27 Mar

spring flings

An injury may play a role in Tyler Moore’s chances of making Miami’s opening day roster. Moore, the ex-Mississippi State star from Brandon, is fine. It’s the injury to Martin Prado that could open a spot for Moore, who is in the Marlins’ camp as a non-roster invitee. Prado, the former Mississippi Braves standout, will start the season on the disabled list, with Derek Dietrich manning third base. Moore, a first baseman/outfielder, is batting .295 with five homers this spring and has made a strong case for being the right-handed hitting half of a platoon at first with Justin Bour. … Ole Miss product Stuart Turner might also benefit from an injury. Cincinnati’s No. 1 catcher, Devin Mesoraco, will start the season on the DL as he recovers from two surgeries last year. Tucker Barnhart will be the starter, with the Reds deciding between Turner and Rob Brantly for the backup job. Turner, hitting .414 in 29 at-bats this spring, was a Rule 5 draft pick from Minnesota who’ll likely return to the Twins if he doesn’t make the Reds’ 25-man roster. … Yet another injury, this one in Detroit’s camp, may enhance JaCoby Jones’ chances of opening the year with the Tigers. J.D. Martinez will start on the DL, opening the door for another outfielder. Richton High alum Jones, battling two others for the center field job this spring, is batting .341 with two homers. Former UM standout Alex Presley, a non-roster invitee who is hitting .414, might also have a shot if the Tigers want to keep Jones playing regularly in the minors. … Ex-UM star Lance Lynn reportedly will start Thursday’s Grapefruit League game for St. Louis after leaving Saturday’s contest with “upper back stiffness.” Lynn, coming off Tommy John surgery, has a 1.20 ERA in five starts this spring. … Picayune’s T.J. House, in Toronto’s camp as a non-roster player, has not yet returned to the mound since getting struck in the head by a batted ball on March 10. … Entering the last week of spring training, Seth Smith hasn’t gotten much work with Baltimore, his new team. The Ole Miss product was out for roughly two weeks with a hamstring problem. He returned to go 2-for-3 on Saturday – he is 3-for-14 this spring – then sat again Sunday. “At-bats are great, and I’d like to get them, but being 100 percent going into the season is No. 1,” Smith told mlb.com. … Philadelphia was expected to make some roster decisions on Sunday, but there was no immediate word on Chris Coghlan’s status. The ex-Rebels star, who won a ring with the Chicago Cubs last fall, is in Phillies camp as a non-roster invitee. The versatile veteran is batting .243.

26 Mar

turning it around

A dreadful start is becoming a distant memory for Mississippi College. After losing 17 of their first 19, the Choctaws have slugged their way to seven victories in their last eight games, including winning three straight Gulf South Conference series. They swept West Georgia at Frierson Field in Clinton this weekend, taking Saturday’s doubleheader 15-11 and 10-1. Hunter Austin and Will Elliott drove in three runs each in the first game, though the overshadowed hero may have been pitcher Jake Fraze, who delivered 4 1/3 innings of stellar relief as MC held off the Wolves. In Game 2, Hunter Mullis tossed a four-hitter, and Blaine Crim and Casey Echols delivered big hits. Led by Chance Whitten (.330, seven homers, 19 RBIs), Echols (.364) and Elliott (.286, three homers, 18 RBIs), MC’s hitting has been productive most of the season, Jeremy Haworth’s second as coach. What the Choctaws need is more pitching along the lines of what Fraze and Mullis provided on Saturday. The staff ERA is 6.38. MC faces an interesting showdown against William Carey on Tuesday at Frierson Field. The Crusaders are 23-7 (with a game against Mobile today) and ranked ninth in NAIA. And Carey hitters can rake: .313 average, 9.2 runs per game. P.S. Delta State is also on a roll, moving to 21-7 with a sweep of GSC foe North Alabama on Saturday. The Statesmen, who’ve won seven straight, scored 26 runs in those two wins, 18 in Game 2, in which Clay Casey went 4-for-4 with four RBIs and four runs and Josh Russell knocked in five runs.

24 Mar

there’s a battle ahead

Jackson State has won six of seven to put an 18-8 shine on its record. The Tigers lead the SWAC standings and lead the SWAC stats by a wide margin in batting average, scoring and ERA. Three Tigers – Lamar Briggs, Bryce Brown and Wesley Reyes – are hitting .360 or better. Briggs, Cornelius Copeland and Jesus Santana have scored 22 runs apiece. Santana leads the league in RBIs with 29, and Briggs has 23. On the bump, Miguel Yrigoyen is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA, and closer Jose Tirado has a 1.15. But this is no time for strutting. A stern test is at hand — a challenge and an opportunity. The Tigers are in Fort Myers, Fla., this weekend to face perhaps the best team on their schedule, one they’ve never met before. Florida Gulf Coast is 19-3 and ranked 12th by Baseball America. The Eagles beat then-No. 1 Florida State last week and then-No. 2 Florida twice the week before that. The Eagles can hit (7.4 runs per game) and pitch (3.18 ERA), too. DH Nick Rivera is coming off a nine-RBI game against Rutgers. It’s a trip to the coast for Omar Johnson’s Tigers, but it’s certainly no day at the beach.

