It’ll take a little getting used to. Brian Dozier is not a Minnesota Twin anymore. The former Southern Miss star has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. And as much as Dozier professed his love for the Twins organization over the years, this move gives him a realistic chance at making it to the World Series this fall. Dozier, who had been in the Minnesota system for all 10 of his pro seasons, isn’t having a huge year by his standards — .224, 16 homers – but he’s a definite upgrade at second base for the Dodgers. And if he isn’t happy there, hey, he’ll be a free agent at season’s end. … In a (much) less-heralded deal, former Ole Miss pitcher Jacob Waguespack, who was in Triple-A with Philadelphia, was dealt to Toronto for Aaron Loup. Waguespack is 4-6 with a 4.68 ERA this season between Double-A and Triple-A.
So much news involving Mississippi-connected pitchers … where to start? Lance Lynn, the ex-Ole Miss star, will be in pinstripes today, having been traded from Minnesota to the New York Yankees. “It’s going to be a different experience,” the veteran right-hander told mlb.com. Lynn was erratic with the Twins, going 7-8 with a 5.10 ERA. Overall, including his years in St. Louis, he is 79-55, 3.54. Primarily a starter, Lynn said he is open to working out of the pen for the Yankees. … Former Mississippi State standout Chris Stratton will rejoin San Francisco’s rotation, taking the spot of the disabled Johnny Cueto. Stratton, recently back from a stint in Triple-A, is 8-6, 4.93 this year for the Giants. … Bulldogs alum Dakota Hudson notched his first MLB win on Monday, working a scoreless 10th inning for St. Louis, which beat Colorado 5-4 on a Marcell Ozuna homer. … Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz goes to the bump for Boston against Philadelphia tonight seeking his second win of the season. Pomeranz took an L last week in his first outing off the DL and is an ugly 1-4, 6.91 for the team with the best record in baseball. … Former Mississippi Braves standout Kolby Allard is scheduled for his big league debut tonight with Atlanta, and in a corresponding move, Kyle Wright departs from the M-Braves for Triple-A Gwinnett. Allard is rated Atlanta’s No. 8 prospect by MLB Pipeline, and Wright is No. 2. Former M-Braves ace Touki Toussaint, the No. 7 prospect now at Gwinnett, may also be in line for big league look, according to reports. … Former State standout Reid Humphreys is now in Double-A in the Colorado system and worked a scoreless inning for Hartford over the weekend. Humphreys posted 22 saves and a 1.83 ERA at Class A Lancaster.
Last week was a good week in Brent Rooker’s world. The ex-Mississippi State standout, now playing at Double-A Chattanooga, went 13-for-26 with seven walks, three home runs and seven RBIs. Today, he was named Southern League Player of the Week and made MLB Pipeline’s minor league Team of the Week at first base. Rated the No. 7 prospect in Minnesota’s system – up from 8th – by MLB Pipeline last week, the second-year pro is batting .277 with 20 homers, an SL-best 67 RBIs and 56 runs in 100 games. Though he has fanned 121 times, he is slugging .522. MSU fans might want to circle the date Aug. 14 – and keep their fingers crossed. That’s when Chattanooga arrives at Trustmark Park to play the Mississippi Braves in a five-game series.
The Miami Marlins did some shopping in Mississippi during draft season and might just have found a couple of real bargains in the lower rounds. After nabbing highly regarded catcher Nick Fortes out of Ole Miss in the fourth round, the Marlins picked up Meridian Community College outfielder Davis Bradshaw in the 11th and his Eagles teammate Milton Smith Jr. in the 22nd. Both MCC alums signed for modest bonuses, and both are off to great starts in pro ball. Playing in the rookie Gulf Coast League, Bradshaw took a few games to heat up but is currently batting .362, with 17 hits in his last nine games. This probably should come as no surprise. The left-handed hitting Bradshaw batted a crazy .756 as a senior at McLaurin High in 2017 and followed that with a .442 season at MCC. He can also run. He is seven-for-seven in steal attempts and has three triples. Smith, also a lefty-swinging outfielder, hit .349 in his first 15 games with the GCL Marlins and was promoted to high Class A Jupiter, where he went 5-for-11 in five games before being sidelined by an injury. The former Starkville High standout returned to the GCL club on Saturday and got a knock in his first game back. … Fortes, who got a $400,000 bonus as the 117th player drafted last month, is on the roster of the short-season Class A Batavia team but has appeared in only one game. He hit. .319 with 11 homers for the Rebels in 2018.
