Richard Hidalgo, Jackson Generals star of the mid-1990s, got some recognition today – his 43rd birthday – in a column on mlb.com by Joe Posnanski. Posnanski was highlighting “most surprising” major league seasons, of which Hidalgo had one in 2000. In his fourth MLB campaign, he batted .314 with 44 homers and 122 RBIs as Houston’s centerfielder, far and away the best year of a modest career. Hidalgo was a highly rated and impressive-looking Astros prospect when he played in Jackson in 1995 and ’96, hitting .280 with 28 homers over those two seasons. He could play the outfield, too, and throw and run. He spent nine years in the big leagues and finished with 171 bombs. As good as Hidalgo’s 2000 season was, it didn’t make Posnanski’s “most surprising” top 10. But former Jackson Mets star Kevin Mitchell’s 1989 season with San Francisco did. Mitchell, who played at Smith-Wills Stadium in 1983, hit .291 with 47 homers and 125 RBIs that year, winning National League MVP honors on a pennant-winning team that included Will Clark. (And, yes, that was also the year Mitchell made his famous over-the-shoulder, bare-handed catch.)
Voting ends Friday for the Triple-A All-Star Game, and if fans have been paying attention, ex-Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson should be leading the pack for Pacific Coast League starting pitcher. Hudson, with the Memphis Redbirds in St. Louis’ system, leads the PCL in wins and ERA. The 23-year-old right hander, the Cardinals’ No. 3 prospect, has won six of his last seven starts to move to 9-2 with a 2.13 ERA. Hudson doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts but, according to scouting reports, generates a lot of weak contact and ground balls with a heavy sinker. Drafted in the first round in 2016, he was the Texas League pitcher of the year in 2017 and got a non-roster invite to 2018 big league camp, where he posted a 1.86 ERA in four games. The Triple-A All-Star Game (see the ballot on milb.com) is slated for Columbus, Ohio, on July 11. Considering all the injuries the Cardinals have had in their rotation, Hudson might be in St. Louis well before then. P.S. There was a Mississippi Big 3 summit of sorts at Minnesota on Wednesday, when Mississippi State’s Mitch Moreland, Ole Miss’ Lance Lynn and Southern Miss’ Brian Dozier all took the field. Dozier, who’s been slumping (.135 his last 15 games), went 2-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI in the Twins’ 4-1 victory over Boston. Despite fighting command issues, Lynn went five innings for the win, improving to 5-5, 4.64 ERA as he pitched around three hits and five walks. Moreland got one of those hits and drew one of the walks and scored an unearned run on a throwing error. … Pittsburgh put Corey Dickerson, the former Meridian Community College standout, on the family emergency medical leave list and recalled MSU product Adam Frazier from Triple-A. … Houston produced back-to-back-to-back home runs on Wednesday, the first time the Astros have pulled that off in over 10 years. As you might have guessed, former Jackson Generals star Lance Berkman was involved in that previous trifecta.
When he’s good, he’s very good. And Billy Hamilton was at the top of his game on Sunday, slashing hits, stealing bases, scoring runs and splashing down on the PNC Park warning track after one of the great catches of the season. The former Taylorsville High star produced three hits, three runs and two stolen bases in Cincinnati’s 8-6 win at Pittsburgh. But it was his defense that stole the show. The speedy center fielder tracked down a fly ball in right-center to make a catch that, according to Statcast, had a 2 percent probability of being made. He reportedly covered 83 feet in 4.3 seconds. “It’s like video game stuff,” said Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani in an mlb.com article. Francisco Cervelli, who hit the ball, applauded the play, as did Pirates fans. Hamilton needed a good day at the plate. The 3-for-4 boosted his average to .197, and he now has 13 stolen bases and 34 runs in 67 games. … At Dodger Stadium, Chris Stratton, the former Mississippi State standout from Tupelo, threw six impressive innings – three hits, one walk, no earned runs – to notch his eighth win of the year for San Francisco in a 4-1 victory against Los Angeles. It was the first career win for Stratton in four decisions vs. the Dodgers. He is 8-4, 4.22 ERA on the year and tied for second in the National League in wins. … At Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Tony Sipp, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College alum from Pascagoula, worked a scoreless seventh inning and earned the win as Houston extended its streak to 11 by beating the Royals 7-4. Sipp has made four scoreless appearances during the Astros’ run. Coming off a couple of rough years, the 34-year-old lefty has sliced his ERA to 2.16 and has 16 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings over 20 appearances overall.
