Evan Gattis, Jackie Bradley among top performers in the minors

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Here’s a minor league leaderboard for you: top hitters by OPS:

Brad Eldred (Det, AAA, 31, 1B) – .348/.408/.857 – 1.265
Evan Gattis (Atl, A+/AA, 25, C/OF) – .361/.441/.770 – 1.211
Wil Myers (KC, AA, 21, OF) – .344/.420/.712 – 1.132
Jackie Bradley (Bos, A+, 22, OF) – .389/.507/.575 – 1.082
Steve Pearce (NYY, AAA, 29, 1B) – .361/.444/.631 – 1.075
Anthony Rizzo (ChC, AAA, 22, 1B) – .351/.416/.657 – 1.073
Matt LaPorta (Cle, AAA, 27, 1B) – .336/.413/.645 – 1.058
Nathan Freiman (SD, AA,  25, 1B) – .324/.374/.684 – 1.058
Ronnie Welty (Bal, A+/AA, 24, OF) – .352/.381/.667 – 1.047
Oscar Taveras (StL, AA, 20, OF) – .328/.375/.672 – 1.047
Brady Shoemaker (CWS, A+,  25, OF) – .357/.426/.611 – 1.037
Scott Van Slyke (LAD, AAA, 25, OF) – .336/.411/.623 – 1.034
Darin Ruf (Phi, AA,  25, 1B) – .383/.438/.595 – 1.032

I was going to take out the older players and just list the youngsters, but it wasn’t necessarily: most of these guys are on the young side. The starts by Myers, Rizzo and Taveras have gotten plenty of attention already, and those three are the best prospects on this list. Gattis’ story is also one everybody should know. He’s played 15 games at catcher and nine in left field this year as the Braves try to figure out how he might fit in.

Bradley is another worthy of notice; a disappointing junior year at South Carolina caused him to slip in the draft and the Red Sox took him with their third pick, which was 40th overall. He’s putting up his numbers in a pitcher’s league and has 11 steals to boot. The Red Sox will probably want to test him with Double-A soon. If he keeps this up, it’ll take some of the pressure off the need to re-sign Jacoby Ellsbury prior to free agency.

And then there’s LaPorta, who might be due another look in Cleveland with Casey Kotchman floundering. The Indians could really use another power right-handed bat to complement all of their left-handers. LaPorta, though, has a history of reverse platoon splits: he’s hit righties much better than lefties as a major leaguer. The same thing is going on in Triple-A this year, too.

MLB, union resume blood testing after pandemic, lockout

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – In the first acknowledgment that MLB and the players’ association resumed blood testing for human growth hormone, the organizations said none of the 1,027 samples taken during the 2022 season tested positive.

HGH testing stopped in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Testing also was halted during the 99-day lockout that ended in mid-March, and there were supply chain issues due to COVID-19 and additional caution in testing due to coronavirus protocols.

The annual public report is issued by Thomas M. Martin, independent program administrator of MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. In an announcement accompanying Thursday’s report, MLB and the union said test processing is moving form the INRS Laboratory in Quebec, Canada, to the UCLA Laboratory in California.

MLB tests for HGH using dried blood spot testing, which was a change that was agreed to during bargaining last winter. There were far fewer samples taken in 2022 compared to 2019, when there were 2,287 samples were collected – none positive.

Beyond HGH testing, 9,011 urine samples were collected in the year ending with the 2022 World Series, up from 8,436 in the previous year but down from 9,332 in 2019. And therapeutic use exemptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder dropped for the ninth straight year, with just 72 exemptions in 2022.

Overall, the league issued six suspensions in 2022 for performance-enhancing substances: three for Boldenone (outfielder/first baseman Danny Santana, pitcher Richard Rodriguez and infielder Jose Rondon, all free agents, for 80 games apiece); one each for Clomiphene (Milwaukee catcher Pedro Severino for 80 games), Clostebol (San Diego shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for 80 games) and Stanozolol (Milwaukee pitcher J.C. Mejia for 80 games).

There was an additional positive test for the banned stimulant Clobenzorex. A first positive test for a banned stimulant results in follow-up testing with no suspension.