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Season Preview pt 2: Infielding Inquires
Local Talent Will Anchor Majority of the Infield
11/13/2017 11:27 PM ET
 

 This is an unofficial preview of the upcoming season where we get to know more about the players donning the Aces uniform. This preview is an unofficial projection of the roster. An initial roster will be officially released Friday, November 17 prior to the beginning of Round 1. Please note that the roster is still subject to change during the course of the ABL season.

Melbourne will be deploying a mostly Australian infield this season that should be one of the strongest infields in the entire league. Every player on this list spent time playing in the US in affiliated minor league ball. There is also a tremendous mix in age with a 14-year age gap between the oldest and youngest infielders on the team. The offense may be a question that pervades the Aces infield but defensively this group should be rock-solid behind Melbourne's pitching staff.

 

Jared Cruz - 22-years old, 185 cm 85 kg

Bats: Right/Throws: Right

Cruz is another Melbournian who is well-versed in the ABL. With four ABL seasons already on his résumé, Jared Cruz is trying to take another step forward in his baseball career. The 2016/2017 campaign was the most successful to date for Cruz setting career highs in appearances (33), batting average (.278), on-base percentage (.350) and RBIs (10).

Cruz-a former farmhand in the Atlanta Braves system-is a bona fide utility infielder, evidenced by the fact that he spent various times last season defensively at shortstop, second and third. However, in 2014 while playing for the Gulf Coast Braves in the US, Cruz totaled 111.2 innings at first-base posting an excellent .992 fielding percentage that season

His continually improving offense plus his defensive versatility will prove invaluable to Deeble. Couple that with fact that Cruz is only 22-years old meaning he should be fit enough to play every day meaning Cruz can allow other plays days off without sacrificing the defense. Cruz may be the glue that holds in the field together throughout to course of the ABL season.

 

Jarryd Dale - 17-yeard old, 185 cm 80 kg

Bats: Right/Throws: Right

A season ago as a 16-year old, young Jarryd Dale was called to action after his brother after Ryan sustained an injury from a foul ball. He became the youngest ever competitor in the ABL and performed admirably, earning praise from his manager. ""He's just maturity way beyond his years and he's not fazed by stuff…when he debuted in the games against Perth I think he showed poise, but the games in Adelaide and last weekend in Brisbane he made some unbelievable plays".

Despite hitting .206 in 24 games with Melbourne, Dale racked up 10 RBIs including a grand slam against Brisbane.

So good was his play against men nearly twice his age that the San Diego Padres decided to lock up the young talent before anyone else could with a $300,000 USD bonus. Padres director of international scouting Chris Kemp has always been keen on the youngster, referring to Dale as, "the top prospect in Australia in some time."

Dale is a tall-athletic middle infielder who is still growing into his frame. With more playing time and maturity to round out both frame and game, Dale is eventually going to be the backbone of this Aces lineup. Look for Deeble to find ways to rotate the younger Dale brother into the lineup throughout the course of the season.

 

Ryan Dale - 21-years old, 191 cm 82 kg

Bats: Right/Throws: Right

The elder Dale's accomplishments should not be overlooked by the rise of young Jarryd. At age 16 Ryan Dale earned MVP honors at Australia's 16U National Championships in Geelong and played in MLB's Australian Academy, where he hit .272/.377/.360 in 125 at-bats. The Royals followed Dale for a few years and were drawn to his power projection. Dale has spent the last four winters playing in the US at the rookie ball level and five summers playing for Melbourne for the Aces.

Ryan needs to take that next step offensively if he wants his professional career to blossom. He possesses a power-filled, right-handed bat that just isn't producing at the level he is capable of. While it's easy to say that 2017 was a bit of a disappointment hitting only hit one homerun between the US and Australia, keep in mind that it was an injury-filled season playing in pitcher-friendly confines.

Dale will try to focus on reducing the number of strikes by improving his strike-zone discipline and adopting a better two-strike approach. In the Appalachian League this past season, Dale posted a strikeout rate of 44% and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.60 If he simply puts the ball in play for frequently his numbers are guaranteed to improve. 

This is the perfect opportunity for Dale to seize command of his professional career by getting off to a good start with the ABL. Ryan is one talented Australian who is capable of putting 2016 behind him and help solidify the Aces infield with a power bat that professional saw glimpses of when he was a 16-year old training at the Major League Baseball Academy on the Gold Coast.

 

Darryl George - 24-years old, 185 cm 98 kg

Bats: Right/Throws: Right

Like many of his infielding brethren, George is an ABL veteran capable of anchoring several different positions in the infield.

For those who do not follow the ABL closely, some would scoff at George's paltry 2-for-22 over five appearances (.105 batting average). However, that's because George would leave Australia soon after the beginning of the 2016/2017 season to join the Orix Buffaloes development squad of the prestigious Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB). It would be his second tour of professional minor league baseball following his brief stint as a minor-leaguer for the Tampa Bay Rays organization. 

George is a tall, athletic fielder with a strong frame. He has power especially to his pull-side and an efficient swing path to the ball. He is an above-average runner on the bases, which immediately makes him a threat to opposing pitchers whenever he reaches. George can be susceptible a high volume of strikeouts, handicapping his on-base percentage. So long as he can avoid prolonged slumps, George is a perfect middle-of-the-lineup piece that can protect a hitter like Delmon Young.

 

Keli'i Zablan - 31-years old, 178 cm 86 kg

Bats: Right/Throws: Right

Zablan is an American born player with plenty of experience both playing professionally in the minor leagues and also playing in the ABL where the Hawaiian born player will be entering his third season. 

A season ago for the Aces, Zablan appeared in 12 games hitting .219 with four RBIs. He had nice stretches towards the end of the second-half but still failed to demonstrate offensive consistency on an Aces team hungry for run production.

The rest of his game is built nicely. He's a good runner with a strong arm that can play above average defense at multiple positions. The biggest key for him this season will be trying to stay healthy. Zablan won't be making an immediate impact with the Aces because he is currently dealing with an offseason injury. Once he returns to full form, the Aces will have an iron-clad defensive unit protecting the corners and up the middle. 

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