Entering their second season as the "RailRiders," Scranton looks to better their performance in 2013 when they went 68-76. With an interesting mix of veteran players and some intriguing prospects, the RailRiders have some strong players on both sides of the field. Of course, the RailRiders have already lost one of their big players for at least the next as Austin Romine was called up when Mark Teixeira went to the DL.
The Scranton outfield will be a lot of fun to watch, as players like Zoilo Almonte, Ramon Flores, Adonis Garcia, Ronnier Mustelier, Antoan Richardson and Slade Heathcott will all have time patrolling the PNC Field outfield. Injury worries will always be at the forefront with Slade Heathcott, though the 2009 first round pick managed to play 103 games in 2013. The only other time he has played in more than 75 games was in 2010 with Charleston. He hit .261/.327/.411 in Trenton last year, but had surgery on his knee in the off season and will start this year in Extended Spring Training.
Almonte and Garcia both made some noise in Spring Training and could see time in New York this year. Almonte appeared in 34 games for the Yankees in 2013, picking up his first professional homer, four doubles and nine RBIs. Flores has consistently found himself in top 30 prospects lists for the Yankees over the last few years and after crushing the ball in Tampa in 2012 and putting in a solid season for Trenton last year, I am excited to see how he does in Scranton this year.
Given the many question marks surrounding the Yankees' infield, it is not surprising that the Scranton infield is equally questionable. Corban Joseph, Carmen Angelini and Jose Pirela have worked their ways through the Yankees' system, but haven't received much consideration for the Bronx. Joseph was once a fairly well regarded prospect for the Yankees, and while he has seen some very limited time in New York, injuries seem to have slowed down his career quite a bit. John Ryan Murphy and Jose Gil will take on catching duties for Scranton this year, along with Romine when (if?) his trip to the Majors ends.
The RailRiders' pitching staff will be interesting to watch. They have a lot of recognizable names, but they don't have the strong starting rotation they have fielded the last couple years. Chase Whitley, who has primarily worked as a reliever during his time in professional baseball, is slated to work as a starter this year. Shane Greene and Caleb Cotham will help out in a rotation that should get a boost from Manny Banuelos (Tommy John surgery), Nik Turley, (tightness in his arm during spring training) and Jose Ramirez (oblique injury) later on.
While the starting rotation is in transition, the RailRiders will have some intriguing prospects in the bullpen. Mark Montgomery, who flew through the Yankees system in 2011 and 2012, hit his first real challenge in Scranton last year. Those struggles weren't helped by some injuries that slowed down the righty, but if he can stay healthy and put get back to his old form it would not be unreasonable to expect to see him in the Bronx at some point this season. Graham Stoneburner, another prospect who has seen his stock fall due to injuries in the last couple years, has started and relieved during his pro career and could see time in the rotation and in the pen, depending upon the RailRiders' needs.