Gercken Returns, Explorers Add Two Arms
Sioux City, IA (December 18, 2020) — The Sioux City Explorers today announced the signings of RHP Nate Gercken, RHP Daniel Hrbek and RHP Max Kuhns.
The 2021 season will be Nate Gercken’s sixth season in professional baseball and second in Sioux City.
Gercken put together an incredible 2019 campaign for the X’s. A season where he was coming off of a Tommy John procedure done the previous September. His 42 appearances were second on the team behind only league leader Matt Pobereyko. He had a minuscule ERA of 1.91 and a 4-2 record. In 47 innings of work he struck out 44 batters. He was also named to the mid-season South Division All-Star Team.
During his first season in Sioux City, in a span of 13 appearances and 13.2 innings, from June 26th to July 24th, Gercken did not allow a single earned run. He had also already previously had two separate streaks of six scoreless outings earlier in that season.
The 28 year old California native was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 17th round of the 2015 MLB Draft following a stellar career at the Academy of Art University (San Francisco, CA), where he set single season records during his senior year for ERA (2.90), strikeouts (79), opponent batting average (.206), shutouts (2), and innings pitched (96.1).
Gercken’s first taste of pro ball came for the Twins during the summer of 2015, appearing in 11 games, two starts, for the Elizabethton Twins, their rookie level affiliate. He put together a 6.69 ERA in 35 innings, striking out 35 batters.
The Twins released the tall 6’6” right hander and he found his way to independent baseball in the Pacific Association. He would put together almost identical numbers between the San Rafael Pacifics and the Pittsburg Diamonds as he did the season prior. He again made 11 appearances, with two of those being starts with a 6.75 ERA.
Gercken the following 2017 season found a new home and new found success pitching for the New Jersey Jackals of the Can-Am League. Gercken led the team with 43 appearances in 2017, which included a stretch of 16 consecutive appearances without yielding a run. He finished the season with a 2-2 record and a 2.70 ERA striking out 47 batters in 46.2 innings. In 2018, Gercken was just as impressive, posting a 2.08 ERA and a 2-2 record in 30 appearances.
He did not play during 2020.
Danny Hrbek will be entering his fourth season of professional baseball and his first with the X’s.
A right handed arm that also missed out on playing in 2020, Hrbek last pitched in 2019 in the Frontier League for the Evansville Otters. There he collected five saves in 15 outings, with a microscopic 1.08 ERA. In 16.2 innings of work he showed electric stuff striking out 27 batters while only walking five.
The soon to be 26 year old, played for both the Mets and Royals organizations. He spent two seasons with Kansas City at their rookie and Class-A levels. In 2018 with Class-A Lexington, Hrbek went 4-2 in 24 trips out of the bullpen, putting together a 4.50 ERA striking out 35 batters in 36 innings of work.
With the Mets Class-A affiliate, Columbia, Hrbek improved on those numbers. Going 4-0 in 20 appearances and a 3.12 ERA. He collected a professionally career high 50 strikeouts over just 40.1 innings.
Putting together his 2019 campaign between Class-A Columbia and independent league Evansville, Hrbek went 5-2 in 35 games with a 2.52 ERA. He recorded an incredible 12.2 K/9 by whiffing 77 batters in 57 innings of work. While also showing great control walking just 16 to hit a mark of just 2.5 BB/9.
Hrbek played his college ball at Radford University in Virginia. However a closer look at his numbers there would tell that he was just as accomplished a position player and hitter as he was a pitcher.
Officially appearing as a pitcher in only his freshman and senior seasons, Hrbek appeared in 22 games, starting 16 of those his senior year. He held a 5-5 record and a 4.89 ERA in those two seasons, striking out 58 and walking 25 over 81 total innings.
When he wasn’t toeing the rubber, Hrbek was found all over the infield for the Highlanders. Playing at least 43 games at every single position on the infield.
He wasn’t just a defensive utility man either, the Pennsylvania native played in 205 games with Radford hitting a career .286, with 7 home runs, 27 doubles, 14 triples, driving in 97 RBI and scoring 104 runs while swiping 27 bags.
Hrbek’s senior season was one to remember as he was named Big South Conference First Team and Big South All-Tournament Team. He had a 12 game hitting streak that season, and finished the year with 18 hits in his final 20 games. He also threw the first ever nine inning no hitter in Radford baseball history in only his third career start.
2021 will mark Max Kuhns’ fifth season of pro ball and first with Sioux City.
Kuhns was drafted by the New York Mets in the 21st round of the 2016 MLB Draft after his junior season at Santa Clara University where he posted a 2.21 ERA and racked up 14 saves in 28 games for the Broncos.
He would spend the next four seasons with the Mets organization bouncing between the rookie level and different levels of Class-A.
The Colorado native’s best season came in 2017 with Class-A Columbia where in 17 games he collected five saves and 37 strikeouts in 25.2 innings of work while posting a 2.10 ERA. Those numbers helped Kuhns be selected to the South Atlantic League All-Star Team.
That year in Columbia for Kuhns was spent sharing a dugout with two familiar names. First was former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. And second was the X’s closer in 2019, Matt Pobereyko. Although Kuhns final game due to injury in 2017 was on June 10th and Pobereyko joined Columbia later that month.
The 26 year old right hander got his first taste of independent baseball during the 2019 campaign. After pitching just one game for High-A, St. Lucie he was let go by the New York Metropolitans. Kuhns then found his place with the Quebec Capitales.
In 18 games with Quebec of the Can-Am League, he had a 6.00 ERA in 18 innings with 14 punch outs.
With the signings of Gercken, Hrbek and Kuhns the Explorers have eight players signed to a 2021 contract (5 pitchers, 3 position players)
RHP Nate Gercken
RHP Danny Hrbek
RHP Max Kuhns
LHP Jairo Labourt
LHP Patrick Ledet
OF Chase Harris
OF Eury Perez
OF Sebastian Zawada
By Connor Ryan, Sioux City Explorers