The Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders’ 2017 season didn’t end with them on top, like it did last season, as the Triple-A National Champions. It did, however, have plenty of positive outcomes and moments to reflect on that made the season memorable for both the fans and players.
The RailRiders finished the season with a 86 – 55 record which was good for first place in the International League North Standings. The started off their playoff series by knocking out their rivals down the Turnpike, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs 3 games to 1 but came up short to the Durham Bulls which ended their season.
Just as they did last year, SWB dominated the IL but this year was a little different. After a few down years in Scranton, the Railriders took the league and their local fans by storm and winning 91 games. Last year was also the first season in a very long time the New York Yankees were showing signs of rebuilding. For over a decade there were no eyes on the Yankee minor league system.
This season the RailRiders had high expectations and Yankee fans paid close attention to what was going on in Scranton Wilkes-Barre. With the Yankees youth movement in full gear, the Railriders’ roster was constantly in flux. Between call up and send downs it was like a whole new team every day.
The one thing to stay consistent throughout the entire season was SWB manager Al Pedrique. He deserves a ton of credit for keeping the team together despite so many changes and continue their winning ways. He would tell his players to block out the noise and just play baseball.
And it worked.
The RailRiders opened the season with a stacked team of top prospects. They had outfielder, Clint Frazier, still getting used to his new team, the speedy center fielder Dustin Fowler who lit up spring training, Tyler Wade was learning multiple positions to become more versatile, and fan favorite Rob Refsnyder returning.
Each of those players would eventually earn a call up to the big leagues and each made a different impression and some other players were making noise at the Double-A level.
The season of call-ups was highlighted by a week at the end of June when the Yankees made six major promotions in six days. It was started by pitcher Ronald Herrera, with the Thunder at the time, skipping AAA and going straight to the Yankees. He was then followed by Wade, who was followed by Andujar, and then Fowler was next. That appeared to be the last splash until tragedy struck.
Fowler attempted to make a catch going to towards the right field fence which he crashed into and shattered his knee. The incident was extremely unfortunate but that made way for the next prospect to be promoted in Clint Frazier.
Although most of their players would end up returning, the RailRiders were struck with some even more bad luck when “Gleybermania” came to an abrupt end. Torres’ season was finished after a collision at home plate and one of their more consistent hitters, Refsnyder, was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Despite losing some key pieces through the year, it gave other players an opportunity to step up their game.
The team’s most consistent hitter on the year was outfielder, Jake Cave. He led the team in average, .324, and tied with Ji-Man Choi for home runs with 15. Their best pitcher on the year was Chance Adams and he dominated the entire season. Adams finished as the team’s leader in wins with 11. He pitched to a 2.89 ERA and struck out 103 batters.
The surprise player of the season was outfielder Billy McKinney. Once a top prospect that was assumed a bust, he found his glory again with SWB. After his promotion to the team he surged with a .306 batting average and he hit 10 home runs in just 55 games.
The 2017 season proved the Yankees incredible depth in their entire farm system and was fun for everyone involved. Now the eyes turn towards 2018 and another season that should be filled with prospects and wins.