There are, most baseball aficionados agree, eight different ways to reach first base. In the crazy top of the fifth inning on Thursday night, the Chicago Cubs produced five of them – in a row — and went on to a 9-8 victory over Washington that sent them to the National League Championship Series. With two outs in the fifth, down 4-3, the Cubs did this: three straight hits (infield hit, single, double), intentional walk, dropped third strike (albeit controversial), catcher’s interference and hit batsman. All that was missing in the four-run inning was an error, a fielder’s choice and fielder’s obstruction. For the record, former Mississippi Braves Jason Heyward (the intentional walk) and Tommy LaStella (the catcher’s interference) were involved in the madness. P.S. Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High star and Atlanta prospect, went 3-for-5 with a home run (off Madison Central alum Spencer Turnbull) and four RBIs to pace Peoria to a 10-6 win against Mesa on Thursday in the Arizona Fall League. Turnbull, a Detroit prospect, worked 2 1/3 innings, yielding eight hits, a walk and seven runs (four earned) to take the loss.
After making a strong finish in his 2017 season, Cody Carroll got off to a similar start in his Arizona Fall League debut on Tuesday. The ex-Southern Miss star worked two scoreless innings to notch the save in Scottsdale’s 7-4 win against Mesa. Drafted in 2015 by the New York Yankees, 6-foot-5 right-hander Carroll reached Double-A this summer and posted a 2.66 ERA with five saves in 39 games at Trenton. Carroll did not allow an earned run over his last eight appearances, registering four saves and a win. He has a 2.73 ERA in 79 career pro games with 205 strikeouts in 184 1/3 innings. … Elsewhere in the AFL, which opened on Tuesday, four 2017 Mississippi Braves pitchers combined for 16 strikeouts in eight innings in Peoria’s 4-3 victory over Glendale. Max Fried, who made it to Atlanta this summer, fanned seven in three innings. Touki Touissant, Josh Graham and Corbin Clouse joined Fried in the punchout parade. Among their victims was former Harrison Central star Bobby Bradley (a Cleveland prospect), who went 0-for-4 with three K’s for Glendale. DeSoto Central product Austin Riley, also a 2017 M-Brave, was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts for Peoria. Picayune native Braxton Lee (Miami), who played at Pearl River Community College and Ole Miss, was 1-for-4 with a run for Salt River, which beat Surprise 4-3.
It’s opening day in the Arizona Fall League, which is sort of a select circuit for minor league prospects. Peoria, which hosts Glendale today, is managed by 2017 Mississippi Braves skipper Luis Salazar and features several M-Braves players from this past season. Most notable among that group are Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High standout; Ronald Acuna, Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect; Max Fried, today’s scheduled starter; and Alex Jackson. Ex-Harrison Central star Bobby Bradley (Cleveland) is on the Glendale roster. Southern Miss alum Cody Carroll (New York Yankees) pitches for Scottsdale, which is hosting Mesa. On Mesa’s roster are Madison Central product Spencer Turnbull and ex-Mississippi State standout Zac Houston, both Detroit farmhands. Former Ole Miss star Braxton Lee (Miami) plays for Salt River, which visits Surprise. Delta State product Dalton Moats (Tampa Bay) is on the Saguaros’ pitching staff. The AFL season runs through Nov. 16. P.S. Boston was knocked out of the American League playoffs by Houston on Monday, but ex-State standout Mitch Moreland went down swinging. Moreland, in perhaps his last appearance in a Red Sox uniform, was 5-for-13 (.385) with two doubles in the four games, raising his career postseason average to .236 (26-for-110).
A streak has been snapped in Bobby Bradley’s career. For the first time in four seasons in pro ball, the Gulfport native did not make Baseball America’s list of the Top 20 prospects in his league. Bradley, at age 21, batted .251 with 23 homers and 89 RBIs for Akron in the Double-A Eastern League. Not a bad year at all, but apparently there are questions, at least in the minds of some EL managers, about his plate discipline. As BA’s Josh Norris wrote in an online chat on Thursday: “There was a little bit of love for him, but nothing overwhelming. The power is there, but managers saw him as more of a mistake-type hitter than someone who belonged in the Top 20 in the league. There are holes in his swing, and he has work to do defensively as well.” Bradley, a lefty-hitting first baseman who was starring at Harrison Central a little more than three years ago, might use this “snub” as motivation as he heads into the Arizona Fall League, which starts next month. He’ll play for Glendale. Bradley is a career .261 hitter (.352 on-base percentage) with 87 homers. It’s worth noting, of course, that he is still rated No. 5 by BA on Cleveland’s prospect list and is No. 3 on MLB Pipeline’s list. He made the top 10 in the Arizona League, Midwest League and Carolina League on his way up the ladder, and he was the high-A Carolina League MVP in 2016. … Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal, did make the EL Top 20, checking in at No. 9. Alford, who had a cup of coffee with Toronto in May, hit .302 with five homers, 24 RBIs and 18 steals in 245 at-bats for New Hampshire. The outfielder spent time on the disabled list with a wrist injury suffered shortly after he made his big league debut. … Former Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson, a St. Louis prospect, was No. 10 on the Texas League chart.
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.