The career path that took Chipper Jones to the Hall of Fame veered through Mississippi in 2006. Anyone who was there for those two days in August surely has not forgotten. Jones’ visit to Trustmark Park in Pearl on a rehab assignment created a hoopla that hasn’t been matched by any other Mississippi Braves games played there in the 14 years of the stadium’s existence. The announced crowds on Aug. 11 and 12, 2006, were 7,577 and 7,652 — and those are legit figures. To his everlasting credit, Jones signed autographs for fans and did pre- and postgame media sessions. He was engaging. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy reminiscing about his previous Double-A days in 1992, when he crushed it in Greenville. They played his signature walk-up song, “Crazy Train,” on the P.A. when he batted, and the crowd went nuts when he got his one hit in the six at-bats he took. Fellow Hall of Famers John Smoltz and Tom Glavine also made rehab appearances with the M-Braves — Smoltz threw one inning in a road game — and HOFer Jeff Bagwell did a rehab stint with the Jackson Generals at Smith-Wills Stadium. But they didn’t generate the excitement that Jones did. Fernando Valenzuela’s visit to Smith-Wills in 1991 drew a standing-room only throng, but he came in with the visiting team, the Midland Angels. There was a very different vibe for Jones, a former No. 1 overall pick by Atlanta whose ascendance had been tracked for years by the many Atlanta Braves fans in the area. P.S. Former Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson worked a 1-2-3 inning in his MLB debut for St. Louis on Saturday, striking out the Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ. … Richton High alum JaCoby Jones, batting .122 over a 15-game stretch, needed a highlight moment and produced one on Saturday, belting a two-run homer in Detroit’s 2-1 win against Cleveland. Jones is hitting .208 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 95 games for the Tigers. He left Saturday’s game with an apparent injury that he later deemed “nothing serious.” … Former State star Mitch Moreland returned to Boston’s lineup after missing two games with a minor ailment; he contributed a hit and an RBI in the Red Sox’s 10-4 victory over Minnesota. … Corey Dickerson, the Meridian Community College product from McComb, went on the 10-day disabled list for Pittsburgh with a hamstring injury. Dickerson is hitting .318 with 11 bombs and 44 RBIs. … Former M-Braves Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna grace the cover of the latest issue (Aug. 3-24) of Baseball America, which has a feature piece on the “Baby Braves” behind Atlanta’s resurgent season.
Baseball is hard. Even for those among us who are very good at it, the game can be humbling. On a recent steamy night at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Brett Cumberland stepped to the plate for his first at-bat with the Mississippi Braves, his first at-bat in Double-A. Keep in mind that just getting to this level of the game is an accomplishment; many a good player never gets to play pro ball, and many a pro player never gets out of A-ball. Cumberland cleared that hurdle. As the 23-year-old switch-hitter dug in on the left side for that first AB, there was no special announcement on the P.A. system. Just “Brett Cumberland.” The great majority of the fans in attendance had no idea who he is. There was no noticeable reaction when he was introduced and none when that first AB ended in a strikeout. Cumberland went 0-for-3 in that debut game and is 0-for-8 in two games since. Baseball is hard, but Cumberland is very good at it. Two years ago, unbeknownst to much of the TeePee crowd, Cumberland, a catcher, was the Pac-12 player of the year. He hit .344 with 16 home runs and 51 RBIs for Cal-Berkley. He was a Golden Spikes Award semifinalist. The Atlanta Braves, looking for catching help in their system, drafted him in the supplemental phase of the second round in 2016, 76th overall. He immediately became one of Atlanta’s rated prospects. But his pro debut didn’t go so well. He hit .216 in rookie ball that summer. The Braves sent him to low-A Rome to start 2017, and he hit .263 with 10 homers in a half-season there before moving up to high-A Florida. He batted .269 at the new level but managed just one homer. Overall last year, he showed enough promise, including a .400 on-base percentage, that he was rated the No. 22 prospect in the Braves’ system entering 2018. Back in Florida to start the year, he put up decent numbers — .236 (.367 OBP), 11 homers, 39 RBIs — before his promotion to the M-Braves, who desperately need catching help. Still, Cumberland dropped out of MLB Pipeline’s recently updated ratings of the Braves’ Top 30 prospects. Baseball can be humbling. But here Cumberland is, in Double-A, the make-or-break level, with a chance most never get. Baseball is hard, but talent will out.
