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 232013

The wait is over. Sure, it’s a week earlier than last year but it sure doesn’t feel that way.

For most folks, that’s because expectations have never been higher for the parent club. As a minors guy, it means I have some semblance of a routine back again — the end of previews and Top 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 or more and the beginning of boxscores.

As mentioned earlier this month, I don’t expect there to be too much drama this year… at least from a minors’ perspective. Perhaps a guy competing for one of the last spots in the ‘pen or at the end of the bench.

The signing of veterans like Will Rhymes, Chris Snyder, and Chris Young seems to suggest that even a significant injury won’t automatically open the door for a minor-leaguer. Sorry to anyone sticking pins in their voodoo dolls in hopes of seeing, say, Anthony Rendon at second base on Opening Day.

In any case, the days without baseball for 2013 are gone. Time for us to peek at the goal for “our guys” for three or four weeks.

Feb 222013

As expected, MLB Network and ESPN will be broadcasting some Nats spring training games — though it’s hardly a shock that three of four involve a New York team. I’ve bolded them below for your reference.

Note: I’ve only added the live games, there are roughly half-a-dozen tape delayed games, which if you’re inclined, can be found here.

Day Date Time (ET) Opponent Network
Sat. Feb. 23 12:05 p.m. @ N.Y. Mets MLB Network
Sun. Feb. 24 1:05 p.m. Miami 106.7 FM
Mon. Feb. 25 6:05 p.m. @ N.Y. Mets MLB Network
Tue. Feb. 26 1:05 p.m. @ Atlanta 1580 AM
Wed. Feb. 27 1:05 p.m. Miami 1580 AM
Thu. Feb. 28 6:05 p.m. N.Y. Mets MASN
Fri. Mar. 8 1:05 p.m. St. Louis MASN*
Mon. Mar. 11 1:05 p.m. Atlanta 1580 AM
Wed. Mar. 13 1:05 p.m. N.Y. Mets 1580 AM
Thu. Mar. 14 1:05 p.m. Houston 1580 AM
Sat. Mar. 16 6:05 p.m. Houston MASN*
Thu. Mar. 21 6:05 p.m. @ Atlanta MLB Network
Fri. Mar. 22 1:05 p.m. Detroit MASN*
Sat. Mar. 23 1:10 p.m. @ N.Y. Mets 106.7 FM
Sun. Mar. 24 1:05 p.m. Atlanta MASN
Thu. Mar. 28 1:05 p.m. N.Y. Mets ESPN
Fri. Mar. 29 2:05 p.m. N.Y. Yankees
@ At Nationals Park
Feb 212013

It’s come to my attention that the “improvement” of having a mobile version of this website comes at a cost of making commenting difficult, if not impossible.

Perhaps it’s to my detriment in terms of advertising, but I’m not about to sacrifice community for pageviews.

As the pic suggests, I’ve shut it down. I know some folks liked it, but I’d rather beg for donations than take away the ability of folks to interact. My apologies for any inconvenience.

Feb 212013

accelerated-campWhile the “Big Nats” have been in spring training for more than a week, this week is the early reporting date for the minor-leaguers, a.k.a. accelerated camp.

Basically, it’s a chance for the top-tier prospects to get extra time with the coaches and make sure everyone’s going in the right direction.

All but a handful below are on the 2013 Watchlist, but inferences as to where they will be assigned this year cannot be readily drawn from this. Last year, for example, you might have thought that Jack McGeary’s presence meant a ticket to Hagerstown for 2012 after 2010 surgery and a short stint in the GCL in 2011. Instead, he was assigned to Auburn.

This year, thanks to the reporting of Lacy Lusk we get a little bit more of a clue as to who’s still rehabbing.

Without further ado, here’s the rest of the roster:

Dixon Anderson Jeff Howell Cutter Dykstra Billy Burns
Caleb Clay Craig Manuel Ricky Hague Brian Goodwin
A.J. Cole Justin Miller Kevin Keyes Destin Hood
Paul Demny Raudy Read Jason Martinson Estarlin Martinez
Pedro Encarnacion Pedro Severino Stephen Perez Mike McQuillan
David Fischer Shawn Pleffner Brandon Miller
Taylor Hill Tony Renda Steven Souza Jr.
Taylor Jordan Adrian Sanchez Michael Taylor
Brett Mooneyham
Ronald Pena
Ivan Pineyro
Brian Rauh
Robbie Ray
Blake Schwartz
Matt Swynenberg
Ryan Tatusko
Blake Treinen
Kylin Turnbull
Sean West
Deion Williams

Full camp for the rest of the guys begins next week.

