Among the gaggle of big league players not offered contracts for 2019 were a couple of Mississippi-connected names of note: Billy Hamilton and Kendall Graveman. Ex-Taylorsville High star Hamilton was cut loose Friday by Cincinnati, for which he has been the starting center fielder most of the past five years, and Mississippi State product Graveman was non-tendered by Oakland, for which he was the opening day starter the last two seasons. They are now free agents. There are reports that both could be re-signed to minor league deals by their former clubs if they don’t land a job elsewhere. Hamilton, 28, is a spectacular outfielder and base stealer who just hasn’t hit (.236 in 2018, .245 career). Graveman, 27, had a brutal 2018, possibly related to injury. He underwent Tommy John surgery in July and is expected to miss most of the 2019 season. He was 1-5 with a 7.60 ERA in his seven big league starts this past season. His career ERA over five seasons is 4.38.
The Oakland A’s plan to use a bunch of pitchers in tonight’s American League Wild Card Game against the New York Yankees. One who won’t see the mound is Kendall Graveman, the club’s opening day starter this year and in 2017. Ex-Mississippi State standout Graveman had Tommy John surgery in July; he may not pitch again until late in the 2019 season. “It does suck, it’s no fun, it stinks,” he told the San Francisco Examiner when his surgery was announced. “With the love I have for the game, it’s not easy, and it hurts right now — the guys are playing so well and I want to be out there competing with them.” It must be especially painful now, considering that in his previous three years with the A’s, they didn’t sniff the postseason, finishing dead last in the AL West each year. Graveman struggled at the start of this season – he was 1-5 with a 7.60 ERA in the big leagues – and was in the minors when his injury was diagnosed. (Oddly enough, his one MLB victory in 2018 was against the Yankees in May.) The 27-year-old righty also battled injuries in 2017, going 6-4, 4.19. He is 23-29, 4.38 for his career. P.S. Former Mississippi Braves Ryan Buchter and Cory Gearrin could be in the parade of relievers the A’s use tonight. Gearrin was in Mississippi in 2009, posting a 2.84 ERA in 20 appearances. Lefty Buchter passed through Pearl in 2012 and had a 1.31 ERA in 35 games. Both have been effective for the A’s this season. … The Yankees’ bullpen includes former State star Jonathan Holder. The Gulfport native had a 3.14 ERA in 60 games this year. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, primarily a starter this year, is also active.
If you didn’t become a fan of Billy Beane during his three seasons as an outfielder with the Jackson Mets, then surely “Moneyball” won you over. The longtime Oakland A’s executive is still trying to win that last game of the season, and he might have a team that can do it this year. As they say in the movie, What is happening in Oakland? From a ho-hum start – and on the heels of three straight losing seasons – the A’s have caught fire. They are on a 38-13 roll and have climbed to within 2 games of Houston, the defending World Series champion and leader of the American League West, heading into a rather large weekend series at Oakland Coliseum. These A’s aren’t a team of household names – Khris Davis, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Matt Olson, et al. – but that could change by October. Beane is now the A’s vice president of baseball operations but still works like a GM. With his club surging into playoff contention in mid-July, he engineered several moves just before the trade deadline that might prove huge. The A’s added Jeurys Familia, Shawn Kelley, Mike Fiers and Fernando Rodney, greatly enhancing their pitching depth. “We just went through three years where we didn’t have that opportunity (to make the postseason),” GM David Forst told Yahoo Sports. “And you know Billy’s personality. As soon as he sees it, he’s going to jump on it.” The A’s still have one of the lowest payrolls in MLB. They might not be buried under “50 feet of crap” as they were in the “Moneyball” season of 2002, but they’re still an underdog in this fight. It just kinda feels right to pull for Billy Beane.
The New York Mets, who seemingly need all kinds of help, have called up Ole Miss product Bobby Wahl from Triple-A Las Vegas. The Mets recently acquired Wahl, a relief pitcher, from Oakland in the Jeurys Familia trade. Wahl was drafted out of UM by the A’s in 2013 and made his big league debut last year, appearing in seven games before an injury curtailed his season (see previous post). He had a 2.27 ERA and 11 saves at Triple-A Nashville this year before the deal and had allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings at Las Vegas. The right-hander, who has hit 100 on the radar gun, has averaged 12 strikeouts per nine innings in his minor league career. The Mets host Atlanta tonight. … Wahl becomes the 26th Mississippian (native or college alum) to appear on a major league roster this season.
