There figures to be plenty of interest in the Jones County Junior College coaching job, which came open Monday when Christian Ostrander was named pitching coach at Louisiana Tech. JCJC sits in the heart of an area with many strong prep programs. It has a first-rate facility in Community Bank Park. And Ostrander built a winning tradition, going 255-109 in seven seasons with two state championships and a national runner-up finish in 2011. Among the players returning from last year’s 30-16 club is NJCAA Division II second-team All-America catcher Mason Irby, a Southern Miss signee. JCJC officials hope to have Ostrander’s replacement named at the December Board of Trustees meeting, according to a school release. Ostrander is a Monroe, La., native who played at Delta State when current LaTech coach Greg Goff was the pitching coach there. P.S. Kudos to former Jackson Mets star Dave Magadan, who is expected to be named hitting coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Pascagoula native Tony Sipp, a free agent coming off a strong 2015 season, “could wind up being a real shrewd pickup this winter,” a CBS Sports article notes. Sipp, a 32-year-old left-hander, posted a 1.99 ERA for playoff-participant Houston last season and has a 3.50 over seven MLB campaigns. But he isn’t being mentioned with the top relievers on the market; the CBS Sports piece makes the case that he should be. The New York Mets are among the teams projected to be a good fit. … Washington reportedly wants to deal troublesome closer Jonathan Papelbon, who had a 2.13 ERA and 24 saves between the Nationals and Philadelphia in 2015. But Mississippi State product Papelbon is 35, will make $11 million next season and has a broad no-trade clause. So, good luck with that. … There are also rumors that Texas might be open to dealing Mitch Moreland, the former State star from Amory. The Rangers are seeking a right-handed hitter. Lefty Moreland hit .278 with 23 homers and 85 RBIs in 2015 and earned AMB’s Cool Papa Bell Award (see previous post). … Right-hander Lucas Sims, a standout for the Mississippi Braves last summer, was rated the No. 19 prospect in the Arizona Fall League by mlb.com, which raved about his curveball. Sims, Atlanta’s top pick in 2012, was 0-0 with a 2.12 ERA in six games (five starts) in the AFL, fanning 17 in 17 innings for Peoria. He made nine starts for the M-Braves after a mid-season promotion and looked sharp (4-2, 3.21). He could start 2016 in Pearl, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to seem him open at Triple-A Gwinnett. … MSU product Adam Frazier was selected as the second baseman on the All-Premier 12 team. Frazier, who plays in the Pittsburgh system, batted over .300 for Team USA, which finished runner-up to South Korea in the international tournament played in Taiwan and Japan. … Bobby Bradley, a lefty-hitting first baseman, smacked 27 homers in 110 games in A-ball in 2015, but Cleveland officials believe he can get stronger. Still only 19, the ex-Harrison Central High star is listed at 6 feet 1, 225 pounds. “One thing he’s been really focused on, especially last season, was his body from a strength and conditioning standpoint,” Cleveland director of player development Carter Hawkins told mlb.com. Bradley is a consensus top 10 prospect in the Indians’ system.
Key at-bats by Adam Frazier and Tyler Pastornicky and a strong start from Zeke Spruill, familiar names all, helped Team USA beat Mexico 6-1 in the semifinals of the Premier 12 tournament in Tokyo, Baseball America reports. The American squad will play South Korea on Saturday for the championship of the international event. Ex-Mississippi State star Frazier, a Pittsburgh farmhand, was named the game’s MVP; he drove in the game-tying run with a hit in a five-run fourth inning. Pastornicky, a former Mississippi Braves standout, contributed a sac fly, and Spruill, another M-Braves alum now in the Boston system, threw five strong innings for the win. Brett Phillips, who played for the Biloxi Shuckers this season, also is on the Team USA roster.