Feb 192013

Some of these names have been mentioned previously over the past few months. I’d like to tell you the latest dispatch from Baseball America on the 2012 international signings gives significant information.

Alas, IFAs are much like a politicians — long on promise, short on details.

Before I editorialize, let me distill what little there is from the BA review for paid subs…

The big sign was Dominican centerfielder Luis Guzman, a 6’1″, 185-lb. left-handed hitter who turned 17 in September and went for $385K on July 2nd. He’s praised for “an advanced approach at the plate, great balance[,] and good bat speed” with plus speed and a plus arm (both 55 on the 20-80 scale).

Venezuelan Aldrem Corredor — also 17, a lefty, and listed at 6’1″, 185 — but with more power and less speed. BA is projecting him as a corner outfielder and noted his price tag at $190K.

Sixteen-year-old third baseman Neivy Pilier warranted a post in December for his youth and $225K bonus. Nothing new in terms of scouting or description.

Finally, another outfielder: Darryl Florentino who was described as a 6’2″, 180-lb speedster and praised for his athleticism. No age was given, but he was reportedly inked for $85K on July 2nd.

Of course, it’s been two years since the Nationals made a big deal about its 2010 signings and just one (Gilberto Mendez) has played north of Florida. The point, of course, is not to complain but to emphasize that despite the hype, it could be a while.

Feb 172013

RestockingThe latest transaction post from Baseball America was issued last night, with the Nationals signing six pitchers and Micah Owings — a pitcher trying to convert to playing a position:

  • RHP Jeremy Accardo
  • LHP Will Ohman
  • 1B Michah Owings
  • RHP Mike Crotta
  • LHP Kelvin A. de la Cruz
  • RHP Adrian Green
  • RHP Luis Torres

Accardo, Ohman, and Owings have been previously reported or covered by the “Big Nats” beat writers. Here’s the information that I was able to dig up on the others…

Crotta is a 28-y.o. veteran of the Pittsburgh organization, drafted in ’06 but did not pitch in 2012 (elbow) after making the Pirates 25-man roster as a reliever in 2011. He reportedly was timed at 96 m.p.h. in his tryout. He’s mostly started in the minors, but to paraphrase the folks at, Crotta has benefited from the love that Pittsburgh GMs such as Dave Littlefield have had with extreme GB pitchers with low BB and K totals.

…de la Cruz is a 24-y.o. six-year FA who was signed as a teenager by the Cleveland organization but was traded to Texas, then claimed by Detroit when the Rangers tried to pass him through waivers last spring. He has yet to pitch above AA, though 2012 was his first season since 2008 that he walked less than four batters per nine innings. Shortly after his trade to the Rangers, posted this scouting report not the former Indians farmhand as originally reported (H/T to SpringfieldFan for pointing out the comments in the article). He is righthanded and appears to be ticketed for Auburn, but no further details could be found.

…Green cannot be located in any story besides the BA post, which either means he’s a relative of Sidd Finch or he’s “the kid that just showed up at that tryout for some other guy” from dime-novel lore.

…Torres is an 18-y.o. Venezuelan signed from the International Prospect League, which also lists the Nationals as having signed an Israel Mota, for whom there are no further details.

As mentioned in the recently completed series on the pitching staffs of the four full-season affiliates, the odds are long for the veteran pitchers to stick around past March. Coming off an elbow injury, Crotta fits the m.o. of an injury reclamation that has become a Nats hallmark. de la Cruz is probably the most likely to make an upper minors roster, given his age (24) and laterality (left).

Feb 152013

I hope folks enjoyed this little exercise this week — picking which pitchers will begin where in 2013 — as it finishes today with Low-A Hagerstown.

The lowest full-season roster is an estimation as to who did well enough the previous summer in the New York-Penn League to get promoted and who either didn’t do well enough, won’t win the numbers game, or needs more time from last year’s Suns. Jumps from the GCL do happen, but they are rare.

Here’s how I guessed it last February:

Bobby Hansen Chris McKenzie Greg Holt
Wirkin Estevez Taylor Hill Blake Monar
Christian Meza Colin Bates Ben Hawkins
Nathan Karns Kylin Turnbull Aaron Barrett
Matt Purke Tyler Hanks
Luis Chirinos
Jack McGeary

Like Potomac, I was only completely wrong on a handful, getting 12 of 17 right if you’re willing to look the other way on Hawkins and Purke (in purple), who began in Hagerstown, albeit in late April and late May respectively. Where I wasn’t so good was picking who’d be starting and who’d be relieving, but such is the nature with the small sample sizes of short-season ball (e.g. Meza, who relieved in 9 of 11 appearances in 2010, but started in 10 of 13 in 2011).