There has not been an official announcement, but St. Louis is expected to add former Mississippi State standout Dakota Hudson to its big league roster today. Right-hander Hudson, the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick in 2016 and their No. 4 prospect, was pulled from a start in the second inning at Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday and reportedly was getting hugs from teammates. He is 13-3 with a 2.50 ERA for the Redbirds. He pitched in both the All-Star Futures and Triple-A All-Star games this month, and he was the Texas League pitcher of the year in 2017. Hudson is in line to be the second Mississippian (native or college alum) to debut in The Show in 2018. The other is Braxton Lee, the Ole Miss product from Picayune who made it with Miami in April. … Lee’s season has been a topsy-turvy one. He has played at four levels of the game, but the moves have not come in a desirable sequence. Rated the No. 29 prospect in Miami’s system, Lee is currently with Double-A Jacksonville in the Southern League. After a breakout 2017 season in the minors, the speedy, lefty-hitting outfielder was on Miami’s big league roster for opening day on March 29 and made his debut the next day. As they say, getting to the big leagues is easier than staying there. Lee was optioned out to Triple-A New Orleans on April 1, recalled on April 5, then optioned out again on April 13. On May 1, he landed on the disabled list. A month later, he was assigned to A-ball for a rehab stint. On June 15, he joined the Jacksonville club and on June 18 returned to New Orleans. On July 13, he was sent back to Double-A. If Lee is having trouble finding a rhythm, it’s little wonder. He hit .202 during his time in New Orleans. He went 3-for-17 in his two big league stints. This after hitting .309 in the Southern League in 2017 and shining in the Arizona Fall League. Maybe the return to Jacksonville will help him rediscover what he has lost. But, in 16 games with the Jumbo Shrimp, he is batting .215.
Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star, saw his stock skyrocket in the refreshed Top 100 prospect rankings posted Thursday by MLB Pipeline. Riley, a third baseman now at Triple-A Gwinnett in Atlanta’s chain, jumped to No. 44 from No. 97 in the preseason rankings. He is now No. 4 on Atlanta’s chart, up from 8th. The 21-year-old Riley, on a tear of late, is hitting .295 with four home runs and 23 RBIs at Gwinnett after hitting .333 with 11 homers to start 2018 at Double-A Mississippi. He was a first-round supplemental pick in the 2015 draft. Going the other way was former Petal High standout Anthony Alford, who fell 47 spots to No. 94. Alford, who has had injury issues, is batting .220 with five homers, 21 RBIs and 13 steals at Triple-A Buffalo in the Toronto system. The former Southern Miss and Ole Miss football player, a third-round draftee in 2012, only became a full-time baseball player in 2015. Now 24, he has had cups of coffee in the big leagues each of the last two seasons. … Ryan Rolison, the Ole Miss alum and first player from the state picked in the June draft, broke into Colorado’s Top 30 at No. 6. Other 2018 draftees who made the organization rankings: Hattiesburg High product Joe Gray (No. 9, Milwaukee); ex-State star Konnor Pilkington (No. 18, Chicago White Sox); and ex-Southern Miss standout Nick Sandlin (No. 20, Cleveland). … Also of note: MSU product Nathaniel (Nate) Lowe, a third-year pro, jumped into Tampa Bay’s rankings at No. 13; now in Double-A, he has had a breakout season. Ex-Bulldogs star Reid Humphreys, having a strong year in high-A ball, entered Colorado’s Top 30 at No. 14. David Parkinson, a second-year pro out of Ole Miss, is newly rated No. 21 in Philadelphia’s system. Former George County High star Justin Steele, coming back from Tommy John surgery this year, moved from No. 16 to 9th in the Chicago Cubs’ Top 30. MSU alum Jacob (Jake) Robson, who has reached Triple-A for Detroit in his third year, moved up to 15th from 28th in the Tigers’ rankings. P.S. Ex-State ace Chris Stratton was recalled by San Francisco on Thursday (see previous post) and gave up three runs in 1 1/3 innings of relief work in a loss to Milwaukee. … Bulldogs product Adam Frazier, back up with Pittsburgh after a Triple-A stint, is 3-for-5 in two games since returning. … Ole Miss alum Cody Satterwhite has been released by his Mexican League club after seven appearances.
