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.

Mar 052016

Both hands on the keyboard.

The Nats top prospect for the past four seasons lived up to the billing in his first spring training outing as he struck out three in the first of his two innings of work yesterday against the Marlins. He worked around an error in the 5th and gave up a hit in the 6th while rolling three groundouts.

As for the game, the Nats lost with one out in the 9th when ex-Nat Justin Maxwell took non-roster invite Paolo Espino deep for a three-run homer to hand Washington its first loss of the spring.

Gio Gonzalez also made his spring training debut and threw two scoreless innings, giving up a pair of two-out safeties in the 2nd before retiring the fifth batter of the inning on a flyball.

The Nats used the lonbgball to take the 4-2 lead that was later lost. Michael Taylor left the band the yard as went he went solo with one out in the 2nd. Wilmer Difo (1-for-3, R, 3RBI) continued to channel Ian Desmond as he committed his third error in three games but also hit a three-run homer in the top of the 5th.

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

  • Trea Turner started at 2B and went 0-for-1 with a walk
  • Ditto for Christopher Bostick as Turner’s sub
  • Jason Martinson followed Tyler Moore at 1B and was 1-for-2
  • Brian Goodwin was the DH to start and went 0-for-1 with a walk
  • Raudy Read pinch-hit for Goodwin and went 0-for-2 with a whiff
  • Abel De Los Santos struck out two while working around a Bostick error in the 8th

Stephen Strasburg will take the hill today in Viera, opposed by ex-Nat Jordan Zimmermann. The game can be heard on MLB Audio with the Detroit radio feed.

Mar 042016

Washington put up a four-spot in the 1st and never looked back in a 9-4 win over the defending N.L. champs.

The Nats’ ace Max Scherzer cruised through two scoreless innings, allowing one hit, no walks and striking out one. Yusmeiro Petit was the first of six relievers to follow Scherzer, and let in the second Mets run.

Non-roster invites Jhonatan Solano, Reed Johnson, and Jason Martinson were among the starters and batted 7-8-9 in the lineup, with Johnson collecting an RBI single and Martinson drawing a walk.

A rundown of how the notable minor-leaguers did yesterday…

  • Matt Skole followed Clint Robinson at 1B and went 0-for-2 with a whiff.
  • Trea Turner subbed for Danny Espinosa at SS and connected on a solo HR in the 5th, then flew out to RF to finish 1-for-2.
  • Spencer Kieboom spelled Solano (S-o-l-a-n-o, *ding*) at catcher and singled twice in two ABs while scoring a run.
  • Nick Lee pitched a 1-2-3 ninth and struck out one.

Lucas Giolito will set hearts aflutter—and social media atwitter—as he’s slated to make his spring training debut today in Jupiter, FL where the Nats will visit the Marlins this afternoon. Gio Gonzalez is expected to make the start.

Mar 032016

Scott Sizemore’s three-run blast in the 6th broke open a 2-1 game as the Nats tripled up the Rays, 6-2 in the 2016 Grapefruit League opener.

As is custom in spring-training road games, few regulars made the bus trip. Tanner Roark got the start and turned in two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk and while fanning three.

The win went to Rafael Martin for pitching a scoreless 5th while the hold went to Sammy Solis (1-2-3 sixth) and the save went to Erik Davis, who came on in the 9th with two men on base and retired the only batter he faced on a 4-3 groundout.

Here’s a rundown of how the watchlist minor-leaguers fared:

  • Trea Turner went 0-for-2 with a strikeout as he led off and played SS
  • Wilmer Difo singled and scored a run but also committed two errors
  • Christopher Bostick went 1-for-3 with an RBI
  • Likewise for Matt Skole
  • Pedro Severino replaced Jose Lobaton as catcher and went 0-for-2
  • Spencer Kieboom batted 9th as the DH but struck out in both plate appearances
  • Matt Grace let up two hits in the 7th but let in neither
  • Austin Voth followed and allowed two hits and a walk but also struck out three

Washington makes its Viera debut today against the New York Mets with Max Scherzer expected to start. The game can be heard on MLB audio with the away feed (sorry, it’s another week until Charlie and Dave, but it’s still better than FP).

Mar 022016

And not a moment too soon.

It’s a certainly a different dynamic than a year ago. Expectations are much lower, but the managerial talent is much, much higher.

Like Matt Williams as a manager, we don’t belong here – spring training is for the big boys and the big club, even if the team’s undisputed No. 1 prospect is in the clubhouse (and he brought treats, too).

