The name and look wasn’t new and neither was the results for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders for the 2014 season as they finished with identical losing records from the inaugural season and subsequent season posting another 68-76 records finishing fourth in a five-team International League North Division.
It was the first time the franchise had consecutive losing seasons since 2004-05 when they were still the Red Barons and affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was also the first time under 8th year manager Dave Miley that the team posted a sub-.500 record in back-to-back years.
In Triple-A, when the parent club endures as many injuries as the New York Yankees did this past season, players are picked from Triple-A where it is a bay for seasoned veterans trying to stay in the game and prospects that are potentially the most apt to help produce in the big leagues.
With over 250 total roster moves throughout the season, there were numerous lineups and pitching rotations throughout the season. Yet, there were still a handful of positives to take away from the season.
Offensively, the RailRiders were one of the best in the International League. SWB led the circuit in hitting (.273), and were fifth in both runs scored (642) and home runs (113). There were a handful of bats that contributed to the offensive prowess in Northeast Pennsylvania.
Perhaps the best hitter through the course of the season was the RailRiders lone representative on the IL All-Star team, Jose Pirela. Pirela who made the all-star team as a second baseman showed the versatility he has defensively. With 59 games under his belt at second base, Pirela also played ten games at first base and seven games at shortstop. He moved the outfield when Rob Refsnyder joined the team mid-summer and manned all three outfield positions. The Valera, Venezuela native finished the season hitting .305 with 10 home runs and 60 RBI primarily as the team’s lead-off hitter.
Kyle Roller, who joined the team in early May, showed his powerful opposite-field swing clubbing 17 home runs at the Triple-A rank and finished with a slash line .283/.378/.497 in a RailRiders uniform. Roller also played a solid first base defensively finishing with a .992 fielding percentage committing just six errors in 740 chances.
The RailRider who made the biggest splash of the season was Refsnyder who put his name on the Yankees prospect map in the middle of the summer and created so much noise, that multiple New York media outlets came to cover Refsnyder when rumors circulated that there was a possibility he would replace Brian Roberts at second base when the Yankees released the veteran.
The Yankees had Refsnyder play some outfield, which was something he didn’t do since his College World Series winning days with the University of Arizona. However, about two week later, Yankees brass decided to let the young Korean-born player focus solely on the second base position as many predict he will make the big league team out of Spring Training next year.
Refsnyder showed promise in his 77 games primarily at second base for the RailRiders. He showed great poise and concentration with all of the rumors to New York swirling around him in every interview. “I’ll let those things speak for themselves. It’s flattering and nice but it’s all part of the job,” said Refsnyder. The Laguna Hills, Calif. native finished the campaign with an impressive slash line of .300/.389/456. Defensively, Refsnyder only committed three errors in 245 chances.
Pitching was another story for the RailRiders this season. The starting pitching was solid and the bullpen surrendered the lead was the mantra for most of the game for SWB this season. The team posted a 4.27 ERA but did see pitchers trend upward in development. Although a plethora of pitchers were used in a make shift rotation during the season, there were some power arms on display.
Shane Greene was the starter that was there the longest before warranting a stay in the Bronx from July to the end of the season. Although his numbers weren’t gawdy with a 5-2 record and a 4.61 ERA, one can argue that Greene had the best stuff in the Yankees system with an electric fastball and biting off speed before the emergence of Jacob Lindgren.
Along with Greene, southpaw Manny Banuelos made his final stop in his first year back after Tommy John Surgery in Moosic, PA appearing in for games posting a 3.60 ERA in 15 innings of work. “It’s been a tough year with some setbacks but right now my arm is healthy and everything is fine,” said Banuelos after his first start in Triple-A on August 12th when he tossed five innings of one-run ball.
Moving forward, Moosic Pennsylvania will be a hotbed for some of the Yankees top prospects if all goes according to plan. Many believe Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, and Mason Williams will join the team as position players while Luis Severino, Manny Banuelos and Bryan Mitchell will anchor the rotation with young arms such as Tyler Webb and Nick Rumbelow and perhaps Jacob Lindgren will be in Triple-A at some point in the 2015 season.
The 2014 RailRiders showed glimpse of promise but putting together losing streaks throughout the season put them in a poor position to make any chase for the postseason. However, with a better performance by the pitching, especially the bull pen, and a repeat of the offense production could warrant a successful season for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.