Baby Bombers 2013 MVPs: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre

09/27/2013 10:18 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Dan Johnson was a rock in an otherwise very fluid RailRiders lineup in 2013.(Scranton Times-Tribune)
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders finally opened their new home in 2013, but not many people stuck around until the end of their lease, so to speak.

Counting a handful of Major League rehabbers, the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate used a franchise-record 73 players this season, with 19 players making five or less appearances and two different position players – including catcher R.J. Baker, who pitched more games than he caught – taking the mound.

September call-ups of course helped this next statistic, but in total, only four of the 23 men who suited up for the RailRiders’ Sept. 2 finale also suited up on opening day at PNC Field – and so, it’s probably not a stretch to believe that our choice for Scranton’s 2013 MVP is not only gone from the organization, but also wasn’t one of the guys who played in that season finale.

That man is first baseman Dan Johnson, whose 2013 began in Major League camp vying for a bench job – and, after Mark Teixeira’s injury, potentially a starting gig. However, instead of landing the job that eventually went to Lyle Overbay, Johnson fulfilled his Minor League deal and was assigned to Scranton, where he ended up being one of the only rocks in an otherwise fluid lineup.

Prior to being released in the season’s final week so he could seek a Major League job (and still secure playoff eligibility), Johnson played in 133 games for the RailRiders and started 111 at first base – totals that make his accomplishments stand even more when you see that Addison Maruszak was second in games played with 94 and Melky Mesa was second in “starts at one position” with 68 nods in center field.

Not surprisingly, then, Johnson led the team in almost every major offensive category, topping the RailRiders in home runs (21), RBI (69), doubles (26), hits (116), runs (57), total bases (205) and walks (93), with the latter total nearly three times the production of second-place Maruszak (32).

In addition, among players with more than 50 plate appearances, Johnson ranked third in on-base percentage (.379), fifth in slugging percentage (.447), and second in OPS (.826, just a fraction behind Randy Ruiz’s .829).

A solid season at any time on any level under any circumstances, but in this year at this level with these circumstances, it was a strong bright spot in a 68-76 season for the RailRiders.

As far as a Cy Young goes, once again, roster turnover made it a tough contest; of the nine relievers who made 30 or more appearances, five of them were outright released sometime in the midst of the season, and of the four starters who made 15 or more starts, two were called up to the Majors at least once and the best was actually the also-released Chien-Ming Wang (8-7, 2.87 ERA in 17 starts).

So, we’ve decided to split the award between the best starter and best reliever, earning RHPs Chris Bootcheck and Sam Demel the honors.

Bootcheck missed a week in June after being called up for one appearance with the Yankees and subsequently being designated for assignment, but he still won a team-high 10 games, spun a 3.69 ERA, and pitched 136.2 innings – behind only Brett Marshall’s 138.2 – in 23 starts and one relief appearance.

Demel, meanwhile, was a dominant reliever all season, going 1-1 with a 1.72 ERA and three saves in 35 appearances and striking out a whopping 65 batters in 52.1 innings.

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