15 Jul

bright futures

There is a maroon tint to the U.S. roster for today’s All-Star Futures Game. Former Mississippi State teammates Dakota Hudson and Nathaniel Lowe were chosen for this showcase event, slated for 3 p.m. (on MLB Network) at Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C. Also on the rosters are Mississippi Braves alums Kyle Wright and Touki Toussaint (who’ll suit up for the World team), the Biloxi Shuckers’ Keston Hiura and Ke’Bryan Hayes, son of ex-big leaguer and Hattiesburg native Charlie Hayes. It’s certainly not a big surprise to see Hudson in this game. He was a first-round pick by St. Louis in 2016, immediately jumped onto their prospect lists and has soared through the system. He is 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA at Triple-A Memphis this year, perhaps on the brink of a call-up from the Cardinals. It’s fair to say Lowe has exceeded expectations. The big left-handed hitting first baseman was a 13th-round pick in 2016 by Tampa Bay. After a modest start to his pro career, he has taken off in 2018. He was killing it at Class A Port Charlotte and, after earning a June promotion to Double-A, has continued to do so for Montgomery. His numbers at the two levels: .349, 18 homers, 73 RBIs. Hard to ignore.

14 Jul

storm warning

With apologies to Clark and Palmeiro, there is a Thunder and Lightning duo with Mississippi ties doing some damage for the Hickory Crawdads of the Class A South Atlantic League. The thunder in this case comes from the bat of Houlka’s Tyreque Reed, the lightning from the arm of Petal’s Demarcus Evans. On Friday night, Evans, a 21-year-old right-hander, jolted visiting West Virginia with three hitless innings of relief work, striking out five as the Crawdads, the low-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, rallied to win 5-4 in 10 innings. Reed, the Hickory cleanup batter, also 21, put up a relatively quiet 1-for-4, but the hit was his 17th in his last 10 games. He has hit .459 in that stretch. The 6-foot-2, 260-pound first baseman/DH is batting .271 with seven homers and 17 RBIs. A juco All-America at Itawamba Community College, where he hit .504 as a sophomore, Reed was an eighth-round selection in the 2017 draft. After he batted .350 with five homers in 35 games in rookie ball last summer, the Rangers started him out in the full-season SAL this year. He hit a walk-off homer in his first at-bat, as a pinch hitter. The Rangers picked Evans, 6-4, 240, out of Petal High in the 25th round in 2015. He has shown strikeout stuff at every level, averaging over 12 K’s per nine innings. Working exclusively in relief this year, Evans is 2-0 with two saves and a 2.23 ERA in 22 games. The spin rate on his fastball reportedly is among the best in the minors. He has a 3.35 career ERA, though his walk totals are high. Neither Reed nor Evans has cracked the Rangers’ top prospect charts, but they appear well on their way to refining their raw skills in 2018.

14 Jul

did you see that?

Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds pulled off another Spider-Man act on Friday night, scaling the center-field wall at Busch Stadium to steal a home run from a St. Louis batter. But as jaw-dropping as the Taylorsville High product’s snag was, it might not have been the most stunning highlight from a Mississippian in the majors on this particular night. Brandon Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State star from Wheeler, a pitcher for Milwaukee, crushed — yes, crushed — a home run into the right-field seats at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. It was the first career homer for Woodruff, a righty who bats lefty. Just called back up — for the fifth time in 2018 — from Triple-A Colorado Springs, Woodruff also threw three scoreless innings in middle relief as the first-place Brewers fell to the Pirates 7-3.

13 Jul

back in the day

Nostalgia is thick in the air at Trustmark Park when the Pensacola Blue Wahoos come to call. The field staff for the Cincinnati Reds’ Double-A club, which began a five-game series with the Mississippi Braves on Thursday, is replete with big league stars of another era. Fans of a certain age know the names well. Hitting coach Mike Devereaux, who won a ring with the 1995 Atlanta Braves, and bench coach Lenny Harris debuted in the majors in the late 1980s, and pitching coach James Baldwin broke in in 1995. And then there’s Blue Wahoos manager Jody Davis. Not only is he a former big leaguer, he is also a former Jackson Met. Davis made his MLB debut in 1981. Surely there are a few fans around who recall that two years before that, Davis had a breakout season for the Double-A JaxMets, who made their home at Smith-Wills Stadium. Davis batted .296 with 21 home runs and 91 RBIs in 1979, playing on a team that included Hubie Brooks and Wally Backman. Davis also refined his catching skills that year and was named a Texas League All-Star. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals (for big leaguer Ray Searage) following that season, then taken in the Rule 5 draft by the Chicago Cubs in December 1980. The next April he launched a 10-year MLB career during which he made two All-Star teams. Davis coached and managed in the Cubs’ system for several years and took the reins in Pensacola this season.

