Belhaven and William Carey placed five players each on the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference preseason all-conference team announced today. Guess we can expect the two to be thick in the battle for the league title. The Blazers got off to a good start, sweeping Mobile (6-3 and 8-5) in a doubleheader at blustery Smith-Wills Stadium. Preseason newcomer of the year Wade Broyles, an Ole Miss transfer, got a save for BU. Carey split a pair at Loyola of New Orleans, losing a 9-8 game and then winning 17-0. And so it begins …
Baseball fans hate to see that abbreviation. The only thing worse than a postponement is a delay, especially one that occurs after a game has begun. But that’s another rant. Today, we’re dealing with the ppd. It appears the start of baseball season in the Magnolia State will be pushed back a day. William Carey’s opener at Loyola of New Orleans already has been moved to Saturday, and it looks very unlikely that Belhaven will be able to play Mobile at Smith-Wills Stadium today, the artificial surface notwithstanding. Nobody wants to play, much less watch, baseball in such nasty conditions. No official ppd yet from Belhaven, but expect it.
P.S. Pearl River Community College is scheduled to open its season Saturday in a tournament in Panama City, Fla.
The hype continues to build for Jason Heyward, the former Mississippi Braves outfielder. MLB Network and mlb.com have named him the overall No. 1 prospect heading into the 2010 season. This follows his being named the minor league player of the year by both Baseball America and USA Today. Heyward was impressive as he blew through Double-A last summer, hitting .352 with seven home runs in 162 at-bats for the M-Braves before finishing the season at Triple-A Gwinnett. He also plays a mean right field. He’s a specimen at 6 feet 4, 220 pounds. His stance and swing are a bit different for a player of his size; he has what might be called a small-guy approach. But there’s nothing small about the way he produces. Atlanta certainly hopes that approach works in the big leagues. The Braves are counting on him to arrive there soon and take up the mantle of local hero left behind by Jeff Francoeur. Greatness is being forecast far and wide. There’s a lot on Heyward’s shoulders as he heads to spring training.
Josh Burrus is getting another shot at affiliated baseball. The former Mississippi Braves outfielder — labeled by Baseball America as the worst draft pick Atlanta made in the last decade — was sold to the Detroit Tigers today by the Sussex Skyhawks of the independent Can-Am League. Burrus, a former first-round pick, floundered in a couple of Double-A trials here. Always impressive in batting practice, he just couldn’t produce under the lights. Burrus played in indy ball last season with the Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association. He hit just fine: .282, 10 homers, 44 RBIs. Maybe Burrus found something last summer. But there’s a huge gap between indy pitching and what you see in Double-A or Triple-A, which is where the Tigers likely will try him.
Edwin Maysonet, the former Delta State standout and current Houston Astros infielder, had an excellent winter ball campaign for Arecibo, hitting .338 with 10 RBIs in the regular season and .333 in the semifinal series of the Puerto Rican championships. Arecibo was eliminated in seven games. … Hattiesburg’s big John Lindsey is batting .429 in the postseason for Mazatlan in the Mexican Pacific League. Mazatlan is still alive in the final series. Lindsey, who recently signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, batted .325 with 11 homers in the MPL regular season. … Former Mississippi Brave Gregor Blanco, still in the Atlanta system, is playing for Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League title series and was hitting .500 in the leadoff spot through three games. … Ernesto Mejia, who played briefly for the M-Braves last summer and was signed as a free agent by Kansas City, was the VWL regular season MVP. … On the college scene, Millsaps’ Will Hawkins, who hit .406 with 11 homers and 55 RBIs last season, was named a preseason second-team All-American by d3baseball.com. And this just in: Hinds Community College’s Nick Schneeberger has committed to Tulane. The former Jackson Prep infielder — an “amazing athlete,” according to HCC coach Sam Temple — hit .359 with 21 doubles, 17 steals and 38 RBIs for a very good Eagles team in 2009.
College baseball season starts next Friday, with Belhaven playing host to Mobile at venerable Smith-Wills Stadium and William Carey tripping down to New Orleans to play Loyola. The launch of a new season always warms the soul, regardless of the temperature outside. Belhaven is coming off a 43-20 season and got votes in the preseason NAIA poll. Something to watch for: Blazers coach Hill Denson is six wins short of 1,000 for his career. Carey went 36-22 overall and 28-7 in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference, winning the regular season title. Bobby Halford’s Crusaders figure to be contenders again. Aren’t they always?