Ex-Mississippi State standout Chad Girodo made a good impression in the Arizona Fall League, which concluded its regular season slate on Thursday. Left-hander Girodo, a ninth-round pick by Toronto in 2013, didn’t give up an earned run until his sixth appearance and finished with a 1.80 ERA in seven games (10 innings) for Salt River. Girodo moved from A-ball to Triple-A in the Blue Jays’ system this past season. He posted a 1.32 ERA at Class A Dunedin and an 0.62 at Double-A New Hampshire before getting knocked around a bit in four appearances at Triple-A Buffalo. He has 163 strikeouts in 160 2/3 minor league innings. … Adam Frazier, another State alum and a Pittsburgh farmhand, hit .321 with three triples, four RBIs and six runs for Glendale before heading off to Asia for the Premier 12 tournament. … Before he was hit with a 50-game suspension (see previous post), Richton’s JaCoby Jones (Detroit) batted .280 with two homers, four RBIs and nine runs in 12 games for Scottsdale. Ole Miss product Stuart Turner, a catcher in Minnesota’s system, scuffled on that same Scottsdale club, hitting .171 in 12 games. Rehabbing big leaguer T.J. House (Cleveland) from Picayune pitched for Scottsdale and threw three scoreless innings. … Scottsdale plays Surprise in the AFL championship game on Saturday. Several Biloxi Shuckers alums are on the Surprise roster, including infielder Yadiel Rivera (.315) and starting pitcher Adrian Houser (2-2, 3.51 ERA). P.S. Atlanta added center fielder Mallex Smith and right-hander John Gant, both 2015 Mississippi Braves, to its 40-man roster on Thursday.
Ole Miss product Alex Yarbrough and former Mississippi State star Chris Stratton are among a bushel of mlb.com-rated prospects who could be exposed to next month’s Rule 5 draft. MLB teams must make 40-man roster decisions by 11:59 p.m. EST Friday. Other clubs can draft – and potentially keep (it’s a bit complicated) — eligible players who aren’t protected on a big league roster. Yarbrough, drafted in 2012, had a down year in the Los Angeles Angels’ system, batting .236 with three homers, 48 RBIs and 56 runs in 128 games at Triple-A Salt Lake. The second baseman was the Texas League player of the year in 2014, when he batted .285 with five homers and 77 RBIs at Arkansas. He well could be exposed and not drafted. Stratton, a 6-foot-3 right-hander also drafted in 2012, figures to be protected by San Francisco. The Tupelo native went 4-5 with a 3.86 ERA in 17 starts at Triple-A Sacramento. P.S. Former Hinds Community College star Travious Relaford reportedly has been suspended for 50 games for a drug of abuse violation. Relaford, a 44th-round pick in 2011, played at Class A Augusta in the San Francisco system in 2015, batting .237.
This was largely a two-horse race. Brian Dozier bolted to an early lead. Mitch Moreland started slow and was briefly sidetracked by an injury. But Dozier began to fade, as did his team. Moreland kept getting big hits, and his team surged to a division title. In the end, it was Moreland by a nose, winner of the Cool Papa Bell Award, given here to the Mississippian (native or college alum) who has the best season in the big leagues. Moreland, the former Mississippi State star from Amory, hit .278 (.330 on-base percentage) with 23 homers and 85 RBIs for Texas, which went 88-74. Moreland had five homers and 18 RBIs in September and October as the Rangers fended off Houston and Los Angeles in the American League West. Dozier, the Southern Mississippi product from Fulton, was a first-half sensation and made the All-Star Game. For the year, he scored 101 runs, belted 28 homers and drove in 77 runs. But he batted just .210 after the All-Star break and .197 in September/October as Minnesota faded from the AL wild card battle. Moreland joins a group of Cool Papa Bell honorees that includes Corey Dickerson, Desmond Jennings, Lance Lynn, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Chris Coghlan. The award honors Negro Leagues legend Cool Papa Bell, the first Mississippi native to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Oxford High’s Jason Barber, the Gatorade Player of the Year in Mississippi in 2015, has officially signed with Ole Miss, which announced a boatload of early signees this week. Mississippi State inked highly regarded Magnolia Heights products Riley Self and Dustin Skelton, among others, for its 2017 team. Southern Miss picked up juco stars Colt Smith and LeeMarcus Boyd from Northwest Mississippi Community College. Barber had a tremendous 2015 season: 10-0, 0.00 ERA as a pitcher, .337, eight homers as a hitter. Boyd’s numbers suggest an impact player: .330, 18 steals, 42 runs, 29 RBIs in 49 games at NWMCC. Of course, there is a catch. The “excitement,” if it can be called that, of the early signing period in college baseball is always tempered by the realization that the best of the signees may never put on the uniform of their chosen school. The MLB draft tends to snap them up. See Austin Riley, State signee from the fall of 2014, now a hot prospect in the Atlanta Braves’ system. It’s a quirky issue the other major sports don’t have to deal with. P.S. Conference USA might have scored a hit with its decision to hold its tournament at MGM Park, the new home of the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers, in 2017 and 2018. The Coast, with its casinos and beaches, might just draw some big crowds. Dates for the events haven’t been announced, but they’ll fall somewhere in mid-May.