So as we finish up, here’s my take on who will pitch for Hagerstown to begin this year:

Blake Schwartz Dixon Anderson Leonard Hollins Wirkin Estevez
Brian Rauh David Fischer Cody Davis  
Nick Lee   Derek Self  
Blake Monar   Robert Benincasa  
Pedro Encarnacion   Michael Boyden  
Brett Mooneyham      

If you’re inclined to ask “What about________?” after seeing all four parts, remember that getting information about players’ injuries and health is very difficult. It doesn’t help that the Nats aren’t very forthcoming in this department (though hardly a shock, given how tone-deaf the PR folks can be sometimes).

I will joke about this during the season, so if you’re new here… understand I’m not being callous so much as I’m mocking the farce of being so secretive (this isn’t hockey or football) while simultaneously playing roster games (e.g. that pitcher on the DL warming up the right fielder between innings).

Now, we return to the wait-and-see mode until the Spring Training games begin.

Feb 142013

Since I’m going in order downward from AAA to Low-A, this is part three. In reality, this is the last roster to be finalized of the four full-season affiliates. Consequently, I’ve learned to keep my expectations in check when it comes to seeing marquee prospects in April. In the past seven seasons, it’s been two first-round picks — Ross Detwiler (2007) and Anthony Rendon (2012) and only one of those two was in uniform for the home opener.

Of course, I’m also the guy that roots for the lower-round guys to “figure it out” and make it higher up the ladder than anyone ever expected (e.g. Tommy Milone, Tyler Moore, Brad Peacock) so I’m not complaining. Really.

Still, as you can see from my picks last year, I did a pretty decent job of guessing who’d be in Woodbridge:

Robbie Ray Paul Applebee Neil Holland
Matt Grace Matt Swynenberg Rob Wort
Brian Dupra Ryan Demmin Ben Graham
Alex Meyer Trevor Holder Dean Weaver
Kyle Winters Mitchell Clegg
Cameron Selik
Robert Gilliam
Erik Davis

I picked 10 of 17 correctly, and was wrong on the usage on just one (blue). As with Harrisburg, there were two instances that would inevitably be wrong: Clegg, who was released; Weaver, who was hurt. I was perhaps too hopeful to see Meyer early, and as mentioned previously, misread Davis’s nosedive in 2011 (losing five of six starts after his demotion from AA). Dupra was simply an overreach, the kind of miss I don’t mind making.

We’ll see if I do so well next year with this collection of picks:

A.J. Cole Christian Meza Aaron Barrett Paul Applebee
Robbie Ray Matt Swynenberg Colin Bates  
Taylor Hill   Richie Mirowski  
Taylor Jordan   Greg Holt  
Kylin Turnbull   Ben Hawkins  
Matt Purke      

I wavered over Purke and will probably get that wrong, but I think there are more than few folks that would like to see him start in High-A and start living up to the hype. That’s not his fault, mind you. As mentioned yesterday, Swynenberg’s up and down season is another challenge to guess, not to mention that he’s started only a little more than half of his games as a pro. Barrett is another one I’d like to be wrong about, but history suggests that he’ll have to come back and put in a little more time at Potomac.

Next up: The fourth and final installment in this exercise of looking at the pitching candidates for Hagerstown.

Feb 132013

Usually, what makes the Syracuse staff tough to pick is trying to divine which pitchers will miss the big club but stick on. What makes the Harrisburg staff a challenge is figuring out who’s going to get promoted from Potomac and which of the minor-league FAs will be kept and assigned here.

So how did I do picking the 2012 Harrisburg Senators?

Danny Rosenbaum Evan Bronson Pat Lehman
Paul Demny Jimmy Barthmaier Hassan Pena
Sammy Solis Cory VanAllen
Tanner Roark Patrick McCoy
Adam Olbrychowski Hector Nelo
Josh Smoker
Marcos Frias
Joe Testa
Christian Garcia

Another 50-50 proposition (8/16). I might have done better if Solis hadn’t gone down with an injury and Bronson hadn’t retired. Josh Smoker seemed a viable candidate, even with a high walk rate, because he was living up to his surname with 95-97 m.p.h. heaters. Conversely, I broke even with Joe Testa and Jimmy Barthmaier, both of whom spent more time in High-A than AA.

