Opening Day in the minor leagues

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With the minor league season starting today, Baseball America has released a list of where its top 100 prospects will open the season.
Among those skipping levels this year are Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon and Astros right-hander Jordan Lyles, both of whom are moving from low-A ball right to Double-A.
It’s not surprising in either case. Lyles actually probably would have spent a portion of last year in high-A under normal circumstances, but the Astros’ Lancaster affiliate in the California League is a horrible place for pitchers.
Also notable is that two of the Rays’ top prospects are starting the year on the DL. Both outfielder Desmond Jennings and shortstop Tim Beckham are dealing with wrist injuries. Jennings, who could be the team’s center fielder next year, is expected to join Triple-A Durham later this month. Beckham, the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, is slated to play for high-A Charlotte once healthy.
Finally, Stephen Strasburg is set to make his debut for Double-A Harrisburg on Sunday, with ESPNews providing live coverage.

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.