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 032012
 

Matt Skole returned to the lineup and Anthony Rendon extended his hit streak, but a four-run rally in the second by Scottsdale put the game away early as the Scorpions sunk the Salt River Rafters, 9-2.

Skole went 0-for-4 with a strikeout as the Salt River DH. As mentioned in the comments, he tweaked a hamstring last week and had been held out as a precaution, per Byron Kerr’s feature story yesterday.

Rendon singled, tripled, and scored a run for a 2-for-4 game that pushed his average to .291. He’s hit safely in his last six contests. Defensively, however, he was charged with his third error of the fall, a fielding miscue in the bottom of the 1st.

Cole Kimball turned in another scoreless outing, letting in both inherited runners with the “help” of an interference call by an infielder. He allowed no runs of his own, one hit, one walk, and struck out one over an inning and two-thirds, with strikes on 17 of 32 pitches thrown.

With the loss, Salt River drops a ½ game behind Scottsdale in the AFL East with less than two weeks left in the season. Tonight is the “Rising Stars” showcase, pitting the East Division vs. the West Division*. Aaron Barrett, Brian Goodwin and Rendon were named to the East roster. Starting lineups have not yet been announced. * Apparently, American League vs. National League was too obvious?

The game will be played at the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick tonight at 8 p.m. and televised on the MLB Network.

Nov 022012
 

Salt River’s unbeaten streak fell with a 5-2 loss to Phoenix yesterday afternoon.

Paul Demny got the start, his first of the fall, and went two scoreless innings. The 23-year-old allowed a hit, plunked a batter, walked none, and struck out two, though he struggled some with finding the plate (32 pitches, 17 for strikes).

Brian Goodwin’s hitless streak continued with another 0-for-4 game, as the Rafters’ leadoff man struck out twice and drew a walk. Playing left field, he snared a line drive in the top of the 9th for his sole putout.

Anthony Rendon batted seventh and played third. The 22-year-old went 1-for-3 with a walk, extending his hit streak to five games and his on-base streak to seven. Defensively, he had one assist.

With the loss, Salt River falls to 11-8 but remain in first place in the AFL East as the Rafters close out the week with a visit to second-place Scottsdale tonight.

Nov 012012
 

A one-out single and a balk in the last of the 9th enabled the Mesa Solar Sox to salvage a tie with the Salt River Rafters, 2-2 yesterday afternoon.

For the second straight game, just two Nationals minor-leaguers got into the game…

• Brian Goodwin led off and played centerfield but went hitless with an 0-for-4 mark, making a single putout on defense.

• Jason Martinson played third base and went 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored. The 24-year-old snagged a lineout in the 6th and threw out two runners at first on grounders in the 2nd and 5th innings.

The tie, the second of the fall for the Rafters, enabled Scottsdale to move with a ½ game of Salt River in the AFL East. The Rafters play host to the Desert Dogs this afternoon.

Oct 312012
 

Multiple online sources are reporting that Brad Meyers, who was picked by the New York Yankees in the December 2011 Rule 5 draft, has been returned to the Washington Nationals and assigned to the Syracuse Chiefs.

Meyers was placed on the 15-day DL in early April with a strained labrum and transferred to the 60-Day DL in late May. Meyers made one appearance during the year, a disastrous eight runs given up to 14 batters faced on April 9th for High-A Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League.

The 27-year-old was originally drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 5th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, rising as high as AAA with 95⅔ IP for the Syracuse Chiefs in 2011 but missed most of 2010 with foot and heel injuries.

Offline sources have reported that Meyers has undergone shoulder surgery, but I have not been able to confirm this with a reputable online source.

Oct 312012
 


After falling behind 3-0 in the 3rd, a pair of runs in the 6th and 8th innings vaulted Salt River to its fifth straight win, 4-3 over Surprise.

It was a light night in terms of the Nationals — just one starter on offense and one reliever made into the scorebook.

Anthony Rendon batted third, played third and extended his modest hit streak to four games. The 22-year-old Texan went 2-for-4 with a run scored on offense and had a putout (foul pop) and an assist (5-2-5-1 rundown on a grounder) on defense.

Cole Kimball worked around a single and an error to turn in a scoreless frame in the 6th. He threw 11 pitches, seven for strikes while facing four batters, and had no walks or strikeouts.