But we’ll pretend we do for about three weeks so I can re-establish my routine and have something to write about nearly every morning as opposed to once or twice a week.

It starts this afternoon with a road game against Tampa Bay with audio coverage via webcast.

Mar 012016

Transactions for NPP 2
We finally made it to March. Spring Training games start tomorrow. But first, let’s take care of some housekeeping with a look at the transactions from the past two weeks, as reported by Baseball America:

• Signed RHPs Burke Bandenhop, Matt Belisle, J.C. Gutierrez, and Connor Porter
• Released C Edward Trejos

Bandenhop and Belisle are the prototpyical veteran signs who are in camp for a look-see as the big club – like all do this time of year – looks to shuffle and solidify the bullpen. Neither has spent significant time in the minors in the past five seasons.

Gutierrez is a re-sign, having made nine appearances for Syracuse last August and September. Gutierrez last appeared in the MLB during the 2014 season.

Porter has the kind of stats and specs that scream “project” – a 54.00 ERA and 6.00 WHIP in one (1) appearance in the Frontier League in 2015 and a 4.40 ERA, 1.53 WHIP in 29 appearances in the 2013 and 2014 seasons for the University of Memphis. The 22-y.o. is listed at 6’8″ and 202 lbs.

Trejos appeared in just 29 games as a 17- and 18-y.o. backup catcher for the DSL and GCL Nationals and posted a career OPS of just .613.

Feb 272016

For the minors fans, the news is sparse this time of year, but thanks to MASN’s Byron Kerr, we can at least discuss the annual list of minor-leaguers who’ve been asked to come to camp early, a.k.a. “accelerated camp.”

This is the analog to the Fall Instrux – extra time for instruction, etc. And, of course, a chance for the Nats to make sure everyone’s moving in the right direction.

As I’ve previously noted, it’s difficult to make realistic inferences from who’s been invited or not, but I have marked up the list…

Joan Baez Grant Borne Raudy Read Osvaldo Abreu Telmito Agustin
Ryan Brinley Matt Crownover Jakson Reetz Zack Cox Rafael Bautista
Weston Davis Taylor Guilbeau Matt Reistetter Anderson Franco Blake Perkins
Matt Derosier Taylor Hearn Jorge Tillero Kelvin Gutierrez Victor Robles
Wirkin Estevez Tyler Watson Edwin Lora Andrew Stevenson
Erick Fedde Bryan Mejia Rhett Wiseman
Koda Glover Jose Marmolejos-Diaz
Cody Gunter Stephen Perez
Jake Johansen Shawn Pleffner
Andrew Lee Ian Sagdal
Reynaldo Lopez Max Schrock
Tyler Mapes Drew Ward
Luis Reyes
Mariano Rivera III
Jefry Rodriguez
John Simms
Luis Reyes
Phillips Valdez
Austen Williams

… with red for guys not on the watchlist, blue for 2015 Draft picks, with purple for those are both, while resisting the urge to demarcate the surfeit of soap-opera first names (e.g. 80% of the LHPs. Just sayin’).

This time around perhaps the only unfamiliar name to the non-regulars is Zach Cox, who’s probably this year’s Mario Lisson – a veteran being asked to “plug and play” at either Harrisburg or Syracuse and probably both by year’s end.

Also, as usual, there are a couple of veteran names to remove a little bit of doubt as to who’s had their last gasp, which is also an unfortunate part of both spring training and the offseason.

Until next time — or when the games begin…

Feb 242016

Last night, John Sickels released his Washington Nationals Top 20 prospects list for 2016. Here’s how it breaks down by letter grade:

A Lucas Giolito
A- Trea Turner
B/B+ Victor Robles
B Reynaldo Lopez, A.J. Cole
B/B- Erick Fedde
B- Wilmer Difo, Anderson Franco, Austin Voth
B-/C+ Andrew Stevenson
C+ Osvaldo Abreu, Rafael Bautista, Christopher Bostick, Pedro Severino, Max Schrock, Rhett Wiseman
C+/C Raudy Read, Abel De Los Santos, Koda Glover, Andrew Lee

Let’s revisit my explanation for the layout…

The primary focus here is on letter grades, not numerical rank, which if you must know, you can get by going top to bottom, then left in each row. Lucas Giolito is #1, Trea Turner is #2, Victor Robles is #3… Koda Glover is #19, Andrew Lee is #20.

The secondary focus is on improvement by letter grade, which you can see by the color red. The opposite, i.e. folks who have dropped a notch, are in blue.

Top 20 guys from 2015 are in bold. Guys who played their way onto the list are in italics. Draft picks from last June are in green.

