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Minnesota North Stars Spring Training Preview

It’s spring and everyone’s thinking about how his or her team has got a shot this year at the division/pennant/championship. This year I’m not so sure. I thought I had a good team put together but it didn’t perform like I thought it would.

Why the North Stars will be better this season

It’s addition by subtraction as some North Stars have moved on to fresh opportunities. Domingo Reyes and his .649 OPS are going to have to find a new address and to this point it’s not looking likely. Jeff Jones doesn’t have to do much to impress his new teammates given what they got at catcher last year. The club let Rudy Lombardi hit his last home run and reach some longevity milestones last year, but his spot on the bench will likely be more productive. He wasn’t able to field a position so he was a DH or pinch hitter last year and was not a starter the last four years of his prodigious career. None of the three free agents that Minnesota signed to be occasional starters and solid bench players did anything at all for the club. They had offensive lines like .188/.241/.271, .211/.274/.316, and .214/.267/.264. Bad.

For S23, it’s a whole season of Don Barnes at the Metrodome. This year’s big free agent signing Daryle Young can’t afford to flop (as they will be depending on him to play right field with Santos Flores breathing down his neck for playing time) and likely won’t. There are five guys on the team who could start at RF, 1B, or LF, which is a good problem to have. Other FA acquisition Pablo Calles is a low-risk pickup who is basically the same guy as the other two center field candidates but steals bases. On the pitching side, Mickey Goodwin probably can’t do worse than he did last year. Somehow Ruben Valdivia landed a Type A contract with Louisville. I think he’s got some incriminating photos of some VIPs over there.

Why the North Stars won’t improve on 74-88

There’s not any good really said above about pitching. The team was “good enough” with bad years by several players but it’s not certain whether last year was an off year or the new status quo for these men. The rotation really only had two starters who did anything. Top brass tried to sign a co-ace for Rudy Ewing but fell a total of $2M short over five years. There’s competition for the last two rotation spots but in-season there won’t be time to correct mistakes if the wrong candidates make the big league club. If one or two key guys stink up the rotation, this team is worse than last year.

Offensively, the team got a lot younger by letting guys go but those who stayed aged a year. With three position players under age 27 currently on the roster, the North Stars suddenly seem old. Are Flores, Barnes, Young, and company going to fuel the offense, or are they running on fumes?

The team does have depth at some positions but there’s a dearth for others. Nobody good will win the center field job. They aren’t any better than castaway George Casian. Catcher will be an Achilles’ heel again. Curt Shea is a very streaky hitter.

Sum it up, already!

The team has about four holes that will keep it back from greatness. If the hole fillers do better than average, this team will be good. If the rest of the team is outstanding, this team will contend. An injury or a bad season for the wrong guy will sink this club like a shooting star. I say 85 wins.


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