13 Jul

wichita-bound

Mississippi will be well-represented on the all-star team the NJCAA is sending to the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. The 26-man National Team roster, announced this week, includes five MACJC alums: pitchers Shemar Page of Pearl River Community College and Tyler Spring of Jones County, catcher Tucker Childers of Northeast and outfielders Brandon Parker of Mississippi Gulf Coast and Brant Blaylock of Northwest. Hinds coach Sam Temple is on the coaching staff, which is headed by Doug Wren of Tyler (Texas). It would have been a crime had Parker not been included. He was named the NJCAA Division II player of the year after batting .424 with 24 homers and a national-best 81 RBIs in 2018. The others are also well-credentialed. Page went 10-2 with a 2.73 ERA for state champion Pearl River, and Tyler Spring was 8-2, 2.90 for a Jones team that was ranked near the top of the D-II poll all season. Childers, an All-Star in the Cal Ripken League this summer, is a defensive stalwart who batted .352 with 13 homers at Northeast. Northwest’s Blaylock belted 18 homers and hit .385. The players report for a training camp in Texas on July 25. The NBC World Series starts July 27 at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. … The tournament, which launched in 1935, brings together amateur/semi-pro teams from all over the country. Mississippi typically sends a team. The Hattiesburg Black Sox, who won the Magnolia Adult Baseball League championship earlier this summer, participated in 2017. Two different teams from the state have finished runner-up in the World Series: the Jackson Braves in 1968 and the West Point Packers in ’66.

12 Jul

so far, so great

If there were questions about how Nick Sandlin’s stuff would play in pro ball, the former Southern Miss star has wasted little time providing answers. A second-round draft pick by Cleveland last month, Sandlin has made seven scoreless appearances, the last four for Lake County in the Class A Midwest League. His stuff certainly played in Peoria on Wednesday night, when the 5-foot-11 right-hander struck out the side, running his K total to eight in four innings for Lake County. He has allowed two hits and no walks in that stretch. He notched a save on Saturday, closing out a win for former USM teammate Kirk McCarty. Sandlin, as a starter, went 10-0 with a 1.06 ERA and 140 punchouts in 102 1/3 innings for the Golden Eagles in 2018. He won all kinds of awards. The previous two seasons, working as a closer, he posted 20 saves and 13 wins. Yet Sandlin’s size, velocity and funky delivery reportedly were concerns for pro scouts heading into the draft. The Indians took him with the 67th pick. One MLB Network analyst, lamenting the state of the Indians’ bullpen on the night of the draft, suggested Cleveland throw Sandlin directly into the mix. That wasn’t going to happen, of course, but he might not be too far away. It’s not unheard of for college pitchers to make the big leagues in their draft year. P.S. Former Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson (now in the St. Louis system) started and got the win – despite allowing a run in his one inning – for the Pacific Coast League in Wednesday’s Triple-A All-Star Game. Ole Miss alum Bobby Wahl (Oakland) got the first out in the ninth for the PCL in its 12-7 win, and USM product Cody Carroll (New York Yankees) threw a clean inning for the International League team.

11 Jul

it’s a start

Ex-Ole Miss star Ryan Rolison, the first Mississippi product picked — 22nd overall — in the June draft, pitched two innings on Tuesday in his debut for Grand Junction, the Colorado Rockies’ rookie club. The left-hander, who threw 28 pitches, allowed one hit (a home run) and struck out two. He has spent a lot of time since he signed working with former major leaguer Doug Jones, the Grand Junction pitching coach, on improving his changeup. “I’m excited for the challenge,” Rolison told The (Grand Junction) Daily Sentinel when he first arrived there. “It’s challenging being in Colorado because the air’s so thin and the ball flies. Every day we work on drills to locate our fastballs down, keeping them at the knees, and also just developing my changeup into a key pitch for me along with my slider.” Because he threw almost 100 innings for Ole Miss this past season, the Rockies reportedly will limit his work at Grand Junction. P.S. Cody Satterwhite, the former Hillcrest Christian and Ole Miss standout, is pitching in the Mexican League, still chasing the big league dream 10 years after he was first drafted. Satterwhite, 31, has made three appearances this month for the Mexico City Red Devils. He signed there after being released in late May from the Triple-A Syracuse roster in Washington’s system. Drafted in the second round by Detroit in 2008, Satterwhite has endured several injuries and passed through several organizations over the years. His numbers are actually good: 3.47 ERA, 33 saves, 16 wins in 231 minor league games.