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Season preview pt. 1: The men in armour
11/13/2017 5:54 PM ET
ALLAN De SAN MIGUEL - ABL 2012 ALL STAR GAME - 16TH DECEMBER 2012. Action from the 2012 Australian Baseball League (ABL) All Star Game played at Altona Stadium, Melbourne between Team Australia v the World Team. This image is for Editorial Use Only. Any further use or individual sale of the image must be cleared by application to the Manager Sports Media Publishing (SMP Images). PHOTO : SCOTT POWICK - SMP IMAGES/ABL
ALLAN De SAN MIGUEL - ABL 2012 ALL STAR GAME - 16TH DECEMBER 2012. Action from the 2012 Australian Baseball League (ABL) All Star Game played at Altona Stadium, Melbourne between Team Australia v the World Team. This image is for Editorial Use Only. Any further use or individual sale of the image must be cleared by application to the Manager Sports Media Publishing (SMP Images). PHOTO : SCOTT POWICK - SMP IMAGES/ABL (SCOTT POWICK - STAFF)

This is an unofficial preview of the upcoming season where we get to know more about the players donning the Aces uniform. This preview is an unofficial projection of the roster. An initial roster will be officially released prior to Friday, November 17. Please note that the roster is still subject to change during the course of the ABL season.

A new season of Melbourne Aces baseball is just days away. This year's squad is filled with familiar faces, international imports and plenty of talent to tangle with the best of the ABL. Before the first pitch is thrown, get to know your Aces as we preview each position. Today's preview is focused on the men behind the plate.

Liam Bedford - 24 years old, 180 cm 80 kg 
Bats: Right/Throws: Right

Melbourne is thrilled to see Bedford return to the Aces for his fifth ABL season season. The Melbourne native has improved his batting average in each of the last three seasons and is coming off a career year where he slashed .293/.314/.405. If he continues on his current trajectory it will be awfully difficult for Deeble to keep a player of his caliber out of the lineup. 

Bedford was also a member of Team Australia's U23 World Cup Team that competed last year in Mexico City. Bedford played in almost every game for a successful Australia team that made it to the championship against Japan. His international experience should only aid him as he competes against the ABL's best.

What also makes Bedford an intriguing player is his defensive flexibility in the outfield. He can play both corner positions at an above average level, which means that Deeble can use Bedford to pinch-run in a tight game late and then keep him in the ballgame to play outfield. A very nice insurance policy for the manager to have at his disposal.

Brett Cumberland - 22 years old, 180 cm 93 kg 
Bats: Switch/Throws: Right

While he may not be Ronald Acuña, the Atlanta Braves have once again sent over highly-touted prospect in Brett Cumberland. Atlanta selected Cumberland out of California University in Competitive Balance Round B (the round between rounds two and three) as their catcher of the future. 

MLB scouts raved about Cumberland's hitting approach while he was at Cal, calling him one of the most advanced college bats in the 2016 draft class. He's a durable, switch-hitter that has excellent strike-zone discipline and can hit for a high average while drawing walks. 

Cumberland split his time between Low-A and High-A in the Braves farm system and posted respectable numbers in his full professional season. When you put his 2017 stats all together, this was a catcher who had 40 extra-base hits, 69 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .409. By the end of the season, an unranked Brett Cumberland was listed as the 24th best prospect in the Atlanta Braves system according to MLB.com. 

Allan de San Miguel - 29-years old, 175 cm 93 kg
Bats: Right/Throws: Right

San Miguel returns for his second stint season with the Aces and his eighth campaign in the ABL. The Perth native and longtime member of the Australian national team spent time in the US as a non-drafted free agent with the Minnesota Twins way back in 2004. He spent seven seasons in the Twins' minor league system from 2005-2011 advancing as high as Triple A. After moving on from the Twins, San Miguel got another shot with the Baltimore Orioles in 2012 due to his stellar 2011/12 ABL season in which he hit .293 with eight doubles, seven home runs, and 24 RBIs. He played in the Orioles' system for two seasons including another stint in Triple A.

 Allan de San Miguel is known ABL commodity thanks to his time playing for his hometown Heat since in the new ABL's inaugural 2010/11 season. De San Miguel helped the Heat win back-to-back ABL championships in 2010/11 and 2011/12 by smacking a combined 12 home runs and driving in 38 combined runs.

San Miguel also had the honor playing for Australia in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Though Australia was knocked out in the first round he still managed to record base-hits against Japan, China, and a three-hit performance against Cuba.

Deeble has a rock-solid veteran who has experience playing against top talent in the United States and some of the best international talent thanks to his time with the Australian national team. He will be a steady leader in the clubhouse and provide stout defense for the Aces pitching staff. 

Tomoya Mori - 22-years old, 170 cm 80 kg
Bats: Left/Throws: Right

One of three Japanese players joining the Aces this season, Tomoya Mori is the only position player of the trio. Mori plays in the prestigious Nippon Professional Baseball Organization and has been a member of the Seibu Lions since he was drafted as an 18-year old. 

Despite his limited stature, Mori's compact swing packs quite the punch. He has an aggressive approach at the plate who has legitimate power to both sides of the field and is rarely caught off balance. He can still hit for power even with two strikes and rarely misses an opportunity to punish a poorly located pitch.

His offense translated immediately in the Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB) as he became the fifth player in NPB history to post a double-digit home run season within two years of being drafted out of high school. Other players to achieve the feat include 18-time NPB All-Star and legend Kazuhiro Kiyohara, former New York Yankee Hideki Matsui, and budding superstar Shohei Otani who is expected to command a $20 million transfer to play in the United States next season.

Yet for most of his young career, Mori has been penciled in the DH spot because of his fringy defensive ability. Outside of pitch-framing and blocking, Mori needs to improve how he calls games-something he has been criticized in the past by his Seibu manager. Melbourne will serve as the perfect opportunity for Mori to hone his craft especially given the chance to work alongside a seasoned catcher like De San Miguel.

Seibu and NPB fans alike will be eager to see Tomoya Mori return to Japan for another season as the young Lions catcher/DH has already become a fan favorite. In 2015, Mori received the most votes at the DH position for the NPB All-Star Game. He would go on to hit a pinch-hit homerun in the second of two games, making him the youngest player to hit a pinch-hit homer in a NPB All-Star Game. 

Good to fair chance there will be some Aussies in the Tomoya Mori fan-club when it's all said and done.
 

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