First, Bobby Bradley sent the ball deep into the right-field seats at Cleveland’s Progressive Field. Next, he’ll be sending it home to Gulfport. The former Harrison Central High star clubbed his first major league home run on Saturday, a 457-foot drive for the Indians in a loss to Minnesota. Did he know he got it? “That one I did,” he told reporters postgame. “It felt great off the bat.” Bradley got the ball from a fan and said he’ll ship the keepsake to his family back home. Bradley hit 138 homers over his six minor league campaigns. Of his eight big league hits since his June call-up, six are extra-base knocks. … Former Mississippi State standout Nate Lowe is on a power trip for Tampa Bay. He slugged two homers, both opposite field, in Game 2 of a twinbill at Baltimore and now has five in seven games since his return to the big leagues on July 4. Lowe, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound lefty-hitting first baseman, hit just five homers in 63 games at State in 2016, his only year there. He made some swing adjustments prior to last season and blasted 27 homers over three levels of the minors. He debuted in MLB earlier this year and is batting .320 since his latest recall, .286 for the season. … Here’s some love for the glove: McComb’s Jarrod Dyson made yet another amazing catch in center field for Arizona, robbing a St. Louis hitter of a home run in a game the Cardinals — and MSU alum Dakota Hudson — would win 4-2. P.S. Zack Cozart, the ex-Ole Miss standout, will undergo shoulder surgery and miss the rest of the season for the Los Angeles Angels. Cozart, a 2017 All-Star with Cincinnati who signed a 3-year, $38 million free agent deal with L.A. prior to the 2018 season, played in just 58 games last year and 38 this year, hitting .190 with five home runs.
The consensus is that the Washington Nationals, who have roared back into contention in the National League playoff race, need bullpen help. As Nats brass ponder trade options, they might also be able to find some help in their own system. At Double-A Harrisburg, former Ole Miss star Aaron Barrett continues to shine in his valiant comeback attempt. Barrett posted a 3.47 ERA over 90 appearances with the Nationals in 2014-15 before a series of arm injuries (see previous posts) knocked him out for the better part of three years. He began his comeback last summer in A-ball, putting up a 1.74 ERA in 20 games, and has made further strides this season. He has 16 saves — five in his last eight games — and a 2.86 ERA for Harrisburg. In his last 10 appearances, Barrett has a 1.69 ERA. Barrett, 31, was a ninth-round pick by Washington in 2010, and the organization has stuck by him through his travails. Both might be rewarded. P.S. Southern Miss product Brian Dozier has had a big hand in the Nats’ resurgence, which has seen the club win 16 of its last 20 and 29 of 40. Free agent signee Dozier, after a woeful start, has hit .278 with seven homers and 17 RBIs in his last 30 games. He’s at .234, 14 homers and 33 RBIs on the season.
It’s a good bet that Adam Frazier did not want to break for the All-Star Game — and not because he wasn’t invited to the event. Frazier, a Mississippi State alum, was on fire at the plate in the days leading up to the break. The Pittsburgh second baseman had 18 hits in seven games from July 1-7, raking at a .600 clip that raised his average to .287. He scored 11 runs and drove in seven and was named the National League’s player of the week for his efforts. Frazier will hit the restart button today when the Pirates play National League Central rival Chicago at Wrigley Field. The lefty-hitting Frazier figures to be in the lineup, probably leading off, against Cubs righty Yu Darvish. … On the other hand, Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High standout, was playing like someone who needed the All-Star break. The Kansas City center fielder, batting .217 for the year, hit .198 with just four RBIs and five runs in his previous 30 games. Renowned for his speed, he has just 16 steals in 78 games. It might not be a good sign for Hamilton that the Royals have called up prospect Bubba Starling, a center fielder in the minors. The Royals host Detroit today. P.S. Ole Miss product Lance Lynn earned his MLB-leading 12th win on Thursday, throwing seven innings (with 11 punchouts) in Texas’ 5-0 victory vs. Houston. Lynn is 5-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his last five starts. … Ex-Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland went 0-for-4 in his rehab debut with Triple-A Pawtucket. The Boston first baseman has been on the injured list for all but one game since May 25. He is batting .225 with 13 homers.
The Miami Marlins, headed for a 10th straight losing season, are counting on their farm system to get things turned around. At short season Class A Batavia, Milton Smith II is clamoring to be a part of that rebuilding process. Starkville native Smith is leading the New York-Penn League in hitting with a .416 average through 22 games. The lefty-hitting outfielder, a 22nd-round pick out of Meridian Community College in 2018, has 15 runs and four steals and recently rang up a five-hit game. He hit .362 in his debut season. Smith is one of several Mississippians playing in the low levels of the Marlins’ system. Also on that Batavia club is Dustin Skelton, an 18th-round pick from Mississippi State last month. The catcher is 4-for-17 since joining the Muckdogs. A step up at low Class A Clinton is former McLaurin High and MCC star Davis Bradshaw, an 11th-round pick in 2018 who batted .354 in his debut campaign. The lefty-hitting outfielder has found the going a bit tougher in the Midwest League, batting .222 in 29 games. At high-A Jupiter, former Southern Miss pitcher Taylor Braley, a sixth-rounder in 2017, has a 3.45 ERA in 15 appearances (and 3.96 in his career), and ex-Ole Miss catcher Nick Fortes, a fourth-round selection in 2018, is hitting .212 with two homers and 18 RBIs. … Blake Anderson, a first-round pick out of West Lauderdale High in 2014 who converted from catcher to pitcher in 2017, is not currently listed on a Marlins minor league roster.
