Former top prospect Andy LaRoche unclaimed on waivers

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Not so long ago Andy LaRoche was considered one of the elite prospects in baseball.

He ranked among Baseball America‘s top 20 in both 2006 and 2007, placed in BA‘s top 100 for two other years as well, and was arguably the centerpiece of the package Pittsburgh received when trading Jason Bay in mid-2008.

Last week the Pirates dropped LaRoche from the 40-man roster and today the 26-year-old third baseman passed through waivers unclaimed to become a free agent.

In other words, none of the 30 teams felt his upside warranted a spot on the 40-man roster.

And it’s tough to blame them. LaRoche posted very strong numbers in the minors and the Pirates gave him plenty of chances to establish himself, including 142 starts in 2009, but he’s hit just .224 with a .304 on-base percentage and .338 slugging percentage in 1,228 plate appearances as a major leaguer.

Miguel Sano gained weight this offseason

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Not all players coming in to spring training are in The Best Shapes of Their Lives. Some have put on a few pounds, such as Miguel Sano, notes Twins GM Thad Levine:

Sano has been given medical clearance to engage in all baseball workouts with his teammates, his surgically reinforced left shin now completely healed, though the Twins intend to lighten his schedule to prevent any new injuries.

They’d like to lighten something else, too: His “generous carriage,” as General Manager Thad Levine delicately put it last week. Sano’s conditioning understandably lags, after a winter largely spent incapacitated by the surgery.

Sano’s conditioning has often been a topic of conversation among the members of the Minnesota press corps, though not always in good faith. For example, last year when Sano injured his shin by fouling a ball off of it, one member of the The Fourth Estate found a way to make a column out of blaming the freak injury on Sano’s conditioning. At least in this instance his colleague is correctly noting that the poor conditioning is a result of the injury and not the cause.

Still, it’s just another issue facing Sano this spring. He’s out of shape, coming off of an injury, and — not that he’s due any sympathy for it — he’s facing a likely suspension arising out of the allegations of sexual assault leveled against him late last year.

So this spring we’ll be seeing more of Sano, it seems. At least until that time we’ll be seeing less of him.