Derek Jeter

Yankees, Cardinals getting most production from top of the order

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Here’s a look at the production all 30 teams are getting from their top two hitters to date, ranked by OPS.

Yankees – 1.074
Cardinals – .931
Rangers – .851
Mets – .835
Rays – .823
Red Sox – .823
Astros – .789
Braves – .768
Nationals – .751
Giants – .745
Cubs – .738
Orioles – .724
Twins – .709
Tigers – .707
Diamondbacks – .700
Marlins – .687
Blue Jays – .685
Indians – .663
White Sox – .646
Brewers – .642
Reds – .632
Angels – .626
Padres – .624
Royals – .613
Mariners – .607
Dodgers – .605
Rockies – .587
Athletics – .580
Phillies – .550
Pirates – .524

The Yankees, incredibly enough, are getting a 1.080 OPS from Derek Jeter and company in the leadoff spot and a 1.071 OPS from Curtis Granderson and company in the two hole. Likewise, the Cardinals have both the best OPS from No. 1 and No. 2 hitters in the NL, though neither mark quite competes’ with the Yankees.

There are some nice surprises there on the list, as well. The Mets are at .835 despite losing their leadoff hitter to the disabled list. Well, actually, they’re at .835 largely because they lost their leadoff hitter to the DL. Andres Torres was only going to bring that mark down. The Astros are at .789 thanks to Jordan Schafer’s strong start. The Nationals are at .751 despite the struggles of Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa early in the spring.

As you might have guessed, this ranking matches up pretty well with run scoring as a whole. The Yankees, Cardinals and Rangers rank second, fourth and first, respectively, in runs scored to date. The bottom three on the list are also the bottom three in runs scored: the A’s have scored 52 runs, the Phillies 48 and the Pirates 30.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, are an outlier. Needless to say, they’d be leading the way if we were looking at No. 3 and No. 4 hitters instead. They rank ninth in runs scored despite the modest production from Dee Gordon and Mark Ellis to date.

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
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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.