The Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders have seen plenty of the Yankees’ top prospects don their uniform before ever playing a game in the Bronx. Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Luis Severino, and now Anthony Volpe all have International League time to their credit, and several other members of the 2023 Yankees have called Northeast Pennsylvania home in summers past. While Triple-A is not a necessary stop on the way to the big leagues, and often the level is populated with players who’ve already had MLB experience, you can still find players on their way up dotting the lineup of the RailRiders.
This year’s version of the Scranton ballclub will likely feature a number of players who have been listed among the Yankees’ top prospects, as well as another group of players providing major league depth who could see time with the big club at some point this year. Here is a guess at the names who could appear on the roster of the RailRiders as they prepare to open up at their home PNC Field on Friday night.
An elbow injury to Josh Breaux makes the catching situation in Scranton cloudier than it seemed in February, but organization veteran Rodolfo Durán should split time behind the plate with newly-signed minor league free agents Nick Ciuffo and José Godoy. The new guys both hit left-handed and have major league cups of coffee to their credit, and each will provide depth until Ben Rortvedt can return from surgery. Considering the seriousness of Rortvedt’s operation to address an aneurysm near his left shoulder, we may not see him in uniform for a while.
Now that we know Anthony Volpe is the new starting shortstop in the Bronx, we also know Oswald Peraza will be the shortstop for the RailRiders. It’s unfortunate for Peraza to be back in Triple-A when he is likely ready to take his place in the big leagues, but an injury or trade could open a spot for him at any point during the season. For that reason, he will see some time at second as well.
Peraza could be joined in the infield by two players who stood out in Somerset last year in Andrés Chaparro and Jesús Bastidas. Chaparro not only made a name for himself by destroying Double-A pitching, but he led the Yankees in home runs during spring training games this year. Bastidas got plenty of playing time this spring too, and the organization seems impressed by the power breakout he had in 2022.
Organization veterans Chad Bell and Max Burt, returning player Jake Bauers, and minor league free agents Wilmer Difo, Jamie Westbrook, and Delvin Pérez all could see time in the Scranton infield in 2023.
Chappy Hour— New York Yankees (@Yankees) March 25, 2023
Andrés Chaparro hits his 5th homer of the Spring pic.twitter.com/FdEr9XBVgW
The Yankees brought in Willie Calhoun, Michael Hermosillo, and Billy McKinney on minor league deals, and all three should see time in the Scranton outfield. The three players are all 28 years old, and combined they have seven years of major league service time. Hermosillo can play some center field and bats right-handed, while lefties Calhoun and McKinney are corner players. The former top prospect Calhoun may have made the Yankees out of camp if he had the defensive ability of Estevan Florial, and he could be the first player called up if an injury fells one of the outfielders on the big league team.
There are likely prospects in the outfield too. Elijah Dunham and Jeisson Rosario are logically on their way up from Double-A, and both of the lefty hitters could see significant time for the RailRiders this year. Dunham was a non-roster invite to big league camp, and the Yankees would love to see him have success at the Triple-A level. Organization veteran Matt Pita could back up at the corner spots as well.
ELIJAH DUNHAM ADDS ANOTHER HOME RUN❗️— Somerset Patriots (@SOMPatriots) September 27, 2022
We now have 3⃣ homers in the first two innings of the game for an 8-2 lead. pic.twitter.com/Detbi7phec
There are an absurd number of pitchers who are in the discussion to be on the Opening Day roster of the RailRiders, and there could be a cascading effect on the lower levels because of it. There may be as many as 20 relievers in play for spots on the Scranton pitching staff, and that number has to be considered in addition to the eight or nine guys who could get starts. The roster can’t hold 29 pitchers, so some of these players will end up in Double-A, perhaps pushing more players down to High-A whether they belong there or not. Injuries and minor league contract opt outs will thin these numbers, but we won’t know who officially is active on the team until the roster is released in the next couple of days.
Since Greg Weissert didn’t make the big league team, he will return as Scranton’s closer. He has nothing left to prove in Triple-A, after being named International League Pitcher of the Year in 2022, and he will likely ride the shuttle to New York throughout the season. The RailRiders also could have swingman Josh Maciejewski coming back, as well as relievers Michael Gomez and Zach Greene. It was Greene who was recently returned to the Yankees after being waived by the Mets, who selected him in the Rule 5 Draft in December.
There are several relievers who could be on their way up from last year’s Somerset team. Carson Coleman is the most likely, but Steven Jennings, Barrett Loseke, Derek Craft, Nick Ernst, and Matt Minnick all have strong cases to be in Triple-A this year. Coleman has popped up on prospect lists this winter after bursting onto the scene last year as Somerset’s closer.
Yankees pitching prospect Carson Coleman (@SOMPatriots) has one of the most “live” fastballs I’ve ever seen. 4SFB just takes off. pic.twitter.com/leHaPI5Sf6— Eli Fishman (@elijfishman) June 15, 2022
During the offseason, the Yankees signed relievers Zac Houston, James Norwood, Tyler Danish, Ryan Weber, Matt Bowman, Ian Hamilton, Demarcus Evans, Lisandro Santos, Nick Ramirez, and D.J. Snelten to minor league free agent contracts. That’s a lot of guys, and all of them could be in Scranton’s bullpen on Friday. At the moment, Hamilton appears to have an opt-out date coming next week, and he pitched well enough in camp to make the big league team, so either they add him to the 40-man roster or risk losing him. If they add him, he could be optioned.
The Yankees also signed left-handed starter Tanner Tully, who will be in the mix with returning starters Deivi García, Sean Boyle, and Mitch Spence. García is still on the 40-man roster, and he impressed with his stuff in big league camp, so there remains hope he can contribute in the majors once again. Also on the 40-man are prospects Randy Vásquez and Matt Krook, though Krook may work more out of the bullpen in preparation for a call-up at some point this year. Jhony Brito looks like he may get the nod to take Luis Severino’s place in the big league rotation, but he will likely return to the RailRiders when a healthy starter comes back. Add in prospects pushing up from Double-A, like Will Warren and Clayton Beeter, and it becomes difficult to predict a rotation.
If the Yankees do bring Warren and Beeter to Scranton to start the season, they should attract special attention. Each could surpass the other pitchers on the roster if they pitch to their capabilities early in the season. They aren’t 40-man players, but they have the type of stuff that could allow them to force their way to the front of the line, and using them out of the bullpen at some point is not out of the question.