Salt River remains in first place in the AFL East, but just a game in front of the Scottsdale Scorpions.

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From the PR machine in Scottsdale… Brian Goodwin was named the AFL Player of the Week. He’ll be joined by Rendon and Aaron Barrett this Saturday night for the AFL Rising Stars game, which will be televised on the MLB Network at 8:00 p.m. Our zombie copyeditor awaits the assignment…

Oct 302012
 

Ryan Perry tossed another five scoreless innings as the Salt River Rafters paddled the Phoenix Desert Dogs, 9-2 for their fourth straight win.

Perry allowed just one hit and no walks while striking out three. He needed just 42 pitches, 30 of which went for strikes, to get through the outing.

Former pro scout Bernie Pleskoff (@BerniePleskoff) had this to say, however, on Twitter:

Slow, over the head windup for Perry results in quick rush at finish. Breezes through first inning in order. Won’t miss many bats.

Brian Goodwin and Anthony Rendon also appeared in the game. Matt Skole did not, which appears to confirm an eyewitness account that he had tweaked something in his leg prior to being lifted for a pinch-hitter on Saturday.

Goodwin had a tough game, going 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and was picked off first after reaching on an error in the 7th. Pleskoff on Goodwin when I asked about him via Twitter:

Like him. Hits ball hard. Makes good contact. Solid accurate arm from LF. Have to see how he hits vs. better pitching in AA.

The 21-year-old North Carolina native had four putouts in left, and as Pleskoff alluded, gunned down a runner trying to stretch a single into a double.

Rendon went 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored. He made a single assist while playing third base. Pleskoff on Rendon:

Rendon loves fastballs. Seeing more off-speed pitches now. Timing them much better. Especially those that get too much plate.

Defense was broached in the second part of Byron Kerr’s two-part feature on Rendon, but Pleskoff noted that Rendon is moving well and appears motivated. I saw no such “lollygagging” in Rendon’s brief time in Woodbridge, just a bit of rust on a throw to first that went “unscooped” by defensive convert to the position (Stephen King).

With the win, Salt River improves to 10-7 in the AFL East, a full game in front of the Scottsdale Scorpions. The Rafters play host to the Saguaros tonight, their first evening game in nearly a week.

Oct 292012
 

The 2012 Potomac Nationals will most likely be remembered by those that watched them closely (*ahem*) for two things: (1) the team that couldn’t win on the road (2) underachievement. You can argue against the latter to a certain extent, but it’s pretty hard to argue against the former: A 10-26 mark in the first half, a 12-21 mark in the second for a combined 22-47 mark that was third-worst in affiliated ball (Louisville, 22-51; N.W. Arkansas, 22-48).

This, of course, would be unremarkable except that in Woodbridge, the 64-win P-Nats were 42-28 — third-best in the Carolina League behind 74-win Myrtle Beach (42-26) and 87-win Winston-Salem (48-23). When I dug into it in early June, I discovered that at least some of it was attributable to the offense hitting nearly 100 points better on the road than at home, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense since the Pfitz generally comes up as neutral in ballpark effects. Other factors are surely at play here, but it’s interesting (at least to me) nevertheless.

Underachievement is a little more in the eye of the beholder. It’s often the disconnect between expected and actual performance. While as a fan (disclosure: see first sentence in “About” below), I feel like this team underachieved, as prospect follower I have to allow for the alternate, more objective interpretation that perhaps some of these guys simply hit their ceiling. There just aren’t very many guys that finished in Woodbridge in August that I don’t expect to see again next April; nearly everybody that deserved a bump up to Harrisburg got one.

So let’s take a look at the first P-Nats team to miss the Carolina League playoffs since 2009:
HITTING

PITCHING

There are two things that strike me when I look at these two comparisons: (1) How similar Potomac’s pitching totals were to Hagerstown’s (2) How much better the hitting was than I would have guessed (nearly mediocre vs. subpar). What didn’t shock me was the low OBP. Francisco Soriano, Blake Kelso and Michael Taylor shared the team lead with 40 walks drawn in 87, 106 and 109 games. David Freitas was next with 39 — in 78 games. Seemed like every time I would fill out my scorecard, I’d be filling in OBPs with numbers that looked like batting averages.

