MOOSIC, Pa. - On the day the big club opened its season against its most bitter rival, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Triple-A/New York Yankees) have proudly announced their roster for the 2013 season. Nearly half of the 25-man group has spent at least some time in the Major Leagues. The RailRiders are the defending International League North champions.
The RailRiders' rotation features a nice mix of big-league experience and up-and-coming prospect youth. Brett Marshall, the sixth-ranked prospect in the Yankees' system according to Baseball America, will be a new face to the Triple-A level. His 13 wins last season led the Double-A Eastern League, while his 3.52 ERA ranked fifth on the Yankees' farm. Dellin Betances, a New York City native known for electric stuff, has already made his debut for New York and should be a frontline starter for SWB. Vidal Nuno opened eyes with his stellar spring training. The lefty received the 2013 James P. Dawson Award, given annually to the outstanding Yankees rookie in spring training. The 25-year-old went 1-1 with a save and a 0.61 ERA in seven appearances (two starts) for the Yankees this spring. He allowed just one run in 14.2 innings, allowing 10 hits while walking four and striking out 13.
Other pitchers that could factor into the rotation include Chris Bootcheck, Jim Miller and Ryan Pope. Bootcheck has mostly been a reliever since 2006, but has 136 career minor league starts. Miller has appeared in 47 Major League games. That includes 33 with Oakland last season when he went 2-1 with a 2.59 ERA and finished 18 games.
Mark Montgomery forced his way into many of the game's top prospects lists with his phenomenal 2012 campaign. Now he will be called upon to be a key component in the RailRiders' bullpen. An 11th-round pick in 2011, he struck out 99 batters in just 64.1 innings of work last season. His 15 saves paced the Pinstripes' minor leaguers. The former Longwood University star enters the season as the 11th-best prospect in New York's system according to Baseball America. Sam Demel, Juan Cedeno, Preston Claiborne, and Josh Spence will join Montgomery in the bullpen. Demel has two career saves over 72 big league appearances with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre pitching staff will be in good hands with the likes of catchers Austin Romine and Bobby Wilson behind the plate. Romine, drafted in the second round in 2007 by New York, has nine big league games under his belt along with 21 contests with SWB. Romine has been on numerous prospect lists since his professional debut and is rated as the "Best Defensive Catcher" in the Yankees' system by Baseball America. Wilson has extensive big league experience with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. That includes 75 games with the Angels just last season. Ryan Baker and Jeff Farnham will join Romine and Wilson as the RailRiders' catchers.
Dan Johnson headlines a talented Scranton/Wilkes-Barre infield. Johnson, an International League All-Star with Charlotte in 2012, will provide a left-handed power bat to the lineup. The 2010 IL Most Valuable Player hit 28 home runs with the Knights last season before he slammed three home runs as a September call-up with the Chicago White Sox. Johnson has played in 413 big league games, hitting 56 home runs. The RailRiders' infield will be comprised of Johnson, David Adams, Corban Joseph, Addison Maruszak, Luke Murton and Gil Velazquez. Adams was released on March 26 to make room on the Yankees' 40-man roster for Vernon Wells. He signed back by the organization three days later. His .306 batting average ranked sixth in the Eastern League last year. Murton's 25 homers in 2012 led New York's farm system and had him finish runner-up in the Eastern League to the minors' home run hitter last season, Darin Ruf. Joseph played 84 games for SWB in 2012 as the team's primary second baseman. He ranked third on the team in home runs (13) and RBIs (56) as the usual two-hole hitter. Velazquez has 32 big league games under his belt including 19 with the Miami Marlins just last season. He has played in 674 Triple-A games over 11 such seasons for a number of teams.
Melky Mesa used a stellar Scranton/Wilkes-Barre performance to earn a call-up from the Yankees last season, and he will lead the outfield contingent to start 2013. Mesa hit 23 home runs and drove in 67 runs between Double-A Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2012. His home run total ranked second among the Yankees' minor leaguers. Thomas Neal made his big league debut with the Cleveland Indians last season, driving in two runs in nine games as a September call-up. Mesa and Neal will be joined in the outfield by Zoilo Almonte and Cody Johnson. Almonte ranked among the top-five Yankees' farmhands in home runs (3rd, 21) and RBIs (5th, 70). Johnson is known for incredible power and tape-measure home runs. The game's 24th-overall pick in 2006 hit 16 homers in just 221 at-bats with Trenton last season, amassing a .520 slugging percentage along the way.
The RailRiders' 2013 season gets underway with the grand opening of a reconstructed PNC Field on April 4 when the defending IL champion Pawtucket Red Sox come to town for a rematch of their 2012 playoff clash with SWB. It will mark the first "Thirsty Thursday" promotion of the year with $1 beer specials and $1 Pepsi products along with a pre-game live band performance and post-game fireworks. Tickets for all games are still available, including Opening Night. For more information, please visit the team's official website, www.swbrailriders.com, or call 570-969-BALL (2255).