This is the second part of the 2017 regional preview for the Göteborg Hajarna. Ideally, this series would have concluded by looking at the opposition. Alas, the scouting department has not been up to speed to bring me the spreadsheets.
Disclaimer: This series of previews is the opinion of one person and does not necessarily reflect the organization’s views or any other for that matter.
Last season, a lot of players cycled through the outfield positions with few consistent parts. One of the more consistent players, however, was Voigt Jansson who amassed a total of 70 innings in the corner outfield spots.
It was evident that Jansson took a step forward in the on base department (not surprisingly considering the Shark’s Moneyballish approach at the plate last season. Coming in to the 2017 season, Jansson has spent the offseason in Umeå, practicing with the Blue Harriers and trying desperately to recruit Ted Bratsberg to return to Shark Park (to no avail).
With the stellar play of veteran Niclas Ekström and the emergence of Hannes Wiström, Earnest only saw six innings of play at first base. Instead, Earnest played 39 innings in the corner outfield positions with a perfect fielding average.
Earnest, also known as Big Daddy and Mr RBI (the latter being his own nickname, eds. note), slumped at the plate last season, basically taking a step back in all categories. The numbers might however be misleading. Earnest fought his way back from a somewhat serious hospital stay and missed games against his favorite opponents, the Malmö Pilots. Nonetheless, it has to be assumed that age (Earnest is rapidly approaching the respectable age of 70) could increasingly become an issue. This remains to be seen but surely, Earnest will be a factor all over the field and probably on the mound as well in 2017. Asked about coming back for yet another season, Earnest quipped, “I’ve put in the work this winter and am in the best shape of my career. Tell the fans they ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Kono, a Japanese native, played his second season in the Sharks uniform in 2016 and performed well in limited time. He logged 19 innings in center and 2 innings in right field with stellar defensive play.
At the plate, Kono improved immensely (small sample size applies) with solid numbers in all categories. It should be noted that his 2016 numbers was from Elitserien. No one has doubted Kono’s ability to enhance the Sharks roster; the issue has always been his availability. If he can be a consistent contributor in the 2017 season, the Sharks will be happy.
As Kono, Unger was also somewhat of a inconsistent contributor for the 2016 Sharks. When he was on the field, he was good. Servicing 18 innings in center and 4 in right field.
Unger saw his offensive numbers rise a tick during the 2016 campaign (with a small sample size) but generally showed great patience at the plate. The Umeå native has secured his personal future in Göteborg and will hopefully be a more regular figure in the Shark Park outfield.
Logging 46 innings in the outfield, mainly in center, this reporter did at least not embarrass himself defensively and was most happy with providing an outfield assist.
Offensively, the numbers were slightly better than in 2015 but yeah. You try and publish an evaluation of yourself and see how easy it is…
The 2017 Sharks could obviously benefit from some more consistency at the outfield positions. On occasion, the Sharks faithful shook their heads as the defensive interactions was lacking. The offseason has seen a lot of new players showing up for practice and while it remains to be seen how many of them will see action in the outfield; competition within a team is always beneficial.
It is rumored that the front office will be trying to improve the versatility of the team, both by acquisitions and from within. As the outfield has seen a decent amount of spot starts from non-outfielders, that might be a good thing.
One acquisition is South African Warren Graham. Known for his hard-nosed approach to the game and offbeat sense of humor, the former third baseman will be returning this season as an outfielder after a two-year layoff. Graham has always been a solid contributor, both at the plate and in the field.
It would be nice to see the outfield perform better defensively during the upcoming season. Communication could improve, as well as the reads and precision of the relays. Kono and Unger are to be seen as key players going forward.