While it’s the Hot Stove season here stateside, baseball season is in full swing down under.
Before the Australian Baseball League season started in October, it was announced that four Rays farmhands from the Bowling Green Hot Rods would be joining the Brisbane Bandits, one of the six teams that comprises the ABL: OF Joey Rickard, IF’s Patrick Leonard and Tyler Goeddel, and catcher Justin O’Conner.
While things haven’t gone the way Brisbane would have liked, with a record of 14-20 that is acting as the floor for the ABL standings, the four most potent offensive weapons the Hot Rods had from a year ago are getting valuable playing time. Of the four of them, Joey Rickard is having the best season so far. Rickard is fourth on the team and 11th in the league in batting average with a .297 mark, although it’s been .300 or better for most of the season. Along with his .297 average, Rickard also has an OBP of .372 and slugging percentage of .445. Rickard has left the park thrice and has batted in 14 men, showing a little more power than he showed during the Midwest League regular season. He has also led the team in stolen bases with 12 (and is third in the league). Rickard, aside from Andrew Toles, was the fastest guy in Bowling Green last year. Not only is Rickard doing great work at the plate, but he is one of six Bandits who have yet to commit an error this season (knock on wood).
Tyler Goeddel’s stint ended from a back injury, but he was solid while he lasted. He hit just .190 in his 26 plate appearances, but that hides a .346 OBP and a .381 SLG. Goeddel’s average is really from a lot of unlucky hitting as he has shown a good approach to the tune of 5 strikeouts versus 5 walks. He has also has been productive when on base, swiping three bases. The last two years with the Hot Rods, Goeddel struck out nearly 2.5 times as much as he walked. Hopefully the 5-5 strikeout to walk ratio is a sign of progress and next year at Charlotte will be better.
Patrick Leonard, meanwhile, is hitting .216/.304/.314 with one homer and 8 runs batted in. A guy whose power potential hasn’t shown up yet and mostly provides value with his glove, has committed 9 errors, which is second most on the team. But one big thing to note is that Leonard has been playing a lot of third base for the Bandits after seeing nearly all his time at first for the Hot Rods. He has an excuse as he’s readjusting to the position, and let’s be honest, better he commit them now than come summer over here. To top it all off, Leonard overran a catcher to incite a benches-clearing brawl. Would have been nice if Leonard was doing better, but at least he’s getting his reps in at third.
Justin O’Conner, unfortunately, is doing even worse at the plate. He has just a .174/.237/.256 line in 93 plate appearances, striking out 27 times against just 5 walks. His 27 K’s nearly lead the team even he ranks just 7th on the team in at-bats. (Actually, the strikeout King honor goes to Mr. Leonard, as he leads the team, and is 5th in the league with 31.) On the plus side, O’Conner has started to turn himself around to an extent in his last 10 games, managing a .250/.289/.417 line with 3 doubles, a homer, and 4 RBI–he has just 4 doubles, a homer, and 5 RBI overall on the year. Hopefully his strong finish will be the takeaway from his experience in Australia.
The Bandits are in the midst of a 4 game weekend set in Perth to take on the Heat, who lead the ABL with a 21-13 record, who came into the weekend having only dropped 5 home contests. Last week, the Bandits got swept in a 4-game set vs. the Sydney Blue Sox (for real folks, you cannot make this stuff up). Hopefully the four Bowling Green Hot Rods on the Bandits can finish the season strong and give us more to like as the baseball season we’re used to gets going.