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 262013
 

After a busy weekend of transaction news, here’s a few tidbits to tide folks over in case things really do slow down on the minors front.

• Adam Kilgore gives us updates on Sammy Solis, Nathan Karns, and a whole lot of info on Steve Souza. To be fair, Souza has long been a favorite of Nats management, which explains in part why he’s stuck around despite suspensions for PEDs and off-field incidents. The other part, of course, is that he’s also a five-tool talent, which is why yours truly has put him on the site’s watchlist all three times.

Chris Young has opted out of his contract but still might wind up in Syracuse. According to Ken Rosenthal, some eight teams were watching last night’s start. For most Nats fans, this means little, but for the minor-leaguers, this might mean the difference between starting and relieving, Harrisburg or Syracuse, or going north next week at all.

• Finally, part three of the Sean Nicol interview has been published by our friend Shawn in Hagerstown. Part one can be found here, and part two can be found here.

Mar 242013
 

We now interrupt your lazy Sunday afternoon for another transaction-oriented post.

The Washington Nationals announced late Sunday afternoon that out-of-options IF-OF Carlos Rivero passed through waivers and has been outrighted to Syracuse while RHP Christian Garcia was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a forearm tendon strain.

If there’s an underlying theme among these moves — minus Garcia — it’s that Nats GM Mike Rizzo is adamant that “surplus” players aren’t leaving without a decent return. Both Colorado and Detroit were looking to hold onto Danny Rosenbaum and Jeff Kobernus, respectively, but returned them because “the asking price was too high.”

It’s probably safe to deduce that the Nats were unable to trade Rivero for the same reason.

The Garcia move is retroactive to Friday, which would make the righthander eligible on April 6th. With zero exhibition appearances, his injury history, and the careful management of his workload last summer, estimates such as Adam Kilgore’s of Garcia missing the month of April seem rather plausible.

Mar 242013
 

Another day, another Rule 5 pick returned.

Multiple online sources are reporting that Colorado will return Danny Rosenbaum following the signing of veteran RHP Jon Garland. Rosenbaum was 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in six appearances for the Rockies this spring, the last of which came a week ago when the 25-year-old southpaw gave up a single and a walkoff home run in a 9-7 loss to the Giants.

He had been competing for the final bullpen spot — five of his six outings were in relief — in a group of relievers that included notables such as Chris Volstad and Manny Corpas.

Like Kobernus, he’s expected to be reassigned to minor-league camp, but it’s much less clear where he’ll begin the season. Last season was arguably his worst, beginning with 7-2, 1.94 in his first 13 starts, but finishing in a freefall of 1-8, 6.54 in his last 13 starts for an 8-10, 3.94 mark overall.

While often compared to former Nats farmhand Tommy Milone, a comp that seems largely based on size (both are shade taller than 6′ with a “sturdy carriage”) and dexterity and the soft-tosser perception. The reality is that Rosenbaum has always thrown harder than Milone (low-90s vs. high-80s), but with a little less control (2.5 vs. 1.5 BB/9).

Still, it’s a understandable linkage because both have shown the ability to get guys out without lot of flash while pitching deep into games (e.g. 171⅓ IP in 2011). Rosenbaum works off a heavy, sinking fastball, which has produced groundball rates of 50%-plus the past two seasons, including 56.7% last year, while mixing in a cutter as well as a changeup and a curve as his secondary pitches.

Like a lot of the AA and AAA pitchers, it’s difficult to predict where he’ll begin the season given the signings of multiple free agents. What’s probably more certain is that he’ll return to starting, given his durability and track record.

The watchlist and the LHPs page have been both been updated to reflect his return.

Mar 232013
 

So LongAs reported earlier today, we heard the Nationals had made some releases, just not who. Now, we know. Per Bill Ladson and MLB Trade Rumors, it’s the following minor-leaguers:

  • LHP Ryan Demmin (Potomac)
  • RHP Inocencio Heredia (GCL)
  • IF Stephen King (Harrisburg, Potomac)
  • LHP Bobby Lucas (Hagerstown)
  • LHP Blake Monar (Auburn)
  • OF Wade Moore (Potomac)
  • RHP Casey Upperman (offseason pickup)
  • LHP Andrew Wall (Auburn)
  • OF J.P. Ramirez (Hagerstown, Potomac)
  • UT Delwyn Young (offseason pickup)

I don’t think there are any real surprises here. Maybe Inocencio Heredia, who just turned 21 in December, but had spent parts of two seasons in the GCL (and of course, mea culpa, I overrated him enough to put him on the “Notable Arms”). Wade Moore had retired last summer and was contemplating a return to playing football, but saw his change of mind go unrewarded. Without going down the line, there were hints for the others.