If the Minnesota Twins are going to make a playoff run this year, they’ll need more of what they got from Lance Lynn and Brian Dozier on Saturday. With the Mississippi tag team leading the way, the Twins took down first-place Cleveland for the second straight day and, despite a 24-30 record, moved to within 4 1/2 games of the Indians in the American League Central. Former Ole Miss standout Lynn, whose role has grown even more important with Ervin Santana still on the disabled list, worked six innings to notch his third straight win. After a horrid start with his new club, he is 4-4 with a 5.46 ERA. He yielded just two hits but walked five and plunked a batter in what manager Paul Molitor termed a “pretty gritty” effort in the 7-1 victory. Ex-Southern Miss star Dozier had a game-tying RBI triple in the third inning off Trevor Bauer and scored the go-ahead run on an Eddie Rosario homer. Dozier doubled in another run in the fourth as the Twins broke it open. Dozier, who always seems to be in the middle of things when Minnesota wins, is batting just .241 but has 23 RBIs and 34 runs in 54 games. … Surprising Detroit (28-30, 2 1/2 GB in the AL Central) has won eight of 10, and former Pillow Academy (and LSU) star Louis Coleman has played a key role in this stretch for the Tigers as a middle reliever. The sidearming right-hander picked up a win on Saturday with a clean eighth inning against Toronto and is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in 10 games since getting called up in mid-May. Coleman’s career ERA is 3.40 spread over seven MLB seasons. … Tony Sipp’s role with Houston has diminished, but the left-hander out of Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College has been effective in middle relief of late. Sipp worked a 1-2-3 eighth for the Astros on Saturday, including a strikeout of Mississippi State alum Mitch Moreland, and now has hung up eight straight scoreless appearances, trimming his ERA to 3.09. Sipp’s Astros lost to Boston 5-4 and have been caught by Seattle in the AL West standings.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Jackson Mets’ first playoff team. The ’78 JaxMets beat Arkansas in the Texas League East playoffs and then fell to El Paso in the title series. Mookie Wilson was the hub of the offense, batting .292 with seven homers, 15 triples and 72 RBIs. Kelvin Chapman, another future big leaguer, hit .266 and led the club with 84 runs. Juan Monasterio batted .289, and Bobby Bryant belted eight homers. Jeff Reardon was the ace, going 17-4 with a 2.54 ERA. Neil Allen led the league in ERA. Scott Holman won 11 games and Kim Seaman 10. The ’78 season was the fourth year the Mets’ Double-A club operated at Smith-Wills Stadium, an affiliation that lasted 16 years. The OJMs missed the playoffs in 1979 but then went on a rip where they made it eight straight years and won three league titles. The ’78 JaxMets were managed by Bob Wellman, no relation to Phillip Wellman, who, 30 years later, managed the Mississippi Braves to the Southern League pennant. That remains the only title claimed by the M-Braves, now entering their 14th year at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The ’08 M-Braves featured a great young pitching staff: Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlen, Todd Redmond, James Parr, et al. Kala Ka’aihue led the team in homers (14) and RBIs (61) and swung a big bat in the postseason. But the club was defined more by the scrappiness of Matt Young and J.C. Holt, who combined for 52 steals. Wellman loved to get aggressive on the bases, and the M-Braves scored the pennant-winning run against Carolina on a walk-off double steal. … This season also marks the 25th anniversary of the first Jackson Generals team to win a Texas League title. The 1993 season was the third at Smith-Wills Stadium for the Houston Astros affiliate. Stars of that club, managed by Sal Butera, included Brian Hunter, Roberto Petagine, Jim Dougherty, Tom Nevers and Jackson native Fletcher Thompson.
Tony Sipp got the word on Thursday that he was going to make Houston’s opening day roster. On Friday night, the veteran left-hander out of Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College responded with a three-strikeout, scoreless inning against Washington in a Grapefruit League contest. It hasn’t been a great spring for Sipp, now 34 and about to start his 10th MLB campaign. He has a 5.19 ERA. He didn’t have a great 2017 for the Astros, either — 5.79 ERA, eight homers allowed in 37 1/3 innings – and wasn’t on the roster for their World Series run. Still, Sipp has a career ERA of 3.83 and will be the lone lefty in the Astros’ bullpen. “We’ve wanted Tony on the team to give us some balance and also because we feel like he’s got a track record where he can help us,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch told msn.com on Thursday. An injury to former Mississippi Braves star James Hoyt apparently paved the way for Sipp to make the 25-man roster. How long he keeps that job is up in the air. P.S. Brandon Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State standout from Wheeler, yielded four runs in five innings for Milwaukee against the Chicago Cubs on Friday. The right-hander, bidding to make the opening day roster, saw his spring ERA swell to an inconvenient 7.11. … With both Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija down with injuries, there is little doubt now that State alum Chris Stratton has won a job in San Francisco’s rotation. He has pitched well this spring with a 4.03 ERA in six outings. … Former Bulldogs star Hunter Renfroe, competing for a role in San Diego’s outfield, smacked his sixth homer of the Cactus League season on Friday and is batting .254 with 13 RBIs this spring.
There are hurdles ahead for Chuckie Robinson, but the former Southern Miss star certainly has built a head of steam. After one full season in pro ball, the 23-year-old Robinson is the second-highest rated catcher in Houston’s system and the No. 27 prospect overall in the world champion’s organization. He has made a couple of appearances in big league spring training games and has earned a great reputation. “He’s one of our most-liked players by staff just because he’s such a hard worker,” Astros director of player development Pete Putila told milb.com in a recent feature on Robinson. “Physically, he’s an explosive player. It shows up in his arm strength and bat speed.” Robinson threw out 40.9 percent of baserunners attempting to steal last season at Class A Quad Cities while also batting .274 and mashing 15 homers with 77 RBIs. He was a driving force behind the River Bandits’ run to the Midwest League pennant, belting four postseason bombs, and was named an MWL All-Star. Robinson, an Illinois native, was a 21st-round selection by the Astros in 2016 and, though he had a big junior year at USM, didn’t enter pro ball with a lot of hype. “I know good ballplayers. I think I’m a good ballplayer. I know what I’m capable of and, honestly, I just wanted to get an opportunity,” Robinson said in the milb.com article. He is making the most of it.