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.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.