IDAHO FALLS, ID - Aided by a group of early round draft picks and nearly two dozen players with prior minor league baseball experience, the Idaho Falls Chukars are poised for a breakout season with the release of their 2015 Opening Day roster on Monday.
Of the 28 players named to the Chukars roster, 21 have previously played professional baseball, including ten guys who are returning to Idaho Falls for another season.
From last year, middle infielders Luis Valenzuela, Martin Gasparini and Jeckson Flores will be returning to the Chukars. Gasparini is considered a top-25 prospect in the Royals per Baseball America as a 17-year-old from Italy. They'll be joined in the infield by Australian Ryan Dale, Royals 2014 4th round draft pick DJ Burt and fellow 2014 Royals selection Josh Banuelos.
Headlining the pitching staff, lefties Cruz Guevara and Brandon Thomas as well as righty Alberto Rodriguez return to Idaho Falls for the second straight season. Guevara pitched with Single-A Lexington earlier this year, posting an 8.10 ERA in three appearances. They will be joined by righty Tripp Davis, who pitched with the Chukars back in 2013 and has reached as high as High-A Wilmington in the Royals system.
In addition to the returning Chukars, lefties Dylan Sons and Ian Thomas as well as righties Carlos Herrera and Todd Eaton will head to Idaho Falls after playing all of last season with the Burlington Royals while lefty Hunter Haynes joins the Chukars after missing the entire 2014 campaign. Rounding out the pitching staff will be 2015 draftees Brian Bayliss (18th round), Matt Portland (17th round) and Drew Milligan (22nd round).
Of the six players slated to patrol the outfield for the Chukars, Brawlun Gomez and Alexis Rivera are the only two who have previous played in Idaho Falls. They'll be splitting time with duo of top-ten round 2015 draftees in Roman Collins (5th round) and Cody Jones (6th round). Jones is the reigning Big 12 Conference Player of the Year out of TCU.
Idaho Falls will also have 2014 5th round draft pick Amalani Fukofuka and 2013 24th round draft pick Riley King in the outfield mix. Both played with Burlington last year.
Behind the plate, both Pedro Gonzalez and Kyle Pollock will be returning to Idaho Falls after spending 2014 with the Chukars. Pollock played 22 games with Lexington earlier this season. Wagner College draftee Nicholas Dini (14th round) will round out the battery.
Coaching wise, the Chukars will be sparked by an entirely new field staff, led by first-year manager Justin Gemoll. Gemoll highlights a group that includes former NLCS MVP Jeff Suppan as pitching coach and former big leaguers Andre David and Ramon Castro as hitting coach and position coach respectively.
Players and staff will be reporting to Idaho Falls for the first team practice on Tuesday and an exhibition game with the Idaho Falls Bandits on Wednesday at 7:15 PM. The Chukars then will open their season against the Grand Junction Rockies on Thursday at 7:15 at Melaleuca field.
For tickets or any other information, call (208) 522-8363 or visit www.ifchukars.com.