It’s not atypical for a ballplayer to play in a foreign winter league during the Major League Baseball offseason. Most of these players find their way to the Caribbean Series, which is made up of leagues in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. The winning team from each of those four leagues meet in the Caribbean Series in early February, just prior to the start of spring training. There are currently 14 players who spent last season in the Brewers’ organization that have suited up for a team in one of those four leagues.
Much more rare, however, is to see a player owned by an MLB affiliate make his way to the land down under to play in the Australian Baseball League. The ABL is a six team league that plays its games between November and January each winter. Last year, the Brisbane Bandits won the league title after going 37-19 to earn a bye to the championship series and sweeping the Adelaide Bite in a best-of-three series.
Dating back to the winter of 2008, only one Brewer has taken the field for an ABL ball club: Eric Marzec, who posted a 4.34 ERA in in 18.2 innings with the Melbourne Aces in 2013, though with a sparkling 28:7 K/BB ratio. That will change this winter, as the Sydney Blue Sox have announced that two Brewers farmhands will be among the five “US Minor League stars” that are joining their club for the 2016-17 season:
OF Malik Collymore:
Acquired in 2015 from the Cardinals in exchange for Jonathan Broxton, the toolsy Collymore spent the entire season with high-A Brevard County this year. Unfortunately the 21 year old was very over matched by the league and could manage to produce only a .167/.227/.208 slash with 0 home runs and 9 steals in 208 plate appearances (29 wRC+). The former 10th-round pick will be looking to salvage something out of this season in the ABL and build some positive momentum heading into spring training.
IF Tucker Neuhaus:
Milwaukee’s second-round pick back in 2013, the 21 year old Neuhaus missed almost the entire 2016 season with a broken finger in April and subsequent setbacks. In the 12 games he did manage to play between the AZL and low-A Wisconsin, Neuhaus did at least hit well, to the tune of a .375/.432/.525 slash line (177 wRC+). The left-handed hitter has been in and out of the back end of Milwaukee’s top 30 prospects since being drafted and will hope to make up for some lost development time with his work in Australia.
Collymore and Neuhaus will be joined on the Blue Sox by Stone Garrett (Miami), Sven Schuller (Dodgers), and Trevor Foss (Indians) this winter as the Blue Sox chase their first ABL Championship.
The ABL live-streams all of their games on their ABLtv.com Youtube Channel so if you’re looking for a way to scratch that baseball itch during the dark days of winter here in the US, following along with the Sydney Blue Sox could be your solution. The league’s Opening Day is November 17th, and the first Blue Sox broadcast is scheduled for 19 November at 8 PM CST against the Adelaide Bite.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs