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Burning questions - Melbourne
Three burning questions for the Aces in 2018/19
10/31/2018 1:38 AM ET
 

Melbourne returned to the playoffs for a second-straight season in 2017/2018, where they were once again taken down by Brisbane.

They welcome Luke Hughes and Byun-Hyun Kim as they look to earn a return trip to the business end of the season.

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

 

1. Will their experience guide them to an elusive ABL title?

Melbourne - not for the first time - will have several former Big Leaguers in its ranks.

Delmon Young, a 1118-game MLB veteran, will return for a second season after slugging 13 homers in 2017/2018 following a slow start.

He will be joined by former Perth Heat infielder Luke Hughes - who homered off Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer in the first at-bat of his 106-game MLB career - in the Aces' batting line-up.

Melbourne has also secured the signature of former Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies right-hander Byung-Hyun Kim.

Kim made 394 MLB appearances across nine seasons, compiling a 4.42 ERA.

He spent four seasons in the KBO after the completion of his MLB career and last featured in 2015 when he complied a 6.98 ERA in 23 games for the Kia Tigers.

While Kim has not played at a high level since then, both Young and Hughes showed last season they still have plenty to offer on and off the field.

 

2. Is the Aces' single-season stolen base record in danger?

The Aces have landed a couple of speedsters in Kansas City Royals duo DJ Burt and Rudy Martin and could challenge their single-season stolen base record.

Melbourne stole a league-high 62 bases during the 2015/16 season, led by 12 from Logan Moon.

Burt, 23, led the Class-A Advanced Carolina League with 32 stolen bases for Wilmington Blue Rocks in 2018.

He also stole 32 bags in 2017, on that occasion ranking fifth in the Carolina League.

Burt's best haul came in 2016 when he stole 43 bases in the Class-A South Atlantic League. He ranked second behind Auckland Tuatara signing Eric Jenkins (51 stolen bases).

Overall Burt has 134 stolen bases in 453 Minor League games.

Martin, 22, has 91 in 210 games.

He stole 29 this season - playing alongside Burt at the Blue Rocks - to finish tied for second in the Carolina League.

The Aces stole 34 bases last season with Darryl George and Tyler Neslony leading the way with eight each.

 

3. Who will feature in a new-look starting rotation?

Mark Hamburger and Josh Tols are gone, leaving manager Jon Deeble with a new-look starting rotation for the 2018/19 season.

Jon Kennedy returns after starting eight games for the Aces last season.

But the lefty made 25 of his 29 appearances out of the bullpen during the Minor League season, a role the Braves will likely want him to continue at Melbourne.

The Aces have brought Dushan Ruzic back after a year away from the league to likely fill one spot in the rotation.

Seibu Lions import Hayato Takagi is another option, but like Kennedy was used more so as a reliever in 2018.

Takagi holds a 3.87 ERA in four NPB seasons.

Right-handed Boston Red Sox prospect Harrison Cooney has not started since 2015, while 2014/2015 Baseball Victoria Summer League MVP Luke Westphal has worked out of the bullpen for most of the past three years.

Byung-Hyun Kim has also spent time as a starter but has not played top-level baseball for a few years.

It leaves a couple of spots to be confirmed before Opening Night against Canberra on November 16.

 

What are your burning questions for the Aces?

 

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