CLASS B PRESEASON RANKINGS: Class B landscape sees vast changes

By Nick Gerhardt

As the seasons change from winter to spring to summer, so has the landscape of Class B amateur baseball in Minnesota.

Teams that formed Class A have folded into Class B to make the state two classes for the first time since 1985. A total of 32 teams from the Park National, Riverview, Skyline and St. Paul leagues have joined the 30 teams that resided in Class B previously. Plus, there are three new teams and another that has moved up to Class B from Class C. Then there’s roster movement following the folding of the Blaine Fusion, Bloomington Bandits and Tri-City Shark. It all makes for an interesting 2023 Class B season, especially with the expansion of the state tournament field to 32 teams in a single elimination format.

With an expanded Class B comes an expanded field of pollsters to get the takes from each section — and we’ve got plenty. There’s also plenty of player movement to consider, too, as Chanhassen saw the departures of Brandon Arnold and Tommy Thompson to Jordan, Miles Nablo to Loretto, three-time state tournament MVP John Straka and Zach Hoffmann. Former Blaine players have scattered throughout the state, many, like pitcher Davis Bryan, going to Forest Lake, while others like Mikey Gottschalk will suit up for St. Patrick, which has added another arm to the staff with former North Dakota State pitcher and Carleton College baseball head coach Alec Holcomb. 

There are also the stalwarts like St. Louis Park, coming off a Class A title where the Pirates allowed one run in five games and Chris Odegaard picked up MVP honors for the second time, after having done so in 2018 with Plato in the Class C championship run.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of reasons to get out to the park, especially the state tournament in Dassel, Delano, Litchfield and Waconia to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the state tournament. 

There are some new pollsters this season as former rankers Kelly McMongale from Moorhead and St. Paul Capitals’ Rick Tossey have stepped aside after several years of contributing. We thank them for their dedication through the years and welcome our new pollsters. Here’s what the experts think about the field as the season begins. 

Aldon Severson — Northfield Knights

1. St. Louis Park Pirates 

2. Rochester Royals 

3. Minnetonka Millers

4. Miesville Mudhens

5. Champlin Park LoGators

6. Baseball 365 

7. Minneapolis Cobras 

8. St. Anthony Hogs

9. Moorhead Brewers

10. Chanhassen Red Birds 

In The Hunt: Air Freight Unlimited, Dundas Dukes, New Market Muskies, Stockmen’s Irish

Matt Marek — Champlin Park LoGators

1. Rochester Royals — A one-two punch. Most of the roster looks to be intact and ready for a repeat run.

2. St. Louis Park Pirates — Class A champs from last year. There have been rumors of some retirements, but time will tell.

3. Champlin Park LoGators — Basically the full roster returning in 2023 with some key additions from a very successful Rogers High School program. A full summer with Will Whelan and Matt Sherman returning from injury should make the pitching staff even deeper.

4. Miesville Mudhens — Jake Dickmeyer returns in 2023, and rumor has it that Trevor Koenig will be joining the Hens, bolstering the top of the rotation.

5. Minnetonka Millers — Might have the Millers too low, but a couple of nice pickups in Ethan Roe and John Skoro should have them right back in the mix for a title.

6. Minneapolis Cobras — Big additions in Zach Seipel and Thomas Kinsella.

7. Baseball 365 — Class A runners-up last year, add a couple pieces from the St. Paul Mudhens and (RIP) Tri-City Shark. Do they have enough beyond Cousins and Danner to make a deep run in the tourney?

8. St. Patrick Irish — St. Patrick is basically Minnesota State, Mankato North, as they load up to compete in Class B. A solid team in past seasons got much stronger.

9. Moorhead Brewers — Will the Brewers be able to find an arm to replace Cole Christensen? Are their young arms ready to step up?

10. Air Freight Unlimited — Graham Laubscher is the type of pitcher that can put a team on his back for a deep tournament run. Don’t sleep on the lineup, as these boys can knock the ball around the yard.

Teams to Watch:

St. Anthony Hogs — A team that’s always in the mix and finds ways to win come August.

