can see by the color red. Because Sickels only ranks Grade C or better, that means becoming a C+ or better guy after being previously identified as a Grade C.

Top 20 guys from 2014 are in bold while guys that played their way onto the list are in italics. Like last April, I chose not to italicize the players acquired by trade but did indicated if they improved (Joe Ross).

My apologies in advance if I misled anyone with the earlier post; I was unaware that Nick Melotte and Sickels were both doing Top 20 lists. That said, it is interesting to see, as others have noted, the differences between the two. Sickels is much higher on Goodwin while lower on Lopez. But you should click the link above to see for yourself as Sickels has a comment for each and every one.

Jan 092015
 


A little later than in years past, but five affiliates announced their 2015 coaching contingents yesterday (new hires in red):

SYRACUSE
Manager – Billy Gardner, Jr.
Pitching Coach – Bob Milacki (new hire)
Hitting Coach – Joe Dillon

HARRISBURG
Manager – Brian Daubach
Pitching Coach – Chris Michalak
Hitting Coach – Mark Harris

POTOMAC
Manager – Tripp Keister
Pitching Coach – Franklin Bravo
Hitting Coach – Brian Rupp

HAGERSTOWN
Manager – Patrick Anderson
Pitching Coach – Sam Narron
Hitting Coach – Luis Ordaz

AUBURN
Manager – Gary Cathcart
Pitching Coach – Tim Redding
Hitting Coach – Amaury Garcia

For those of you who are thinking “WHERE’S PAUL MENHART?!” worry not — the Nationals have made him the minor-league pitching coordinator while shifting longtime official Spin Williams to “senior advisor for player development.”

Byron Kerr, as usual, has the details on what’s largely a story of “It ain’t broke, so we ain’t fixin’ it.” Well, except maybe the hiring of Rick Ankiel to “life skills coordinator” (dutch uncle was perhaps too harsh?) to mentor players in the system.

Jan 072015
 

Yesterday, John Sickels’s protege Nick Melotte released his Top 20 Nationals Prospects.

Melotte does the star system — 2.5 to 5, which roughly equates to Sickels’s C to A rating, with a 2.5-star player being an organizational guy and an five-star being a future superstar. The hyperlinked article explains the gradations before getting into the list.

As I’ve done the past few years, I’ll break it down by the star (letter) system while noting the players who have improved (by grade, not numerical rank), declined, and the newcomers. It’s not a perfect translation — Melotte may have been higher/lower on a Prospect A than Sickels was in the first place, so he may not have actually improved/declined — but it’s what we have to work with.

★★★★★ Lucas Giolito
★★★★½ Michael Taylor, Reynaldo Lopez
★★★★ Trea Turner^, A.J. Cole, Erick Fedde+, Joe Ross^, Drew Ward, Austin Voth, Wilmer Difo, Jackson Reetz+
★★★½ Rafael Bautista, Tony Renda, Taylor Hill, Raudy Read, Felipe Rivero, Chris Bostick^, Robbie Dickey+, Abel De Los Santos^
★★★ Gilberto Mendez
Honorable mentions Derek Self, Brian Goodwin, Pedro Severino, Spencer Kieboom, Anderson Franco, John Simms, Steven Fuentes, Neil Holland

+ Newcomer by draft ^ Newcomer by trade

Now for some quick thoughts…

…There are only seven holdovers (bolded) from the 2014 list, and while we can’t assume the honorable mentions are nos. 21-28, it’s telling that of the 15 eligibles (four were traded, one graduated to MLB), just eight remain in the “Top 28.”

…According to the article, the honorable mentions are all three-star players; I separated from Mendez to make it easier for the list-obsessed folks to figure out who was #20 ;-)

…Just five guys played their way onto the list; the other eight were either traded for or drafted (hence the superscripts).

…Since B-/C+ guys aren’t delineated, it’s difficult to say that there are more “better than marginal” prospects, which was always something that I would look for; we’ll have to wait until next month to see how that pans out

…With the exception of Fedde, looks like Melotte takes the Weaver-esque approach (“I only deal with the living”) to prospects, which I actually prefer because the opposite leads to too much wishful thinking

As I did last year, I encourage folks to click through to read Melotte’s thoughts on Giolito, Taylor, and Lopez.