There are eight outfielders, including Hattiesburg High product Joe Gray, listed among Milwaukee’s top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline. Trying to fight his way through that crowd is Zach Clark, an unrated former Pearl River Community College star about to enter his fourth pro season. A 19th-round pick in 2016, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Clark just completed a solid campaign in the Australian Baseball League. He hit a three-run homer in his final game for Auckland over the weekend, finishing the 40-game season with six bombs, 19 RBIs and a .237 average. Clark batted .338 with 11 homers and 24 steals as a sophomore at PRCC and was bound for Alabama before the Brewers drafted him. He played at low Class A Wisconsin in 2018, batting .246 with eight homers. His ETA in Double-A Biloxi would be 2020. … Gray is rated the Brewers’ No. 6 prospect and is expected to advance quickly in the system. A power hitter with a strong arm, he was a second-round pick last summer and hit .182 with two homers and six steals in limited play in rookie ball. MLB Pipeline projects Gray’s big league arrival as 2022.
There are five outfielders scattered through mlb.com’s chart of the top 30 prospects in the Texas system. LeDarious Clark is not one of them, but the former East Mississippi Community College star from Meridian is building his resume in the Australian Baseball League. Clark, drafted by the Rangers in the 12th round in 2015, went 2-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs today in Adelaide’s 8-3 win against Brisbane. Clark is batting .357 over his last 10 games and is at .277 with two homers, 17 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in 20 games for the season. In his two minor league campaigns, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Clark has hit .256 with 21 homers and 55 steals. The onetime football standout presents an intriguing power-speed combination. P.S. Back in the States, it’s been a slow go for free agent Mississippians. There has been no hard news since Dec. 19, when Ole Miss alum Alex Presley signed as a minor league free agent with Detroit, one of the two MLB clubs he played for in 2016. The lefty-hitting outfielder, 31, is a .253 career hitter with 26 homers and 25 steals over parts of seven big league campaigns. Mitch Moreland (Boston), Jacob Lindgren (Atlanta), Tyler Moore (Miami), T.J. House (Toronto) and Scott Copeland (Miami) also have signed, the latter three on minor league contracts. Still out there are Chris Coghlan, Louis Coleman, Desmond Jennings, Joey Butler, Aaron Barrett, Jonathan Papelbon and Julio Borbon.
While wondering if Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier will soon be a Los Angeles Dodger, here’s more stuff to chew on: D.J. Davis, seemingly in need of some positive reinforcement, hit his first home run of the Australian Baseball League season today. The former Stone County High standout launched a three-run bomb – boosting his RBI total to seven – for Canberra in a 5-2 win against Perth. Davis, a first-round pick in 2012 by Toronto, is coming off a rough year in A-ball and is batting just .125 (6-for-48) in the ABL. … East Mississippi Community College product LeDarious Clark (a Texas farmhand) has eight hits – including his first ABL homer – over his last five games to boost his average to .250 for Adelaide. He is second in the league (to Atlanta prospect Ronald Acuna) with nine steals. … Ex-Picayune High star T.J. House has signed a minor league contract with Toronto. House, a left-hander, posted a 4.44 ERA over parts of three seasons with Cleveland, which drafted him in 2008. He spent most of 2016 at Triple-A Columbus, where he had a 3.98 ERA. A starter for most of his career, House worked out of the bullpen the latter half of last season. … Mitch Moreland played on some good teams during his seven seasons in Texas but none could compare with what Boston will trot out in 2017. “I’m super excited,” Amory native Moreland said in a recent mlb.com story. “I’ve always been a fan of Boston, the fans, the background, history of the team.” The lefty-hitting first baseman hit .233 with 22 homers and won a Gold Glove for the Rangers in 2016. He should be a good fit on a Red Sox club that shapes up as a real threat to steal the Chicago Cubs’ crown.
Friday was a good day for baseball in Perth, where the temperature at game time between the Adelaide Bite and the host Heat was 73 degrees, according to the Australian Baseball League box score. It was a good day for LeDarious Clark, too, according to the same box score. The former Southeast Lauderdale High and East Mississippi Community College standout, batting leadoff and playing left field for Adelaide, went 2-for-6 with a couple of RBIs and a run in the Bite’s 8-2 win. Clark, a Texas Rangers prospect, is batting .214 with eight RBIs, seven runs and seven steals in 13 games in the ABL. A 12th-round pick in 2015 out of West Florida, Clark hit .276 with eight homers, 24 RBIs, seven triples and 29 runs at the short season level that summer. He smacked 11 homers and stole 24 bases in low Class A this past season but batted only .242 and fanned 99 times in 314 at-bats. … The other Mississippi native playing Down Under, former Stone County star D.J. Davis, is struggling. Davis, a former first-round pick by Toronto, is batting .095 in 11 games for Canberra.
