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SEASON PREVIEW: Sydney Blue Sox
Can the Blue Sox return to the playoffs?
11/05/2017 9:08 PM ET
Sydney celebrate a win over the Perth Heat last season (C) SMP IMAGES/ABL MEDIA
Sydney celebrate a win over the Perth Heat last season (C) SMP IMAGES/ABL MEDIA 

This is the second 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 Sydney Blue Sox. Up next: Canberra Cavalry.

Sydney will be aiming to end a two-year postseason absence under new manager Tony Harris.

The former Adelaide Bite mentor will take the helm of a Blue Sox team that started brightly in 2016/17 before fading badly.

A 2-12 run during the middle of the season effectively snuffed out any chance Sydney had of making the top three.

But there were positives despite the fifth-place finish.

Michael Campbell's emergence on the ABL scene was one, as was the continued rise of infielder Jacob Younis.

Another was the performance of relievers Todd Van Steensel and Josh Guyer (pictured).

Guyer is set to step up into the starting rotation this season and the Blue Sox have added former Brisbane Bandit Connor MacDonald to their offence.

They welcome back starting pitcher Trevor Foss and reliever Sven Schueller and will announce further imports this week.

With a list of exciting prospects, seasoned veterans and several big name imports to come, Sydney is ready to make a run in 2017/18.

 

LAST SEASON
15-24 (fifth)

 

THREE UP, THREE DOWN

1. A ton of opportunity. The Blue Sox offence struggled to drive in runs in 2016/17, but that was not through lack of opportunity. Sydney stranded a league-high 313 runners on base last season, 18 more than next-worse ranked Perth. Younis (pictured) led the local players with 15 RBIs. The Blue Sox will need to capitalise on their chances and provide better run support this season if they are to climb the standings.

2. Cleaning up their act. Sydney came up with a league-high 58 errors in 39 games last season. The tally was just five shy of the team record 63 errors the Blue Sox committed in 2015/16 when they played 55 games. In a 40-game season giving opposition sides anymore than 27 outs is entering dangerous territory. Harris says the defensive aspect of the game has been a big focus for Sydney ahead of the new season.

3. Finding a way on the road. The Blue Sox tied with Perth for a league-low four road wins in 2016/17, a season after recording the worst away record (8-20) in the ABL. Sydney's inability to win road games cost it dearly. The Blue Sox gave up a league-high 6.9 runs per game away from Blacktown. ABL history shows seven road wins is the fewest by a team to reach the postseason (Melbourne in 2010/11). Can Sydney find at least three more wins on the road this season?

 

WHAT MANAGER TONY HARRIS SAYS
"We've made some good changes in terms of playing personnel and our import selection. The imports need to be impact players and hopefully we've been able to achieve that. We've got plus make-up guys, (and) our second-year imports will be key. We've also got a good balance of younger players and veterans."

 

X-FACTOR

The second-year imports. Starter Trevor Foss and reliever Sven Schueller's return to Sydney for a second ABL season is a huge plus for the Blue Sox. Right-handed Foss finished last season with a 2-3 record and 3.57 ERA, striking out a team-high 56 hitters. Schueller compiled a 4.50 ERA in 14 appearances out of the bullpen. Second-year imports have historically been like gold in the ABL, benefiting from the first-time around experience.

 

WHY TO WATCH THEM
Many ABL pundits would not have the Blue Sox in their postseason predictions but with Harris at the helm Sydney seem happy to embrace the darkhorse tag. The former Adelaide manager has flagged defence and pitching as areas that need improvement and Sydney fans should be keeping an eye on those aspects. In the short-term keep an eye on some big import announcements from the Blue Sox front office this week.

 

BEST-CASE SCENARIO
The Blue Sox buy into the blue-collar tag. If Sydney can improve its defence then playoffs beckon in 2017/18. The Blue Sox gave up too many extra outs through errors last season and can ill-afford a repeat if they are to make the playoffs. Finding a solid option for the fourth spot in their starting rotation would also help after going 1-8 in game four of a series last season.

 

HOME OPENER
vs Adelaide, November 17 at 7.30pm. Get your Sydney Blue Sox tickets here!

 

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