Does a three-homer game mean Drew Stubbs is destined for stardom?

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With the wind blowing out at Wrigley Field yesterday afternoon Cubs pitchers served up seven homers in a 14-3 blowout loss to the Reds, including three long balls to center fielder Drew Stubbs.
“I’ve never done it at any level, little league, high school, or college,” Stubbs told Mark Sheldon of MLB.com afterward. “I think I’ve only got a handful of two-homer games. Three is something special.”
He’s right, of course, although there are probably more three-homer games than Stubbs would think, with seven already this season and an average of 10.5 per year during the previous decade.
However, if we limit the field a bit by looking only at three-homer games by players Stubbs’ age (25) or younger, it’s much more exclusive company.
Here’s the list of all the three-homer games from 25-and-under hitters since 2000:

Drew Stubbs         2010        Albert Pujols       2004
Andrew McCutchen    2009        Victor Martinez     2004
Evan Longoria       2008        Carlos Pena         2003
Joey Votto          2008        Andruw Jones        2002
Cody Ross           2006        Jose Ortiz          2001
Nick Markakis       2006        Aramis Ramirez      2001
Jose Reyes          2006        Alex Rodriguez      2000
Jonny Gomes         2005

Basically, one or two 25-and-under hitters per season have a three-homer game and of the 14 guys to previously accomplish the feat since 2000 all but two or three of them have become All-Star caliber players (the actual kind, not just the Omar Infante kind). Perhaps it’s not all that surprising, but the list is definitely full of more big names and fewer non-stars than I’d have guessed.
Stubbs is one of the oldest guys on the 25-and-under list and hasn’t been particularly impressive through 120 career games, hitting just .250/.322/.426 with 19 homers and an ugly 134/43 K/BB ratio. However, he’s a former first-round pick whose power-speed combination is promising if he can ever learn to control the strike zone and recent history shows that not many bad players have a three-homer game by his age.

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.