24 Mar

honor among thieves

The major league single-season stolen base record has stood at 130 since 1982. No one has gotten within 20 bags of that mark in the 35 years since. Billy Hamilton, the ex-Taylorsville High star, could get there. Who says? No less an authority than the player who holds the record: Rickey Henderson. In a recent interview with csnbayarea.com, the Hall of Famer had a lot of good things to say about Hamilton and his base-stealing philosophy, which Henderson said reminded him of his own: “I’m gonna run until you throw me out. And if you throw me out, I’m gonna get back up and run again.” Over his 25 years, Henderson’s steal success rate was 81 percent. Over his three-plus years, Hamilton is at 82 percent. They are master thieves. Of course, the big thing for Hamilton, as Henderson acknowledged, is getting on base enough to make it all work. Henderson had an on-base percentage of .398 in 1982, when he got his 130. Hamilton stole 58 bags for Cincinnati last season in just 119 games. His OBP was a rather pedestrian .321, his batting average, even after a strong second half, a lackluster .260. There are some who think Hamilton just isn’t going to hit enough to remain a regular, his defensive skill as a center fielder notwithstanding. After an injury-curtailed 2016 season, Hamilton hasn’t had an inspiring spring. He returned to the Reds’ lineup Thursday from several days off (sore Achilles’) and took an 0-for-3 as the DH. He is batting .211 (.268 OBP, 12 strikeouts in 38 at-bats) in 14 games. When the games start to count, he’ll need to step it up. Yes, a lot. While it’s true that the stolen base has been marginalized by a variety of factors in recent years, Hamilton — who swiped 155 bags in the minors in 2012 — has shown that it can still be a weapon. When he’s on base, you’re compelled to watch. Imagine what a thrill it would be to watch him make a run at Henderson’s record.

23 Mar

movin’ on up

Kendall Graveman has risen to the top in Oakland. With Sonny Gray, the team’s presumptive ace, on the shelf with an injury, former Mississippi State star Graveman has been named the opening day starter. Graveman, 26, went 10-11 with a 4.11 ERA for the 69-win A’s last season, his second full year in the big leagues. He led the team in WHIP. Graveman was an eighth-round pick out of State by Toronto in 2013 and zipped through the minors to arrive in The Show in mid-2014. Oakland acquired him as part of the Josh Donaldson trade prior to the 2015 campaign, and Graveman went 11-10, 4.04 for the A’s that season.

23 Mar

prospecting

The sorting process likely isn’t completed in Atlanta’s minor league camp, home to a batch of prospects generally regarded as the best in baseball. When the rosters are set and the players break camp, don’t expect many of the Braves’ Top 10 to head to Mississippi. Most of the highest rated players are either past Double-A or a year or two away. Dansby Swanson, still classified as a rookie and rated Atlanta’s No. 1 by Baseball America and MLB Pipeline, is already established in Atlanta. No. 2 prospect Ozzie Albies, who did two stints in Pearl in 2016, figures to start in Triple-A. Six of the seven pitchers in the top 12 (as rated by MLB Pipeline) pitched in low-A ball or rookie ball last season. No. 6 Sean Newcomb was an M-Braves mainstay (8-7, 3.86 ERA) in 2016 who probably will pitch at Gwinnett this season. Kolby Allard (No. 4), Mike Soroka (5), Max Fried (9) and Touki Toussaint (12) were on the Rome staff that won the South Atlantic League pennant. The standard progression puts them at high-A Florida. No. 3 Kevin Maitan is a 17-year-old shortstop just getting started, and No. 8 Ronald Acuna, a 19-year-old outfielder, played at Rome in an injury-interrupted season. Unlikely to open in Mississippi, he could make Double-A at some point this year. Infielder Travis Demeritte, acquired from Texas in midseason, is No. 10 on the Braves’ list and looks like the one sure thing in that bunch to be in Trustmark Park on April 6. He hit 28 homers at the high-A level in 2016. Former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley, the No. 13 prospect, projects as the third baseman on the high-A club, at least to start the season. The M-Braves’ opening day roster won’t be thin on talent, however. Jacob Schrader, Carlos Franco, Joey Meneses, Connor Lien and Joe Odom were among the position players who helped last year’s club reach the Southern League Championship Series, and all could be back. Plus, top 30 prospects Braxton Davidson and Alex Jackson may land in Pearl next month. P.S. The M-Braves open on April 6, two weeks from today, at the TeePee against Jacksonville, a Miami affiliate that is now, unfortunately, nicknamed the Jumbo Shrimp.

23 Mar

fish tales

Good day for Tyler Moore, who is trying to earn a roster spot with the Miami Marlins. Not so good for Scott Copeland, who is trying to do the same thing. Mississippi State product Moore hit two home runs in his two at-bats on Wednesday, giving him five for the spring. Southern Miss product Copeland got the start against the New York Mets at Port St. Lucie, Fla., and faced 15 batters. Nine of them reached base and six scored. Moore, 30, is an MLB-seasoned right-handed hitting first baseman/outfielder who spent last year in the minors with Atlanta. He signed a minor league deal with Miami in the off-season and is batting .282 this spring. Copeland, 29, who has limited big league experience and also spent 2016 in the minors (and Korea), would appear to face longer odds of sticking than Moore. The right-hander has made six appearances in the Grapefruit League and, despite a 2-0 record, has a 9.00 ERA.