The Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders have been spoiled with talent and success for the past few seasons, and 2018 was no different.
The RailRiders finished the season at 73-65 which was good enough to clinch a Wild Card berth in the International League Playoffs. They would then take care of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs who were International League North champions and had the best record in the league by four games. They took the first round of the playoffs in five games but fell short of a title at the hands of the Durham Bulls.
The central theme from this year’s RailRiders team was roster moves.
Bobby Mitchell‘s first year as the RailRiders manager was a hectic one as it seemed like every week multiple roster moves were being made, and to his credit, his team just kept winning.
Only three players in their Opening Day lineup ended the year with the RailRiders. First baseman Ryan McBroom and outfielder Zack Zehner began the year in Scranton but were both sent down to Double-A Trenton for a short while in the middle of the year before being called back up. First baseman Mike Ford spent time on the disabled list and played in rehab games with Staten Island, but he also started and ended the year in Scranton.
Right-handed pitcher Raynel Espinal was the only player to not go on the Disabled List to play the entire year in Scranton. Right-Handed pitcher Cale Coshow, and outfielderMark Payton started and ended the year in Scranton, but they also spent time on the disabled list.
Aside from the roster turnover, there was a ton of star power on display at PNC Field.
In total, 29 players that have played in the Majors this season have also played for Scranton (non-rehab), 13 currently on the Yankees roster.
Highly touted prospects such as infielder Gleyber Torres and left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield spent time in Scranton, though at different points in the year. First baseman Luke Voit seemed to have found his groove when he was sent down to Scranton after his first stint with the Yankees, and left-handed reliever Stephen Tarpley was lights out in Scranton before he got a well-deserved call-up to the big club.
Left-hander Josh Rogers and right-handed reliever Cody Carroll had impressive seasons but were dealt to the Baltimore Orioles in the Zach Britton deal, and both have since been called-up to the Majors. Shortstop Abiatal Avelino was another remarkable player for Scranton this year but like Rogers and Carroll, was traded to San Francisco in the Andrew McCutchen deal and he as well has made is Major League debut since being dealt.
Third baseman Brandon Drury got a tough break this season. After landing on the disabled list at the beginning of the year, Drury would sit out for about a month, giving way to third baseman Miguel Andujar and we all know how that is going. It seemed that at the time, that the Yankees were waiting for Andujar to cool off to give Drury his spot at third base, but that would never happen, and the Yankees used up all their rehab days with Drury and would eventually send him down to Triple-A before trading him to Toronto along with RailRider Billy McKinney.
Although there was a ton of Major League talent on this roster, players who have yet to see the bigs shined as well.
McBroom was a pleasant surprise for Scranton this year as he finished out the year with a slash line of .295/.339/.443 with 11 Home Runs and 46 RBIs. His 1B partner, Mike Ford had another solid year as well. Slashing .253/.327/.433, Ford smacked 15 Home Runs, good for 2nd place on the team, but his 52 RBI’s led the team.
On the pitching side of things, the one pitcher that surprised many people was Nestor Cortes.
Cortes started the year playing for the Baltimore Orioles but after one game was DFA’d and picked back up by the Yankees. Cortes was thrown into the rotation for most of the year, something he had not done his entire career but he flourished. In 111 2/3 IP, Cortes had an ERA of 3.71 with 96 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.18.
Towards the end of the season, right-handed starter Michael King was called up from Trenton and just like he was in Tampa and Trenton, King put on a show in Triple-A. In six starts, throwing a total of 39 innings, King had a record of 4-0 and only allowed five earned runs and six free passes to hitters. He struck out 31, had a WHIP of 0.67, and held opposing hitters to a nasty .147 batting average.
A lot of talented players saw themselves in a Scranton uniform in 2018, some got called up to New York, some got dealt to other organizations and made their Major League debuts there, and some will still be there come April of 2019.
With another successful season in the books for the RailRiders, this season was almost like a microcosm of their club’s history. No matter who is the manager, no matter who is playing, no matter what moves are made, one thing has always stayed consistent with the Moosic-based team: Wins.