Somewhat lost in the shuffle of All-Star week is the Triple-A All-Star Game, which is set for tonight (8 p.m., MLB Network) in El Paso, Texas. It’s worth noting here because there are two Mississippi-connected players on the International League roster: Mississippi State product Brent Rooker and ex-Mississippi Braves slugger Travis Demeritte. Rooker, a third-year pro in the Minnesota Twins system, is batting .286 with 14 homers and 47 RBIs for Rochester. One of the highest rated prospects in this game (No. 7 by mlb.com), he could get a big league call-up later this summer. Demeritte, now with Gwinnett in Atlanta’s chain, is batting .301 with 18 homers and 64 RBIs. He hit 32 homers during two otherwise lackluster seasons in Pearl. The IL’s pitching coach is Jackson native and former big leaguer Stu Cliburn, who has been in Rochester for several years. P.S. In the lone MLB game on Thursday night’s slate, Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn will shoot for the American League lead in wins when he takes the mound for Texas against visiting Houston. Lynn, in his first year with the Rangers, is 11-4, 3.91 ERA. He is an impressive 93-61 career.
After getting cut from USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team roster, Mississippi State infielder Jordan Westburg has taken the Cape Cod League by storm. Playing for Hyannis in the prestigious summer league, Westburg notched his fifth straight multi-hit game on Tuesday and is batting .600. He has three homers – two in his July 5 debut – and eight RBIs in five games. Westburg hit .294 for State during its College World Series run this season. Also on the Hyannis roster are State’s Rowdey Jordan (.098 in 12 games) and Ole Miss’ Anthony Servideo (.164 in 17 games). UM’s Tyler Keenan has swung a hot bat for Harwich: .300, a homer, four RBIs in 10 games. … The Collegiate National Team, with State’s Tanner Allen and Justin Foscue and the Rebels’ Doug Nikhazy in tow, is currently playing a series in Taiwain after taking four of five games from Cuba last week in North Carolina. Allen is batting .368 for Team USA and Foscue, 2-for-4 with an RBI in Tuesday’s loss to Chinese Taipei, is at .300 with four RBIs. Both were .300 hitters for the Bulldogs in 2019. Nikhazy, the Rebels’ star freshman lefty, pitched a scoreless 1 1/3 innings against Cuba on Saturday. … Ole Miss shortstop Justin Bench and Mississippi College third baseman Dylan Duplechain recently were named as starters in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League’s All-Star Game, set for July 16 in Saugerties, N.Y. … Closer to home, in the New Albany-based Cotton States League, Belhaven’s Nathan Herron is leading the loop in hitting at .432 with a homer and 11 RBIs for the Golden Triangle Jets. Herron, from Batesville, hit .241 as a freshman at BU this season. Former Hinds Community College and MSU player Trey Jolly, currently on Southeastern Louisiana’s roster, is at .410 with two homers, 11 RBIs and 11 steals for the Tupelo Thunder. The Tippah Tribe leads the league with an 8-4 record, sparked by the pitching of Harding (Ark.) alum Braden Quesinberry, who is 3-1 with a 1.00 ERA.
For the fifth straight year, at least one Mississippi college product will be at the MLB All-Star Game. The honor tonight in Cleveland belongs to Brandon Woodruff, the former Mississippi State standout from Wheeler who was named as a replacement to the National League pitching staff. He follows Mitch Moreland (2018), Zack Cozart and Corey Dickerson (2017), Drew Pomeranz (2016) and Brian Dozier and Jonathan Papelbon (2015) as recent All-Stars out of Magnolia State schools. Woodruff has emerged as Milwaukee’s ace this season, posting a 10-3 record with a 3.67 ERA. The Brewers, second in the NL Central, are 14-4 in his starts. Woodruff found out at a team meeting on Saturday that he would be taking teammate Josh Hader’s spot in the 90th Midsummer Classic. Woodruff called it “pretty cool.” “Sitting here now and becoming an All-Star was something I didn’t think of. The first couple of years, you have a lot of times where you feel like, ‘Man, this game is tough,’” he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Woodruff came out of State as a raw prospect in 2014, drafted in the 11th round by the Brewers after putting up a 5.95 ERA, 44 strikeouts and 34 walks in 56 innings over two years in Starkville. He developed quickly. By 2016 he was the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year, and he debuted in The Show in 2017. Woodruff helped the Brewers reach the NL Championship Series last fall, getting the win and homering (off Clayton Kershaw) in Game 1. P.S. For the record, DeSoto Central High’s Blaze Jordan won the High School Home Run Derby in Cleveland on Monday night. … This is the sixth All-Star Game in Cleveland, which memorably hosted the 1981 game that ended the player strike. On Aug. 9 at old Municipal Stadium, Grenada native Dave Parker hit the only home run in his six All-Star Game appearances. Two years earlier, in the ’79 All-Star Game at Seattle, Parker won MVP honors when he cut down runners at third and home with laser throws from right field and drove in a run for the victorious NL.
