Four Mississippians appear on the early rosters of Arizona Fall League teams. Ex-DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley (Atlanta) is on the Peoria roster, along with current Mississippi Braves teammate Touki Touissant and former M-Braves Ronald Acuna and Max Fried. Gulfport native Bobby Bradley, a highly ranked Cleveland prospect, will play for Glendale; Ole Miss product and Picayune native Braxton Lee (Miami) is on Salt River’s roster; and Madison Central alum Spencer Turnbull (Detroit) will pitch for Mesa. Turnbull pitched in the AFL last year. … Former Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson, St. Louis’ first-round pick in 2016, was named pitcher of the year in the Double-A Texas League after going 9-4 with a 2.53 ERA for Springfield; he is now at Triple-A Memphis. Former M-Braves skipper Phillip Wellman, now at San Antonio, was the TL’s manager of the year. M-Braves pitcher Kolby Allard and outfielder Johnny Davis of Biloxi made the Southern League’s postseason All-Star team, Davis as the “best hustler.” Second-year pros Chuckie Robinson from Southern Miss and Wyatt Short out of Ole Miss earned All-Star honors in the Class A Midwest League. Robinson, a catcher, is batting .280 with 15 home runs and 75 RBIs for Quad Cities in the Houston system. Short, a left-handed closer, is 4-3 with 15 saves and 3.25 ERA for South Bend, a Chicago Cubs affiliate. … Itawamba Community College product Tyreque Reed, a 2017 draftee by Texas, is 2-for-6 in two games after being out for three weeks in the rookie Arizona League. The Rangers’ minor league player of the month for July, Reed is batting .349 with five homers. … Ex-State standout Hunter Renfroe had three hits and two RBIs for Triple-A El Paso on Tuesday and is now 17-for-31 (.548) in eight games since San Diego sent him down. … State alum Brent Rooker, a 2017 draftee by Minnesota, saw his three-game homer streak end on Tuesday at Class A Fort Myers. Rooker has 11 homers and is batting .281 in 38 games in the Florida State League. … The move from catcher to pitcher has not paid immediate dividends for Blake Anderson, the former West Lauderdale High standout who was a supplemental first-round pick by Miami in 2014. The oft-injured Anderson has yielded six runs on eight hits and six walks in nine innings of work in the rookie Gulf Coast League.
Way out in Australia, D.J. Davis is searching for his game. The Wiggins native, a first-round draft pick by Toronto in 2012, endured a lost season in 2016, batting just .197 with 13 extra base hits in 83 games at the high-A level. He is wintering in the Australian Baseball League, where he is 1-for-8 with a stolen base in two games for Canberra. Scouting reports indicate that Davis, 22, remains a raw talent even in his fifth pro year. A lefty-hitting outfielder, he showed promise in low-A ball in 2015, hitting .282 with seven homers, seven triples, 59 RBIs and 21 steals. But 2016, which included a month-long stint on the disabled list, was a big step back. Once a top 10 prospect in the Blue Jays’ system, Davis is getting a chance to reestablish himself in the ABL. Stay tuned. P.S. The Arizona Fall League season ended for the Mississippi contingent on Thursday. Ole Miss alum Chris Ellis, an Atlanta prospect, threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings in Salt River’s finale; he finished 1-1 with a 5.03 ERA. Future Mississippi Braves infielder Travis Demeritte went 2-for-4 with a homer, his fourth, in that game. Richton’s JaCoby Jones (Detroit) finished at .329 with a homer and 13 RBIs; 2016 M-Braves star Dustin Peterson (Atlanta) batted .324; and Southwest Mississippi Community College product Kade Scivicque (Atlanta) hit .378. Ex-Petal High standout Anthony Alford (Toronto) didn’t play Thursday for Mesa and ended his AFL tour at .253 with three homers and 15 RBIs. He is expected to be added to the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster today. Mississippi State alum Chris Stratton (San Francisco) threw five shutout innings for Scottsdale, finishing 2-2, 3.12.
Spencer Turnbull should leave the Arizona Fall League feeling good. Ex-Madison Central High star Turnbull, a Detroit prospect pitching for Salt River, threw four shutout innings on Monday in what may have been his last outing. The 6-foot-3 right-hander had an injury-interrupted 2016 season and started slowly in the AFL but with back-to-back strong starts has trimmed his ERA to 3.60. He has 20 strikeouts in 20 innings and has not yielded a home run. Turnbull’s velocity reportedly has been a little down this fall, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “I’m learning how to pitch with a little less velocity,” Turnbull said in an mlb.com article. “I’m sinking it and cutting it more than I used to rather than throwing heaters down the middle.” Turnbull, 24, is rated Detroit’s No. 12 prospect by mlb.com but is likely still a couple of years away from a big league shot. He is 12-7 with a 3.32 ERA in his three pro seasons and is expected to pitch in Double-A in 2017. It’s seems odd now that Turnbull was undrafted in 2011 out of Madison Central, where was a standout hitter and hurler. He went to Alabama and left in 2014 as a second-round pick by the Tigers. … Former Mississippi Braves standout Dustin Peterson hit his first AFL homer in support of Turnbull on Monday. Peterson is batting .328 for the Rafters after an MVP-caliber year in the Southern League (.282, 12 homers, 88 RBIs). Richton’s JaCoby Jones, also a Tigers prospect, had three hits for Salt River and is up to .370. … Petal High product Anthony Alford (Toronto) stole three bags for Mesa on Monday and now has eight this fall.
