09 Aug

right choice

Right field in San Diego now belongs to Hunter Renfroe. With the trade of Franmil Reyes on July 31, the Padres committed to Renfroe, the former Mississippi State star from Crystal Springs, as their regular in right. Before Reyes’ departure, Renfroe had played more left field this season and wasn’t an everyday starter. Now in his fourth MLB season, the 27-year-old Renfroe has the kind of power in his bat and arm that you’d want in a right fielder. The monstrous Reyes, shipped off to Cleveland, can slug with anyone but is a weak defender. It would seem the Padres made the smart choice. And Renfroe seemed to justify their faith in him by hitting his 30th home run of the season on Aug. 1 against Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Renfroe hasn’t homered – or driven in a run – in six games since. He’s hit .185 this month and is at .233 for the year. He also has 110 strikeouts in 105 games, which is a lot (though less than Javy Baez, Ronald Acuna, Pete Alonso and some other All-Star types). Renfroe is just one of those players for whom the pursuit of more consistent contact is eternal. But if he belts 40 homers a year and makes some plays in right field, the Padres likely can live with that.

09 Aug

minor matters

Nobody doubts that Jake Mangum can put the bat on the ball. After a sluggish start to his pro career, the ex-Mississippi State and Jackson Prep standout is batting .345 over his last 10 games, boosting his average to .252 for short season Class A Brooklyn in the New York Mets’ chain. A fourth-round pick in June, Mangum is rated the No. 24 prospect (by MLB Pipeline) in the Mets’ system. He’s shown off his plus speed, with 11 stolen bases. He has made just one error in 31 games in the outfield, playing mostly center. The question about Mangum is power, which seems to be of utmost importance in today’s game. So far, Mangum hasn’t shown much: five extra-base hits and no homers in 113 at-bats. … Former George County High two-way star Walker Robbins’ switch from hitter to pitcher in the St. Louis system has gone well. The 6-foot-3 left-hander has a 3.95 ERA and two saves in 11 games at rookie-level Johnson City. A fifth-round pick in 2016, he batted .170 over three seasons before going on a pitching program this past off-season. “Hitting’s fun and playing every day is great, but striking somebody out is an adrenaline rush. All eyes are pretty much on you when you’re on the mound. It’s fun.” Robbins told the Johnson City (Tenn.) Press. … Tyreque Reed, the Itawamba Community College product from Houlka, took one step forward and then one step back this season and appears to have regained his footing. Reed began 2019 at high Class A Down East in the Texas system but batted just .216 with four homers in 32 games. He returned to low-A Hickory, where he is hitting .268 with 11 homers in 42 games. Reed batted .267 with 18 bombs at Hickory in 2018, his second pro season. This is a guy who hit .504 with 15 homers at ICC in 2017. … Ex-State star Jacob Lindgren is making progress in his bounce-back season from two Tommy John surgeries. The onetime big leaguer has allowed one run in nine innings at high-A Winston-Salem (Chicago White Sox) and has punched out 13, including four in two innings Thursday. (Ole Miss product Tate Blackman hit a home run for the Dash in that game.) … Southern Miss alum Bradley Roney, also coming back from injury, has an 0.69 ERA in his last 10 appearances for the Double-A Mississippi Braves. He has 27 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings. … MSU product Nate Lowe was bumped back to Triple-A Durham — despite a .294 average and five homers over 30 MLB games – when Tampa Bay acquired Jesus Aguilar. MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis predicts that the lefty-hitting Lowe will soon get another call-up, which would be his fourth of 2019. The Rays are an American League wild card contender.

