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SEASON PREVIEW: Perth Heat
Will the Heat return to their glory days?
11/04/2017 9:21 PM ET
Perth Heat outfielders Jesse Barron and Nick Ruppert celebrate win last season (C) SMP IMAGES/ABL MEDIA
Perth Heat outfielders Jesse Barron and Nick Ruppert celebrate win last season (C) SMP IMAGES/ABL MEDIA 

This is the first of our 2017/18 Australian Baseball League team previews. Each day until November 10 we will preview a team in reverse order of last season's final standings. Today we take a look at the Perth Heat. Up next: Sydney Blue Sox.

The only way is up for Perth after its most disappointing Australian Baseball League season on record.

And with new manager Andy Kyle at the helm along with a crop of exciting imports and homegrown young guns to support its veterans, there is cause for Heat fans to be excited.

Perth adds four Tampa Bay prospects ­- 2015 first round pick Garrett Whitley, infielder Mike Brosseau, outfielder Jake Fraley and catcher Zac Law - and welcomes starting rotation options Alex Boshers and Kyle Simon.

Perth natives Jake Turnbull (infielder, pictured) and Jake Baker (left-handed pitcher) will both join the Heat's ranks for 2017/18, while reliever Travis McDonald returns to WA after previously playing in the State League.

Luke Hughes and Tim Kennelly will be back to provide experience and Perth will hope outfielder Ulrich Bojarski, infielder Jess Williams and catcher Alex Hall continue their development.

If they can - and with an extra postseason spot available - then Perth is in good shape to feature in February and fight for the Claxton Shield.

 

LAST SEASON
14-26 (sixth)

 

THREE UP, THREE DOWN

1. Toughing out the close ones. The Heat finished well off the pace last season but could have been in the postseason mix if a few close games had gone their way. Perth lost a league-high 11 one-run games (winning just five). The Heat lost three games in walk-off fashion and Kyle will be hoping they can grind out some victories in close games in 2017/18 to boost their chances.

2. Getting a good start. Perth spent a large portion of last season playing catch up. The Heat were outscored 36-13 in the first inning of games and by 42 runs across the opening three innings of games. Of the 198 runs Perth conceded, 94 came in innings 1-3. While Tom Bailey (pictured) and Nick Veale toiled hard, making 10 starts each, the Heat's starters were too often beaten up early. Take out the first three innings of games and Perth outscored opponents 106-104 last season.

3. There is extra motivation. For a ball club so used to success there is no doubt last season's performance sits poorly with them. The fact that almost have their losses came in one-run games not blowouts would be extra frustrating but also provide reason for optimism. They also have a new relationship with Tampa Bay and no doubt the Rays' prospects will be keen to make an impression.

 

WHAT MANAGER ANDY KYLE SAYS
"Obviously the team was disappointed with last year, but I don't think when you look at the games they were as far off as what the numbers show. I think it's a good squad with a good local talent pool to choose from. The biggest thing is getting good starting pitching, getting deep into the game and getting on top of the close ball games."

 

X-FACTOR

With a young core veterans Luke Hughes (pictured) and Tim Kennelly will play a huge role mentoring the Heat's emerging talent. At 40 games the season is a sprint but it is still long enough to endure the ups and downs that come with young players. For Perth it is about making sure those down periods do not stretch out too long. If Hughes and Kennelly can put up the offensive numbers they did last season it will also help the Heat's chances of success.

 

WHY TO WATCH THEM
Perth has assembled a strong list of imports to complement its up-and-coming homegrown talent. Whitley, the 13th pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, is the pick of the crop. The 20-year-old outfielder has played more than 200 Minor League games in three seasons and posted strong numbers with Class-A Bowling Green Hot Rods in the Midwest League in 2017. In 104 games Whitley averaged .249, hitting 18 doubles, 13 home runs and finishing with 61 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.

 

BEST-CASE SCENARIO
The imports live up to the hype, the young locals keep improving and veterans Luke Hughes and Tim Kennelly continue to do their thing as the Heat return to the postseason following a two-year absence. To do that the starting rotation will need to carry its weight and go deeper. If Tom Bailey gets continues to excel, Nick Veale finds his form of two seasons ago and the offence warms up, Perth fans should have every reason to be optimistic.

 

HOME OPENER
vs Brisbane, November 24 at 7pm. Get your Perth Heat tickets here!

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.