2017/18 ABL R1 – Melbourne v Perth
19 Nov 2017 13:00 AEST
Round 1 of the 2017/18 Australian Baseball League season features Melbourne v Perth.
Perth starts life under new manager Andy Kyle with a tough first-up assignment against last season’s runner-up Melbourne. The Heat enter the new season with a young core but have added some exciting Tampa Bay prospects as they look to climb off the foot of the standings.
First-round pick Garrett Whitley headlines the Rays contingent, while Perth has strengthened its pitching with the addition of independent league imports Alex Boshers and Kyle Simon. Boshers looks set to get the Opening Night nod, with locals Tom Bailey and Nick Veale set to get another crack in a rotation that struggled last season.
The Heat’s starters allowed more runs (140) than any other team last season, an area Kyle has said needs work.
Perth will be without Tim Kennelly in Melbourne, leaving Luke Hughes as an important figure in an otherwise young batting lineup. The Aces spent the offseason adding experience as they look to build on last season’s ABL Championship Series defeat, with former MLB top pick Delmon Young their prized recruit.
Starter Mark Hamburger’s return is equally as vital for Melbourne, while Josh Tols looks set for a starting role. The Aces will be hoping for more of the same from their pitchers in 2017/18 with the addition of some offence they sorely missed in the run home last season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
HEAT – Garrett Whitley: Whittley was selected in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft by Tampa Bay and is an exciting talent. The outfielder hit.249 with 13 home runs during the MiLB season.
ACES – Mark Hamburger: Hamburger was a highlight of the ABL on and off the field last season. If he can win half or more of his starts again it puts Melbourne in a strong position in a 40-game season.
Heat 3-1. Melbourne enter Opening Weekend without a few key components. Matt Marksberry will not front and several other players including Jon Kennedy and Peter Moylan will join the Aces in the middle of the season. It gives Perth a sniff and we think they might pull an upset on the road. The Heat have added four quality Tampa Bay imports and will turn to another recruit, Alex Boshers, to provide a solid start on Opening Night.