Well, the first month of the 2013 season is in the books, so it is time to check on the minor league teams and players. Due to a busy start to my May, I am a little behind in getting these out, but here is a look at how the Yankees' affiliates look so far. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders: After spending 2012 on the road, there was a lot of excitement for the Yankees Triple-A affiliate this season. Not only did they have a newly renovated stadium, but they had a new name and look to go with it. The first month of the RailRiders' existence has not gone quite as planned, but they seem to be picking up steam. Scranton fans had to wait until the fifth game of the season to see the RailRiders pick up a victory, as they started April with a 1-6 record. As if that wasn't enough to overcome, their next six games were postponed due to rain and/or wet grounds, giving them five days between games and a slew of doubleheaders during the rest of the month. The RailRiders seemed to regroup and quickly made up for lost time. Despite seeing ten games postponed during April, Scranton seemed to adjust well and ended the month by sweeping two straight doubleheaders. In fact, Scranton is currently riding an eight game win streak and finds themselves two games behind Buffalo in the International League North. Interestingly, Donnie Collins pointed out yesterday morning that the RailRiders continue to do much better on the road (12-2) than they do at PNC Field (5-9).
The key strength for the RailRiders has come from the mound. Vidal Nuno, Chris Bootcheck and Chien-Ming Wang have given Scranton some strong starts, while Preston Claiborne, Sam Demel and Mark Montgomery have worked well out of the pen. If Brett Marshall and Dellin Betances can pull together some strong starts, the International League will truly have a tough time against Scranton pitching. Thomas Neal, Austin Romine, David Adams and Zoilo Almonte have all put together strong offensive performances this season. Ronnier Mustelier missed all of April with an injury, but he is now back in the lineup and should prove to big bat for the RailRiders.
Trenton Thunder: Trenton should see some exciting players this season, but so far they have seen their share of disappointment. However, the Thunder went 14-11 in April and is currently three games behind Portland and tied with Binghamton for second in the Eastern League Eastern Division. The Thunder leads the lead in slugging percentage (.407), thanks in part to eleven triples. Slade Heathcott, one of the Yankees most heralded prospects, has been absolutely horrid so far this season. Tyler Austin and Ramon Flores have put together mediocre starts, leaving Robert Segedin, JR Murphy, Kyle Roller and Neil Medchill to provide most of the offense.
Pitching has been a problem for Trenton, however, as they lead the league in walks, runs allowed and team ERA (4.59). Matt Tracy, Nik Turley and Francisco Rondon have a pretty tough start to the season, each struggling to find any consistency. Zach Nuding has put together some strong starts for the Thunder have seen this season, though he has suffered from some rough defense. He has allowed twenty runs, but only eight of them are earned. Despite some ugly pitching and defense, the Thunder have a winning record and if their hurlers can figure a few things out and Slade Heathcott can find his swing, Trenton will continue to see success.
Tampa Yankees: The Tampa Yankees are off to a disappointing start, despite some impressive individual performances. They went 11-14 in April and are currently five games behind the Dunedin Blue Jays for fifth place in the Florida State League North Division. The Yankees offensive stats are pretty mediocre, though they lead the FSL in walks and are tied for second in on base percentage. The addition of Robert Refsnyder, Jose Toussen and Dan Fiorito have given Tampa an offensive boost. Gary Sanchez has put together a solid start, leading the team in RBIs and homers. Meanwhile, Mason Williams and Saxon Butler did not start 2013 well and Angelo Gumbs landed on the DL and hasn't played since April 12th.
Pitching has also been a mixed bag for Tampa. Shane Greene and Bryan Mitchell have put together some good performances for the Yankees, who have generally put together a merely adequate job on the mound. While they have only walked 91 to their league leading 243 Ks, they have given up 143 runs. The Yankees have minimized damage by only allowing ten homers, but overall their pitching doesn't quite seem to be doing the trick.
Charleston RiverDogs: Charleston has had an interesting start to 2013, depending on some strong pitching and some intriguing offensive performances. After going 13-10 in April, they are struggling in May and are now 4 games behind Savannah in the South Atlantic Southern Division. The main problem with Charleston's offense has been their propensity to strike out, as they have the second highest amount the Sally League with 272. As a team, the RiverDogs are hitting just .243/.329/.362. Cito Culver started the season pretty hot, but has cooled considerably, while Dante Bichette is hitting under .200. Refsnyder started off the season with Charleston but was quickly promoted after he hit .370/.452/.481 over thirteen games. Butler also was promoted quickly, taking away another strong bat from Charleston. Peter O'Brien is leading the way for the RiverDogs, hitting .313/.348/.563 and the addition of Jake Cave has given them some more offense.
On the mound, the RiverDogs lead the Sally League in Ks and have a solid 3.49 team ERA. Gabe Encinas and Rafael De Paula are consistently giving Charleston strong starts. De Paula's 46 Ks lead the league by ten and he has only walked 15. Meanwhile, Dietrich Enns and Charlie Short have given them some good innings out of the pen.