If the reports are true, former Ole Miss standout Chris Ellis, a fast-rising pitching prospect, is changing organizations. Ellis is reported to be part of the package the Los Angeles Angels are sending to Atlanta in the eye-opening deal for Andrelton Simmons, the ex-Mississippi Braves shortstop. Erick Aybar, a veteran shortstop, and Sean Newcomb, another pitching prospect, are also said to be joining the Braves. Ellis, a third-round pick by the Angels in 2014, made it to Double-A last summer and handled that key level very well. He was 7-4 with a 3.92 ERA. The 6-foot-4 right-hander started 2015 at Class A Inland Empire, going 4-5, 3.88 before getting the bump to Arkansas. He was rated the No. 9 prospect in the California League by Baseball America.
Adam Frazier’s off-season work took him first to Arizona and then to Taiwan. Mississippi State product Frazier is on the U.S. team for the Premier 12 international tournament and has continued to swing a hot bat. Frazier had three hits in a 10-0 win over Mexico on Thursday after getting two hits and two RBIs in an 11-5 victory against the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. Frazier, a lefty-hitting middle infielder, batted .321 with four RBIs and six runs in seven Arizona Fall League games. He hit .324 with 30 RBIs and 59 runs in 103 games for Double-A Altoona in the Pittsburgh system this past season. The U.S. team, which also includes Ole Miss alum Cody Satterwhite, is 2-1 in the Premier 12, a big-time event on the world stage. P.S. Add Alex Presley to the list of Mississippi-connected players on the minor league free agent market. Outfielder Presley, 30, spent most of 2015 at Triple-A Fresno, where he hit .292; the ex-Ole Miss star got just 12 MLB at-bats with Houston. … Finally cleared to work – and play — in the U.S., Cuban outfielder Dian Toscano could be headed to the Mississippi Braves next spring. Toscano, 26, a lefty hitter with more speed than power, signed with Atlanta last January but did not play in 2015 as he awaited employment approval. He apparently has played very little the last two years, so some Double-A seasoning might be in order.
Can’t feel too bad for Lance Lynn, who had Tommy John surgery on Tuesday. He will make a reported $7.5 million in 2016 while not pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals. The crucial year for the former Ole Miss standout will be 2017, the final year of his current $22M contract. Lynn, who just finished his eighth pro season, has been a durable starter for the Cardinals the last four years, topping 200 innings twice and going at least 175 in the other two. And he has been a winner (61-39 career mark) on some very good teams. Many pitchers bounce back strong from Tommy John surgery. But some don’t. And Lynn will turn 30 in May of 2017. P.S. The Milwaukee Brewers’ new chart of top 10 prospects, as ranked by Baseball America, is flush with 2015 Biloxi Shuckers stars. Included: Shortstop Orlando Arcia (No. 1), right-hander Jorge Lopez (No. 2) and outfielders Brett Phillips and Tyrone Taylor.