Break out the sparkling cider and put on those holiday party hats as we have only just begun to blog away on baseball worldwide. In honor of MLBlogs Network and MLB.com Blogs Central ranking mlbblogger #10 in its Top 50 Fan Sites, it is only appropriate that we create a Top 10 list of our own. In appreciation to those American ballplayers who are currently away from their loved ones serving their county in the Australian Baseball League, we at mlbblogger salute you for your dedication to the game and thank you for representing the good old, red, white and blue with the excellent play in competitive and rugged outback action.
For the select few who demonstrated Major Leaguer attributes and whole-heartedly deserve to be featured here as a Top 10 Yank in the Australian Baseball League (ABL), congratulations and keep up the good work! For the other American ballplayers who did not make the cut this time around and regrettably are not included, there is still time to kick some butt and make the Top 20 Yanks list, which will reveal up-and-coming prospects #11-20.
25-year-old Canberra Cavalry Mike McGuire (2-1, 1 SV) is now second among ABL pitchers with the league’s second lowest ERA (1.11) and most strikeouts (40) in 32.1 innings. He also set a new ABL strikeout record in a game this season when 14 Adelaide hitters bit the dust. McGuire’s dream of making his MLB pitching debut for the team he grew up rooting for in Philadelphia may be coming true sooner than later as ABL opponents are batting an anemic .183 average against this six-foot-seven giant.
The Phillies prospect was selected to pitch for Team World against the Australian National Baseball Team in the inaugural ABL All-Star Game on December 21st. Making a remarkable comeback from vascular surgery, the 2008 Cleveland Indians draftee has earned himself the honor of being recognized as the top American pitcher in the 2011-12 ABL season. After pitching four years for Delaware University, he went on to play in the Cleveland Indians minor leagues as well as the Can-Am League before being signed by Philadelphia.
Switch-hitting centerfielder Denny Almonte was named ABL Round Five Player of the Week for his Major League offensive attack for the Adelaide Bite against Melbourne. He got three of his team’s four hits–including two doubles–last Thursday. The 23-year-old Mariners prospect slammed two homers–including a grand slam–and collected an ABL record eight RBI which led the Bite to victory last Friday. He smoked another three-run homer late in the game to ensure a win last Saturday, and hit yet another solo shot on December 9.
In the two wins against the Aces, the Florida-born Almonte drove in 12 of the team’s 14 runs and compiled a .562 batting average. Now the ABL’s top hitter in hits (29, 1st) and batting average (.382, 1st) with five home runs (2nd) with 19 RBI ( 2nd), it won’t be long before the insomnia wears off in Seattle, and the franchise wakes up to the realization that Denny Almonte could very well be the next A-Rod. Remember him? The bluebird of happiness is in your own backyard! It’s time to wake up and smell the Almonte all the way to Safeco. With Almonte joining two other of MLB’s budding stars–Dustin Ackley and Alex Liddi–on the Mariners Big League roster, the worst hitting team in baseball can vastly improve its chances to compete in the tough American League West.
Heralded by many as the MVP candidate favorite in the ABL, Perth Heat catcher/infielder/DH Alex Burg is a tied for the league lead in homers (6) with the addition of an explosive leg kick which makes this power hitter even more dangerous. After five months of intense training to improve his swing with ex-San Francisco Giant Jason Ellison, Burg has been scorching the leather off the ball with a .324 batting average. A catcher from the Giants organization, the 24-year-old Washington state native hits homers in batches. In August as a member of the San Jose Giants, Burg rattled off four home runs in three games against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Facing the best teams from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League, the Korea Baseball Organization, and the Chinese Professional Baseball League in the recent 2011 Asia Series, Alex Burg showcased to the world his natural talents with the ABL’s representative Heat.
His most important task at hand now is leading the defending ABL champs to a repeat of last season’s successful bid. Heat manager Brooke Knight knew early on that Burg was a natural born winner when he coached Alex three years ago as a player for the Corvallis Knights, and they won the West Coast League Championship. With the prospect of moving Giants catcher Buster Posey to first base, the door may swing wide open for Alex Burg to make his MLB debut behind the dish after a strong ABL campaign.
