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Burning questions - Perth
Three burning questions for the Heat in 2018/19
10/30/2018 10:17 PM ET
 

Perth were the surprise packet in 2017/18, winning 12 more games than a season earlier on their way to the playoffs.

But will they be able to continue their rise this season?

Here are three burning questions for the Heat ahead of the ABL season getting underway:

 

1. Will their young talent take the next step?

Jess Williams, Alex Hall, Robbie Glendinning and Ulrich Bojarski all played significant roles in Perth's rise last season.

Three of the quartet have signed on for the upcoming season - with only Bojarski not yet announced as returning by the Heat.

Williams was rightfully named ABL Rookie of the Year after hitting .310 with 34 runs batted in.

But Hall and Glendinning played equally as important roles.

Hall spent the early part of the season as designated hitter and in the outfield before switching to his natural role behind the plate after import catcher Zac Law returned to the US injured.

The 19-year-old excelled, finishing the season with a .282 batting average, six home runs and 27 RBI across 36 games.

Glendinning joined Perth midway through the season and made an instant impact, helping cover the departure of Michael Brosseau from the middle infield.

The Pittsburgh Pirates' prospect, 23, averaged .333 with three homers and 17 RBI in 21 games.

All four showed their class representing Australia at the U23 World Cup this month and are sure to have a key say in Perth's fortunes this summer.

 

2. How will the Heat's infield shape up without Luke Hughes?

Veteran Luke Hughes is gone - after moving to South-West Division rivals Melbourne - but Perth is not short of infield options.

Sam Kennelly will make his return to the Heat following a stint on the sidelines after Tommy John surgery.

Kennelly, 22, played 121 games for Perth between 2012 and 2017.

He hit .218 with 10 RBI in 26 games during the 2016/17 season and more recently went 10-for-31 while playing first base for Team Australia at this month's U23 World Cup in Colombia.

Kennelly played most of his previous 121 games with the Heat at third base, but brother Tim locked down that spot last season.

Perth has also added Baltimore Orioles' prospect Chris Clare to their middle infield alongside Williams and Glendinning.

Clare hit .224 with 35 RBI across 122 Double-A and Class-A Advanced games in 2018.

 

3. How much of a boost is having a restriction-free Warwick Saupold?

After being a mainstay in the Detroit bullpen in 2017, Saupold fell out of favour in 2018 before clearing waivers and landing in Toledo.

He finished the season with the Mud Hens, where he recorded a 4.89 ERA in 15 games.

After having his workload limited by the Tigers during his past few seasons with Perth, Saupold now is off the leash.

It means he can return to the Heat's starting rotation.

The right-hander has made 26 starts in 65 appearances with Perth, but worked out of the bullpen since 2015.

As a starter during the 2011/12 ABL season the now 28-year-old went 5-3 with a 1.41 ERA in 10 games.

He made eight of his appearances in Toledo as a starter, compiling a 4.10 ERA.

Saupold will be a welcome addition to a rotation that at times struggled for consistency last season.

 

What are your burning questions for the Heat?

 

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