Forest Lake Brewers — Restocked the roster with several young locals and some quality arms from the Blaine Fusion roster. Should be in the mix for a Metro Minny title.

Hopkins Berries — Boxwell, Fasching and Pettersen are a heckuva trio. Do they have the depth beyond that to get to state? That will be the question.

Cold Spring Springers – Leaning on tradition with this one, I think the question has, and will be, does Femrite have some magic left in him for another deep run?

Chaska Cubs – Mac Born in the Northwoods League will sting, will they have enough talent to make up for it?

Coon Rapids Redbirds – Everybody’s favorite for knocking out Chanhassen last year, they add a few pieces from Blaine. Losing Thomas Kinsella, arguably their best offensive player and longtime bird Zac Sather, will have them needing to figure out how to put some runs on the board.

Tim Flemming — Hamel Hawks

1. Champlin Park LoGators 

2. Rochester Royals

3. Miesville Mudhens 

4. Moorhead Brewers 

5. Chanhassen Red Birds 

6. Dundas Dukes 

7. Cold Spring Springers 

8. Chaska Cubs 

9. Coon Rapids Redbirds 

10. Anoka Bucs

Nat Croaker — Northwest Orioles 

1. St. Louis Park Pirates 

2. Rochester Royals 

3. Minnetonka Millers

4. Champlin Park LoGators

5. Miesville Mudhens

6. Baseball 365

7. Air Freight Unlimited

8. Minneapolis Cobras

9. Chanhassen Red Birds

10. Stockmen’s Irish

Honorable Mention: Chaska Cubs, Cold Spring Springers, Lyon’s Pub Warriors

Patrick Sheehy — Highland Park Beavers

1. St. Louis Park Pirates — Reigning Class A champs, only gave up one run in five tourney games. 

2. Rochester Royals — Reigning Class B champs.

3. Baseball 365 — Coming off a season which saw just one loss in a tough Pnash league and tourney runner up. Good pitching and solid defense.

4. Champlin Park LoGators — Class B runner up in 2022.

5. Miesville Mudhens — Perennial powerhouse, always seem to be in the mix at the end. 

6. Minneapolis Cobras — 1-9 can take you yard anytime they step up to the dish. If they have their core guys show up, watch out.

7. Chanhassen Red Birds — Another experienced team that plays a lot of really good ball every year. They know how to win.

8. Minnetonka Millers — I mean, they are the Millers and have 42 guys on the roster that can all ball.

9. Chaska Cubs 

10. Air Freight Unlimited — Capable of beating anyone any day when they are rolling.

Honorable mention: Moorhead Brewers, Highland Park Beavers, Lyon’s Pub Warriors.

Nate Behlen — Baseball 365

1. St. Louis Park Pirates

2. Rochester Royals

3. Air Freight Unlimited

4. Champlin Park LoGators

5. Minnetonka Millers

6. Chaska Cubs

7.Minneapolis Cobras 

8. Miesville Mudhens

9. Dundas Dukes

10. Elko Express

Jordan Wiggins — St. Anthony Hogs

1. Rochester Royals 

2. Chanhassen Redbirds 

3. Minnetonka Millers 

4. Champlin Park Logators 

5. Miesville Mudhens 

6. St. Louis Park Pirates 

7. Minneapolis Cobras 

8. Baseball 365 

9. Moorhead Brewers 

10. Chaska Cubs

Class B Preseason Rankings

1. Rochester Royals (65)

2. St. Louis Park Pirates (54)

3. Champlin Park LoGators (52)

4. Miesville Mudhens (43)

5. Minnetonka Millers (39)

6. Baseball 365 (25)

7. Chanhassen Red Birds (22)

8. Minneapolis Cobras (20)

9. Air Freight Unlimited (14)

10. Moorhead Brewers (13)

Also receiving votes: Chaska Cubs (11), Dundas Dukes (7), Cold Spring Springers (4), St. Anthony Hogs (3), Coon Rapids Redbirds (2), Anoka Bucs (1), Stockmen’s Irish (1), Elko Express (1).

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