As the 2017-18 Australian Baseball League season nears Opening Day, it’s the Melbourne Aces stealing the headlines, appearing hell-bent on atoning for last season’s postseason capitulation to the Brisbane Bandits.
The list of signings by the Aces in recent months has been very impressive, as the team looks to bolster its roster in a quest for its first ABL championship.
Left-handed reliever Matt Marksberry, who pitched in 35 games with the Atlanta Braves through 2015 and 2016 is set to make his first trip down under after pitching for Quebec in Independent Ball in 2017. The 27-year-old experienced some inconsistency in the Major Leagues, working to a 5.06 ERA, however owns solid Minor League numbers with a 14-16 record and a 3.49 ERA.
In what’s arguably been the biggest signing in ABL history, the Aces have also added veteran Major League hitter Delmon Young to the roster. The 32-year-old last played in the Majors with the Baltimore Orioles in 2015, before experiencing a series of setbacks and challenges off-field. Over the course of his 10-year MLB career, Young played 1,118 games, hitting an impressive .283 with 109 home runs and 566 RBI. Renown as a clutch postseason performer, as seen by his 2012 ALCS MVP honors, Young hit .262 over 37 postseason games with nine home runs and 22 RBI.
After a brilliant 2016-17 season with the Aces, 30-year-old right-handed starter Mark Hamburger is returning for a second stint down under. With his long locks and a cool, calm demeanor, the fan favorite owned a 5-1 record with a 1.90 ERA through 11 starts on his way to winning the Aces’ Pitching Award. Prior to his time in Melbourne, Hamburger pitched in five games for the Texas Rangers in 2011, working to a respectable 4.50 ERA. In 282 Minor League outings, he owns a 26-30 record with a 3.88 ERA.
Veteran reliever Peter Moylan is also returning to Melbourne Ballpark following an impressive season with the Kansas City Royals where he worked to a 3.49 ERA across 79 relief appearances. Now 38 years old, the big right hander is one of Australia’s greatest baseball stories, owning a 24-9 record with a 3.00 ERA across 11 Major League seasons. He is also expected to fill the role of team pitching coach.
A trio of highly touted Japanese youngsters are also making their way down to Melbourne this summer, with starting pitcher Kona Takahashi, catcher Tomoya Mori, and reliver Shunta Nakatsuka each joining the team. The trio represent the Saitama Seibu Lions in Nippon Professional Baseball’s Pacific League. 20-year-old Takahashi is one of Japan’s brightest young stars and has garnished interest from scouts all over the globe. Since making his debut as a 17-year-old, the right hander owns a 12-17 record with a 4.07 ERA. Mori, 22, has played 324 NPB games, hitting .294 with 35 home runs and 147 RBIs. Nakatsuka, the tall 22-year-old, is an imposing figure on the mound and made his NPB debut in 2017, recording two outs in a brief relief appearance.
Atlanta Braves outfield and first base prospect Tyler Neslony is another set to don the red and white after his signing was announced late this week. Through two Minor League seasons ranging from Rookie ball to Double-A, the 23-year-old is hitting a fraction under .270 with seven home runs and 50 RBI. At High-A Florida in 2017 he hit an impressive .309 with four home runs and 21 RBI, and he will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow Braves prospect Ronald Acuna who dominated down under last season.
The Aces start their season on Friday 17 November against the Perth Heat at Melbourne Ballpark. Tickets can be purchased here.