That’s a natural segue to the Top 13* batters (* for 2010 Draft Picks, ** for DSL graduates). Full team statistics can be found here. *Another “extra” to catch a notable

There are some bright spots if you look for them — Kevin Keyes and Jason Martinson’s power, for example. Ricky Hague demonstrating he can play second base (.983FA in 35G). Michael Taylor living up to the hype for his defensive skills in center. But there are also things to pick that aren’t nits — Taylor, Martinson, and Keyes whiffed a lot. The team’s left fielders gave the team’s centerfielders ample opportunity to show off their range.

As aforementioned, none of this is unusual — it’s emblematic of the level: players too good for Low-A, but not quite good enough for AA. The question is whether or not there’s a “yet” in that sentence. This is often where some players repeat… and many will stall (see: Peacock, Brian; Martinez, Carlos).

On to the pitchers…

Well, at least there wasn’t much in the way of mediocrity. The pitchers were either good or they were bad. And even some of the “bad” were pitchers had their moments of “good.” The Matts are a good example of this. Swynenberg was terrific in April, pitching one of the best games of the year on the final Sunday of the month. Grace finished the season strong, capping off his season with eight shutout innings against playoff-bound Wilmington on the final Saturday of the season, a game that Steve Souza won with an 11th-inning grand slam.

Enough has been “said” about how good Nathan Karns was this season. Unfortunately, that leaves us with discussing how disappointing Robbie Ray’s season was. Most of the damage was done in the second half — 1-9, 7.67 vs. 3-3, 4.89 — with the southpaw becoming particularly prone to giving up the longball (10 in his last 10 appearances). Perversely, I was almost wishing to learn that he had been hurt; easier to give him a pass, so “speak.”

Unfortunately, I don’t have the magic bullet as to the why (and if I did, I wouldn’t tell 😉 As the season progressed he struggled with his command, issuing nearly double the walks and seemingly always falling into hitter’s counts and it was usually in the early going, not the middle innings. He turned 21 four weeks ago, so it’s not the end of the world, but it’s the primary reason he still makes the…

OBLIGATORY TOP FOUR LISTS
I thought about only listing three apiece, but decided to go with four as an acknowledgement of the bias that comes with being a disappointed fan of the team. There’s more projection here than usual, as alluded in the discussion of Ray, and I’m giving some props to the guys that finished the season strong.

Batters
1. Michael Taylor
2. Kevin Keyes
3. Ricky Hague
4. Adrian Sanchez
HM: Randolph Oduber

Pitchers
1. Nathan Karns
2. Neil Holland
3. Rob Wort
4. Robbie Ray
HM: Matt Grace

Oct 282012
 

The Salt River Rafters scored in six of nine innings on Saturday to double up the Mesa Solar Sox 12-6 for their third straight win.

Highlights from the four Nats that saw game action…

…Paul Demny got right back on the horse and tossed a scoreless inning in the 7th, though he gave up a hit and a walk.

…Jason Martinson singled, walked, and scored a run while playing third base (no defensive chances).

…Matt Skole was on the other side of the diamond on defense (five putouts) and drew two walks and scored twice, going 1-for-2 before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the 8th.

…Brian Goodwin pushed his average to .349 with a pair of triples. He scored twice and drew two walks while playing centerfield, where he snagged three flyouts.

Salt River resumes play with a visit to Phoenix tomorrow afternoon. Ryan Perry is expected to get the start.

Oct 272012
 

Three big innings carried the Rafters past the Javelinas as Salt River held off a late charge from Peoria for an 8-7 win yesterday afternoon.

Just two Nationals got into the game.

Anthony Rendon batted fifth in the lineup and played third base. He drew a walk in the and stole second, scoring a run as part of Salt River’s three-run outburst in the first. He drove in a run on a sac fly in the 5th and doubled in the 7th for a 1-for-2 afternoon. Defensively, he had busy day — six assists, including a 5-4-3 DP in the 4th and a bunt attempt in the 6th.

Aaron Barrett (pictured above) gave up a leadoff single in the 8th but had it erased with a double play on the next batter. The fortune quickly became misfortune after another single then a home run cut the three-run lead Barrett was protecting to one. He still earned the hold by getting third out on another grounder.

With the win, Salt River returns to first in the AFL East with an 8-7 mark. They close out the week with another day game this afternoon, visiting the Mesa Solar Sox.