The six-foot-one lefty Geoff Brown was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 23rd round of the 2007 Amateur Draft after playing like a pro at Mill Creek, Washington’s Jackson High School–where Toronto Blue Jay Travis Snider and Chicago White Sox Brent Lillibridge also launched their careers in prior years. As a high school junior, Brown led his 2006 Jackson squad to a state championship (27-0) after winning 10 games (0.98 ERA, 78 strikeouts in 69 innings) and a number two team ranking in Baseball America‘s final top 25 poll. MLB National League teams took notice when the pitcher threw five innings of flawless pitching and demonstrated his slugger power by hitting a two-run home run in the Washington State 4-A Championship at Mariners Safeco Field. His senior year was equally as good with a 0.93 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 45 innings. Rather than signing with the Royals, Brown chose to attend college and play for the University of Washington.
In the summertime he pitched for the Newport Gulls in Rhode Island. Brown held the Vermont Mountaineers scoreless in the final four innings of the 2009 New England Collegiate Baseball League Championship to ensure victory and bragging rights for the title. That year he compiled a stellar 5-0 record with a 1.48 ERA–striking out 38 and only issuing eight walks over 31 total innings. Brown returned in 2010 with yet another undefeated season (3-0, 1.96 ERA).
Geoff Brown has picked up the win in each of his four appearances in the ABL this year (4-0 1.29 ERA). Despite the notion that lefties are live bait for right-handed batters, Brown is the exception to the rule as he has dominated right-handed hitters and only surrendered nine hits with a 0.60 ERA. The 22-year-old pitcher is in winning form and is credited for stopping the bleeding on Monday when Canberra Cavalry tried to sweep the Heat four-in-a-row. Commanding his pitches early on, Brown took control of the game and never looked back. It would not be surprising to see him show up on MLB’s radar in 2012.
Former MLB pitcher and current Melbourne Ace Jason Hirsh is an intimidating figure on the mound in the ABL with his six-foot-eight stature and Big League experience. ‘Down Under’ now rehabbing after major shoulder surgery, which put him on the shelf for entire 2011 season, he hopes to share with the world the real life experience of a player’s battle to return into peak pitching form by writing an eloquent blog On My Way Back Up Down Under.
Drafted by the Houston Astros in the second round (59th overall) of the 2003 amateur entry draft, Hirsh received a $625,000 signing bonus and finally made his Major League pitching debut on August 12, 2006. In his nine starts for Houston that season, the crafty right-handed pitcher recorded three wins with a welcome to the Bigs 6.04 ERA.
He was traded in the winter of 2006 to the Rockies, and then a series of mishaps ensued in 2007. Hirsh sprained his ankle in July and was sidelined for a month. After an initial trouble-free outing in Florida, he returned to the hitter-friendly Coors Field to face the Milwaukee Brewers. After J. J. Hardy drilled a line drive shot directly to the pitcher’s right leg, Hirsh hung in there despite the pain and continued to dish out six innings. After an x-ray revealed a broken leg, he went down for the remainder of the season. Prior to being put on the DL, Jason Hirsh started 19 games and strung together a 5-7 record with a rocky mountain 4.81 ERA.
Once in Yankee pinstripes, it appeared that Hirsh had regained his mojo. His arm felt stronger, and it showed as he posted an impressive 1.35 ERA in six starts for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His sinker-slider, change up and curve ball made minor league hitters wreck havoc. Since coming back from shoulder surgery, the 29-year-old Southern California native has been pitching well for the Aces and has tallied two wins in four starts.
