Mark Appel is the top-ranked player in the draft … again

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Baseball America just released its pre-season ranking of the top-50 players for this year’s draft and Stanford right-hander Mark Appel tops the list.

Of course, Appel topped the list last year too and leading up to the draft many people expected him to go No. 1 to the Astros, but then Houston passed and he fell all the way to Pittsburgh at No. 8.

Appel chose not to sign and headed back to Stanford for his senior season, but guess which team picks No. 1 again this year? Houston. If they didn’t want him last year it seems unlikely that the Astros would want him there this year, although in general it’s considered a weak class of prospects and Appel no longer has much negotiating leverage.

The rest of Baseball America‘s top five are Indiana State left-hander Sean Manaea, Georgia high school outfielders Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, and Arkansas right-hander Ryne Stanek.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.