MLB prospects show off skills in Australian League
The 2013/2014 Australian Baseball League featured a tremendous collection of Minor League talent on loan from the States. Here's a look at how some of the top prospects from each of the six ABL teams fared.
Melbourne Aces -- Perhaps nobody did more to establish himself as a legitimate prospect this winter than Rockies catcher Ryan Casteel. Following a season at Class A Advanced Modesto in which the 22-year-old hit .270 with 22 home runs, Casteel nearly left Australia with a Triple Crown. The Chattanooga, Tenn., native led the league in batting average (.343) and home runs (11), and finished second in the league with 36 RBIs. His efforts earned him an invite to big league Spring Training.
Minnesota Twins prospect Lewis Thorpe, 18, also made great strides with Melbourne, excelling against a higher level of competition. The left-hander went 3-2 with a 2.45 ERA in seven strong starts. He heads into his second North American season after a 2013 Gulf Coast League season in which he struck out 64 in 44 innings.
Sydney Blue Sox -- Chicago White Sox prospect Jacob May sat atop the Sydney Blue Sox batting order all year, bringing his team within one game of the Championship Series. The speedster stole 17 bases, ranking second in league, while rounding out his numbers with a .269 average and four home runs.
D-backs outfield prospect Keon Broxton followed up a strong ABL season with a tremendous playoff series. In the three-game series against the Canberra Cavalry, Broxton went 5 for 10 with a home run, five RBIs and two stolen bases. One of the most athletic members of the D-backs' organization, Broxton's ABL campaign featured 11 steals.
Brisbane Bandits -- Cubs prospect Ryan Searle joined his hometown Brisbane Bandits in early December, and from that time, was among the most dominant pitchers in the ABL. The powerful right-hander started eight games, finishing the season with a 3-4 record and a 2.78 ERA. He proved to be one of the most durable pitchers in Australia, tossing three complete games, and striking out 50, while walking just seven.
Rays prospect Joey Rickard, 22, quietly put together one of the most complete seasons in the league, hitting .287 with four home runs, 10 doubles and 14 stolen bases, while playing in all 46 Bandits games. The outfielder spent 2013 with the Class A Bowling Green Hot Rods, and will enter Spring Training in line to begin 2014 with the Charlotte Stone Crabs of the Class A Advanced Florida State League.
Canberra Cavalry -- The Canberra Cavalry had their hopes of back-to-back ABL championships dashed by the Perth Heat, but still managed an impressive season thanks in large part to a trio of Blue Jays prospects.
Second baseman Jon Berti earned team MVP honors with a season that was among the finest in the ABL. Berti, who hit .309 in the leadoff spot, shattered the league record by stealing 31 bases in 46 games while leading the league with 46 runs scored. The Michigan native is coming off a season in which he stole 56 bases for the Dunedin Blue Jays to lead the Florida State League in 2013.
Jack Murphy capped his second season in the ABL with the Fans Choice award as the league's most popular player. On the diamond, Murphy hit .306 with two home runs and 27 RBIs. The catcher spent 2013 in Double-A and Triple-A with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and Buffalo Bison.
Outfielder Mike Crouse turned in a remarkably solid winter, hitting .289 while finishing third in the league with eight home runs in 39 games played. The Canadian-born Crouse used his plus-speed to steal 11 bases, and added 23 RBIs for the Cavalry.
Perth Heat -- Perth's championship season featured a remarkable 32-14 regular season record, a sweep of the championship series, and contributions from members of six Major League organizations.
Corey Adamson was among the prospects that excelled for Perth, hitting .311 with eight stolen bases in 28 games. A Padres prospect, Adamson spent 2013 with the Class A Fort Wayne Tin Caps and Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore Storm where he combined to hit .274 with 32 steals in 117 games.
Rockies prospect Joey Wong earned two MVP honors in the ABL this season, taking home the trophy in both the All-Star Game and the Championship Series. A slick defensive shortstop, Wong hit .290 with two home runs, 18 RBIs and seven stolen bases.
Adelaide Bite -- Astros prospect Joe Sclafani, 22, continued to improve his versatility in Australia, logging time at three infield positions, as well as in the outfield. A 14th-round pick in 2012, Sclafani hit .259 in Australia, banging 13 doubles and stealing 10 bases.
A second round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Dodgers prospect Blake Smith shook off a slow start to turn into one of the most dominant relief pitchers in the ABL. The right-hander was unscored-upon in his final nine outings, allowing just four hits in 15 2/3 innings over that time. On the season, Smith held opposing hitters to a .109 batting average, going 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA and one save.