Mitch Neunborn, shown here pitching for Team Australia at the 2023 World Baseball Classic quarterfinal between Australia and Cuba at Tokyo Dome, is one of the top prospects playing in the Australian Baseball League this winter. (Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images)
By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
The opening day of the 2023-24 Australian Baseball League season is Friday, November 17. The Adelaide Giants are the defending champions, winning their first championship over the Perth Heat two games to one in the 2022-23 Championship Series. The final day of the 2023-24 regular season is Friday, January 19.
All 2023-24 Australian Baseball League contests can be watched for free on the iPhone and Android app Baseball+.
This season, the rosters of ABL teams will feature dozens of Major League Baseball prospects who are on the brink of becoming stars in the United States.
Before the 2023-24 ABL season kicks off, World Baseball Network takes a look at MLB-affiliated players to watch down under.
Ed Howard, SS – Canberra Cavalry
Ed Howard is a shortstop in the Chicago Cubs organization and was the 16th pick in the 2020 Major League Baseball Draft. The 21-year-old spent the 2023 minor league season with High-A South Bend, batting .199 with two home runs and 14 RBI in 45 games. His offensive numbers do not reflect that of a 16th overall pick, but he has stolen 14 bases in 17 career attempts. The 2023-24 season will be his first with the Cavalry.
Ryan Spikes, SS – Perth Heat
Ryan Spikes is an infielder in the Tampa Bay Rays organization and was selected in the third round of the 2021 Major League Baseball Draft. In 120 games with Single-A Charleston in 2023, Spikes recorded a .647 OPS with 10 home runs and 51 RBI. Like Ed Howard, Spikes uses his speed effectively, swiping 28 bags in 36 attempts last minor league baseball season. The 2023-24 season will be his first in the Australian Baseball League.
Sam Gardner, RHP – Brisbane Bandits
Sam Gardner is a relief pitcher in the Milwaukee Brewers organization and played collegiate baseball at the University of Alabama and Murray State University. Gardner had an excellent season with High-A Wisconsin in 2023, posting a 2.22 ERA in 44.2 innings out of the bullpen for the Timber Rattlers. At just 26 years old, the right-hander hopes to impress during his first season in the ABL.
Mitch Neunborn, RHP – Adelaide Giants
Mitch Neunborn is a right-handed pitcher in the Philadelphia Phillies organization and represented Australia at the 2023 World Baseball Classic. The 26-year-old was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and spent the 2023 minor league baseball season with High-A Jersey Shore. The 2023-24 season will be Neunborn’s third year with the Giants and fourth in the ABL. He had a 2.25 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 28 innings for last season’s champions.
Greg Bird, 1B – Melbourne Aces
Greg Bird is a former first baseman for the New York Yankees and played one season with the Colorado Rockies Triple-A affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes, in 2021. Bird dealt with numerous injuries throughout his MLB career, including a left plantar fascia tear that forced him to miss the entirety of the 2019 season. He was designated for assignment by the Yankees in 2019 and has not returned to MLB since. In 2023, with the Capitales de Quebec of the Frontier League, Bird hit .293 with one home run and four RBI in 11 games. He signed with the Melbourne Aces on October 18.
Ricardo Cabrera, SS – Perth Heat
Ricardo Cabrera is the No. 8 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization and had a 1.028 OPS and 21 stolen bases in 23 attempts during the 2023 Arizona Complex League season. He was called up to Single-A Dayton for five games and hit .316 in 27 plate appearances. The infielder was born in Pariaguan, Venezuela, and was ranked the No. 3 international prospect in the 2022 class. The 2023-24 ABL season will be his first in the league.
Carlos Jimenez, RHP – Sydney Blue Sox
Carlos Jimenez is a right-handed pitcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization born in Caracas, Venezuela. Jimenez spent most of the 2023 minor-league baseball season with the Florida Complex League Pirates, posting a 2.76 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 9.2 innings. He was promoted to Single-A Bradenton at the end of the season and threw 3.1 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts. The 2023-24 ABL season will be his first with the Sydney Blue Sox.
Australian Baseball League Opening Day Schedule
11 a.m. ET – Perth Heat vs. Melbourne Aces
11:30 a.m. ET – Brisbane Bandits vs. Adelaide Giants
11:30 a.m. ET – Canberra Cavalry vs. Sydney Blue Sox