Miguel Sano

Anthony Rendon, Miguel Sano rate as 2013’s top minor league performers

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The top of the minor league OPS leaderboard is typically littered with Triple-A veterans and A-ball players too old for their leagues. That’s still the case this year, but numbers two, three and four on the list are all top prospects.

Minor league OPS leaders (minimum 100 at-bats)

Scott Van Slyke (26 Dodgers): 1.236 OPS for Triple-A Albuquerque
Anthony Rendon (23 Nationals): 1.136 OPS for Double-A Harrisburg
Garin Cecchini (22 Red Sox): 1.135 OPS for Single-A Salem
Miguel Sano (20 Twins): 1.122 OPS for Single-A Fort Myers
Andrew Brown (28 Mets): 1.097 OPS for Triple-A Las Vegas
Chris Colabello (29 Twins): 1.089 OPS for Triple-A Rochester
Brett Pill (28 Giants): 1.085 OPS for Triple-A Fresno
Ji-Man Choi (22 Mariners): 1.073 OPS for Single-A High Desert
Ryan Court (25 Diamondbacks): 1.072 OPS for low-A South Bend/Single-A Visalia
Anthony Aliotti (25 Athletics): 1.069 OPS for Double-A Midland

Sano is now on the short list of the game’s best prospects. He hit two more homers in a doubleheader today, giving him 13 homers in 153 at-bats on the season. He does strike out quite a bit — 44 times this year and 144 times in 129 games in low-A ball last season — but he’s a patient hitter and he’s only going to get stronger as he matures. He just turned 20 earlier this month, making him one of the youngest players in the Florida State League. The big question with Sano is whether he’ll be able to stay at third.

Cecchini has also been a very pleasant surprise this year. Baseball America ranked the third baseman as Boston’s No. 7 prospect after he hit .305/.394/.433 in the Sally League last season. Now he’s probably a top-50 guy in all of baseball thanks to his increasing power; he has five homers in 134 at-bats after hitting four in 455 at-bats last year. Also, he’s playing in a pitcher’s league and walking (22) more than he’s striking out (20).

Then there’s Rendon, also naturally a third baseman, though one who is getting reps at second with Ryan Zimmerman in the way in D.C. He’s already been up in the majors once this season, and it’s possible an extended opportunity will come if Danny Espinosa continues to struggle.

The rest of the names on the above list aren’t quite so interesting, so here are the next 12, limited to players age 22 and under:

Zach Borenstein (22 Angels): 1.052 OPS for Single-A Inland Empire
Kevin Plawecki (22 Mets): 1.045 OPS for low-A Savannah
Rosell Herrera (20 Rockies): 1.032 OPS for low-A Asheville
Christian Yelich (21 Marlins): .995 OPS for Single-A Jupiter/Double-A Jacksonville
Stetson Allie (22 Pirates): .993 OPS for low-A West Virginia
Byron Buxton (19 Twins): .979 OPS for low-A Cedar Rapids
Chris Taylor (22 Mariners): .970 OPS for Single-A High Desert
Joc Pederson (21 Dodgers): .958 OPS for Double-A Chattanooga
Aaron Altherr (22 Phillies): .953 OPS for Single-A Clearwater
Andy Burns (22 Blue Jays): .952 OPS for Single-A Dunedin
Peter O’Brien (22 Yankees): .952 OPS for low-A Charleston
Yasiel Puig (22 Dodgers): .947 OPS for Double-A Chattanooga

Yelich, Buxton and Puig will all join Sano in the top 10s of most midseason prospects lists when they get published. Buxton was the No. 2 pick in the 2012 draft, but there’s a good chance he’d go No. 1 if the Astros had it to do over again. Along with his brilliant .317/.420/.559 line, the center fielder has 19 steals for Cedar Rapids.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.