08 Aug

return to form

Tim Anderson’s breakout season, so rudely interrupted in late June by a lengthy trip to the injured list, has resumed unabated. The Chicago White Sox shortstop, a former first-round draft pick out of East Central Community College, has 14 hits in seven August games. He went 4-for-4 and scored three times in the ChiSox’s 8-1 win at Detroit on Wednesday. He is batting .323 with 12 homers, 39 RBIs and 15 steals on the season. Anderson was the American League player of the month for April – he batted .381 with six homers – and was at .317 when he went on the IL with a sprained ankle that caused him to miss most of July. Now in his fourth big league campaign, he is a .268 career hitter with 58 homers and 66 steals. Fans of the rebuilding White Sox can take heart in the fact that Anderson, 26, is under contract through at least 2022. P.S. DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley went on the IL Wednesday for Atlanta with a knee ligament injury. Of the 26 Mississippi-connected players to appear in MLB this season, 13 have spent time on the IL, and one has made two visits. What’s up with that? … Ex-Ole Miss star Mike Mayers cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Memphis by St. Louis. Right-hander Mayers, who did a lengthy IL stint this season, had a 7.24 ERA in 12 games for the Cardinals.

07 Aug

starry, starry night

A couple of Mississippi products took star turns on Tuesday night in Boise, Idaho, when the Pioneer League and Northwest League All-Stars faced off in the annual clash of rookie-level circuits. Former Mississippi College standout Blaine Crim went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and earned Top Star honors for the NWL squad. He was upstaged a bit by Sam McWilliams, a Meridian Community College alum from Magee who hit a two-run homer, one of the four homers mashed by Pioneer stars in their 11-7 victory. “It was great to be here with the best guys around the league and just have fun for a night,” Crim told milb.com. “Definitely worth the trip.” Crim, the Gulf South Conference player of the year in 2019, was a 19th-round pick by Texas in June and is having an excellent season at Spokane. The first baseman/DH is hitting .341 with four homers and 24 RBIs. McWilliams, a 19th-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018 off a loaded MCC club, is batting .291 with 11 homers and 29 RBIs at Ogden. A second baseman, he hit .276 in the Arizona League last season. P.S. Former Mississippi Braves Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, both promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday, made smashing debuts on Tuesday, Waters going 3-for-5 with an RBI and Pache 2-for-5 with an RBI. Pache is the Braves’ No. 1 prospect, Waters No. 2.

06 Aug

hold on tight

Home runs just flew off Zack Shannon’s bat during his time at Delta State. He hit 50 in 110 games over two seasons at the NCAA Division II school. He blasted an all-division state record 31 homers in 2018, when he batted .406 and won D-II player of the year honors. A 15th-round pick by Arizona last summer, Shannon readily took off in pro ball, belting 14 homers while batting .354 in 54 games at the rookie level. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound slugger began the 2019 season in the Class A Midwest League and promptly hit some turbulence. He is batting .238 with 10 homers in 69 games for Kane County, and it’s been a struggle even to reach those modest numbers. “It’s all a roller coaster, and it’s just a matter of learning how to ride it the right way,” Shannon recently told the Aurora (Ill.) Beacon-News. He got a late start this season because of a hamstring injury in spring training and hit .162 with one homer in 10 April games. He was hurt again in May and finished that month at .190 with three homers. As recently as July 8, he was batting .193. But consider: Shannon has two three-hit games among his last seven, and he hit his 10th homer on Monday. Maybe he’s finally settled in for the rest of this ride.