Twenty years ago on this date – Aug. 1 – Chad Bradford, at age 23, made his big league debut, completing a rather rapid journey from Byram High to Hinds Community College to Southern Miss and through three levels of the minors. The right-hander with the down-under delivery pitched 2 1/3 innings for the Chicago White Sox against Texas at The Ballpark in Arlington. He allowed one hit and was charged with one run. He faced eight batters and got seven ground balls, a display of the speciality that helped him stay in the majors for 11 more years, including the immortalized 2001 season with the “Moneyball” A’s in Oakland. Bradford ended his career with a 3.26 ERA, 36 wins and 11 saves. He never made an All-Star team or won a World Series ring, but he did pitch in seven postseasons for five different clubs and put up a sparkling 0.39 ERA.
Mississippi-connected pitchers were in the MLB news on Tuesday. And much of the news wasn’t good. Drew Pomeranz, the former Ole Miss star, came off the disabled list to make his first start for Boston since May 31. He lost. Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff, who has been on the elevator between Milwaukee and Triple-A Colorado Springs this season, went down again. For ex-State standout Kendall Graveman, the news was far worse. Oakland announced that Graveman will have Tommy John surgery, which could mean he’ll miss all of 2019. “It’s going to take him a little while to get back,” A’s manager Bob Melvin told mlb.com. “So we’re all feeling that a little today.” Then there’s Southern Miss product Cody Carroll, who was among the three minor leaguers traded by the New York Yankees to Baltimore for Zach Britton. For Carroll, who has been pitching very well at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the move from the powerhouse Yankees to the moribund Orioles might mean a clearer path to the big leagues. So there’s that. … Pomeranz allowed six hits – two homers – two walks and four runs in 4 2/3 innings vs. Baltimore and fell to 1-4, 6.91 in nine starts for the Red Sox. He did not seem discouraged. “Literally two bad pitches, so that’s about it,” he told mlb.com. … Woodruff has a 4.80 ERA in 12 games with the Brewers. Optioned out for the fifth time in 2018, he’ll no doubt be back with the big club soon. … Graveman was 1-5, 7.60 for the A’s this year and was demoted to Triple-A Nashville in late April. He made four Triple-A starts before being shut down in late May. … Carroll, in his fourth pro season, was rated the No. 15 prospect in the Yankees’ system. He was 3-0 with nine saves and a 2.38 ERA at SWB and over his last 10 games had a 0.82 ERA and four saves. He might get a look with the O’s before season’s end.
The Oakland A’s – one of the surprise teams in the majors this season – don’t appear to need bullpen help at the moment; they haven’t lost a game they’ve led after eight innings. But if or when they do need some relief corps reinforcements, former Ole Miss star Bobby Wahl looks ready for the call. Pitching at Triple-A Nashville, the gas-throwing right-hander has nine saves in 10 chances, a 2.65 ERA and a 3-2 record in 30 games, all but one in relief. He has fanned 53 batters in 34 innings. He recently was named to the Pacific Coast League team for the July 11 Triple-A All-Star Game. The 26-year-old Wahl was a fifth-round pick out of Oxford in 2013 and slowly climbed the ladder in the A’s system to reach the big leagues in May of last year. He had a rough debut and then went down with an injury. He wound up having surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. He pitched only 22 2/3 innings all told in 2017. The A’s took Wahl off the 40-man roster in the off-season, but his work this year might be good enough to warrant another shot in the big leagues. … Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman, the A’s opening day starter the last two years, is also on the Nashville roster but remains on the disabled list with an arm injury. He hasn’t pitched since late May. He was 1-5, 7.60 ERA for Oakland this season.
