Rick Eckstein's name first caught my attention when Ryan Langerhans was called up to DC in mid-May and the Nationals' outfielder credited the Triple-A Columbus Clippers' Hitting Coach with the success he'd enjoyed at the plate prior to earning the promotion, as Langerhans told MLB.com's Bill Ladson in an article entitled, "Nats Swap with Triple-A Columbus":
"'I tried to work on something every day and get myself better so I could get back [to the big leagues],' Langerhans said. 'I spent a lot of time working with [hitting coach] Rick Eckstein. I was able to get some consistency. I tried to take what I could and get my hits.'"
After going just 8 for 32 in 23 '08 Spring Training games with 2 doubles, 3 RBI's, 8 walks and 13 K's, Langerhans was one of the last three players cut before the Nationals' 25-Man Roster was finalized. Outrighted to Columbus, the 28-year old outfielder proceeded to hit for a .310 AVG in 62 games with 16 doubles, 2 triples, 3 HR's, 31 RBI's and a .418 OBP as a Clipper...
When Rick Eckstein himself earned a promotion to DC in September, no less an authority on talent than DC GM Jim Bowden offered this assessement of the prospective '09 Nationals' Hitting Coach to Washington Post writer Chico Harlan in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "Eckstein joins staff" in which Mr. Harlan wrote:
"Jim Bowden spoke about Eckstein yesterday as a future big-league coach. A permanent one."
In Washington Post writer Mark Viera's article "Back From Beijing, Coach To Join Nats", on Eckstein's work with the '08 US Olympic baseball team in Beijing, Mr. Bowden continued to praise Eckstein, telling Mr. Viera:
"'Rick brings a lot to the table,' General Manager Jim Bowden said. 'There's a reason why Davey Johson picked him to be one of this coaches on the Olympic team. Because he's that good.'"
Rick Eckstein's next gig will be working with seven Nationals' prospects in the Arizona Fall League, where Eckstein will coach with the Peoria Saguaros, under 38-year-old Cardinals' wunderkind and Saguaros' Skipper Ron "Pop" Warner, who manages the Cards' Double-A affiliate in Springfield, Missouri during the summer months.
Washington Times' writer Mark Zuckerman posted a preview of the Nationals' prospects participation in the AFL this morning at the Times' "Chatter" blog entitled, "Nats in the AZ Fall League", where Mr. Zuckerman quickly explains:
"The AFL usually boasts many of the top upper-level prospects in the game, often guys who are just on the cusp of reaching the majors or perhaps those who missed time during the season due to injury and need the extra at-bats."
The Nationals' prospects who'll be playing under the guidance of Mr.'s Warner and Eckstein:
RHP Adam Carr - 24, '08 stats - (6-8), 6.80 ERA, 58 K's, 16 Saves w/ A Potomac, AA Harrisburg.
LHP Ross Detwiler - 22, '08 stats - (8-8), 4.86 ERA, 114 K's in 26 GS and 124.0 IP w/ A Potomac.
LHP Cory Van Allen - 23, '08 stats - (6-3), 3.32 ERA, 57 K's in 15 GS, 16 G, 78.2 IP w/ Rk -GCL Nationals, A Potomac, AA Harrisburg.
RHP Zech Zinicola - 23, '08 stats - (8-5), 4.80 ERA, 50 K's, 9 Saves w/ A Potomac, AA Harrisburg, AAA Columbus.
SS Ian Desmond - 22, '08 stats - .256 AVG, 15 2B, 12 HR's, 46 RBI's, 15 SB in 96 G w/ GCL Nationals, AA Harrisburg.
1B Bill Rhinehart - 23, '08 stats - .269 AVG, 39 2B, 1 3B, 18 HR's, 89 RBI's in 133 G w/ A Hagerstown, A Columbus, AA Harrisburg.
IF/OF Leonard Davis - 24, '08 stats - .308 AVG, 28 2B, 5 3B, 25 HR's, 76 RBI's in 122 G w/ A Potomac, AA Harrisburg, AAA Columbus.
(ed. note - "All of the links above lead to MiLB.com stat pages for the players. MiLB.com writer Kevin T. Czerwinski just published an extensive Washington Nationals' Organizational Review at MiLB.com that I've only begun to sort through...more on that soon...")
Leonard Davis was the only Nationals' prospect that got a mention in Baseball America's 8/27/08 Staff Report entitled, "Arizona Fall League Rosters: A guide to prospects you'll want to keep an eye on in Arizona", in which one member of the Baseball America staff writes, in the section on Peoria:
"Listed as an outfielder, the Nationals' Leonard Davis has played third base, left field and second base since a promotion to Triple-A Columbus. The 24-year-old started this year in high Class A and has hit .311/.369/.561 with 23 homers between three stops."
The Baseball America Staff Report is as good as it gets as a primer on the Fall League action. The Peoria Saguaros start AFL action tomorrow in Scottsdale, Arizona, where they'll take on the Scottsdale Scorpions at 7:05 pm MST. DC's prospects on the Saguaros will be forced to fraternize with Mets' prospects like Bobby Parnell and "Irish" Daniel Murphy, White Sox' '08 1st Round pick (8th overall) Gordon Beckham, and Cards' 1st Round pick (13th) Brett Wallace.