Explorers Will Need Jose Sermo to Top 2018 to Reach Peak in 2019

Explorers Will Need Jose Sermo to Top 2018 to Reach Peak in 2019In American Association Daily, the Minor League Sports Report’s Robert Pannier examines the success that Jose Sermo had in 2018 and how he may have to have an even bigger year if he is going to take the Sioux City Explorers back to the playoffs.

MVP Jose Sermo Returns to Sioux City Explorers

The 2018 American Association season saw one of the greatest single season performances by any team in the league’s history when the Sioux City Explorers finished 71-29. It was only the fourth time in the league’s history that a team had as many as 70 wins. The 2015 Explorers and  St. Paul Saints both topped the 70 win mark, as did the 2014 Wichita Wingnuts, the only member of the 70 win club to win the championship.

Sioux City finished first in batting at .305 and were first in ERA at 3.41. They were even tied for third in fielding at .977. It truly was a season that many will remember for years to come.

It was also a season of great individual performances. Shortstop Nate Samson led the league in hitting at .340 and Justin Vernia was tied for the league lead in wins with 12. As a whole, it seemed like every player on Sioux City had outstanding seasons, but none more so than Jose Sermo, the 2018 American Association MVP.

A Dominant Year

Jose Sermo earned the Most Valuable Player award. He finished with a .316 batting average and was first in the league in RBI with 81 and second in homeruns with 22. He was third in runs scored with 76, first in total bases (201), tied for fourth in triples (5), and third in walks (59). He even stole 24 bases.

It was the remarkable season that almost wasn’t. Sermo began the year with the Winnipeg Goldeyes but, after just four games, he was released. The slugger was just 2-13 and it did not look like he fit into the Goldeyes plans.

On the open market Sermo was a hot commodity, but chose to come to Sioux City. From there the rest is history.

Expectations Are High

While it was a truly historic season, more may actually be expected from Jose Sermo in 2019 if they Sioux City Explorers are going to return to the playoffs. The team will likely have none of their five starters returning from last year as all have had their contracts purchased. Jay Baum is expected to retire, and leadoff master Luis Durango is in the Can-Am League.

It would not be surprising if at least half of the roster that won 71 games in 2018 is gone. That will put a lot of pressure on Sermo and Samson to deliver numbers that are at least as good as they delivered last season.

Samson has never hit under .300 in the American Association and there is no reason to expect his numbers to decline. At 30, he may be reaching his prime and a .333-plus season seems almost a lock.

Dean Green, Michael Lang, and Dylan Kelly will all be back, so there will be talent in this roster, but if this team is going to compete with a greatly improved Cleburne Railroaders team, plus the American Association champion Kansas City T-Bones and the very difficult Lincoln Saltdogs, Sermo is going to have to be the man…again.

Fortunately, he may actually be playing the best baseball of his career as well. The 22 homers were a single season high, as was the .316 average. In fact, almost all of his numbers in 2018 were career highs. It is likely to be a situation where not only are the expectations going to be high for the 2018 MVP, but that he is at a place both physically and mentally where he can deliver a second straight MVP season.

That will be a challenge, because 2018 was truly a great year for Jose Sermo. However, he may be prepared to take the Sioux City Explorers one step closer to winning their first American Association title. If that is the case, he may need to clear some room on his trophy shelf.

By Robert Pannier