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Ten BOLD predictions for season 2017
Here are 10 absolute certainties for season eight
11/12/2017 8:38 PM ET
Brisbane players celebrate defeating Melbourne in the 2017 ABLCS (C) SMP IMAGES/ABL MEDIA
Brisbane players celebrate defeating Melbourne in the 2017 ABLCS (C) SMP IMAGES/ABL MEDIA 

The 2017 Australian Baseball League season is almost here and with six teams starting at 0-0 anything can - and probably will - happen.

With 120 regular season games to come and an expanded postseason the possibilites are endless.

But we have looked into the future and picked 10 absolute certainties for the 2017 season:

 

The six ABL rosters for the new season contain A LOT of power. Newcomers Delmon Young, Tomoya Mori (Melbourne), Chang Tai-shan (Adelaide), Chiang Chih-hsien (Sydney) and Lin Chih-sheng (Brisbane) all have a long shot in them. After seeing 171 home runs last season - the second fewest in a season - we are expecting a jump in 2017. And if at the halfway mark of the season this prediction looks like falling flat we could surely borrow some World Series balls from MLB.

 

While Melbourne were not quite the runaway winner they looked like being midway through last season, they did finish three games clear of Adelaide with 26 wins. This season it looks like being an even closer race and we expect little will seperate the teams at the end of the campaign. With an extra playoff spot up for grabs we could be looking up the tiebreaker rules and working out scenarios entering the final weekend of the regular season.

 

Warner returns to Canberra for his first ABL season with a seriously good CV. The infielder enjoyed a highly successful college stint and was picked by Detroit in the 28th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. The 23-year-old hit .294 in 31 Minor League appearances after linking up with the Tigers' organisation and is an exciting prospect for the Cavs. He may make a slow start but we rate him highly and think he will add to Canberra's offensive prowess.

 

New Adelaide manager Chris Adamson has put faith in Chambers with the right-hander expected to feature in the Bite's Opening Weekend starting rotation. We are expecting the 27-year-old journeyman will repay his rookie manager this weekend and beyond. Chambers had a rough time last season, finishing with a 5.95 ERA and winning just one game. He found himself coming out of the bullpen at one stage. The setback followed a stellar 2015/16 where he went 8-1 with an ERA of 3.66 and was instrumental in Adelaide making the ABLCS.

 

Hamburger went 5-1 in his first ABL season before picking up a loss in game one of the ABL Championship Series, despite lasting eight innings. Apart from the ABLCS outing it was a dominant season by the 30-year-old, who led the league with 86 strikeouts and a 1.90 ERA. While a perfect 10-0 record may be beyond him, we think the right-hander can go through the regular season without suffering a loss.

 

Fingleson, 41, is not eligible for ABL Rookie of the Year honours (we checked!), but looms as an X-factor for Sydney this season. A season after Michael Campbell tied with Jacob Younis for the Blue Sox's batting title in his first ABL campaign, we think another new 'kid' on the block could lead the way. Manager Tony Harris says Fingleson, part of the Olympic silver medal winning side in 2004, is in great shape and has a "young body" with plenty of experience to offer.

 

The four-time ABL champions finished rock bottom last season and will be keen to bounce back. Under new manager Andy Kyle the Heat have an exciting young core and welcome four quality imports from Tampa Bay, including first-round pick Garrett Whitley. They have also added two independent arms to their starting rotation, an area that left plenty to be desired last season. A year after Melbourne went from last to an ABLCS, we think Perth could do the same.

 

At the age of 21 Whitefield has emerged as one of the ABL's hottest talents. The outfielder led the league with 53 hits and 21 stolen bases last season. He recorded 77 total bases - tied with Adelaide's Mitch Dening - after finishing with 12 doubles and four home runs. He showed increased power during the 2017 Minor League season, hitting 11 home runs with Class-A Cedar Rapids Kernels.

 

Delmon Young is one of the bigger name signings entering the new ABL season. The former top MLB draft pick is hoping a stint down under will relaunch his career at the highest level. He has not taken long to make an impression, hitting a home run off the first pitch he saw in an exhibition game over the weekend. We reckon Kellin Deglan's single-season ABL record 16 home runs could be under threat if Young comes out swinging.

 

No disrespect Brisbane, you have been amazing and on paper look like a championship calibre team. But a three-peat, as shown by the Perth Heat on two occassions, is a tough ask. Even in a 40-game season so much can happen. A hit by pitch or injury to a key player could be all it takes to change the course of the season. All five chasing teams look stronger this season too, leaving the Bandits with a tough task ahead. And after overcoming adversity last season, when they took until beyond the midpoint of the season to get to full strength, a repeat performance is no easy feat.

 

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