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.