It’s not a record. OK, but $9.35 million for a year’s work isn’t bad. That’s what Jonathan Papelbon will get from the Boston Red Sox this season. The former Mississippi State star agreed to a deal late Tuesday, avoiding arbitration, which reportedly the Red Sox didn’t want to chance. The arbitration record for a closer is $10 million, which Papelbon might have surpassed if his case had been heard. He’ll get another pay raise soon enough. He’s eligible for free agency after the 2011 season. … Former Mississippi Braves outfielder Brandon Jones was claimed on waivers by Pittsburgh on Tuesday, so Atlanta loses the once highly regarded prospect with essentially nothing in return. Jones, 26, will have a real shot at a job with the Pirates this spring. Andrew McCutchen is set in center, but left field, Jones’ best position, could be had. Don’t be surprised if Jones is in the Bucs’ opening day lineup. … What’s that ping you hear? Small college teams in the state already have begun practice for the 2010 season.
Jonathan Papelbon’s bank account is fixin’ to get a lot more robust. The former Mississippi State star, who made $6.25 million with the Boston Red Sox last year, has filed for salary arbitration and is expected to exchange figures with the club by midday Tuesday. The Red Sox may also try to cut a deal before arbitration hearings begin in February. The record arbitration figure for a closer reportedly is the $10 million the Angels’ Francisco Rodriguez commanded in 2008. Papelbon might get close to that. The intimidating right-hander had a 1.85 ERA and 38 saves a year ago. There’s really none better at what he does. … Brandon Medders, another MSU alumnus and big league reliever, got an $820,000 deal from the San Francisco Giants last week, avoiding arbitration. Medders, a late-inning situational guy, was 5-1 with a 3.01 ERA and one save in 61 games. There’s good money in being a specialist these days.
P.S. Former Mississippi Braves outfielder Quentin Davis re-signed with the New Jersey Jackals of the independent Can-Am League. Davis, who seemed overmatched in Double-A in his 2008 tour, was released by Atlanta last summer and caught on with the Jackals. He hit .344 with 11 stolen bases.
It’s troubling that the Atlanta Braves appear to have given up on Brandon Jones. The former Mississippi Braves outfielder was designated for assignment on Tuesday to clear roster space for free agent Eric Hinske. The Braves probably made a mistake last spring when they handed the left field job to free agent Garret Anderson instead of giving Jones a real shot. If they trade Jones this week, a strong possibility, they may be making another mistake, one that could come back to haunt them. Jones is a talent. Anyone who saw him during his two stints at Trustmark Park knows this. His left-handed swing is as sweet as they come. He’s got some pop, and at 6 feet 2, 195 pounds, will no doubt develop more as he plays more at the big league level. He hit 15 homers for the 2007 M-Braves, along with a .293 average. A former high school quarterback, Jones is athletic. He runs and throws well, certainly well enough to play left field. He just needs to play. The Braves never really gave him more than token appearances. In 148 big league at-bats over three years, Jones hit .257 with 22 RBIs. He got only 13 ABs last season. Someone will give him a regular big league job someday soon, and it would be very surprising if Jones didn’t produce. If it’s for someone other than the Braves, it’ll also be very disappointing.
It has been a slow time for Mississippi baseball, but finally, on Thursday, some real news. Nettleton’s Bill Hall was traded again, this time from Seattle to Boston for Casey Kotchman. Two questions: What does Boston plan to do with Hall, who plays several positions but none of them real well and seemingly can’t hit anymore? And, what happened to the guy who hit .270 with 35 home runs in 2006? Hall has struggled ever since signing a big contract before the ’07 season. He hit .201 with six homers in 76 games with Milwaukee last year before he was dealt to the Mariners, for whom he hit .200 (consistent, he is) with two homers in 34 games. Hall will be with a contender in 2010 — if the Red Sox keep him. Maybe his bat will break out of its slumber in the charged atmosphere at Fenway. After three straight off years, Hall desperately needs to produce this season.