Nevertheless, I’ll rephrase I wrote last year… before you comment, just remember that for some of these young men, it’s the end of the road. Some will try to hook on with another organization. A few will try to play their way back via the indys. But all of them will have to figure out what’s the next chapter in the lives, baseball or otherwise.

UPDATE: Last night, Baseball America made its weekly transaction post for the period of March 14-20 (the releases above are believe to have occurred on Thursday). The following two players were among the previously unreported cuts:

  • RHP Randy Consuegra (offseason pickup)
  • RHP Francisco Samuel (offseason pickup)

Both pitchers were reclamation projects that were signed last November.

Mar 232013
 

Well, it looks like yesterday’s reports were wrong: the Tigers have returned Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus to the Nationals.

Kobernus hung a line of .220/.298/.300 in 50ABs for Detroit in 21 games while attempting to make the 25-man roster as a utilityman. The 24-year-old made appearances in all three outfield positions, playing there for the first time since his collegiate days at California.

Officially, he’s been reassigned to minor-league camp but is expected to open the season in Syracuse after an injury-shortened 2012 in Harrisburg. He played in 82 games for the Senators and hit .282/.325/.333 with 42 SBs with a career-best .982 fielding average.

The watchlist and the second baseman page have been both been updated to reflect his return.

Mar 232013
 

Following the signing of erstwhile southpaw J.C. Romero — who spent roughly two weeks with the Syracuse Chiefs in the summer of 2011 — the Nationals optioned RHP Cole Kimball to AAA and reassigned Jeremy Accardo to minor-league camp yesterday.

Kimball, who had been held out of games since last week due to shoulder stiffness, was reported to have had a successful bullpen session on Wednesday. Unsurprisingly, the 27-year-old was unhappy to learn of his fate. If healthy, he’s expect to work the late innings for the Chiefs.

Accardo hadn’t made an appearance since last Sunday and gave up five runs on 13 hits in seven one-inning outings, including runs in his last three appearances. Presuming he doesn’t have an opt-out clause, he’ll likely join Kimball in upstate New York in the Syracuse ‘pen.

Finally, as the headline suggests, sources are telling me that releases have been made for some of the minor leaguers. As stated last March, let’s not speculate or comment on who those guys are until the news is official.

Mar 222013
 

Morning ReadingAs promised earlier this week, here’s a few minors-oriented news items to pass along while we wait out the last 10 days of Spring Training.

…As noted yesterday in the comments, it’s looking bright for Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus to make the Tigers’ Opening Day roster, while Adam Kilgore’s sources say the Rockies are leaning towards keeping Danny Rosenbaum, though he’s one of four relievers competing for the final spot in the Colorado ‘pen.

…It’s old news to roster geeks, but the Natmosphere’s Todd Boss can thump his chest a little (or a lot) because Baseball America has confirmed what he’s contended for months now — Ryan Perry and Yunesky Maya are among the 23 players eligible for a 4th minor league option.

…Park factors and run-scoring environment analysis is rampant in the majors, but until recently, it’s been sparse in the minors. That changes with a pair of analyses from Baseball America and MiLB.com.

…It’s the third name in 16 years in Syracuse as Alliance Bank Stadium becomes NBT Bank Stadium.

…Finally, our Hagerstown guy interviews longtime Nats farmhand Sean Nicol in the second of three parts (part one can be found here).

Mar 202013
 

Other Shoe DroppedThe other shoe has dropped on the Michael Morse trade, as the Nationals announced that LHP Ian Krol is the infamous “player to be named later.”

Krol was drafted in the 7th round out of Neuqua Valley HS in Naperville, IL in 2009 and put together a 9-4, 2.65 season in 2010 that put him into the Top 10 (#9) of the A’s system, per Baseball America. Unfortunately, elbow problems and issues between the ears effectively turned 2011 into a waste.

Last year wasn’t much better (2-9, 5.20, 1.361 between High-A and AA), but as John Sickels put it:

Krol avoided injury problems and Archie Bunker outbursts last year… but struggled in the unforgiving California League. He pitched better as the season progressed, showing a better changeup in particular. He gave up some runs after moving up to the Texas League, but his K/BB and K/IP ratios were quite good and that’s more important for his future projection.

