Curious to see what the future holds for Anthony Alford. The former Petal High star, released from his Southern Miss football scholarship on Thursday (with two criminal charges still hanging over his head), may well be planning to transfer to another school and keep playing. But after getting banged up at quarterback during the Golden Eagles’ dreadful 2012 season, maybe Alford is considering playing pro baseball full-time. He was rated the No. 36 overall prospect by Baseball America before last June’s draft, and even though he had announced his intention to play two sports at USM, Toronto picked him in the third round. He signed for $750,000 with the stipulation that he could continue playing football. In five games in the rookie Gulf Coast League last summer, Alford flashed the tools that baseball scouts love in him: He hit a home run and stole four bases. It certainly would be interesting to see how quickly he could advance if he were to devote his focus to baseball. P.S. Laurel resident Bobby Dickerson, a longtime minor league manager and coach, has been named third-base coach on Buck Showalter’s Baltimore Orioles staff.
Eli Whiteside was claimed today by Texas off waivers from Toronto. If you’re scoring at home, that’s four teams in roughly as many weeks for the former Delta State standout. Whiteside finished the season on San Francisco’s roster. He has since been claimed off waivers by the New York Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays and now the Rangers. A fairly solid defensive backstop, Whiteside is also, however, a .215 career hitter with 10 home runs in 208 big league games. He is one of four catchers, at least for now, on Texas’ roster — with Geovany Soto, Konrad Schmidt and Luis Martinez. That could be an interesting position battle in spring training.
Among the nine players changing places in Tuesday night’s three-team MLB trade is Pascagoula native and former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star Tony Sipp. The left-handed reliever moves from Cleveland to Arizona as part of the big swap that also included Cincinnati. Sipp, 29, had spent his entire pro career in the Indians’ system. He didn’t post a great year in 2012 — 4.42 ERA in 63 appearances — but historically has had success getting lefty hitters out. His career ERA is 3.68 in 248 games; he has had only six save chances, converting two. P.S. Also moving to Arizona is former Reds shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius. That means Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart, Cincy’s starting shortstop, won’t have to look over his shoulder in 2013.
Julio Teheran is No. 1. Again. But, since he’s only 21, that’s OK. Baseball America’s list of the top 10 prospects in Atlanta’s organization is out, and the Colombian right-hander, who pitched for the Mississippi Braves in 2010, is back on top. He will have an impact in Atlanta soon, count on it. No. 2 on the BA list is J.R. Graham, the little right-hander who reached Mississippi late last summer, going 3-1 with a 3.18 ERA. He throws VERY hard and struck out 42 Double-A hitters in 45 1/3 innings. With any luck (for M-Braves fans), he’ll be back in Pearl this spring. Christian Bethancourt (No. 3), Sean Gilmartin (4), Evan Gattis (8) and Zeke Spruill (9) — all 2012 M-Braves — are also on the list. The power-hitting Gattis might be back, but it’s less likely for the others of that group. Right-hander Lucas Sims, the Braves’ top pick last June, checks in at No. 5. He played in rookie ball last season, as did No. 6 Mauricio Cabrera (RH) and No. 10 Jose Peraza (SS). No. 7 Alex Wood, a lefty drafted out of Georgia this year, went 4-2, 2.22 at low Class A Rome. He might show up at Trustmark Park sometime next summer. P.S. Belhaven and Blue Mountain will launch the 2013 college season at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson on Jan. 25. Can’t hardly wait. … Pulled from a box of 2012 Topps Updates: Andrelton Simmons and Brian Dozier rookie cards, Paul Maholm in a Braves unie, a Tim Dillard, a Scott Diamond, a Jairo Asencio (the former Luis Valdez) and a Ben Sheets. A nice haul.
After six years in the Detroit organization, former Ole Miss standout Justin Henry will get a change of scenery in 2013. Boston traded for the 27-year old outfielder on Thursday and it’s expected he’ll go to big-league camp with the Red Sox. Henry, drafted out of Ole Miss in 2007, couldn’t break through to The Show with the Tigers, despite hitting .293 for his career. The left-handed swinger, listed at 6 feet 3, 180 pounds, is not a power hitter; he has just four home runs as a pro. But he gets on base and can steal a bag (126 career). He spent last season at Triple-A Toledo, batting .300 with 38 RBIs, 72 runs and 22 steals. He should get a good look from a Red Sox club that needed to make some changes after a rough 2012 season.
Atlanta Braves officials and fans alike have to be encouraged by Julio Teheran’s recent outings in the Dominican Winter League. The former Mississippi Braves right-hander from Colombia threw five hitless innings for Licey on Tuesday and has allowed just one hit in his last two starts (10 2/3 innings). Overall, he is 2-1 with a 4.01 ERA in six DWL starts. With former M-Braves Tommy Hanson traded and Brandon Beachy recovering from Tommy John surgery, Atlanta may have a rotation spot to fill this spring, and the hard-throwing Teheran will no doubt get an opportunity. He has made seven big league appearances, with middling results, and had a wobbly 2012 season at Triple-A Gwinnett, going 7-9, 5.08. He is capable of so much better. He blew through three levels of minor league ball in 2010, finishing 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA in seven starts for the Double-A M-Braves, and was lights out at Gwinnett in 2011. He’s only 21 (22 in January). But this may be his time. P.S. Yunel Escobar. Traded. Again. From Miami to Tampa Bay. For a minor leaguer. Not a good sign for the enigmatic ex-M-Braves shortstop.
Buck Showalter, who came up short in the American League manager of the year voting by the baseball writers, earned some hardware today, claiming the GIBBY (Greatness in Baseball Yearly) award for best manager given by mlb.com. Former Mississippi State star Showalter steered Baltimore to a stunning 93-69 finish and a wild card berth. Showalter, known as a disciplinarian, reportedly loosened his reins a bit this year and it seemed to work with these Orioles, who snapped a streak of 14 straight losing seasons. Former Jackson Mets star Billy Beane (Oakland GM) won the GIBBY for top executive. The awards are voted on by media, MLB front-office personnel, ex-players, fans and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). P.S. Former Delta State standout Eli Whiteside was claimed off waivers by Toronto from the New York Yankees. … Noticed that ex-DSU player Edwin Maysonet, who got some big league time with Milwaukee this year, is playing in his native Puerto Rico this winter. He is a free agent. … Atlanta prospect Evan Gattis, a 2012 Mississippi Braves catcher/left fielder, now has nine homers in 157 at-bats in the Venezuelan Winter League.