As I sit and type the Australian Baseball League’s seventh round of play for its 2019-2020 season has just finished. That means there are only three more rounds, or about 12 or so games, left to play. At this stage in the ABL season, certain players have set themselves apart from the pack and are showing no signs of letting up. This edition of A Glance and a Gander is all positive, with not a negative player comment to be found. All the players we’ll be taking a look at have excelled, making them easy contenders for the ABL Most Valuable Player award.
Delmon Young – Designated Hitter for Melbourne Aces
Yes, this is that Delmon Young. He’s nowhere near a problem child in the ABL. In fact, Young has been a top performer in both his ABL go-arounds. This time out Young is smacking the cover off the ball. His slash line of .362/.419/.695 is certainly impressive. Young leads the ABL with 10 home runs in 113 plate appearances. The only drawback to Young’s fantastic play has been his role as a designated hitter. Being DH-only certainly puts him at a disadvantage when stacked against his fellow competitors.
Zach Wilson – First Baseman for Canberra Cavalry
A slash line of .366/.410/.624 is among the best you’ll find in the hitter-friendly ABL. Wilson was good in his 2018-2019 campaign with the Cavalry, but he’s turned it up a notch this season. In 99 plate appearances, the former New York Yankees farmhand has only struck out 9 times while belting 6 home runs. Providing a steady glove at first in addition to his excellent work with the bat Wilson has been a steadying force for a Canberra team that has struggled more often than not.
Aaron Whitefield – Center Fielder for Adelaide Giants
I knew when the Brisbane Bandits let Whitefield go that it would be a move the team would regret. Here we are a couple of years after Whitefield’s departure and the Bandits have one of the worst outfields in the ABL while Whitefield has turned into a star. He’s excellent with the glove and very good with the bat, as his .376/.454/.506 slash line can attest. Whitefield adds another dimension to the MVP race with his speed. The former Bandit has swiped 20 bags and only been caught twice for a SB% of 90.9.
Gunnar Kines – Starting Pitcher for Adelaide Giants
The Giants weren’t expected to be a major force in 2019-2020. They’ve surged to the top of the ABL’s much more competitive Southwest Division thanks to hitters like Whitefield and pitchers like Kines. Out of affiliated ball for a few years now Kines came to Adelaide hoping to build on a few successful years with the Schaumburg Boomers of the Frontier League. Kines has built on those seasons and then some. In 6 games and 27.2 innings, Kines has posted an ERA of 0.98 and WHIP of 1.190. Settling into his role as the Giants ace, and the new ace of the ABL, Kines has looked like a world-beater on the mound. He’s not going to knock your socks off with his fastball, but in a league where offense rules the roost, Kines has attacked hitters and managed to limit his opponents scoring to an extreme amount.
Yuma Mune – Third Baseman for Melbourne Aces
The Orix Buffaloes shuttle rider has delivered nothing but destruction with his bat. In 101 plate appearances, he’s slashing .387/.457/.538. The 5’11 infielder has mixed in speed (6 stolen bases and 1 triple) with quality power (3 doubles and 3 home runs) and a great eye (8 walks to only 8 strikeouts)., Mune’s balanced approach of speed, power, and good contact mixed together with a near league-leading RF/9 of 2.36 would have taken him awfully close to an MVP award were he still with the Aces. Unfortunately, Orix has recalled their young prospect and Mune’s ABL season is finished with the stats in-hand.
The 2019-2020 ABL season has been full of unexpected twists and turns. The Bandits dynasty is in serious trouble of coming to an end while last year’s expansion teams, the Auckland Tuatara and Geelong-Korea, are much improved. The quality of play in the ABL continues to be higher than ever and the baseball being played is exactly what everyone should want out of the league. The one twist that is going to come to fruition is Delmon Young as the ABL’s MVP. He may not be a position player anymore, but with how he is slaughtering the baseball no one else comes close to touching him for best player in the ABL this year. Delmon Young being the MVP of the 2019-2020 ABL season is a perfect embodiment for how much fun this season has been on the whole.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Melbourne Aces