Andre Ethier is undisputed king of walk-off hits

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As Craig noted in his morning roundup, last night Andre Ethier hit a game-winning grand slam against the Brewers for his 11th walk-off hit since 2008.
Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com’s amazing Play Index, here’s the walk-off leaderboard during that time:

Andre Ethier     11
Kurt Suzuki       5
Miguel Tejada     5
Alfonso Soriano   4
Jorge Cantu       4
Jose Lopez        4
Kevin Youkilis    4
Mark Ellis        4
Prince Fielder    4
Robinson Cano     4



That’s pretty stunning. Ethier has more walk-off hits than any other two players combined since 2008. He had six last season alone, which is more than anyone else has from 2008-2010, and also had three in 2008 with two already this year.
Ethier is a very good player and off to a spectacular start this season, but obviously much of that walk-off success is due to opportunity. Last night, for instance, Ethier came up in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and one out in a tie game. He basically had a walk-off hit served to him on a silver platter and, to his credit, took advantage with a grand slam to dead center.
“I don’t know what it is, for some damn reason I keep getting up there in that situation,” Ethier told the Los Angeles Times. “I can’t figure it out. I don’t know who else has that many opportunities to win games like that. The hairs stand up on your neck a little because you can feel the energy, you can feel the excitement in those situations.”
However, he hasn’t been particularly great in “close and late” situations in general since 2008, hitting .279 with a .486 slugging percentage compared to .294 with a .526 slugging percentage overall. All of which, in a way, makes what Ethier has done even more amazing. “I’ve managed some pretty good players, but the opportunities he’s had and as many times as he’s done it, I don’t remember anybody being as heroic as he’s been,” manager Joe Torre said.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

Braves 2
Associated Press
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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.