2017 preview: Part 3 – The infield

This is the third 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.

Niclas Ekström

Ekström’s 2016 season was one of his best in his career and took home the Sharks version of the Silver slugger.

Nic started playing during the 1892-93 season.

2015 Göteborg B 16 11 5 2 .181 0 0 0 .181 .437 .619 2 5 0 2
2016 Göteborg 41 20 9 5 .250 2 0 0 .350 .634 .984 18 5 0 4

His numbers proves that this season was a giant leap forward and especially since he really got going as the season went on. That .634 OBP placed him second in the league and the .984 OPS is impressive as well. Ekström still has not reached his full potential but surely, this is closer to it that during 2015. Defensively, he logged 36 stellar innings at first base and actually 28 perfect innings in the corner outfield spots. More surprisingly, he appeared at second base in two games for a total of seven innings. The second one, was in that dreadful playoff game at Karlskoga. Ekström performed well, but his future will hopefully be at first base. There was rumblings that Ekström would not play in 2017 but the Sharks faithful were relieved when he decided to come back. He is, for sure, a key component in the Hajarna offense.

Mokhlad al-Ghamini

The MVP and best pitcher winner also played stable defense at shortstop and on occasion showed flashes of brilliance at the plate.

2016 Göteborg 68 45 23 10 .222 1 1 1 .355 .485 .840 20 15 0 10

al-Ghamini, at the plate, is an untapped resource for the 2017 season. It was clear for the Hajarna faithful that al-Ghamini very well could have been the best hitter in the league, alas so was not the case. Now, it should be made clear that al-Ghamini’s numbers are not at all abysmal or anything, just not quite living up to his potential. A tad more discipline at the plate and not swinging for the fences would probably do it. The Iraqi native was also sometimes brilliant at the bases, stealing approximately 456.234 bases on the season. However, there were also times when he got caught running the bases in a not so impressive fashion.

Defensively, he probably has the best range at shortstop in the entire league. With slick hands and nice footwork the only thing that might improve is his throws that sometimes can be errant and forced. Notably, al-Ghamini also played games at second and third base, catcher and, of course, pitcher. Going into the 2017 season, al-Ghamini will be surely be important.

Daniel André

The 2016 Sharks homerun derby winner did not produce as he would have liked at the plate.

One of these players might be Daniel André.

2015 Göteborg B 15 12 3 3 .250 0 0 0 .250 .400 .650 1 2 0 2
2016 Göteborg 28 25 3 3 .120 0 0 0 .120 .214 .334 1 5 1 1

A step backwards to be sure, but there were positive signs for André during the 2016 season. The problem for André was mostly not getting the bat on the ball. When he does that, he’s got some pop and can surely improve that statline a lot.

On defense, André played 35 stellar innings at second base. He was, however, fighting various injuries during last season but has worked hard in the offseason with strengthening and conditioning to abide coach Edgren’s wishes of staying on the field.

Fabian Hanning

The Sharks favorite German took a step backwards at the plate but did progress in the field.

One of these players might be Fabian Hanning.

2015 Göteborg B 13 9 0 1 .111 0 0 0 .111 .384 .495 3 5 0 1
2016 Göteborg 33 27 8 3 .111 0 0 0 .111 .272 .383 3 10 0 2

That average is for sure something that Hanning needs to improve going forward if he wants to keep playing the hot corner. Hanning has always had good pitch recognition, which is why last seasons dip in OBP came as a surprise. Let’s put some money on that being an abbreviation. He does a perfectly stellar job on defense, both at third base and in the corner outfield spots. That versatility makes him very valuable to the Sharks organization.

Josef Hussein

Hussein had the numbers to be considered the Sharks best offensive, if not all around, player last season.

2015 Göteborg B 7 7 0 1 .142 0 0 0 .142 .142 .285 0 2 0 0
2016 Göteborg 41 31 8 11 .354 2 0 0 .419 .512 .931 9 3 0 8

It was a kind of resurgence at the plate for Hussein who did not have a bad game during last seasons campaign. There is not much to add to the very impressive numbers ‘Jojo’ put up but that he would be considered a top player on all regional teams. While the signs do not point to him playing for the Sharks this season, one should never lose faith. If he were to return, that would be a huge win at the top of the Sharks lineup.

Shervin Shakki

Young gun Shakki was, as always solid at second base and progressed at the plate.

2015 Göteborg B 25 23 2 3 .130 0 0 0 .130 .200 .330 2 17 1 0
2016 Göteborg 58 42 14 7 .166 0 0 0 .166 .396 .563 16 22 0 2

That OBP does look nice, doesn’t it? The patient showed by Shakki points to him progressing at the plate and while he does not project to be a homerun hitter, he could very well be a .300 hitter that can find the gaps and provide some doubles.

On defense, ‘Swirvin’ Shervin was slick at second base and also showed off his strong arm from the shortstop position. Going forward, he is of course the future of the Sharks organization (as he is one of few players that are not closing in on retirement age) and will be crucial in the defensive works of the infield.

Toofan Khazal

The longtime catcher took a moneyballish approach at the plate in 2016 and saw success with it.

