The Yankees Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders have a National Championship to defend in 2017. And they can’t wait for the season to begin.
While the Yankees look forward to capturing their first World Championship since 2009, their farm team already has a title from last season that they are preparing to defend. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are the reigning National International League champions, and they’re anxiously awaiting the start of their season on April 6 when they travel to Buffalo.
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Any Triple-A level major league farm club learns to live in the shadow of their parent club. During the season, their roster will be picked and prodded at to meet the needs of the big club when a player goes down with an injury or loses favor and is demoted to the minors.
And since it makes sense that the big club will cherry pick the best available option, a team like the Railraiders can all of a sudden find itself, for instance, without a closer or the power bat in their lineup that has led them to six straight wins.
The Yankees Recognize The RailRiders
Despite that, the RailRiders, as they should be, of what they accomplished last season. And in a little-noticed ceremony last Friday at Steinbrenner Field before the Yankees game, the team was presented with their Championship Rings, presumably paid for by the Yankees.
"“It all comes from Skipper,” RailRiders pitcher Brady Lail said of the team’s excitement this spring. “Al Pedrique, he does a great job. He gets everybody excited for these (spring training) games that are tough to get going for. We’re just all excited to get up there and get rolling and try to defend a championship.”"
Now It’s Time To Look Ahead
With a roster that includes Matt Wotherspoon, outfielders Mason Williams and Clint Frazier and pitchers Luis Cessa, Johnny Barbato and J.P Feyerson, who pitched in Double-A last year, the team feels like there’s no reason they can’t earn a second consecutive title. Wotherspoon explains:
"“As far as goals, we just want to go out and have fun and compete every day, and play to the best of our ability. I think I feel like if any team does that they’re going to be pretty successful,” Wotherspoon said. “There’s a lot of buzz around the clubhouse, a lot of energy. I think guys know that if you perform, you’re going to get moved (along). They’re going to push you and you’re going to have the opportunity to make the big leagues.”"
The RailRiders roster is by no means set as there still players on the Yankees roster and still in Tampa who need to be dealt with. Both Aaron Judge and Tyler Wade, for instance, could be added to their roster depending on what the Yankees decide to do at shortstop and right field. Ditto for Jordan Montgomery, Bryan Mitchell, and Chad Green, who are all competing for a spot in the rotation.
So conceivably, the RailRiders could find themselves in a position where the team that opens the season is even stronger than the one they had last year. And some might argue that it’s a team that could be competitive as a 31st team in the major leagues right now.
Of all the great Yankees pitchers who have contributed to 27 World Championships over the years, who are the Top Five Most Effective Pitchers All-Time?
This feature article is the second in a series of articles that Yanks Go Yard will be doing over the course of the summer to keep our readers posted as to what’s going on “down on the farm.”