Ole Miss product Zack Cozart, eligible to come off the disabled list (thigh strain) on Wednesday for Cincinnati, could be activated today, according to reports. The Reds host the Chicago Cubs this weekend at Great American Ballpark. Cozart is batting .320 with nine homers and 33 RBIs and led the voting for National League All-Star shortstop at last look. The rosters will be announced on Sunday on ESPN. … McComb native and Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson was leading the vote for American League DH in the most recently released results. He is batting .330 with 17 homers and 39 RBIs for Tampa Bay. … Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton, the ex-Taylorsville High standout, was passed by Trea Turner for the MLB stolen base lead on Thursday, but with Turner now on the disabled list (broken wrist), Hamilton is the leading active thief with 33 bags. Turner has 35, Miami’s Dee Gordon 29. … Former Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe hit his first home run in 13 days on Thursday, helping San Diego beat Atlanta. Renfroe has 16 homers – a record for a Padres rookie before the All-Star break – though he is batting just .225. … Former Mississippi Braves standout Freddie Freeman is expected to make a rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday. He could return to the Braves – at third base – next week. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out. M-Braves alum Johan Camargo has played fairly well at third for Atlanta and is batting .293 with 12 RBIs and 10 runs in 31 games all told. … Current M-Braves Mike Soroka and Ronald Acuna have been chosen for the World team in the All-Star Futures Game, set for July 9 in Miami. Former Biloxi Shuckers shortstop Mauricio Dubon, now in Triple-A, is also on the World roster. … Jake Mangum is off to a sizzling start in the Cape Cod League. The MSU star out of Jackson Prep is batting .359 with hits in nine of the 10 games he has played for Hyannis. Mangum had two hits in each of his first five games in the summer league. He was drafted in the 30th round by the New York Yankees as an eligible sophomore but is expected to return to Starkville for the 2018 season. … Brandon’s John “J.T.” Ginn and Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray have been participating in the Tournament of Stars this week in Cary, N.C. They are among the 80 prep players invited to the USA Baseball complex to compete for spots on the Under-18 National Team.
Mitch Moreland signed as a free agent with Boston in the off-season. One-year deal, $5.5 million. Both parties have to be thrilled with how this has worked out. Moreland, the ex-Mississippi State star from Amory, has been what Red Sox manager John Farrell calls “a bedrock in our lineup,” which no longer features David Ortiz. The Red Sox are 43-35, tied for first in the American League East with the surprising New York Yankees. Moreland, a lefty-hitting first baseman, is batting .275 and is tied for the club lead with 12 homers and 41 RBIs. He leads in slugging percentage at .486. He will be a free agent again after this season, and his performance has no doubt boosted his market value. When Moreland first signed, speculation was he would platoon at first base with Hanley Ramirez and also get some at-bats as the DH. As it has turned out, Moreland, a Gold Glove winner last year with Texas, has been the regular first baseman essentially from Day 1, appearing in 72 of the team’s 78 games. And there’s this: For the last couple of weeks, he has played with a broken big toe. “It’s a lot more fun playing than it is sitting and watching. That’s the way I look at it,” Moreland told the Boston Herald. That’s the definition of a gamer.
Bobby Bradley made some headlines with a three-homer game for Double-A Akron on Tuesday. The former Harrison Central High star also drove in seven runs, boosting his season totals to 14 homers and 48 RBIs. Bradley, who recently turned 21, is on a 12-for-36 roll that has raised his average to .254. He has struck out just four times in that stretch. Cutting down on the punchouts is a key to his advancement, various scouting reports say. First baseman Bradley, who hit 29 homers a year ago and 27 in 2015 in A-ball, is rated Cleveland’s No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline with an ETA of 2018. … The headlines weren’t as welcome for another Gulfport native, Jonathan Holder, who was sent down to Triple-A by the New York Yankees. Holder was 1-1 (0-for-2 in save chances) with a 3.78 ERA in 32 games, all in relief. Drafted in 2014 out of Mississippi State, Holder reached the majors last summer, then won a big league roster spot in spring training this year. The 24-year-old right-hander will be back. … Ole Miss product Mike Mayers, recently promoted by St. Louis, has yet to make his 2017 debut for the Cardinals. He was 5-6, 3.74 ERA as a starter at Triple-A Memphis but is expected to work in long relief in the big leagues. The right-hander pitched in four games for St. Louis in 2016. … The current list of Mississippians on the MLB disabled list: Anthony Alford, Chris Coghlan, Zack Cozart, Kendall Graveman, Alex Presley, Bobby Wahl and Brandon Woodruff.