06 Aug

rookie tales

The impact of rookies with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2019 has been something to behold. First it was Vladimir Guerrero Jr., then Cavan Biggio and now Bo Bichette. Though he hasn’t generated the kind of buzz afforded those sons of former big leaguers, Jacob Waguespack also has had a solid debut season. The Ole Miss product picked up another win on Monday – boosted by a Bichette homer and an RBI hit by Biggio – as the Blue Jays topped Tampa Bay 2-0. Waguespack allowed just four hits and one walk in six innings, pitching in front of a bunch of family and friends assembled at Tropicana Field by an uncle who lives in the area. “Warms your heart, and it takes a village, to have those people in your corner. I’m pretty humbled,” Waguespack told the Toronto Sun. Now 3-1 with a 4.00 ERA in seven MLB appearances, Waguespack doesn’t have the legacy of those other rookies, but his story is interesting just the same. The Louisiana native was drafted out of high school (37th round, 2012) by Pittsburgh but chose to play at Ole Miss, where he had a largely unsung career. He wasn’t drafted out of UM, instead signing in June 2015 as a free agent with Philadelphia. The Phillies traded the 6-foot-6, 225-pound right-hander to Toronto last July. Though he never posted any eye-opening numbers in the minors, the Blue Jays put him on their 40-man roster last fall and called him up in May. He struck out a club rookie record seven batters in his debut. P.S. Madison Central High alum Spencer Turnbull, a rookie right-hander with Detroit, returned Monday from a stint on the injured list and worked three innings vs. the Chicago White Sox, yielding two runs but fanning seven. He wasn’t involved in the decision as the Tigers lost. Again. … Drew Pomeranz, the veteran lefty out of Ole Miss, pitched a scoreless inning for Milwaukee against Pittsburgh and got his first hold in his second Brewers appearance. Traded from San Francisco last week, Pomeranz (5.54 ERA) has strung together six straight scoreless relief outings after struggling as a starter.

05 Aug

starting point

Corey Dickerson’s first start for Philadelphia on Sunday went well. The former Meridian Community College standout from McComb, acquired from Pittsburgh last week, played left field and batted leadoff; he banged out two hits – including his fifth homer – and drove in three runs in a 10-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox. For the season, the lefty-hitting Dickerson is at .316 in 133 at-bats. He missed a big chunk of the season with a shoulder injury. There is speculation he will get some time in center field when Jay Bruce, also a lefty-hitting left fielder, returns from the injured list. Dickerson told nj.com that he would welcome the opportunity to play center, where he has some experience: “I feel like center field is easier as long as you can cover the ground. It’s easier to read the pitches and the balls off the bat. I think I can handle it.” He won a Gold Glove in left field for the Pirates in 2018. P.S. Dickerson, who hit leadoff once this season for Pittsburgh, is one of six Mississippians to bat first in an MLB game in 2019. Oddly enough, Billy Hamilton is not among that group. The Taylorsville High product, one of the fastest players in the game, frequently led off during his years in Cincinnati, but he has struggled at the plate most of this first season in Kansas City. He is hitting .209 and has seen his playing time reduced dramatically of late. … East Central CC alum Tim Anderson, a .300 hitter this year, has led off just once for the White Sox; he went 4-for-5. … Ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier, with Pittsburgh, and Southwest Mississippi CC product Jarrod Dyson (Arizona) have gotten the majority of their starts in the leadoff spot. Frazier is a .272 hitter, Dyson .250. … Richton’s JaCoby Jones (Detroit) and Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart (Los Angeles Angels) also have hit at the top of the order in 2019. Cozart is out for the season.

04 Aug

taking some lumps

Dakota Hudson pitched Saturday and got knocked around. So did fellow Mississippi products Mike Mayers, Chris Stratton and Brian Dozier. Wait a second … Brian Dozier? Yes, the former Southern Miss star, the Washington Nationals’ second baseman, took the bump for the first time in his big league career in a blowout loss at Arizona. He got three outs but also surrendered a three-run homer to Eduardo Escobar, an ex-teammate — and still good friend — from their Minnesota days. The Diamondbacks won 18-7. For what it’s worth, nine of Dozier’s 16 pitches were strikes, but he may be saddled with an 18.00 ERA for the rest of his days. In other pitching news: Mississippi State alum Hudson, in a recent funk for St. Louis, lasted just 3 2/3 innings against Oakland, allowing three earned runs on five hits and five walks in an 8-3 defeat. His record fell to 10-6, his ERA rose to 3.99. Former Ole Miss standout Mayers worked in relief for the Cardinals but didn’t provide much: two runs in 1 1/3 innings. Stratton, another ex-State star, yielded three runs in 2/3 of an inning for Pittsburgh in a loss to Ole Miss alum Mickey Callaway’s resurgent New York Mets. MSU product Jonathan Holder had a good day for the New York Yankees, throwing two clean innings in relief in the Bombers’ 9-2 Game 1 win over Boston. P.S. The Houston Astros threw a four-man no-hitter against Seattle, the club’s 12th no-no and second combo. The other came in 2003, when six pitchers no-hit the Yankees. Weir native and Holmes Community College alum Roy Oswalt started that game but left after one inning with an injury. By odd coincidence, Oswalt was formally inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

