After being fired by the Nationals mid-way through the 2013 season, Rick Eckstein has found himself a new gig.
Eckstein has been hired by the Angels as an assistant hitting coach who will also serve as an advance scout and liaison to the minor leagues, according to the Los Angeles Times. Essentially, he’ll be the seventh coach in the dugout.
Eckstein had been the Nationals’ hitting coach since 2008, but general manager Mike Rizzo fired Eckstein in July with the Nats possessing a 48-50 record and having scored just 3.7 runs per game, which at the time was the second-fewest in the majors.
The move was not endorsed by then-manager Davey Johnson, who was a staunch supporter of Eckstein, even through the Nats’ prolonged offensive struggles.
After Eckstein’s dismissal, however, the Nats’ offense came alive under new hitting coach Rick Schu, who had been promoted from minor league hitting instructor to take over for Eckstein.
The Nats went 38-26 in their 64 games with Schu serving as hitting coach, scoring 4.6 runs per game.
How much of that improvement can be credited to Schu, who came in preaching similar hitting philosophies as Eckstein but brought more of a laid-back approach to drills and cage work? Hard to say. But regardless, it’s always nice to see a guy who had been let go land on his feet. Hopefully Eckstein fares well out west.
Baseball America has put together a nice, tidy list of the minor leaguers who will hit the free agent market and thankfully has broken that list down by team to make the 550 players easier to track.
Here is the list of Nats minor league free agents:
RHP: Mike Broadway (AAA), Brian Broderick (Hi A), Caleb Clay (AAA), Mike Crotta (AAA), Cole Kimball (AAA), Jeff Mandel (AAA), Ryan Tatusko (AAA), Chris Young (AAA)
LHP: Bill Bray (AA), Patrick McCoy (AA), Josh Smoker* (Hi A)
C: Brian Jeroloman (AA), Carlos Maldonado (AAA), Sean McCauley* (Hi A), Beau Seabury* (Hi A)
1B: Chris Marrero (AAA), Jimmy VanOstrand (AAA)
2B: Michael Gilmartin (Hi A), Will Rhymes (AAA)
3B: Carlos Alvarez (Lo A), Melvin Dorta* (AA), Carlos Rivero (AA)
SS: Josh R. Johnson (AAA)
OF: Jerad Head (AA), Jason Michaels* (AAA), Chris Rahl (AAA)
Marrero, the Nats’ first-round pick in 2006, is the biggest name among that group, and he almost certainly will not be returning. Kimball and Clay are two guys to watch; you might remember Kimball impressing with the Nats during a brief stint in 2011 before injuries set him back, and Clay went 5-2 with a 2.49 ERA in 83 innings at Triple-A Syracuse this season.
For those who get a chance to watch more minor league games than I, are there any guys among that list you’d like to see the Nats make a push to re-sign?
Alvarez, meanwhile, might be a name that gets glossed over easily. You’ll remember who he is, however, when I refer to him by the name under which he was previously known: Esmailyn “Smiley” Gonzalez.
Alvarez faked his age and identity before receiving a $1.4 million signing bonus from the Nationals in 2006. He played in just four games with the Gulf Coast League Nationals this season, and now departs the organization for good.
There were also a handful of other interesting names with ties to the Nats I found while browsing the full list of minor league free agents.
Among them: right-hander Collin Balester, outfielder Brett Carroll, infielder Brian Bixler, outfielder Micah Owings, right-hander Jonathan Albaladejo, right-hander Chad Cordero, right-hander Jason Bergmann, outfielder Xavier Nady, left-hander J.C. Romero, and right-hander Henry Rodriguez.
Quite a blast from the past, huh?