Yankees MiLB: Thoughts on the RailRiders
I was on hand in Gwinnett, Georgia for the recent three game series between the Gwinnett Braves and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The RailRiders jumped out to early leads in the first two games, but wound up on the losing side. In the closer, they jumped out to a big early lead against the Braves top pitching prospect Matt Wisler and never gave it up, winning the finale 8-5.
There were quite a few things to take away from the series. The 10-11 RailRiders are just about done with the first month of the season, so a few question marks are starting to be answered.
1. ROB REFSNYDER IS HEATING UP
Refsnyder had a big series in Gwinnett. More importantly, he played clean baseball in the field. That was the worrisome point and now he is looking good.
The series featured two of the top second base prospects in all of baseball in Jose Peraza and Rob Refsnyder. Refsnyder came through, out playing Peraza but just a bit. Refsnyder went 4-for-11 in the series, but nearly every hit counted.
More from Yankees Minor Leagues
- Yankees State of the Farm System Review: Josh Breaux
- Early prices for Yankees 2022 Bowman Draft cards are absurd
- Reflecting on the 2013 New York Yankees’ top 10 prospects
- Yankees add to championship core with Wilmer Difo signing
- Yankees’ Jasson Dominguez ranks in tough spot on Arizona Fall League Top Prospects list
Look at Game One. The RailRiders were up 4-2 and allowed the G-Braves to tie up the game. The very next inning, Refsnyder hits a high chopper over the third baseman’s head into left field to give the RailRiders the lead right back. Tuesday night in Game Two, with the score 0-0 in the fourth, Refsnyder ropes an inning opening double to start the rally. Kyle Roller (who is also heating up) drove him in with a double of his own to give the RailRiders their first lead of the evening. Last night, he roped another double that barely stayed in the park and scored an insurance run in the RailRiders 8-5 victory.
More imortantly, Refsnyder played a clean second base. He was error free after making 7 errors in his first 17 games heading into the series. He also made his best play of the season, and quite possibly his career. When a ball was smoked into centerfield, Refsnyder would seemingly come flying out of no where, fully extended like Superman, and snag the line drive out of the air. He played short hop after short hop perfectly, and may be turning that corner.
Refsnyder is now on a 5-game hitting streak and has raised his average from .193 to .263 with 9 hits over that span. He is heating up and in the three hole of the lineup, he seems to be delivering when they most need him. Should his defense hold up, that call up may not be too far away.
2. THERE ISN’T MUCH IN THE PITCHING DEPARTMENT
Last year the New York Yankees big league club saw their pitching staff get decimated. Names like Shane Greene and Chase Whitley came up and impressed for most of the season. Well, Shane Greene is gone and Chase Whitley seems locked into the rotation now with the Masahiro Tanaka injury, so what is left at Triple-A.
None of the starters in this series pitched particularly well. Jaron Long, who I personally had high hopes for this season after an impressive 7-2, 2.35, 1.06 WHIp debut at Double-A Trenton, struggled on Monday night. He cruised through four innings, seemingly untouchable not getting in trouble once. And then the flood gates opened. Long only allowed two runs to score, but the fifth inning suddenly became batting practice. In order to dominate at the higher levels and big leagues, a pitcher needs to make it through a lineup solidly more than once. This is where Long is currently struggling. He has the tools to succeed, he just needs to figure out how to use them.
Eric Wooten (0-3, 5.09 ERA, 1.52 WHIP) and Kyle Davies (2-1, 7.42 ERA, 1.73 WHIP) are Triple-A arms. If the Yankees have to turn to them, they are in serious trouble. Davies, the 31-year old Major League veteran, has now let up 11 runs over his past two starts.
The bullpen seems to be working out the kinks. I was disappointed I did not get to see last year’s draft pick Jacob Lindgren make an appearance, but I did get to see Danny Burawa. Burawa struggled mightily last year, but had all the talent in the world to be a part of a big league bullpen. This year, he looks the part. He hurled two perfect frames on Tuesday night, striking out two and looking sharp. Diego Moreno pitched 1.2 innings last night to close out the 8-5 win. He got hit around, but was able to get in and out of trouble. His ERA now sits at 0.63 on the year.
Aside from Bryan Mitchell, there seems to be little help in the starting pitching department in SWB. The bullpen has able arms in Burawa, Lindgren and Moreno. Let’s just hope these Yankees stay healthy.
3. BEN GAMEL IS BECOMING A FUN PLAYER TO WATCH
Gamel is not atop the Yankees pipeline and is a long way from being the next call up to the Bronx. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t play hard and isn’t fun to watch.
Gamel broke through last year earning an Eastern League All Star Game nod. He will never rock your socks off with his power (his career high is 4 in a season) but he is speedy and gets nice doubles and legs out triples and steals a few bases along the way.
Gamel showed a little bit of everything in this series. He hit a ninth inning home run that brought the RailRides within one on Tuesday night. He legged out a triple on Wednesday and would come around to score. You would think that a month in, he would start to fade, but Gamel keeps bringing it. He is now batting .386 with an impressive .444 on base percentage.
4. MAYBE SLADE HEATHCOTT CAN PLAY AFTER ALL
I have not kept it a secret about my disdain to former Yankees’ top prospects (I use the term top loosely). Heathcott was a walking injury the past few seasons, and looked like he was never going to make it to big league abilitiy. When they left him unprotected and let him walk as a free agent this offseason, I was not upset.
This year, he looks like the player the Yankees envisioned them when they drafted him in the first round of the 2009 draft. He is on a four game hitting streak, picking up three more hits in this series. He rested yesterday, but he put together a solid 3-for-7, 1 walk, 1 strikeout series line. He did get picked off at first after a single, but he seems to be turning that corner. On the season he is slashing .342/.386/.461.
5. KYLE ROLLER IS STILL MY FAVORITE RAILRIDER
You got to love the big guy. He bats in the heart of the order, has a big swing, and even showed a bit of fire. Roller was ejected Tuesday night for arguing a called strike three (which actually almost hit his foot, so I can’t blame him). Whatever he said, must have stung, because he got tossed immediately.
Roller went 4-for-10 in the series, with a couple of big doubles. He still has a tendency to strike out a bit, but seeing him in person, I was overly impressed by his defense. This is where Roller has really matured. He made several great stops at first base that could have easily been doubles down to the right field corner. He also played short hops beautifully several times.
Roller has a tough road to the Bronx. Mark Teixeira looks healthy and is playing well and Garrett Jones is a solid veteran backup. But if Roller continues to produce (.300/.447/.433 in 2015) the Yankees are going to have to give him a chance eventually, right?
More from Yanks Go Yard
- Should Yankees toss short-term extension at Harrison Bader before 2023?
- Yankees chose worst possible player to ring in New Year on 2023 team calendar
- Yankees State of the Farm System Review: Josh Breaux
- Yankees make upside play, sign former Rangers top prospect outfielder
- MLB insider claims favorite emerging in Bryan Reynolds rumors (not Yankees)