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SEASON PREVIEW: Melbourne Aces
Can the Aces get back to the big stage?
11/08/2017 10:34 PM ET
Melbourne's outfield celebrate a win over Brisbane last season (C) SMP IMAGES/ABL MEDIA
Melbourne's outfield celebrate a win over Brisbane last season (C) SMP IMAGES/ABL MEDIA 

This is the fifth 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 positions. Today we take a look at the Melbourne Aces. Up next: Brisbane Bandits.

Melbourne completed a stunning turnaround last season as it went from last to first in the space of 12 months under Jon Deeble before falling to Brisbane in the ABL Championship Series.

Now the question is whether the Aces can go one better.

Working in Melbourne's favour is the fact starting pitcher Mark Hamburger will rejoin the team for a second season after leading the ABL with 86 strikeouts in 2016/17.

Hamburger will be joined by former MLB first overall pick Delmon Young, as he looks to relaunch his ailing career in the ABL, and left-handed reliever Matt Marksberry.

The Aces will also field a Japanese trio to start the season, including catcher Tomoya Mori as he continues his comeback from an elbow injury that delayed his start to the NPB season.

Deeble is hoping Melbourne's young players can step up and contribute around their star-studded import line-up.

Jarryd Dale had his first taste of ABL action last season, while Ryan Dale (pictured) and Matt Beattie keep getting better.

Pitchers Daniel McGrath, Jon Kennedy and Sam Street will also look to continue their rise when they join the Aces in the second half of the season.

Brad Harman and Dushan Ruzic's departure also open the door for younger players to step up.

 

LAST SEASON
26-14 (first, lost to Bandits in ABLCS)

 

THREE STRIKES

1. Unfinished business. The Aces were so dominant through the opening two months of last season and even despite slowing in January wrapped up top spot and a home ABLCS with time to spare. But on the big stage they failed to deliver as Brisbane went back-to-back. With the main parts of the puzzle back and a strong list of imports Melbourne will no doubt be in the mix again this season.

2. Stingy pitching. Melbourne's pitching staff did not give up much last season, posting an ERA of 3.23. The Aces' starters were even stingier, led by Hamburger they gave up 2.86 runs per nine innings and picked up a league-high 15 wins tied with Adelaide's rotation. With Hamburger back for another stint Melbourne will be hoping they can keep opposition offences just as silent in 2017/18.

3. You can't steal on me. With veteran Allan de San Miguel (pictured) at backstop rival teams appeared reluctant to steal against the Aces last season. Only 31 times did an opposition side try and Melbourne caught them a league-high .419 percent of them. De San Miguel stopped 10 of 23 stolen base attempts to lead the league.

 

WHAT MANAGER JON DEEBLE SAYS
"We're really looking forward to this year. We've got most of our team back from last season, and one of our keys is getting those young Australian kids more game time. Look for guys like Ryan Dale, Jarryd Dale and Matt Beattie to take a few more steps forward this season."

 

X-FACTOR
It is hard to go past Delmon Young. The former first round pick has arrived in Melbourne and is deep into his preparation for the new season. Young has a point to prove and ambitions to return to the MLB, making him a dangerous proposition for rival sides. Young's arrival should take some pressure off de San Miguel in the middle of the order, and his experience will be a huge bonus for the Aces' younger players.

 

WHY TO WATCH THEM

Because they are stacked with Major League talent. Former MLB top pick Delmon Young, returning starter Mark Hamburger (pictured), relievers Matt Marksberry and Virgil Vasquez along with Aussie Peter Moylan when he joins the ballclub in the second half of the season. Tomoya Mori - one of three Seibu Lions imports set to spend part of the season in Melbourne - arrives with more than 300 games of experience in Japan.

 

BEST-CASE SCENARIO
The Aces pick up the pieces from last season's near-miss to return and succeed on the ABL's biggest stage. Melbourne was by far the best team during the regular season and with the addition of Young and return of Hamburger they are again going to be tough to beat. Tomoya Mori is a star and will be a force during his time down under.

 

HOME OPENER
vs Perth, November 17 at 7.30pm. Get your Melbourne Aces tickets here.

 

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