Baseball weaves a web of connections that never fails to surprise. Take a trip to Vancouver. Go to a Canadians game at Nat Bailey Stadium. Who’s managing the home team? Rich Miller, a member of the original Jackson Mets team of 1975. Miller played parts of four seasons for the JaxMets. He is in his second stint with the Canadians, a short-season Class A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. He won a championship with the team in 2011. … Minnesota Twins fans should be pumped today. Former Southern Miss star Brian Dozier hit a tie-breaking home run — his 13th of the year — in the eighth inning as the Twins beat Cleveland 4-2 on Saturday and moved within a half-game of the first-place Indians in the American League Central. Dozier told The Associated Press it was “the most high energy game we’ve had in a while.” Meanwhile, down in rookie ball, Mississippi State product Brent Rooker hit his first pro home run in a 4-for-5 game for Elizabethton. Rooker, the 35th overall pick by the Twins in the recent draft, is 5-for-11 in three games as a pro. “The hard work went in this past season at school,” Rooker told milb.com. An advanced player at age 22, Rooker could move up quickly in the Twins’ system. … Ex-Meridian Community College star Corey Dickerson, bidding for an All-Star Game berth, belted his 17th homer for Tampa Bay; he leads the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby. Former State standout Mitch Moreland got his 10th dinger for Boston. … Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn surrendered seven runs for the second straight game as St. Louis lost to Pittsburgh 7-3. Lynn (5-5) has yielded 20 home runs this season.
When thinking back about a minor league team from a particular season, there is usually one player who jumps to the forefront in the memory bank. The Jackson Generals of 1997? Oh yeah, that was the Daryle Ward year. There were other players of note on the club – Carlos Guillen, Scott Elarton, Mitch Meluskey, Donovan Mitchell – but Ward was the man. He is famously remembered by old Smith-Wills Stadium cranks for hitting a foul ball through the wooden fence down the right-field line. Of course, he did a lot of damage with fair balls, as well, batting .329 with 19 homers, 25 doubles and 90 RBIs for Houston’s Double-A club. He also got a lot of attention for a bomb he launched in an exhibition game against the Astros. Listed at 6 feet 2, 240 pounds, the lefty-hitting outfielder/first baseman was all about power. Ward, son of a former big leaguer, made the majors with Houston in 1998 and mashed 90 homers over 11 MLB seasons, 20 with the Astros in 2000. Now a coach in the Cincinnati organization, he was still playing in independent ball as recently as 2015. All told, he hit 290 homers in pro ball. Twenty years after his star turn with the Generals, Daryle Ward is not forgotten.
West Lauderdale, the MHSAA Class 4A champion, is ranked No. 6 in Baseball America’s final high school poll. The Knights, who finished 33-3, are the only state school in the Top 40. The 2017 title, accomplished in a three-game battle against Corinth at Trustmark Park in Pearl, is the 14th for West Lauderdale and legendary coach Jerry Boatner. “This is probably one of the best teams we’ve had, especially in a good while,” Boatner told the Meridian Star on the eve of the state finals. “This bunch can beat you with hitting, bunting, stealing, pitching.” Boatner’s program has produced three major league players – Jay Powell, Paul Phillips and Jamie Brown – and many other pros, including 2014 first-round pick Blake Anderson (now in Miami’s system) and Jody Hurst, the former Mississippi State star whose son Cole was one of the best players on the 2017 Knights team.
