19 Jul

running on schedule

The projected MLB arrival time (per MLB Pipeline) for Petal’s Demarcus Evans is 2020. The big right-hander, pitching at Double-A Frisco in the Texas system, appears to be running on schedule. Evans, 22, has not allowed an earned run in nine straight appearances and has a 1.40 ERA over 15 games since being promoted from Class A Down East in late May. He posted an 0.81 and six saves for Down East. On Thursday night, Evans worked a clean ninth inning in a 4-2 win over Tulsa to notch his first Double-A save. He has 33 strikeouts and 13 walks in 19 1/3 innings. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Evans, a 25th-round draft pick out of Petal High in 2015, throws what is described as an exploding fastball and a quality curve. He has averaged 13.7 K’s per nine innings in his five-year pro career. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him move up to Triple-A before this season ends. P.S. Playing shortstop for Tulsa in that Texas League game was Errol Robinson, the former Ole Miss star. He had two hits, including a homer, and boosted his average to .318 for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ affiliate. (He did not face Evans.) Robinson started this season in Triple-A but struggled (.220) and was sent down in late June to Tulsa, where he has begun to perk up.

18 Jul

reverse course

After a sluggish start to his pro career, Willie Joe Garry Jr. has taken off in Year 2. The former Pascagoula High star, 19, is batting .314 with a homer, seven RBIs and 12 runs in 21 games for Elizabethton, a rookie-level club in Minnesota’s system. Garry went 3-for-3 with three RBIs in an E-Twins win on Wednesday. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound lefty hitter batted just .160 in the Gulf Coast League in 2018. He was a ninth-round pick by the Twins in 2018, the third prep player drafted out of the state behind Brandon’s J.T. Ginn and Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray. Garry’s draft stock soared following a strong showing with his travel team in the summer of 2017, according to a story in the Biloxi Sun-Herald. A five-tool talent, he then hit .432 with three homers and 21 steals as a senior at Goula. Garry, a second cousin of former Southern Miss football star Ben Garry, told the Sun-Herald he credits some of his development as a player to ex-big leaguer Matt Lawton, his youth league coach. (Lawton also was drafted by the Twins and played seven years in Minnesota.) Garry plays center field for the E-Twins, usually flanked in right field by USM alum Matt Wallner, a first-round pick this year who is hitting .316 with a couple of homers. P.S. Jarrod Dyson, the former McComb High and Southwest Mississippi Community College star, left Wednesday’s game for Arizona with a hamstring cramp. Dyson helped fuel the Diamondbacks’ 19-4 win at Texas with three hits, including his career-high sixth homer. The 34-year-old outfielder is batting .254 with 43 runs and 21 stolen bases in 77 games.

17 Jul

ups and downs

Getting to the big leagues is hard. Staying in the big leagues might be even harder. Bobby Bradley, the former Harrison Central High standout, was sent back to Triple-A by Cleveland on Tuesday. The Indians needed to call up a starting pitcher, so Bradley, just 8-for-45 with one homer since making The Show, was bumped from the 25-man roster. “It’s not going to hurt him to get at-bats at Triple-A,” Indians manager Terry Francona told cleveland.com. Of the five Mississippians to debut in the majors this year, only ex-DeSoto Central star Austin Riley hasn’t gone back down. Mississippi State product Nate Lowe has been sent down twice by Tampa Bay; he is currently with the big league club again (and hitting a ton). Ole Miss alum Jacob Waguespack also has been yo-yo’ed by Toronto; he was recalled Tuesday to make a spot start. Then there’s Chris Ellis. Ellis, a former UM and Mississippi Braves ace, made Kansas City’s opening day roster as a Rule 5 draftee out of St. Louis’ system. He pitched a scoreless inning in his debut on March 31. He was dropped from the active roster a couple days later and, per Rule 5 rules, was returned to the Cardinals. The 26-year-old right-hander has struggled mightily at Triple-A Memphis, with a 7.74 ERA and four blown saves in five chances over 30 appearances. One has to wonder if he’ll ever get another big league look. Bradley, only 23, surely will, though it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the demotion. He was killing it at Columbus (.292, 24 homers) before his call-up.

16 Jul

in time of need

Milwaukee needs a stopper to step up, and it’s Brandon Woodruff’s turn. The Mississippi State alum from Wheeler goes to the bump tonight against first-place Atlanta, aiming to stop the skidding Brewers’ 1-5 tumble. He would seem to be the right guy to do it. Woodruff, whose last appearance was in the All-Star Game a week ago, is 10-3 with a 3.67 ERA. He has faced the Braves once before, on May 19 in Atlanta, when he threw eight strong innings but got a no-decision in a game the Brewers won 3-2 in 10. He yielded six hits – including homers by Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna – with six strikeouts and no walks. Milwaukee has lost eight of 10 to fall to 48-47, third in the National League Central. The Braves, who’ve won eight of 10 and are comfortably atop the NL East, will throw rookie and former Mississippi Braves righty Bryse Wilson. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn, who is an MLB-best 12-4, 3.69, gets the start tonight for Texas against visiting Arizona, and another former Rebel, Jacob Waguespack, will start for Toronto against Boston at Fenway Park. It’ll be the third career appearance for Waguespack (1-0, 5.00), who beat the Red Sox on July 3 with a solid five-inning effort.

15 Jul

exclusive clubs

On this date in 2005, former Mississippi State star Rafael Palmeiro, playing for Baltimore, rapped his 3,000th career MLB hit. It was a double at Safeco Field in Seattle. He became just the fourth player in history with both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. There are now six in that exclusive club that also includes Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray. Shortly after recording hit No. 3,000, Palmeiro was suspended for failing a test for performance-enhancing drugs. He returned from that suspension in mid-August, put in a few more games with the Orioles but never played in the majors thereafter. Though he staunchly denied using PEDs, the four-time All-Star fell off the Hall of Fame ballot in 2014 after four years without ever coming close to election. Palmeiro is in the MSU, Mississippi Sports and College Baseball Halls of Fame.

15 Jul

that other guy

The top-rated pitching prospect on the Chicago Cubs’ Double-A roster is Lucedale’s Justin Steele. But the oft-injured Steele has been outperformed on the Tennessee club by another Mississippi native who hasn’t yet cracked the MLB Pipeline prospect ratings. Southaven’s Wyatt Short, a former Ole Miss standout, is 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA and six saves for the Smokies. In 38 1/3 innings, he has 40 strikeouts and 11 walks. And he made the Southern League All-Star Game last month. “I feel like I’m really scratching the surface here,” he recently told the Memphis Commercial Appeal, “so hopefully as the year goes on, it only gets better and better.” The 5-foot-8 left-hander, drafted in the 13th round in 2016, has a 2.49 career ERA and 35 saves in 47 opportunities. He posted 11 saves as UM’s closer in 2016 and finished his Rebels career with 24. … Meanwhile, Steele, a lefty starter and the Cubs’ No. 8 prospect, has spent much of the season on the injured list and is 0-6 with a 5.59 ERA in 11 games for the Smokies. He bounced back strong last summer from Tommy John surgery, finished the 2018 season in Double-A, pitched in the Arizona Fall League and went to big league camp as a member of the Cubs’ 40-man roster. Not much has gone well since.

12 Jul

back to it

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.

11 Jul

down on farm

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.

09 Jul

star treks

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.

09 Jul

all in the family

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.”