In American Association Daily, the Minor League Sports Reports’ Robert Pannier looks at the rebuilding process Sioux City Explorers Manager Steve Montgomery is undergoing with his pitching staff preparing for the 2019 American Association season.
Manager Steve Montgomery Rebuilding Explorers Staff
The 2018 Sioux City Explorers were a roadmap on how to properly build a baseball team. Manager Steve Montgomery made pitching his priority, but the team was built around a number of key factors. This included his ballpark, the kind of game he wanted to play, and the kind of player he wanted.
That formula resulted in a 71-29 record, the best in the American Association. The Explorers not only had the best pitching staff in the American Association, posting a 3.41 ERA, but they were the top hitting club as well (.305). The team finished with the top hitter in the league (Nate Samson – .340), the top RBI producer (Jose Sermo – 77), and the leader in wins (Justin Vernia – 12). It was truly a spectacular campaign.
Starting from Scratch…Again
What is missed about that 71 win season, is that the 2018 Sioux City Explorers looked very little like the 2017 edition of the team. The Explorers received a complete overhaul after injuries decimated the pitching staff the year before as Montgomery had no intention of letting the events of 2017 ruin his 2018 season.
It is not surprising that the 2019 team is quickly finding itself built under the same model as 2018. The Explorers have already lost three of their pitchers to affiliate organizations and had three others go to the Sioux Falls Canaries to complete a late season trade. Steve Montgomery is back rebuilding his team and has added a number of outstanding arms that should keep the club near the top of the South Division.
RHP Luis Gamez
Luis Gamez was a hot prospect in the Atlanta Braves organization until an arm injury wiped out his 2017 campaign. He returned last season with mixed results, but has an outstanding arm and he looks like he has fully recuperated.
LHP Brandon Presley
Like Gamez, Brandon Presley has a live arm, but he has been wild around the plate. Presley pitched two seasons for Helena (Rookie League) where he struck out 41 in 39.2 innings pitched. However, he also walked 26. No doubt that both pitchers will benefit from a season with Montgomery and Bobby Post.
LHP Evan DeLuca
Evan DeLuca should be a huge addition to this bullpen. The left-hander appeared in 44 games for New Jersey (Can-Am League) last season, where he posted a 3.76 ERA with a 4-0 record and a save. In 44.0 innings, DeLuca struck out 79. That followed a 2017 season where he struck out 81 in 50.2 innings pitched.
RHP Ivan Vietiez
Ivan Vietiez was acquired from Schaumburg (Frontier League) in late January. The right-hander spent three seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization before his release in 2017. He made two appearances for the St. Paul Saints in 2017, but joined Schaumburg last year, where his numbers were outstanding. In 38 appearances, the right-hander posted a 2.03 ERA.
RHP Max Duval
Max Duval was one of two players signed on Tuesday by Steve Montgomery. Duval started in his professional career in independent ball before his contract was purchased by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016. He would pitch for the Miami Marlins organization the last two seasons, including reaching AA-Jacksonville last year. Duval will likely be joining the Explorers rotation.
RHP Nate Gercken
Nate Grecken has played independent baseball the last three seasons, and he has been outstanding. The last two have been in New Jersey, where he posted a 2.70 ERA in 2017 and a 2.08 ERA in 2018. He could very easily fill the role vacated by Ryan Flores, who was traded to Sioux Falls.
Featured Image Courtesy of the California Winter League
By Robert Pannier