So what about this year? Well, one might think that having watched Potomac all last summer gives me an advantage. As we saw above, not necessarily and especially not when the P-Nats had the Carolina League’s worst pitching (yes, even with Alex Meyer and Nathan Karns). Then it becomes a challenge of setting aside the frustration/disappointment as a fan and donning the detachment of a prospect-follower.

We’ll see how it goes this time around. Like Syracuse, I’m picking fewer pitchers overall:

Nathan Karns Adam Olbrychowski Paul Demny Sammy Solis
Trevor Holder Blake Treinen Marcos Frias  
Brian Broderick   Neil Holland  
Rob Gilliam   Rob Wort  
Tyler Herron   Cameron Selik  
Matt Grace      

I’m well aware that I may have picked the wrong strong finisher named Matt (Grace vs. Swynenberg). I could be misreading Olbrychowski’s late callup (reward vs. favor). About the only thing I’m reasonably sure of are the repeats of Demny, Frias, and Selik (who is listed lower due to his lat injury) — but I was probably equally confident that Pena and VanAllen would repeat last year, too.

Like Brad Meyers, Sammy Solis is probably destined to begin the season on the D.L., though the prognosis from the scribes at Lake Wobegon* sportswriters in Viera is, of course, sunny and upbeat.
*Where the playoff chances are strong, the players are good looking, and everyone is in the best shape of their lives.

Otherwise, I will understand if folks might be less than thrilled with this collection of arms. But if I’m right about the 2013 position players, these guys won’t have to nurse a 3-2 lead as often as they’ll try to hold a 5-4 lead.

Feb 122013

After taking a guess at which position players will end up where, last year I tried it for the pitchers for the first time and now it’s time to see how I did.

Of course, with the roles of “Big Nats” largely set going into camp, this was not exactly courageous of me. But the goal is not about being right so much as keeping the conversation going (though being right is nice!).

So, let’s take a look at who I picked last February:

Yunesky Maya Craig Stammen Ryan Perry
Erik Arnesen Austin Bibens-Dirkx* Ryan Mattheus
Matt Buschmann* Ryan Tatusko Atahualpa Severino
Mitch Atkins* Rafael Martin
Gaby Hernandez* Waldis Joaquin*
Mike Ballard* Josh Wilkie
Jeff Mandel
Lee Hyde
Bold = On 40 Man Roster Italics = Non-Roster Invitee * = ’11-’12 Minor-League FA Signing

Granted, no matter what I was going to be wrong on at least five because I “overpicked,” selecting 17 names for roughly 12 slots. I did this at every level because that’s the nature of the beast; pitchers and catchers report first because there are always a lot more of ’em than spots available.

I got nine wrong — two made the big club (Stammen, Mattheus), two started the season at AA instead (Mandel, Ballard), a third joined the Senators a couple weeks later (Tatusko), and the rest never played for the Nationals in 2012. The most obvious thing as I apply that 20/20 hindsight is that it appears I put too much stock in the FAs (though I might have gotten Zach Duke right had he been signed in the offseason). Otherwise, I pretty much feel like Blinkin.

We’ll see next year if I do any better with this set of picks:

Yunesky Maya Ryan Tatusko Erik Davis Brad Meyers
Ross Ohlendorf* Fernando Abad* Pat Lehman  
Tanner Roark   Pat McCoy  
Jeff Mandel   Hassan Pena  
Matt Torra*   Cole Kimball  
Ryan Perry      
Bold = On 40-Man Italics = Non-Roster Invitee * = ’12-’13 MLFA

This time around, I’m hedging my bets a lot less. I added a “DL” column as a nod to the M*A*S*H unit on this year’s Watchlist. And I’m leaning back towards the “OGs” and away from the FAs — especially the retread relievers such as Jeremy Accardo and Will Ohman, who I think are longshots (Bill Bray is probably the NRI with the best chance).

“Swingmen” isn’t a literal or old-school definition — basically, it pitchers that can (or have) start(ed) or relieve(d), or I feel may be changing roles — especially in the lower minors. A kind of neither-here-nor-there category, if you will.

The top-to-bottom order is intentional — which does mean that I was on the fence about Ryan Perry beginning at Syracuse or Harrisburg, but with Cole Kimball it’s more a gut feeling that he may not be fully healthy yet. Shoulders, as the old saw goes, are harder to fix than elbows.

Finally, a shout-out to Ben Meyers at the Auburn Citizen, who also took a stab at the candidates for the Syracuse Chiefs’ pitchers and position players.