CLAXTON Shield holder Brisbane enters the new ABL season in a strong position to defend its crown.
The Bandits welcome back a host of the pieces behind their title run last season – including import pitcher Rick Teasley and locals Logan Wade, Aaron Whitefield, Ryan Searle and Mitch Nilsson.
They have also added a few valuable pieces in their bid for back-to-back crowns.
Trent Oeltjen and Ryan Rowland-Smith have moved north to the Queensland side, while Brisbane has been able to secure exciting Tampa Bay affiliated players including Rays’ No. 21 prospect Kevin Padlo and Lucius Fox.
WHY THE BANDITS CAN WIN THE CLAXTON SHIELD…
Brisbane has managed to bolster the roster which defeated Adelaide in last season’s Championship Series.
The Bandits boast assets in every corner – from a powerful batting lineup including to strong starters and the best closer in the ABL.
They can also expect improvement from young players Connar MacDonald and Aaron Whitefield.
WHY THEY CAN’T…
If their new offensive imports misfire.
Last season imports Justin Williams (33 RBIs), Donald Lutz (26 RBIs) and Riley Unroe (25 RBIs) were influential in helping pace a Bandits’ offence that score more runs than every side except Canberra.
This season the task falls to Kevin Padlo, David Rodriquez and Fox to provide the punch needed from import players.
Ryan Searle was a standout for the Bandits last season.
The right-hander recorded 17 saves and a miserly ERA of 0.40.
In a 40-game season where every game is vital, Searle’s ability to close out tight games could prove pivotal for Brisbane’s playoff hopes.
IMPORT TO WATCH
Signed on his 18th birthday by the San Francisco Giants, Lucuis Fox comes to the ABL with plenty of hype.
The now-19-year-old was traded to Tampa Bay in August and is expected to play shortstop or centre field for Brisbane.
Fox put up modest numbers for Class-A Augusta GreenJackets during 75 games but showed impressive speed around the bases.
YOUNG TALENT TIME
Connor MacDonald returns to the Bandits for a fourth season and looks set for a breakout campaign after impressing in Australia’s U-23 WBSC silver medal winning side.
MacDonald drove in 14 runs and hit four homers during the tournament.
It followed an impressive MILB season where MacDonald hit .267, including six home runs, with Appalachian League side Greeneville Astros.