At first blush, it seemed a little strange. On July 7, San Francisco demoted the winningest pitcher on its staff. Former Mississippi State star Chris Stratton, sporting an 8-6 record for a club battling to stay in the playoff chase, was sent down to Triple-A Sacramento. The Giants needed a roster spot for Jeff Samardzija, coming off the disabled list. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Stratton, who had been knocked around in his last two starts, needed to “catch his breath.” How’s that working out? Hard to tell. Stratton was scratched Wednesday night from what would have been his third start for Sacramento, and he isn’t scheduled for tonight. Could mean something’s up. He is 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA at Sacramento, his second outing having been much sharper than his first. In 38 big league appearances over the past three years, Stratton is 13-10 with a 4.41 ERA. P.S. A well-done article published in the Tupelo Daily Journal earlier this week featured the four former American Legion Tupelo 49ers who have played in the big leagues this season. Stratton, a Tupelo native, is among them, along with Mitch Moreland (Amory), Brian Dozier (Fulton) and Brandon Woodruff (Wheeler). All four were coached on the 49ers by former Tupelo High star Kirk Presley, whose promising pro career was curtailed by injury. Presley “was always such a good mentor,” Stratton told the Daily Journal. Moreland and Dozier were teammates on the 2004 49ers, and they’ll be on the same field this weekend when Boston hosts Minnesota.
Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, as fast as anybody in the game, now and probably ever, has 30 career triples as he nears the end of his fifth full big league season. That might sound like a lot until you check the all-time record: 309, by Sam Crawford. Three-zero-nine. Don’t think Billy is gonna threaten that. Crawford, who played in the early 1900s, had 26 triples in one season; the single season record is 36, set in 1912. Hamilton’s best in a season is 11. Last year’s MLB leader was Charlie Blackmon with 14. No one in the last 90 seasons has gotten as many as 24. So, where did all the triples go? The decline of the three-bagger, such an exciting play, is telling commentary on how much the game has changed since Crawford roamed the basepaths a hundred years ago. Ballparks are smaller now, for one thing. Players are bigger and stronger and much more inclined to swing for home runs. (Note: Hamilton, who weighs 160 pounds, has 20 career homers.) Speed is still important but not a necessary skill. Defense has improved and gotten more strategic. All of these factors have combined to make triples a rare treat, akin to seeing a shooting star – or a street without a pothole. A triple usually involves a weird carom or a collision of outfielders. The only man among the top 20 in career triples who played as recently as the 1960s is Stan Musial. He finished with 177. The only active player with more than 100 is Jose Reyes, who’s near the end of his career. Hamilton, if he plays 10 more years (and improves as a hitter), might approach 100, but that would be well short of the record among Mississippi natives. That belongs to Ellisville’s Buddy Myer, who hit 130 in an outstanding career spanning 1925-41. Starkville native Hughie Critz, a Myer contemporary, tripled 95 times. No. 3 is Gee Walker (1931-45) of Gulfport with 76. Grenada’s Dave Parker retired in 1991 with 75. Even with his great wheels, Hamilton might not catch any of that bunch.