Kudos to Mitch Moreland for winning the first Gold Glove of his career. The ex-Mississippi State star, now a free agent, led American League first basemen in fielding percentage (.998) playing for Texas in 2016. He committed just two errors in 1,103 chances. (And it didn’t hurt that he hit 22 home runs.) … Former Harrison Central High standout Bobby Bradley is rated the No. 5 prospect (again) and best power hitter in Cleveland’s system in Baseball America’s new rankings. Bradley, a lefty-hitting first baseman, was the Class A Carolina League MVP this past season, when he belted 29 homers and drove in 102 runs. He hit just .235 but had a .344 on-base percentage. … Picayune High product T.J. House, Itawamba Community College alum Tim Dillard and former Southern Miss star Scott Copeland are on the list of minor league free agents published by Baseball America. A host of former Mississippi Braves are also on the market, including Matt Lipka, Daniel Castro, Brandon Cunniff, Willians Astudillo, Madison Younginer, Joey Terdoslavich, Brandon Hicks, Jordan Schafer and David Hale. … Richton’s JaCoby Jones had another big hit on Tuesday for Salt River, boosting his Arizona Fall League average to .333 and RBI total to 11 in 16 games. Ex-Madison Central star Spencer Turnbull, another Detroit prospect with Salt River, worked strong four innings in that game, allowing one unearned run and fanning five. His ERA in five AFL starts is now 4.50.
It’s not the ballot people are talking about today, but, hey: Mississippi State alum Buck Showalter is a candidate for Manager of the Year in the American League. He is a finalist, along with Terry Francona and Jeff Banister, for the award given by the baseball writers. The winner will be announced next Tuesday. Showalter, who has won the award three times (including 2014), steered Baltimore to a wild card berth out of the hyper-competitive AL East, exceeding the expectations of virtually every preseason prediction. Showalter has been with Baltimore for seven seasons, longer than he stayed at any of his previous three managerial stops. With 547 wins, he trails only the legendary Earl Weaver on the Orioles’ list of winningest managers. Showalter hasn’t had a lot of playoff success, but in the current state of MLB, just getting in is a big deal. P.S. Former Southwest Mississippi Community College star Kade Scivicque is batting .346 (9-for-26) with three RBIs in the Arizona Fall League. Scivicque, acquired by Atlanta from Detroit late last season, finished 2016 with the Mississippi Braves and could be back with the Double-A club next spring. The 6-foot, 225-pound catcher batted .282 with six homers in high-A for the Tigers. … David Goforth, the Ole Miss alum from Meridian, is pitching for Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League. Goforth, who has made 30 MLB appearances with Milwaukee the past two years, had a 4.91 ERA in Triple-A in 2016.
As major league baseball slips into its “off-season,” here are a few Mississippi-related things to ponder over the coming weeks:
1. Where will Mitch Moreland land? The former Mississippi State standout, who has been with Texas his entire career, is a free agent. A good-fielding first baseman with left-handed power (110 career home runs), he should have plenty of suitors, including the Rangers.
2. Will Jonathan Papelbon find a new team? The ex-State star, released in August by Washington, remains a free agent. His numbers from 2016 (19 saves, 4.37 ERA) weren’t bad, but he is about to turn 36 with a lot of miles on his arm. And there’s that other stuff.
3. How will Lance Lynn’s comeback go? The Ole Miss product, who had Tommy John surgery last November, pitched a handful of innings in the minors in 2016 but was never activated by St. Louis. The Cardinals need a good year from the 29-year-old Lynn, who has a 61-39 career record.
4. Is Hunter Renfroe ready for duty? The former State star looked great during his late call-up with San Diego, batting .371 with four homers and winning a National League player of the week award. The expectations will surely ramp up heading into next season for a Padres organization that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2006.
5. Can Brian Snitker keep Atlanta on the right track? The former Mississippi Braves manager, a really good guy who has been in the Braves’ organization since 1977, steered the team to a 37-35 record after the All-Star break. “Snitker is baseball’s version of the guy who started in the mail room and became chairman of the board,” wrote Baseball America’s Tracy Ringolsby. It feels like Atlanta made a good choice for 2017.
P.S. Mississippians Chris Stratton (Mississippi State) and Anthony Alford (Petal High) are slated to play in tonight’s Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game, which will be televised by MLB Network at 7 p.m.
Control issues that plagued Chris Ellis this past season at Triple-A Gwinnett cropped up in the Ole Miss product’s Arizona Fall League outing on Wednesday. Ellis, pitching for Salt River, allowed four walks, four hits and seven runs in 3 1/3 innings and watched his ERA soar to 8.25. The 6-foot-5 right-hander is a top 20 prospect in Atlanta’s system and was outstanding (8-2, 2.75) for the Double-A Mississippi Braves to begin 2016. Promoted to Gwinnett, he scuffled, going 4-7 with a 6.52. He walked almost as many batters (52) as he struck out (65). He did rebound with 13 scoreless innings in two starts in the International League playoffs but hasn’t carried that success over to the AFL. He has yielded 15 hits and 11 walks in 12 innings. Ellis figures to be among the gaggle of young pitchers vying for jobs in Atlanta in 2017, but he’ll have some things to prove in the spring. P.S. The day after becoming a World Series champion, Chris Coghlan became a free agent. The ex-Ole Miss standout is on the long list of players declaring their freedom. Coghlan, 31, went 0-for-7 in the postseason for the Chicago Cubs, making one start in the Series. He batted .188 with six homers between Oakland and the Cubs this season. … Also on the new MLB free agent list: Jeff Francoeur, Blaine Boyer, Gregor Blanco, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Charlie Morton, all former M-Braves stars.