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Auckland 2018/19 season preview
Can Steve Mintz guide the Tuatara to the playoffs in year one?
11/07/2018 12:46 AM ET
 

Auckland will be hoping former Adelaide manager Steve Mintz can guide them to the playoffs in their ABL debut season.

Mintz will take the helm of New Zealand's first professional baseball team, bringing together local talent, MLB, NPB and CPBL experience and exciting young prospects.

The Tuatara have signed big league pitchers Josh Collmenter and John Holdzkom and partnered with NPB and CPBL teams to bring high-quality imports to Auckland.

But the expansion team will not be able to ease into life in the ABL.

They will play three-time champions Brisbane in pre-season action this weekend before heading to Perth for Opening Weekend from November 16.

The Tuatara then host divisional rivals Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney at McLeod Park before playing its final 24 games on Australian soil.

It will be a test for Mintz's charges.

 

The Vitals

Last season: n/a

Manager: Steve Mintz

 

Three up, three down

1. The Mintz effect

Mintz returns to the ABL chasing an elusive title.

The former Adelaide manager took the Bite to the playoffs in his two seasons at the helm, falling to Brisbane in the 2016 ABL Championship Series.

Adelaide was 53-43 in two regular season campaigns under Mintz, a former MLB pitcher.

Mintz knows the ABL well and is a perfect fit to Auckland in its maiden campaign.

 

2. Second round talent

Texas Rangers' prospect Eric Jenkins is an exciting addition the Tuatara outfield.

The 21-year-old was selected in the second round of the 2015 MLB Draft and has since made 367 minor league appearances.

He hit .241 during the 2018 season and finished at Class-A Advanced Down East Wood Ducks alongside Mintz.

Jenkins hit .223 with 14 RBIs during 85 games with the Ducks.

In 2016 he led the South Atlantic League with 51 stolen bases.

 

3. A balancing act

It is not an unfamiliar predicament for ABL teams, but Auckland will find itself juggling its roster with players coming and going over the course of the 10-week season.

Chiba Lotte Marines will send three prospects for five rounds, while Houston Astros' prospect Nick Tanielu will join midway through the season.

Local product Kyle Glogoski will be limited to 25 innings after his first minor league season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2018.

 

The case for

The Tuatara have assembled an impressive roster given the short time frame since their acceptance into the ABL.

Auckland have signed big league pitchers Josh Collmenter and John Holdzkom, they've also secured partnerships with the NPB's Chiba Lotte Marines and CPBL outfit Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions.

The Marines have sent starters Tomohito Sakai and Atsuki Taneichi as well as 20-year-old shortstop Taiga Hirasawa for the opening half of the season.

Catcher Kuo Chun-wei, right-handed pitcher Chen Yu-hsuan and infielder Tsai Yi-hsuan join from the Lions.

Combined with the local New Zealand prospects, the Tuatara have a nice blend of talent as their disposal.

 

The case against

Auckland faces an uphill battle to reach the playoffs in its inaugural season.

The Tuatara will compete in the North-East Division against last season's ABLCS combatants Brisbane and Canberra, and a Sydney team hoping to the big movers in 2018/19.

Auckland also faces a daunting travel schedule.

They will play just three series in Auckland, from round two to four, before spending the final six weeks of the regular season playing in Australia.

This season will also mark the first full season in the ABL for many of the Tuatara's New Zealand players.

Can they maintain consistency across a 40-game schedule?

 

Home opener

vs Brisbane at McLeod Park, November 23 at 3.00pm local time. Get your tickets here!

 

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