Ryan Rolison, the 22nd overall pick in the draft and the first Mississippian chosen, has signed with Colorado; no financial details were announced. The left-hander was the first Ole Miss player to be drafted in the first round since Drew Pomeranz in 2010. The list of signees from this year’s draft also includes Zack Shannon (Arizona), James McArthur (Philadelphia), Brady Feigl (Oakland) and Dallas Woolfolk (Oakland). … T.J. House, the former Picayune High standout, has been released from Triple-A by the Chicago White Sox. The erstwhile big leaguer, 28, had a 1-6 record and a 6.81 ERA in nine starts for Charlotte. He has 29 MLB appearances on his ledger, the last with Toronto in 2017. … Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman remains on the shelf in Oakland’s system with a forearm problem. Graveman last pitched on May 24 for Triple-A Nashville. The A’s opening day starter, he is 1-5, 7.60 in big league duty this year. … Ex-Ole Miss star Chris Coghlan, who signed a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs in late March, has not played this season because of a shoulder injury. The 32-year-old MLB veteran is a career .258 hitter and won a World Series ring with the Cubs in 2016.
Hunter Renfroe appears to have found his stroke at Triple-A El Paso, which could mean a return to San Diego is imminent. Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State and Copiah Academy star, went 3-for-4 and belted two home runs on Wednesday in his seventh game with the Chihuahuas. With six hits in his past three games, Renfroe has raised his average from .118 to .276. Renfroe last played in game for the Padres on April 18. He went on the disabled list (right elbow inflammation) on April 21 and was shipped to El Paso on May 17. Renfroe hit .200 with two homers in 17 games in a platoon role for San Diego. Over parts of three MLB seasons, he is batting .238 with 32 homers. The last-place Padres (21-30) rank near the bottom of the National League in home runs. P.S. Another State product, Kendall Graveman, could also be returning to the big leagues soon, according to some reports. Graveman is 2-0 with a 5.00 ERA in three starts for Oakland’s Triple-A Nashville club. After a rough start with the A’s, the right-hander was sent down on April 26. He returned on May 11 and beat the New York Yankees but was sent back to Nashville a couple days later. He won his only start since.
It’s a small sample size but still worth noting: Former DeSoto Central High standout Austin Riley is batting .325 (13-for-40) with three homers and 11 RBIs through his first 10 games in Triple-A. He has hit safely in eight of those games, including a four-hit, three-homer performance on Sunday, and has yet to make an error at third base. He also has two hat tricks (three-strikeout games) for Gwinnett. “It’s all about adjustments,” Riley told the Marietta Daily Journal. “Each level you move up, the pitchers get better. You never stop learning in this game.” Riley, one of Atlanta’s top-rated prospects, batted .333 with six homers in 27 games for the Double-A Mississippi Braves before his promotion. At 21, Riley is the same age as Ozzie Albies and a year older than Ronald Acuna, who are leading the “Baby Braves” contingent that has helped revitalize the big league club. Most projections have Riley making the majors in 2019, but he could force the Braves’ hand this summer. P.S. Ex-Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson is also in Triple-A and knocking on the MLB door. St. Louis’ first-round pick in 2016, right-hander Hudson is 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA in seven starts for Memphis. He is rated the Cardinals’ No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline. … Hunter Renfroe, the State alum who is hoping to get back to the big leagues, went 1-for-5 with an RBI double and three K’s Thursday in his first game after being sent to Triple-A El Paso. Renfroe was batting .200 with two homers for San Diego when he went on the disabled list in mid-April. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford, sent down by Toronto earlier this week, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts at Triple-A Buffalo on Wednesday. … Also itching for another shot in The Show is Ole Miss product Bobby Wahl, who has a 1.50 ERA, two saves and 26 punchouts in 18 innings for Triple-A Nashville in Oakland’s system. Wahl made seven appearances for the A’s last year before suffering a shoulder injury. He was dropped from the 40-man roster in the fall. … Braxton Lee, the ex-UM standout from Picayune who started this season in the majors with Miami, is currently on the DL at Triple-A New Orleans. He hit .176 in eight MLB games and is at .186 in 12 games for the Baby Cakes. … Ole Miss alum and onetime big leaguer Alex Presley, who had been at Triple-A Norfolk in Baltimore’s system, has been granted his release and is now a free agent.