The last category is interesting because there are two ways of looking at it: (1) the system was so weak that the new talent simply looks better in comparison (2) the Nats drafted really well.  I’ll leave that up to the draft gurus to debate in the comments, but I think I have to lean towards the latter when I look back at previous iterations of this post and realize there’s never been this many just-drafted picks to make the Top 20 (hence the Kermitization 😉

It’s also interesting that Sickels is outlining the guys that are straddling two grades, which he also points out with nos. 11-7 (the C+ guys and Raudy Read):

Significant cut-off here: slots 11-17 could be ordered in many different ways with valid logic. Look at this like tiers.

Other thoughts…

…Clearly Sickels is higher on Cole than others, especially when you consider that he’s ranked him above Fedde. His comp is to Jake Odorizzi in terms of prospect fatigue.

…Speaking of comps, let the hype begin if Reynaldo Lopez is likened to Luis Severino.

…Andrew Lee appears to be his next Austin Voth: A sleeper pick that becomes a workhorse with stuff that’s neither exceptional nor weak.

As always, I encourage folks to click through to the first link above and read John’s comments on each player. Then discuss in the comments (a.k.a. the opposite of MASN).

Feb 162016

Bulldog-Hates-SnowIt’s hard to imagine with the ice and snow we’ve been having lately, but pitchers and catchers do report to Viera on Friday. Allegedly.

And, according to some dispatches, it’s the last one at Space Coast stadium. So we’ve got one more year of beat writers bitching about Panera.

Yesterday, we got the news as to who the non-roster invites will be, though more than a few outlets chose to highlight Lucas Giolito.

While it would be quite a story if Giolito were to break camp with the big club, what may be more likely is top position prospect Trea Turner being handed the starting shortstop job. Of course, the presence of multiple veteran options gives cover to the Nationals if they decide to send one or both back to the minors to delay the arbitration clock for more seasoning.

Aside from those two, it would appear that it’s the usual drama for prospects/minor-leaguers: Who, if anyone, might surprise us and become the 12th man in the ‘pen or the last bat off the bench? Injuries forced an awful lot of promotions last year, but if everyone’s healthy, then could the opposite occur? Could we see Michael Taylor or Matt den Dekker sent down “so they can play everyday?”

I’ll freely admit that spring training coverage on this site is self-serving and specious, at least now that the Nationals are playoff contenders. It’s an excuse to get back into the habit of writing every morning in preparation for the minors’ regular season, which begins in (ugh) seven weeks.

And with that, I have to call it a day and get to work…

Feb 092016

minor leagues signs 2
As some have already noted in the comments, there’s finally some movement on the transaction front with the Nationals signing two career minor-leaguers and a former major-leaguer to a minor-league contract.

First, the guys we might see this summer:

• LHP Robert Fish – Hasn’t pitched since 2013. While he’s already succumbed to Nationals elbow (2012), the inference that he’s had another round would certainly be logical, but there’s little to found on the southpaw since his release.

• C Nick Rickles – Released in October by Oakland after a lackluster 2015 spent at three levels, but mostly at High-A. He missed all of 2014 with a torn labrum.

Both would seem to be look-see candidates with only a small chance of sticking, which should be obvious given the lateness of the offseason; most guys signed this late are released within 6-8 weeks.

The former major-leaguer is Brendan Ryan, who was also given a non-roster invite and will compete for a bench job as a utilityman and, if he loses, will look to hook on elsewhere.

Feb 062016

With John Sickels’s prospect book still a month out or so, I decided to finish the Watchlist with the BA book and hold out on a couple of guys that I think (hope) he’ll cover. One’s a 2015 Draft pick, the other’s a 40-man guy that I want his opinion on before I weigh in. (No, I’m going to tell you; you have to go look so I can get more pageviews 😉

The Baseball America transaction reports have been disappointing of late, at least in terms of giving us something to talk about. Sorry, veteran has-beens signing minor-league contracts doesn’t cut it for me. This is not unusual, but frustrating nevertheless.

Folks interested in why “Orange” didn’t make the cut can read Byron Kerr’s interview with BA’s John Manuel. TL; DR — the boys in Durham think Marmolejos-Diaz cheats too much on fastballs and will get exposed at the upper levels of the minors.

Finally, while it’s old news, it’s still worth passing along while things are slow. The Suns and Hagerstown may actually extend the lease without a threat to leave. This may be a realization on the part of the Suns ownership that if they want to please both the parent club and their current landlords, a more cooperative approach is necessary; not to mention a five-year run as the Sally League’s least-attended club.