As the starting pitcher for the ABL defending champs Perth Heat, 30-year-old right-hander Ben Moore was named ABL Player of the Week in Round One for his six innings of pitching excellence on November 4th against the Adelaide Bite, and later that month the hurler was called a national hero for his illusionary tactics of hurler deception in the 2011 Asia Series against the CPBL Uni-Lions. With a perfect 0.00 ERA so far this ABL season, it is simply a continuation of last year’s Aussie magic. After being voted ABL Championship Series Most Valuable Player in 2010-11 for his influential role pitching a complete game four-hitter versus a hungry Adelaide Bite and leading his team to a 7-1 victory in the rubber match third game of the competition, Moore had a brilliant 2011 campaign for the Sioux Falls Pheasants of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball League. He was named to Baseball America’s 2011 Independent All-Star Team and awarded the American Association Right-Handed Pitcher of the Year.
The Wisconsin-born, Minnesota native Moore has some deep roots in Yank baseball. Signed by New York Yankees organization in 2003 as a free agent, he spent some quality time pitching in the Yanks minor league system. Moore finished 2003 with a 4.29 ERA between Rookie and Single-A ball. He ascended up to Double-A action before the end of the 2004 season, while posting a a solid 9-3 record and 3.45 ERA. Moore has been a hit the moment he touched ‘Down Under’ and played for the 2010 USA All-Stars in the ABL’s Inaugural Spring Training Series against the Perth Heat.
Switch-hitting 30-year-old Canberra Cavalry infielder Brian Burgamy was ABL Player of the Week Round Four Honorable Mention and selected to represent Team World in the ABL All-Star Game. In the current ABL season, he ranks second in walks (14) and OBP (.466), and fourth in home runs (3) and batting average (.359). Before being selected by the San Diego Padres in the ninth round of the 2002 draft, Wichita State-educated five-foot-ten Burgamy was awarded Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. After a successful run with the Padres Single-A affiliate Lake Elsinore Storm, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the Double-A Phase of the Rule Five Draft. A career minor leaguer, he has played for ten seasons without breaking into the Bigs. Never caving in and determined to beat the odds of playing MLB, Burgamy had a Big League season in 2010 when he hit .307 with 15 home runs and 85 runs batted in for the Camden Riversharks and earned himself an Atlantic League All-Star appearance. Like a fine wine getting better with age, vintage Burgamy leads the Cavs.
Canberra outfielder and teammate 21-year-old Todd Glaesmann was also selected to represent Team World in the ABL All-Star Game. Glaesmann was the highest 2009 draft pick that the Tampa Bay Rays actually signed. Baseball America magazine reported last year that he possessed the best outfield arm in the 2010 Tampa Bay organization. Currently second in stolen bases (7) and fourth in home runs (3) with a .325 batting average in the ABL, the six-foot-four prospect offers enormous five-tool potential for Rays manager Joe Madden’s galaxy of up-and-coming MLB shining stars.
Outfielder Tyler Collins is a 21-year old “sleeper prospect with a chance to hit for power and average,” according to MinorLeagueBaseball.com As a sophomore at Texas’ Howard Junior College , he was named an NJCAA Division I 1st Team All-American with a .488 batting average, 82 RBI, 16 steals, 19 home runs, 34 doubles, four triples, .561 OBP with 33 walks, and a .949 slugging average. Drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the sixth round of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Sydney Blue Sox Tyler Collins is currently batting .329, tied for first in doubles (8) and fourth in hits (24) in the ABL.
Brenden Webb hails from San Diego’s Rancho Penasquitos. Making the 2009 All-Pacific Coast Conference 1st Team while attending Palomar College, Webb broke the Comets’ all-time single-season record for RBI (40) and hit .342 with six doubles, two triples, and eight home runs. Webb was recruited to play ball for USC, but after being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 30th round of the June 2009 draft he opted to start his professional baseball career with sights on Camden Yards. The six-foot-three 21-year-old played in more games than any other player on the 2011 Demarva Shorebirds. The versatile Brenden Webb played all three outfield positions and displayed tremendous defensive skills all season, committing just seven errors and totaling 16 outfield assists. Webb warmed up in June, when he hit .259 with a homer and nine runs-batted-in. Nothing compared to when the Heat is on as the bright new MLB prospect is lavishing his time at the plate in the ABL with a .343 batting average after going 4-for-7 (including two homers) on Friday. Check back to see #11-20 Yanks!