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Melbourne 2018/19 season preview
Are the Aces playoff-bound for a third-straight year?
11/07/2018 9:23 PM ET
 

Melbourne will hope the addition of experience - including two more big leaguers - will propel them to a third-straight postseason.

The Aces hopes of a maiden ABL title were dashed by Brisbane for a second-straight season in February, when they fell in the ABLSF.

Melbourne manager Jon Deeble has added experience ahead of the new season with Luke Hughes joining the Aces from Perth.

They have also retained the services of Delmon Young, who is expected to join the team a few weeks into the season.

Melbourne will receive two pitchers from the Seibu Lions - Hiromasa Saito and Hayato Takagi - and have added MLB experienced reliver Byung-hyun Kim.

The Aces have also added reliever Scott Kuzminsky - who reached Triple-A in 2017 - and left-hander Luke Westphal.

Catcher Jake Romanski will provide back-up to Allan de San Miguel, while DJ Burt and Rudy Martin add speed.

 

 

The Vitals

Last season: 17-23 (fourth, lost to Brisbane in ABLSF)

Manager: Jon Deeble

 

Three up, three down

1. Putting up runs

Melbourne's 379 runs across the past two seasons are the fewest in the ABL in that span.

But it has been enough to get them into the playoffs on both occasions, last season despite their pitching not being nearly as effective as a year prior.

The Aces have added Luke Hughes, who drove in 37 runs for the Heat last season, and added capable offensive imports.

Melbourne's top-three contributors for RBIs last season, Darryl George (30), Delmon Young (29) and Allan de San Miguel (26), are also back.

Another former player could also be returning in a boost to the Aces' batting line-up.

 

2. Pitching for success

The longer last season went on, the more Melbourne's pitching battled.

Had it not been for the Aces' offence warming up at the same time as their pitching lagged, playoffs would have been off the table.

Melbourne's 6.72 ERA was better than only that of Sydney, a year after having the league's best pitching staff.

The Aces had an 8.31 ERA through 17 games in January, not helped by five outings at hitter-friendly Holloway Field.

Melbourne has added some arms in a bid to turn that around.

 

3. They have some wheels

Two seasons ago the Aces offence was also boosted by some speed.

Melbourne led the league for stolen bases as they made the ABLCS.

This season they have a couple of speedsters at their disposal.

Kansas City Royals prospects Rudy Martin and DJ Burt.

Burt, 23, led the Class-A Advanced Carolina League with 32 stolen bases for Wilmington Blue Rocks in 2018 and teammate Martin finished with 29.

 

The case for

Melbourne have a load of experience and have added plenty of firepower offensively.

Luke Hughes is a huge acquisition and retaining Darryl George and Delmon Young is a close second.

If the Aces' imports can play roles around Hughes, Young, George, and young local talent including Jarryd Dale, Melbourne will be in a strong position to make it three-straight years of playoff baseball.

 

The case against

Their arms.

Melbourne has added strength to its bullpen but can they deliver?

The wheels fell off late last season as the Aces struggled to keep runs off the board.

That was with stars Mark Hamburger and Josh Tols - who have departed.

Melbourne will need Jon Kennedy and Sam Street to put together strong seasons and hope Dushan Ruzic can play a key role in the rotation.

Question marks also hover over what Byung-hyun Kim will be capable of as he heads towards 40 years of age.

A fast-start while they have the services of Hiromasa Saito and Hayato Takagi will also help the Aces' chances.

 

Home opener

vs Canberra at Melbourne Ballpark, November 16 at 7.05pm local time. Get your tickets here!

 

 

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