At an emotional press conference in Cleveland on Monday, new Delta State coach Rodney Batts made a resounding statement about his plans for the team: “It’s gonna be no different. I am a product of this program.” Batts played at DSU for Bill Marchant, who played for Boo Ferriss, the patriarch of the proud program. Batts coached at DSU under Mike Kinnison, who played for Ferriss. Batts is just the fourth coach at DSU in the last 57 years. “That kind of stability has really benefitted our program,” Kinnison said while introducing Batts, who spent the previous five years as head coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Kinnison, now the DSU athletic director, said he wanted if at all possible to stay within the DSU coaching tree in hiring his replacement. He said Batts is “the right choice at the right time” as he symbolically turned over the keys to program. “I’m here because of you,” Batts said with a nod to Kinnison. Batts spent 19 years at DSU as a player, grad assistant, volunteer assistant and full-time assistant. He said through tears Monday that the DSU campus was home, and he knew he had made the right decision to come back when scores of former Statesmen players began texting him after the news broke last week. DSU, one of the strongest NCAA Division II programs in the country, owns a national championship – Batts was an assistant under Kinnison during that 2004 season – and expects to contend for another every year. Said Batts: “I understand the challenge. I understand what it takes.”
Ran across a good story on milb.com about former Jackson Generals manager Rick Sweet, who notched his 2,000th career minor league managerial win on June 25. Only 12 others have reached that milestone. Sweet was the manager of the first two Generals clubs in 1991 and ’92, winning 131 games overall with the Houston Astros’ Double-A affiliate. Sweet, 66, a former big league catcher, has logged 30 seasons as a manager and is now at Triple-A San Antonio in Milwaukee’s system. Sweet has had some other jobs in the game, including two stints as a big league coach, but managing apparently suits him best. “I love going to the ballpark every day,” Sweet said in the article. “The fact that I get to help and be a part of so many young people’s lives, even when I started managing 30-something years ago, that’s what resonates with me. That’s what drives me every day.” The mustachioed “Sweetie,” as everyone called him at Smith-Wills Stadium back in the day, was a very vocal kind of guy but was always easy to work with for those who covered the Gens. “He’s lasted so long because of his commitment to open, honest communication,” writes Joe Bloss.
Ronald Acuna, the former Mississippi Braves star, won’t be the only Mississippi-connected player vying for a Home Run Derby crown tonight in Cleveland. DeSoto Central High’s Blaze Jordan is in the final of the High School Home Run Derby, which is slated to be held between rounds 1 and 2 of the big league event at Progressive Field. Jordan hit 20 homers in Sunday’s competition to advance to the final against A.J. Vukovich from Wisconsin. Jordan, a Mississippi State commit, has reclassified to be eligible for the 2020 MLB draft and is expected to go high. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound corner infielder hit 10 homers in 37 games for DeSoto as a sophomore this season. He gained a measure of fame as a 14-year-old 8th-grader when he belted a 504-foot homer to win a national contest at Marlins Park in Miami. … For the record, Ole Miss’ Tyler Keenan finished second in the College Home Run Derby at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., on June 29. Keenan led the Rebels with 15 homers in 2019. … Acuna, who has 21 homers this year and 47 all told in his two MLB campaigns, famously homered in his first at-bat for the M-Braves in 2017. He faces Pittsburgh’s Josh Bell in tonight’s first round. … An mlb.com article rated Bobby Abreu’s victory in the 2005 Home Run Derby as the No. 9 “best moment” in Derby history, which dates to 1985 (when Mississippi native Dave Parker won the inaugural event). Former Jackson Generals star Abreu, who was with Philadelphia at the time, blasted 41 bombs to win the ’05 Derby at Detroit’s Comerica Park. He hit 288 career home runs over 18 MLB seasons. P.S. Current M-Braves star Drew Waters, who somehow didn’t make the roster for the All-Star Futures Game that was played in Cleveland on Sunday night, put on a show at Trustmark Park in Pearl with his fourth four-hit game of the season in a 10-1 win against Biloxi. Waters, 20, a switch-hitting outfielder, is batting .335 with five homers, 31 RBIs, 53 runs, 29 doubles and nine triples.