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Perth 2018/19 season preview
Can the Heat go even further this season?
11/08/2018 1:14 AM ET
 

After a mere 14 wins in their 2016/17 campaign, the most successful team in ABL history bounced back with a return to the playoffs in last season.

Fast-forward nine months and Perth are perfectly poised to make a run at the ABL Championship once again.

Whilst the Heat have lost Luke Hughes to Melbourne, their young Australian core is as good as any in the league and they'll be hoping for a repeat performance from their crop of Tampa Bay Rays imports.

Add a full season of fan-favourite Warwick Saupold and the Heat might be back in familiar territory come February next year.

 

Vitals

Last season: 26-14 (second, lost to Canberra in ABLSF)

Manager: Andy Kyle

 

Three up, three down

1. Can these Rays keep up?

The Tampa Bay Rays have sent down some incredible talent to the ABL including Kevin Kiermaier, Nick Ciuffo and Johnny Field, but has there been a more productive quartet than Perth's crop of 2018?

Zac Law (.333/.434/.689), Michael Brosseau (.427/.496/.729), Garrett Whitley (.265/.384/.503) and Jake Fraley (.361/.449/.680) were at the forefront of the Heat's resurgence last season.

Fraley took home the League MVP after belting 13 homers, driving in 39 RBIs and setting a new single-season stolen base record (39).

This season, five Rays imports will descend on Perth Harley-Davidson Ballpark, led by 21-year-old starting pitcher Cristopher Sanchez and 2018 Midwest League Champion Carl Chester.

Sanchez is a 196cm left-handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic and has spent four years in the Rays organisation, while outfielder Carl Chester played an integral role in the Bowling Green Hot Rods 2018 championship, hitting .285.

If this years Rays imports can produce to the levels of Fraley, Brosseau and co., there'll be some happy Heaters.

 

2. Rotation, rotation, rotation

Warwick Saupold has already been slated as a starter for the Heat, with the long-time member of the Detroit Tigers organisation aiming to get back to affiliated baseball next season.

Nick Veale is poised to settle into a starting role for the fourth consecutive season, and will aim to improve on last year's campaign.

The U23 World Cup silver medallist had an ERA of 5.18 a season ago, but showed glimpses of brilliance, including 6.1 innings of one-hit baseball against the powerful Bandits lineup.

Will second-year manager Andy Kyle opt for a pair of Rays prospects in Cristopher Sanchez and Joe Peguero, who combined for 18 starts in the 2018 MiLB season, or will the responsibility lie with local pair Dan Schmidt and Conor Lourey?

 

3. Clutch time.

En route to their ABL Semi-Final exit last season, the Heat were the best team in the league with runners in scoring position and two outs, driving in 84 RBIs (two ahead of the Brisbane Bandits).

Fan favourites Tim Kennelly and Jess Williams put up mind-boggling numbers with runners in scoring position.

Brewers prospect Williams went 22-for-44 with runners in scoring position, while half of his 34 RBIs came with two outs.

Tim Kennelly was equally as impressive, hitting .415 with runners at either second or third base.

The Heat's timely hitting often kept them in ballgames a season ago, and with Williams, Kennelly and co returning for another tilt, opposition pitchers will need to be at their best.

 

Case for

The Heat have got their mix of youth and experience just about right.

Stalwarts Tim Kennelly, Cam Lamb, Dan Schmidt, Warwick Saupold and Scott Mitchinson have carried the torch through the Heat's golden years.

Now, with potentially the most exciting group of young position players in the league, the Heat are poised to strike.

Andy Kyle has a year of experience under his belt and some serious weapons at his disposal.

 

Case against

The Heat have lost a lot of offence.

Luke Hughes, Jake Fraley, Michael Brosseau and Garrett Whitley combined for 46% of the Heat's RBIs last campaign, and none will suit up for Perth this season.

That said, after Zac Law and Michael Brosseau headed home after 13 and 25 games respectively, the likes of Robbie Glendinning, Jess Williams, Alex Hall and Ulrich Bojarski handled the workload with maturity beyond their years.

Perth's import contingent must fire for the team to be successful, and if they do, watch out.

 

Home opener

vs Auckland at Perth Harley Davidson 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.