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.
Big day today at the plate for Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal who is tuning up his game in Australia this winter. Alford, batting leadoff for Canberra, went 3-for-4 with a homer, two RBIs and three runs in the Cavalry’s 10-3 win. In 30 games Down Under, Alford, a center fielder, is batting .216 (with a .346 on-base percentage) and has three homers, eight RBIs, 29 runs and nine steals in 11 attempts. The former Southern Miss and Ole Miss football player will head to spring training next month with Toronto and likely start the 2015 campaign in A-ball. Alford, a third-round pick by the Blue Jays in 2012, hasn’t played a lot of baseball since leaving Petal, but he’s only 20. He’s got time to develop. … Toronto also has former Stone County High star D.J. Davis in its system. Davis, also 20 and an outfielder, was the Jays’ top pick in 2012 and spent last season at Class A Lansing, where Alford played five games last summer. Davis is listed as the No. 9 prospect in the organization.
Four months from today, the Mississippi Braves will open the 2015 season — their 11th at Trustmark Park in Pearl — against the Tennessee Smokies. Sure, it’s a little early to start a countdown … but what the heck. Here’s a shot in the dark at how the team might line up come April 9. At catcher, Tyler Tewell, who batted .251 with eight home runs and 45 RBIs at Class A Lynchburg. Braeden Schlehuber (.230, 41 RBIs for the M-Braves) could return at that spot. At first base, Seth Loman, the minor league veteran who was re-signed after hitting .261 with 11 homers and 59 RBIs in an injury-interrupted campaign. At second base, Emerson Landoni, who batted .271 for the M-Braves before getting sent down to open the job for rising prospect Jose Peraza. At shortstop, Daniel Castro, another midseason call-up from Lynchburg who batted .277 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 51 games. At third base, Kevin Ahrens, a former Toronto first-rounder who hit .266 with seven homers, 65 RBIs and 41 doubles at Lynchburg. In the outfield, David Rohm (.255 in Mississippi), Will Skinner (.253, 11 homers, 52 RBIs at Lynchburg) and Cuban Dian Tascano, 25, who reportedly agreed to terms with Atlanta on Monday and needs some minor league seasoning. Also in the outfield picture are Matt Lipka and Robby Hefflinger, each coming off a poor, injury-marred season. The rotation may well be headed by Lucas Sims, Atlanta’s top pick in 2012 who went 8-11 with a 4.19 ERA at Lynchburg, or Tyrell Jenkins, acquired from St. Louis in the Jason Heyward deal. Greg Ross (7-3, 2.08) impressed with the M-Braves in 2014, and Jarrett Miller (8-9, 4.04) was a steady arm in Lynchburg. J.R. Graham, who had a rough 2014 coming back from injury, might well be back in the bullpen. Alex Wilson (16 saves, 2.02 ERA) was an outstanding closer at Lynchburg. As for who’ll be managing the 2015 M-Braves, Atlanta has not yet announced its minor league staff assignments, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Aaron Holbert back at the helm for a fourth year. He has done a commendable job. P.S. Former Petal High star Anthony Alford is plugging away with decent results in the Australian Baseball League. Alford, a Toronto prospect, is hitting just .239 but has a .346 on-base percentage and 21 runs in 18 games as Canberra’s leadoff batter. He hit his second homer on Sunday. … Former Hattiesburg High standout Robert Carson, hoping to get back to the big leagues, is pitching in the Dominican Winter League and has not allowed a run in three appearances for the Gigantes del Cibao. The big left-hander, who has a 6.82 career ERA in 31 MLB games (all with the New York Mets), is now in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ system, his third organization.