Krol features a low-90s fastball, but his curve and change have been praised as “plus” in the past, but what’s been missing is consistency on the field, and maturity off the field (he was also suspended in high school). He turns 22 in May, so suffice to write, there’s still time for him overcome this adversity and return to form.

Mar 192013
 

Shifting-GearsWith six players optioned to Syracuse, two reassigned to minor-league camp, and a veteran given his release so he can pursue a job elsewhere, that’s my cue that it’s time to shift gears away from spring training.

As I wrote last month, I would post about spring training from the minors point of view for long as it seemed reasonable, estimating that would it be about three or four weeks. Well, just like last year, it’s about 23 days.

Unfortunately, it’s more than two weeks until the “other” Opening Day of April 4th (Harrisburg, at home; Hagerstown and Syracuse, on the road), with day after beginning the morning ritual of cherry-picking the boxscores and writing summaries for the “News & Notes.” That Friday is also the opening night for Potomac, which I’ll cover with the first of what I hope to be five dozen or so “Last Night In Woodbridge” (with a few “Sunday Afternoon” editions, too).

A couple weeks after that, I’ll begin the weekly feature of “Good, Bad, and Interesting,” where I pick out the leaders, trailers, and outliers of each affiliate in the spirit of passing along fun facts and things I’ve noticed while doing the daily notes.

Until then, sit tight as we wait out the rest of the spring. Just like the dark months of December, January, and February, I’ll do my best to refresh the site with minors-oriented news, even if the some of next few items that I expect to see may be unpleasant.

Mar 182013
 

Ross Detwiler pitched well, Ryan Perry did not, but a pair of Tyler Moore home runs plus a two innings in the outfield from Jhonatan “The Onion” Solano were the highlights of an ugly 12-10 win for the Nats over the Tigers on Sunday afternoon.

In his first start since Team USA was bounced from the WBC, Detwiler gave up just a run (albeit a home run to Torii Hunter in the bottom of the first) on three hits over four innings. The 27-year-old southpaw walked one and struck out, showing little signs of rust after the nine-day layoff.

Meanwhile, the regulars built a 7-1 lead thanks to the efforts of the Magnolia Muscle’s solo shot in the 4th and two-run blast in the 5th. Detwiler turned the ball over Perry, who pitched a 1-2-3 fifth but couldn’t retire any of the five batters he faced in the 6th — walking two and hitting a batter before giving a single to Prince Fielder and a double to Victor Martinez.

Jeremy Accardo was only a little more effective, letting in Martinez on sacrifice fly before giving up a run of his own on a single and a double. After he walked a pinch hitter, he got a strikeout and a groundout to keep the game tied at 7-7.

Micah Owings (1-for-4, BB) broke the tie with an RBI groundout in the 7th but left the game with a sore quadriceps after reaching on an error as the Nats overcame a 9-8 deficit (thanks to Ryan Mattheus giving up a two-run shot to Matt Tuiasosopa in the bottom of the 7th) with a four-run top of the 8th.

With a 12-9 lead and a short bench (read: Carlos Maldonado) thanks to the slew of mid-game defensive changes (a.k.a. our guys), manager Davey Johnson opted to put Solano (2-2, R, RBI) into the outfield in place of Owing and have Maldonado (0-1, BB, K), who had pinch hit for DH Chad Tracy, take Solano’s place behind the plate.

One of the truisms of the sport is that the ball finds the weakest defenders, and the out-of-position Solano was put to the test with a flyout in the 8th and four straight balls hit his way in the 9th — double, RBI single (by Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus), then two fly balls (both caught). Erik Davis, who had begun the inning, got the last out on a grounder.

Chris Marrero joined Owings in the starting lineup at 1B and went 3-for-5 with three RBI. As aforementioned, most of the reserves hit the game during the 5th. Here’s a rundown on they did:

  • 3B-SS Zach Walters 1-3
  • CF Corey Brown 1-2, R, BB, SB
  • RF Carlos Rivero 0-3, 2K
  • PR-3B Josh Johnson 0-0, 2R, BB

It’s a rematch today in Viera at 1:05 p.m. with Jordan Zimmermann expected to start against Detroit’s Max Scherzer. The game can be heard on MLB Audio with the Tigers radio feed.