2015 Göteborg B 33 27 3 6 .222 0 0 0 .222 .363 .585 6 6 0 5
2016 Göteborg 62 35 12 6 .171 1 0 0 .200 .524 .724 24 14 0 9

While the average and slugging percentage dropped a bit, Khazal took a big step forward in the OBP department. Adding to that, he looked more comfortable at the plate and if Heatstat provided BABIP, he would most certainly be a victim of a low such number as he hit the ball harder than previous seasons. As he is the key to the Sharks battery (read: the only catcher that can actually catch), his offensive progression bodes well going forward. Hopefully, that patient approach at the plate continues and here’s to a ball or two passing through the infielders as well.

Mikael Lindquist

Lindquist, in a very small sample size, put up impressive offensive numbers in 2016.

2015 Göteborg B 11 7 2 1 .142 0 0 0 .142 .454 .597 4 4 1 1
2016 Göteborg 12 9 1 3 .333 0 0 0 .333 .500 .833 3 3 0 1

Marred by injuries, his defensive assignments on the infield were fewer than normal. At the plate however he was brilliant and we especially remember that game in Tranås where he pitched no hit-ball and went 2-4 at the plate. Going forward, Lindquist will hopefully find health to be a bigger factor in the field.

Eric Marquez

The exile American had the walk off hit in his first game and looked impressive in his rookie season for the Sharks.

When arriving in Sweden, Marquz realized that winning is better than losing.

2016 Göteborg 21 20 4 7 .350 1 0 0 .400 .380 .780 1 2 0 6

While everyone was satisfied with his performance on both sides of the ball in 2016, Marquez himself was not. Vowing to hit balls over the left field fence at Shark Park, Marquez has been working hard during the offseason to add some extra power to his swing. He showed defensively that he was very good at third base and perfectly capable of playing all infield positions. Truly, an asset when looking through the crystal ball to the 2017 season.

Hannes Wiström

The other rookie, showed loads of promise during his first season in Shark blue but did not have the numbers to show for it.

Wiström with some classic swag at the plate.

2016 Göteborg 24 22 5 3 .136 0 0 0 .136 .208 .344 1 9 0 3

Wiström was a very welcome addition to the 2016 Shark squad. He provided stellar defense at first base and the outfield and showed glimpses of great ability at the plate. With more AB’s under the plate, he will be a force to count on offense.

Defensively, the young gun is far too athletic to stay at first base. One could see him as the long time catcher of the Sharks organization or perhaps a solid infielder as he has the potential to play any infield position. He could also provide value in center field if needed. In 2017, Wiström will be a key component of the team although Edgren’s intentions on where he will play are still unknown.

Johan Weidolf

Oldtimer Weidolf flashed how his bat could be the best in regional play.

Weidolf was once younger…

2015 Göteborg 39 38 3 9 .236 1 0 0 .263 .256 .519 1 8 0 6
2016 Göteborg 9 8 2 4 .500 1 0 0 .625 .555 .1180 1 1 0 2

Yes, nine at bats are not enough to talk about but those are some shiny numbers up there. And also, we’re talking about the longtime prominent Shark legend Weidolf that has never failed to impress in the past. If he were to have enough time to play continuously in 2017, he could very well be the David Ortiz of Sharks baseball.

Jonny Edgren

Let’s not glorify coach too much and have those pretty numbers go to his head.

… and so was Edgren!

2015 Göteborg B 13 12 5 8 .666 3 0 0 .916 .666 .1583 0 0 0 3
2016 Göteborg 29 22 11 8 .363 4 0 0 .545 .517 .1062 3 3 0 4

Suffice to say, looking in to the future, Edgren will certainly be solid at the plate in 2017 as well if he were to give himself at bats.

Joel Earnest

Earnest took a step backwards at the plate while battling health issues.

2015 Göteborg B 31 31 5 10 .322 0 0 0 .322 .322 .645 0 8 0 6
2016 Göteborg 23 19 2 4 .210 0 0 0 .210 .318 .528 2 9 1 5

It was not surprising that the numbers of ‘Mr RBI’ took a step backwards. The fighting of illness was a factor to be sure, but also missing multiple matchups with favorite opponent Malmö Pilots had Earnest wanting more when coming back to the 2017 season. His likeness to Ty Cobb is of course undisputable and will, as always, be feasting on those high fastballs.


It’s easy to see, just by the length of this piece, that the Sharks infield is crowded. The project of versatility that the front office has been talking about would be reasonable since the outfield seldom is overcrowded. The infield do look solid as the partnership of al-Ghamini and Shakki progressed throughout last season. With the addition of Marquez at third base and Nic Ekström’s resurgence at first, the starting day infield might reach the heights of “The Infield” (when the Dodgers had Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Davey Lopes and Steve Garvey).

Anywho, José Munoz is apparently in the shadows and wanting to play again and he is one of the best shortstops this franchise has ever seen. Hannes Wiström is a real asset anywhere on the infield and Fabian Hanning, Daniel André and Joel Earnest are veteran players that will fight for the starting spots come opening day.

The real problematic position in the Sharks infield is at catcher. Not the present catcher as veteran Toofan Khazal turned in what might have been his best season in 2016 but the depth behind him is underwhelming to say the least. Well, it’s non existent. That is a problem. If opponents were to be evil, a well timed hit to the Sharks catcher would be devastating and this is something the front office need to look at, post haste!