03 Aug

collateral damage

The Washington Nationals traded for three relief pitchers this week, which meant some of the current bullpen crop had to go. Tony Sipp was one. The former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout, who recently turned 36, was designated for assignment on Friday. Though he had given up three runs in his last two outings for the Nats, the situational left-hander had pitched well of late, posting a 3.60 ERA over his last 15 games (see previous post). For the season, Sipp has a 4.71 ERA and nine holds in 36 games. What’s next for Sipp? He could be claimed off waivers by another club. He could clear waivers and accept a Triple-A assignment. Or he could become a free agent. Of course, he might be done. P.S. In happier news, Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn notched his 14th win — matching the MLB lead — for Texas, throwing seven strong innings with 10 strikeouts against Detroit. One of the four hits Lynn allowed was a triple by Travis Demeritte, the former Mississippi Braves standout who was making his big league debut. … Ex-DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley homered for Atlanta, his 17th of the year but first since July 6. The rookie slugger has been fighting a slump that has cut into his playing time. … Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson made his Philadelphia debut two days after being acquired from Pittsburgh. Dickerson struck out as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning of the Phillies’ 15-inning loss to the Chicago White Sox.

02 Aug

the ratings game

Former Ole Miss standout Ryan Rolison jumped up to No. 2 in Colorado’s farm system rankings after MLB Pipeline reshuffled the lists of top prospects in every organization following Wednesday’s trade deadline. Left-hander Rolison, a first-round pick in 2018, is currently pitching at high Class A Lancaster, where he is 4-6 with a 4.85 ERA. He had dominated hitters at the low-A level this season. Also ranked as pitchers in the Rockies’ system are State product Reid Humphreys (19) and UM alum Will Ethridge (24), a fifth-round pick this year. … Former Southern Miss standout Nick Sandlin, a second-round pick last year by Cleveland, saw his ranking drop from No. 17 to No. 30. Sandlin had reached Triple-A but reportedly is done for the season with a forearm strain. … Also tumbling (again) was ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford, down to No. 21 (from 11) in Toronto’s system. The injury-plagued Alford, who has some big league time, is on the Triple-A roster but is currently on a rehab assignment in rookie ball. … MSU alum Ethan Small, a first-round draft pick in June by Milwaukee, jumped into the Brewers’ prospect rankings at No. 5. The SEC pitcher of the year has made two appearances in rookie ball. Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray, a second-round pick in 2018 currently in short season Class A, is the Brewers’ No. 10 (down from 7), and Ole Miss alum Thomas Dillard, a 2019 fifth-rounder, is No. 25. … Grae Kessinger, Houston’s second-round pick from Ole Miss, is No. 13 on the Astros’ chart; he is playing in low A. … Former USM star Matt Wallner, the 39th overall pick who is off to a good start in rookie ball, checks in at No. 15 in Minnesota’s system. MSU product Brent Rooker, currently on the injured list in Triple-A, is the Twins’ No. 8 (down from 6). … Loyd Star High alum James Beard, the first high school player picked (fourth round) from the state this year, is No. 22 in the Chicago White Sox’s system. Rated by some as the fastest player in the 2019 draft, Beard is batting .192 with six steals in rookie ball. … Ex-MSU standout Jake Mangum, the SEC’s career hits leader, is rated No. 24 in the New York Mets’ organization; the fourth-round draftee is hitting .230 in short season A-ball. … Former George County High star Trevor McDonald, an 11th-round pick by San Francisco, jumped in at No. 26 in the Giants’ system. The right-hander has yet to make his pro debut.