With five hits in his last three outings, Anthony Alford appears to be finding his stroke in the Australian Baseball League. The former Mr. Baseball from Petal High is 5-for-12 with a home run, six runs and two RBIs in his last three games for Canberra. For the young ABL season, Alford is at .219. Drafted by Toronto in the third round in 2012, Alford has just 94 minor-league at-bats to date as he had been focused on football, which he has now given up. … Mississippians Hunter Renfroe and Tim Anderson got kudos from mlb.com’s Jim Callis for their work in the Arizona Fall League, which wrapped up last week. Mississippi State product Renfroe, a San Diego prospect, batted .284 with a league-best six homers and 20 RBIs. He also led the AFL in extra base hits, total bases and slugging. Anderson, a Chicago White Sox prospect from East Central Community College, hit .301 with six steals. “(F)ew shortstops can match his tools,” Callis wrote. … Tyrell Jenkins, the 6-foot-4 right-hander acquired by Atlanta from St. Louis in the Jason Heyward deal, posted a 2.22 ERA in the AFL. Jenkins, 22, is a candidate for the Mississippi Braves’ roster in 2015, which will be his sixth pro season. He pitched in high-A ball this past season. … Former M-Braves star Jeff Francoeur will get another shot (how many is that?) at making a big league club next spring, this time with Philadelphia. Francouer had a big year (.289, 15 homers, 69 RBIs) in Triple-A with San Diego in 2014, though he didn’t hit at all in his MLB trial. … Ex-MSU standout Tyler Moore is batting .299 with six homers, 17 RBIs and 19 runs in 22 games in the Dominican Winter League as he attempts to improve his stock in the Washington organization. … Mississippi Gulf Coast CC alumnus Roy Corcoran, 34, is pitching in the Mexican Pacific League. The onetime major leaguer is 2-3 with a 3.66 ERA for Hermosillo. Corcoran, who originally signed with the Montreal Expos in 2001, pitched in independent ball the last two years. His last MLB season was 2009; he has a career 4.17 ERA in 82 games. … Belhaven University is ranked No. 14 in the NAIA preseason poll. The Blazers open the 2015 campaign on Jan. 30 at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson. William Carey also opens that day in Hattiesburg.
Hunter Renfroe mashed a grand slam in a televised Arizona Fall League game on Saturday. The former Mississippi State standout and San Diego prospect is batting .271 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in the AFL. … East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson, also playing in the AFL, had another three-hit game on Saturday and is batting .313 with two homers and five stolen bases. The Chicago White Sox prospect missed a big chunk of the 2014 season because of a broken wrist. “I definitely saw some things that helped me become a better ballplayer,” he told mlb.com about his downtime. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford, understandably rusty, is 2-for-16 with eight strikeouts in the Australian Baseball League, where Toronto sent him to get some work in preparation for his return to the minors in 2015. … Belhaven University senior second baseman Paul Pickerrell has been named to the NAIA preseason All-America team. The Pearl River CC transfer batted .345 with 38 runs and 38 steals for the Blazers in 2014. … Preston Brown threw five scoreless innings and Reid Humphreys, the former Northwest Rankin High star, went 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs as the Maroon beat the Gray 8-0 in a Mississippi State fall scrimmage on Saturday. … Hinds CC, the NJCAA Division II runner-up in 2014, will open its 2015 season on Feb. 7 in Raymond against Mineral Area (Mo.) College. The Eagles will play 28 MACJC games next season. With Meridian re-joining the state association, every team in the league will play two games against every other team. There are still North and South divisions, but the playoff qualifying system has been altered slightly.
One of the fun things about watching the Atlanta Braves on a regular basis is marveling at Jason Heyward’s skill with the glove in right field. The former Mississippi Braves star catches everything. He was justly rewarded on Wednesday as the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year. Ex-M-Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons was also named to Wilson’s nine-man all-defensive team. Both Heyward and Simmons previously won Rawlings National League Gold Gloves. Along with Heyward’s glove and Simmons’ rifle arm, there are other treats provided by other former M-Braves in Atlanta: Freddie Freeman’s stroke, Evan Gattis’ power, Craig Kimbrel’s heat, Alex Wood’s “funkiness,” the grit of Tommy LaStella and Phil Gosselin. Those things are fun to watch. Of course, for longtime Braves fans, it would be more fun to watch the team make a deep postseason run. Haven’t seen that in a while. P.S. The Cincinnati Reds were named the Wilson Defensive Team of the Year, which is a nod to, among others, Zack Cozart and Billy Hamilton. Former Ole Miss standout Cozart and Taylorsville High product Hamilton man the key positions of shortstop and center field, and both are very good. … Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal (see previous posts), went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts as the Canberra leadoff batter in his Australian Baseball League debut.