Looking Forward: The Fargo Dinosaurs Offseason and Future

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Updated: January 3, 2016

For the Fargo Dinosaurs the calendar can’t turn to 2023 soon enough. The 2022 PEBA season saw the Dinosaurs come up one game short of 100 losses surpassing all but the team’s inaugural 2007 season in ineptitude (that 2007 squad amassed 108 losses). The Dinosaurs are now heading into their fifth season since achieving a record above .500 and the lack of competitiveness is effecting the fans who are have been finding other activities to spend their money on such as burgeoning theater district and of course Bonanzaville! It’s unclear how much the Dinosaurs will be involved in this off-season’s free agent market, as the front office has consistently trumpeted that the team is in a rebuilding mode that takes time. General Manager, Cristian Shofar, has worked on moving veteran players over the past couple of seasons while building a young core that he hopes will be the next wave of competitive Fargo baseball players. This remains to be seen, but the 2023 is shaping up to be potentially exciting and certainly the boasting some of the young talent acquired and developed in the past four to five seasons. What follows will be a sneak peak at some of these players who look to establish themselves as big leaguers.

Ernesto Molina

The starting rotation has been a relative disaster in Fargo the past couple of seasons, but that may change in the next year or so. Despite what looks like the impending departure of rotation stalwart Bill Lewis, who looks either despondent in response to the losing or more likely simply in the decline phase  of his career after accumulating too many miles on his pitching arm, the following four young arms look likely to figure into the Dinosaur rotation and could turn things around quickly. Led by 24 year old Ernesto Molina and 25 year old Bernardo Moreno, the Dinosaurs’ front office have voiced confidence that an ace or two are already on the roster and ready to break out in the coming season. Molina will be entering his third season with the Dinosaurs, and despite what on the surface looks like a sophomore slump, pitching coach Mario Cassilias says, “Molina is right where we want him to be developmentally. He improved his strikeout rate and took a major step forward as a clubhouse leader in his second season”. Molina certainly has the “stuff” to be an ace. Like Bill Lewis in his prime, Molina can strikeout more than a batter an inning, while also being able to pitch deep into a game. He has the makeup of a workhorse if he can hopefully avoid injury. Which brings us to Bernardo Moreno, and how injury can derail a top flight prospect’s development. Moreno suffered a torn flexor tendon on May 24th, 2021 and ended up missing more than a year while trying to recover, including a scary set-back that called into question if he’d ever pitch again. Thankfully, he was able to make eight rehabilitation starts in the minors this past season and looked like his old dominate self. The next test will be how he holds up against major league pitching again. You have to wonder what kind of pitcher he will be after losing such a large chunk of his developmental time being unable to pitch.

Manuel Hernandez

The final two young arms include lefty Miguel Vega and an intriguing right-hander from Cuba, Manuel Hernandez. Vega just wrapped up his rookie season with unspectacular numbers, though there is a lot to build on. While his “stuff” from the minors hasn’t yet transferred over to the type of strikeout numbers we expected from the 23 year old, he managed to hold a decent 3.2 base-on-balls rate, while minimizing the homeruns allowed to a manageable 1.3 per 9 innings pitched. If he is able to continue that level of control and movement while improving moderately with his secondary pitches, he can be a good number three starter in this rotation. Manuel Hernandez was signed late in the 2022 season out of Cuba, but was able to make a few minor league starts at AAA Sioux Falls. He showed three plus pitches in a fastball, cutter, and changeup, while needing more work on his curveball. In the seven starts made in Sioux Falls, Hernandez made it quickly apparent he could match both Ernesto Molina and Bernardo Moreno in “stuff” as he struck out 10+ per 9 innings pitched, while limiting walks and homeruns.

Dale Sabean profile picture

In the field, 2022 did see the debut of speedy outfield Dale Sabean, perhaps the fastest player and danger on the base paths to ever wear a Dinosaurs uniform. Sabean was acquired from the New Jersey Hitman along with Miguel Vega, outfielder Jerome Sanford and New Jersey’s 2020 1st round draft pick for starting pitcher Javier Sanez. Sabean was thought of having a ceiling as an average major league outfielder, with decent defense, a mediocre bat, and great speed on the base paths, and the floor as a fourth outfielder type. In his two seasons in AAA Sioux Falls prior to last season, this was what he looked like, as he struggled to hit above a 96 OPS+ but would lead his teams in stolen bases. This changed last season as he took a step forward in the hitting department, first in AAA with a 125 OPS+, and then in 207 plate appearances in Fargo hitting for a 122 OPS while stealing 18 bases. Sabean’s speed on the base paths has also come through in his penchant for stretching singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He’s a nightmare for opposing pitchers once he’s base. Sabean looks to have played himself into the discussion for one of the starting outfield spots heading into this upcoming season.

First baseman Carlos Ortega was drafted in the 3rd round of 2020 draft and has done nothing but hit in his time in the Fargo minor league system, all the way up through AAA last season, where he hit for a 146 OPS+ in 286 plate appearances. Ortega will likely start the season out in AAA, but his time there could be short if he keeps putting up numbers like that. One area the team would like to see him show continued development is in his power numbers. Last season was the first of his minor league seasons for him to hit more than 20 homeruns, as he hit 24 homeruns across AA and AAA combined. The Dinosaurs are bringing back first baseman Jarrod Wright who defied father time last season and mashed 36 homeruns at the age of 35. A lineup sporting both Wright and Ortega is a very real possibility in 2023 though, a changing of the guard perhaps.

Steve Youngblood – Fargo Gazette