The Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees have been having trouble drawing attendance this season.
It’s easy to see why, though, right? The Yankees just trade all of their prospects away so there aren’t any players worth seeing. The team isn’t really that good. The players there are stuck at the Triple-A level because the Yankees are filled with All-Stars blocking their path to the Bigs.
All of those are common misconceptions about the Yankees minor league teams and they couldn’t be any more false.
Part of the reason why so many people believe these things is that the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees get no publicity to even let the fans know what they’re missing. And I can tell you that they’re missing a lot.
For starters, the SWB Yankees have a diamond in the ruff with their first baseman Jorge Vazquez. He is currently leading the International League with 20 homeruns. He’s the type of hitter you pitch around with the bases loaded.
What makes Vazquez most valuable is that he can play both corner positions which may make him a nice fill-in in the Bronx until the current backup corner infielder for New York, Eric Chavez, gets healthy.
Vazquez isn’t your prototypical power hitter either. His minor league career started in 2005 and he has hit no lower than a .323 batting average in every season except one (.284 in 2010). Unfortunately, not many people know that Vazquez exists. I don’t think the Yankees even know they have him. Once they figure it out, though, he’ll be a nice call up off the bench and perfect, in my eyes, for the designated hitting role.
Another player in SWB that really interests me is Kevin Whelan. He’s definitely the best arm out of their bullpen right now. He has the stuff to go far in the major leagues. When he’s throwing strikes, he’s extremely difficult to hit but that’s his biggest problem: throwing strikes.
That’s all anyone talks about but what people don’t see is that he is a pitcher by accident. Whelan was a catcher until his final years of college when he decided to joke around and pitch during practice. The ability he has is no joke, though.
He only has about 300 innings under his belt which is like three years as a reliever or two as a starter so he is still young in terms of pitching. Considering those stats, how can you not expect him to have some control problems?
Eventually Whelan is going to figure those issues out and become a dominant reliever. He’s already shown he can do it this year for SWB pitching to an ERA under 2.00 with 18 saves. He was already called up once this year and walked 5 guys in 1.2 innings but that was also his Major League debut in front of thousands of people.
With the New York Yankees bullpen struggles, I can see Whelan up with them again this season and filling a very big void in the pen.
Vazquez and Whelan are only two players on a roster full of potential, so it’s well worth going out for a game to check them out in person because the next time you see them might be on the YES Network.
Tommy Romanelli is a Wyoming Area grad and former Warrior baseball player. Going into his sophomore year as a journalism major at Luzerne County Community College, he writes for pinstripesplus.com and their printed magazine and has an article on Kevin Whelan in the July issue. His thoughts on the SWB Yankees will appear in the Dispatch throughout the season.