Former Ole Miss star Stephen Head got a little love from Baseball America in its latest issue. The magazine, as part of a feature on Louisville’s Brendan McKay, listed the 10 best seasons by a two-way college player, and Head’s tremendous 2004 campaign at Ole Miss made the list. The former Hillcrest Christian standout, a sophomore that year, batted .346 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs as a first baseman/outfielder and posted a 6-3 record with five saves and a 2.82 ERA as a left-handed starter/reliever. Head was named the SEC player of the year (and Ferriss Trophy winner), outshining a group of teammates that included future big leaguers Seth Smith, Chris Coghlan, Alex Presley, Matt Tolbert and Matt Maloney. Drafted in the second round as a position player by Cleveland in 2005, Head’s pro career peaked in Triple-A. He played seven years all told, batting .263 with 73 homers and posting a 6.00 ERA in eight games as a pitcher in his final season in the Colorado system.
It’s really not a fair fight. Zack Cozart plays in the 65th biggest city in the country, Cincinnati. Corey Seager plays in Los Angeles, No. 2 on that list, Addison Russell in Chicago, No. 3. And yet, former Ole Miss standout Cozart still leads the fan voting for National League All-Star shortstop by a decent margin. Yes, Reds fans are very passionate, and yes, Cozart is having a big year — .320, nine homers, 32 RBIs – but one would think the big-market boys would have a substantial built-in edge. Nevertheless, Cozart, who’s never made the All-Star Game, leads Seager by more than 300,000 votes and Russell – last year’s fan vote winner — by almost 500,000. All the news wasn’t good for Cozart on Monday: He went on the 10-day disabled list with a quad strain.
29 – Stolen bases, a total which leads the majors, by ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton, who got one Sunday to end a 13-game drought. Hamilton also had three hits, two runs and an RBI in fading Cincinnati’s loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
4 – Home runs allowed, a career-high, by Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn in 4 2/3 innings in St. Louis’ 8-5 loss to Baltimore. Lynn (5-4) yielded seven runs all told.
7 – Homers on the year for ex-UM star Seth Smith, who hit a leadoff bomb for Baltimore, the first of the four Lance Lynn allowed for St. Louis. Smith, batting .271, had two other hits and scored three times.
91 – Hits, most in the American League, by Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson, who tallied three on Sunday. He is batting .330.
7 – Runs allowed in four games at Target Field by Cleveland in a sweep of Minnesota that moved the Indians into first place in the AL Central. Former Ole Miss star Mickey Callaway, the Indians’ pitching coach, saw his staff’s ERA drop to 3.93, tied for third-best in the AL.
3 – Hits in 13 at-bats in the Cleveland series by ex-Southern Miss standout Brian Dozier, who had a homer and two RBIs for Minnesota, which had a 2-game division lead before the Tribe arrived in town.
34 – Wins in 70 games for the Mississippi Braves, who completed the first half of the Southern League season with a 6-3 win against Montgomery at Trustmark Park. The M-Braves will send seven players to the SL All-Star Game in Pensacola on Tuesday.
6 – Strikeouts in five scoreless innings by USM’s Nick Sandlin in his Cape Cod League debut for Hyannis.
Jarrod Dyson never has been much of a home run threat, but the 5-foot-10, 165-pound McComb native and Seattle outfielder seems to be caught up in whatever it is that’s going on in the big leagues this season. Dyson smacked his fourth homer of the year on Friday night; he’d never hit more than two in any of his previous seven MLB campaigns. Before this year, he’d never hit one away from Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, where he played his first seven seasons; this year, he has three road bombs, including the one Friday at Texas’ Globe Life Park. Dyson, who never could quite nail down a regular job in KC, moved to Seattle in an off-season trade shortly after the Mariners dealt away Ole Miss alum Seth Smith. The M’s reportedly wanted to get faster and more athletic in the outfield. Dyson brings that. Playing regularly in center field – but not leading off very often – the lefty-hitting Dyson has been hot of late, batting .310 over his last 10 games. He is at .244 for the year with 20 RBIs, 37 runs and 16 steals in 64 games. Dyson, a 50th-round draft pick out of Southwest Mississippi Community College, is eight bags shy of 200 career stolen bases, something to watch for in the coming days. He’s a long way from any type of career milestone in home runs. He has 11. But something’s up this year. Twenty might be in his sights. OK, maybe 15.