The Milwaukee Brewers recently announced a partnership with the Brisbane Bandits of the Australian Baseball League, working with their manager and former Brew Crew catcher Dave Nilsson, a native of the land down under, to give a handful of prospects the opportunity to player some winter baseball after the 2020 minor league season was cancelled. Now that those players have had the opportunity to travel to Australia and complete their quarantine period, the club announced yesterday that six players would be taking part in this year’s ABL season:
Brewers assign six to Australian Baseball League (includes five to Bandits; partnership was announced a short while back) pic.twitter.com/YVDvV9K6Zw— Will Sammon (@WillSammon) December 5, 2020
Matt Hardy, 25, is an overachieving undrafted free agent who signed with the Brewers in 2017. He posted a 3.32 ERA with 87 strikeouts versus only 19 walks in 78.2 innings with Class A-Advanced Carolina in 2019, then followed that up with a 1.57 ERA in 23.0 frames for Manati in the 2019-20 Puerto Rican Winter League. Hardy did not play at all this past summer.
Brandon Ramey, 20, was one of the the prospects who came back in this summer’s David Phelps trade. Fangraphs wrote after the trade that he’s a “lanky righty with low slot, upper-80s velocity” and he owns a 3.69 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 10 walks in 31.2 professional innings over two seasons, all in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Kahle, 22, was Milwaukee’s fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft; the 22-year old posted an .825 OPS in the Pioneer League in 2019 before hooking on with the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the American Association during the summer of 2020. There he posted a .232/.279/.339 slash in 61 plate appearances. Kahle is well-regarded defensively.
Vassalotti was a low-profile international signing out of Venezuela who quickly opened eyes by posting a 1.63 ERA in 38.2 innings in the Dominican Summer League in his age-16 season back in 2017. Now 20, Vassalotti spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons pitching stateside, sometime struggling to prevent runs in the hitter-friendly Pioneer League but against competition that’s typically well above his age. Reports out of the fall instructional league suggest that Vassalotti showed improved velocity even after not pitching anywhere during the summer, and his stock internally seems to be on the rise.
Paxton Schultz, 22, was a 14th-round pick by the Brewers back in 2019 who received the full $125K bonus to sign (the maximum a player can get after the 10th round without counting against the bonus pool). He had a strong debut in the Pioneer League in 2019, posting a 3.86 ERA with 22 strikeouts and 7 walks in 23.1 innings. He throws a mid-90s fastball but did not have the chance to pitch anywhere this summer.
Each of those five players will suit up for the Bandits as part of the agreement with the Brewers, while catcher Alex Hall, 21, will join the Perth Heat. Hall is a native of Australia who debuted with the org in 2018 after signing as an international free agent; he has spent each of the last four winters playing for Perth after beginning his professional career with the Heat in 2016 as a 17 year old. Hall has hit .269/.317/.387 in 77 games between the AZL and Pioneer League across two seasons.
The Australian Baseball League will play a shortened, staggered 24-game schedule this winter taking place from December through February. Six teams will take part after Geelong-Korea and Auckland Tuatara withdrew due to financial reasons, leaving the Bandits, Heat, Adelaide Giants, Canberra Calvary, Melbourne Aces, and Sydney Blue Sox.