American Assocation Alumi Impacting Australian Baseball Race
It’s the final weekend of the Australian Baseball League season, and Robert Pannier talks about the impact that American Association alumni are having on the pennant race in today’s edition of American Association Daily.
Handful Playing Key Role Down Under
About as far as one can get from the United States, a group of American Association alumni are having an impact on another baseball league – the Australian Baseball League – which is heading into its final weekend. The playoffs begin Wednesday.
In the Southwest Division, two teams have already locked up their spot in the post-season – the Melbourne Aces and the Perth Heat. In the Northeast Division, it is going to be an exciting weekend as three teams are separated by 1.5 games, as a team that won at least 21 games is going to be left out in the cold.
The exciting playoff races have been impacted by a group of American Association players. This includes Ryan Flores, T.J. Bennett, Cameron McVey, and Tyler Herr. A look at who is standing out.
T.J. Bennett, 2B, Brisbane Bandits
The Bandits find themselves 1.0 games out of first place as they finish the season with four games against Geelong-Korea, the team with the worst record in the APBL at 7-30. Brisbane is 22-15 and are 7-3 in their last 10, including winning their last three contests entering the series.
Brisbane is fourth in the league in hitting (.260), but they are leading the league in homeruns with 63. That is thanks in large part to T.J. Bennett, who starred for the Lincoln Saltdogs last season. Bennett was traded to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks during the off-season and his contract has been purchased by the Chicago White Sox.
The White Sox are looking like they made the right move, as Bennett is tied for the league lead in homers with 12 and RBI with 37. The infielder is hitting .296 with 31 runs scored in 37 games. With these numbers, Manager Michael Schlact has to be salivating at the chances of his return.
Tyler Herr, RHP, Sydney Blue Sox
The Blue Sox are in first in the Northeast Division at 23-14, and finish the season with four against the Adelaide Bite, who have been eliminated in the Southwest Division. Sydney has lost six of their last 10 and are 9-8 on the road this season.
While the Blue Sox are in jeopardy of falling out of the playoff hunt, RHP Tyler Herr is having a solid season in Sydney. The right-hander is coming off a disappointing 2018 season, where he made just three appearances in Fargo-Moorhead before joining San Rafael in the Pacific Association.
Herr had pitched in the Australian Baseball League with Canberra the last two seasons, but joined Sydney this year. He has made 13 appearances, pitching 14.2 innings, allowing 12 hits and eight walks while striking out a whopping 24 batters.
Scott Kuzminsky, RHP, Melbourne Aces
Kuzminsky split time between Lincoln and Wichita last season. In Lincoln, the right-hander made four appearances walking five and giving up two hits in 1.1 innings before finding himself on the market. He moved to Wichita where his season turned around, posting a 2.05 ERA in 13 appearances. In 22.0 innings, Kuzminsky allowed just one walk, while striking out 23.
The Melbourne Aces are tied for the top spot in the Southwest Division (22-14). They are 8-2 in their last 10 games, including winning their last four. The Aces have four games this weekend against Auckland, who is in last in the Northeast.
Kuzminsky has been a key factor in helping the Aces to reach the top spot. He is 3-0 with 3 saves in 14 appearances, posting a 1.86 ERA. The right-hander has shown great control, allowing only four walks while striking out 24 in 19.1 innings.
Ryan Flores, RHP, Perth Heat
The Perth Heat are tied for first in the Southwest (22-14). They have already earned a playoff berth, but could very well knock out the Canberra Cavalry, who are in third in the Northeast and must win all four games plus get a little help if they are going to make the playoffs. Perth is 6-4 in their last 10.
Ryan Flores has been a big part of the Perth staff. The right-hander is 2-5 with a 4.65 ERA in his 12 appearances, six of which are starts. This is a new role for the right-hander, who made just two starts in his 90 appearances with the Sioux City Explorers over the last two seasons.
During the off-season, Flores was traded to the Sioux Falls Canaries to complete a deal the two teams made before the tradeline. Flores has proven to be a bulldog, serving in a variety of roles for Sioux City last season. He was 8-2 with a 2.63 ERA and two saves. He could close, be the primary setup guy, or work long relief, but now he may move into the rotation for the Canaries.
Ryan Bollinger, RHP, Brisbane Bandits
Bollinger last pitched in the American Association in 2014, when he went a combined 4-0 in 11 appearances for the Winnipeg Goldeyes and St. Paul Saints. He would spend the next two season in the Can-Am League before having his contract purchased by the New York Yankees in 2018. Last year, the right-hander split time between AA-Trenton and AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Bollinger is having a having a solid season in Australia. He is 2-3 in 14 appearances, four of which are starts. The right-hander also has a save. In 34.1 innings pitched, he has allowed 33 hits, but only eight walks, and he has struck out 40.
Josh Tols, RHP, Melbourne Aces
Tols is no stranger to Australia. He was born there and has played in the APBL since 2010. He was with the Kansas City T-Bones in 2015 and 2016 but, after sitting out 2017, returned to the T-Bones only to see his contract purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies.
Tols was playing winter ball in Venezuela before opting to return to Australia. Since his return, he has recorded two saves in his three appearances, allowing only two hits in 7.0 innings pitched while striking out eight.
Ken Frosch, LHP, Brisbane Bandits
Frosch had an unbelievable 2018 season in St. Paul, going 33 outings to start the season before he was finally scored upon. The left-hander finished the season 3-1 with a save and a 2.06 ERA. He was a key figure in helping the Saints reach the American Association championship series, so it was not a surprise that the APBL came calling.
Frosch has appeared in 18 games for the Bandits, posting a miniscule 1.26 ERA. He has allowed just two earned runs in 14.1 innings pitched, while striking out 17.
Ty’Relle Harris, RHP, Sydney Blue Sox
Harris pitched for Grand Prairie in 2014 and 2015. He has split time in each of the last two seasons between the Pacific Association and that Atlantic League, but he is lighting it up in Sydney.
Harris has made 14 appearances, posting a 4-0 record and microscopic 0.92 ERA. In 19.2 innings, the right-hander has allowed just seven hits and six walks, while striking out 30. Those are impressive numbers at any age, but the 31 year old looks like he has found the fountain of youth in Sydney.
Other American Association alumni playing in Australia include RHP Cameron McVey and RHP Ryan Searle.
By Robert Pannier