Baseball America liked the 2017 Mississippi Braves. They really liked them. Five M-Braves are in the top 10 in the magazine’s ranking of the Top 20 prospects in the Southern League. A sixth made the list, which was released today. The M-Braves’ record on the field wasn’t so great, but the talent Atlanta appears to be developing is impressive. Ronald Acuna, BA’s minor league player of the year, was rated No. 1 in the SL. Look for him in the outfield at SunTrust Park next season. Young pitchers Mike Soroka (ranked No. 4), Luiz Gohara (5), Kolby Allard (10) and Max Fried (19) could be key pieces in the Atlanta rotation in the not-so-distant future. Gohara and Fried already have big league wins on their resumes. Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star, was ranked No. 6 by BA’s editors, who raved about his raw power. He hit eight homers in 178 at-bats as a 20-year-old in Double-A. He’ll challenge for Atlanta’s third-base job soon enough. … Two Biloxi Shuckers made the Top 20: right-handers Corbin Burnes (No. 8) and Luis Ortiz (11). Burnes was Milwaukee’s pick as its minor league pitcher of the year after going 3-3 with a 2.10 ERA for Biloxi and 5-0, 1.05 in A-ball.
It was, to use Hunter Renfroe’s own word, “humbling” to be sent back to the minor leagues after almost five months as a big league regular with San Diego. “You either grow from it or you fail from it,” the ex-Mississippi State standout told The Associated Press. The 25-year-old rookie returned to the Padres with some vigor on Monday, hitting a three-run homer in his first at-bat that propelled the team to a 4-2 win over Arizona. Renfroe went down to Triple-A El Paso on Aug. 18 and hit .509 with four home runs in 14 games, then helped the club reach Game 5 of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series. Monday’s homer was Renfroe’s 21st for the Padres. He also struck out for the 126th time; he has just 26 walks. How Renfroe handles the last two weeks of the season will be closely scrutinized. P.S. Brent Suter threw five shutout innings and fellow former Biloxi Shuckers star Brett Phillips threw out a runner from center field to end the game as Milwaukee kept its playoff drive alive with a 3-0 win at Pittsburgh.
The Milwaukee Brewers, desperate for every win they can get, will send former Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff to the bump today to face Miami, which is the “home” team at Miller Park. The Brewers are 4 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central and running 3 games off the pace in the wild card race. Woodruff, a rookie, has pitched well. The big right-hander is 1-2 with a 3.14 ERA in his five career starts. He is one of several former Biloxi Shuckers who could be key figures in the Brewers’ drive for the postseason. Seventeen Shuckers alums have reached the majors since the team debuted in 2015. The most accomplished of that group so far is shortstop Orlando Arcia, who is batting .273 with 14 homers, 48 RBIs and 13 steals in his second season as a starter. Brett Phillips, a spare outfielder for the Brewers, is the only other ex-Shuckers position player of note; he is batting .220 with two homers in 24 games. There are Shuckers aplenty on the Milwaukee pitching staff. Josh Hader, an electrifying left-hander, has had a significant impact out of the pen, posting a 1.85 ERA in 30 games. Brent Suter also has been effective with a 2-2 mark and 3.66 ERA in 19 games, including 11 starts. Jacob Barnes is 3-4, 4.29 with two saves. Taylor Williams (5.40 ERA in two appearances) and Aaron Wilkerson (scoreless inning in his debut on Friday) are the most recent call-ups. P.S. Northwest Mississippi Community College product Cody Reed notched his first career save for Cincinnati on Saturday, getting the last out against Pittsburgh. … Ex-State star Jonathan Holder has been recalled from the minors by the New York Yankees, who remain in the thick of the playoff race in the American League. Holder had a 1.69 ERA for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season and has a 3.58 in 34 games for New York.
Ole Miss product Zack Cozart, eligible to come off the disabled list (thigh strain) on Wednesday for Cincinnati, could be activated today, according to reports. The Reds host the Chicago Cubs this weekend at Great American Ballpark. Cozart is batting .320 with nine homers and 33 RBIs and led the voting for National League All-Star shortstop at last look. The rosters will be announced on Sunday on ESPN. … McComb native and Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson was leading the vote for American League DH in the most recently released results. He is batting .330 with 17 homers and 39 RBIs for Tampa Bay. … Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton, the ex-Taylorsville High standout, was passed by Trea Turner for the MLB stolen base lead on Thursday, but with Turner now on the disabled list (broken wrist), Hamilton is the leading active thief with 33 bags. Turner has 35, Miami’s Dee Gordon 29. … Former Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe hit his first home run in 13 days on Thursday, helping San Diego beat Atlanta. Renfroe has 16 homers – a record for a Padres rookie before the All-Star break – though he is batting just .225. … Former Mississippi Braves standout Freddie Freeman is expected to make a rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday. He could return to the Braves – at third base – next week. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out. M-Braves alum Johan Camargo has played fairly well at third for Atlanta and is batting .293 with 12 RBIs and 10 runs in 31 games all told. … Current M-Braves Mike Soroka and Ronald Acuna have been chosen for the World team in the All-Star Futures Game, set for July 9 in Miami. Former Biloxi Shuckers shortstop Mauricio Dubon, now in Triple-A, is also on the World roster. … Jake Mangum is off to a sizzling start in the Cape Cod League. The MSU star out of Jackson Prep is batting .359 with hits in nine of the 10 games he has played for Hyannis. Mangum had two hits in each of his first five games in the summer league. He was drafted in the 30th round by the New York Yankees as an eligible sophomore but is expected to return to Starkville for the 2018 season. … Brandon’s John “J.T.” Ginn and Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray have been participating in the Tournament of Stars this week in Cary, N.C. They are among the 80 prep players invited to the USA Baseball complex to compete for spots on the Under-18 National Team.
Brandon Woodruff was slated to make his big league debut today for Milwaukee, but cbssports.com has reported that the former Mississippi State star was scratched with right hamstring tightness. Ouch. Woodruff, a highly rated prospect in his fourth pro season, was 6-4 with a 4.12 ERA at Triple-A Colorado Springs. The Wheeler High product pitched for the Biloxi Shuckers last year, going 10-8, 3.01 and earning minor league pitcher of the year honors in the Brewers’ system (see previous posts).
The stars came out – a couple of them, at least – in the Mississippi Braves’ 5-4, 12-inning win against Biloxi on Wednesday night at Trustmark Park. Two of the M-Braves’ seven Southern League All-Star selections – announced on Wednesday — played key roles in the victory, which moved the team to 30-29. The M-Braves are 3 games back of first-place Pensacola in the SL South with 11 games left in the first half. The amazing Ronald Acuna went 2-for-5 with two RBIs and fellow All-Star Joey Meneses put up a 2-for-4, including a single to open the 12th and start the winning rally. Acuna, 19, is batting .367 with four homers, 20 RBIs and 14 steals in 28 Double-A games. Of the other star picks, Travis Demeritte – the team’s home run leader — had an off-night (0-for-6), and Luis Valenzuela, who’s been sidelined for several days, walked as a pinch hitter. Catcher Kade Scivicque, the Southwest Mississippi Community College product, got a night off, and 19-year-old aces Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka had already worked in the series. After tonight’s game against the Shuckers, the M-Braves travel to Pensacola for five. … Atlanta had 19 players picked for minor league All-Star Games, including DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley in the Florida State League. The third baseman is batting .248 with eight homers and 35 RBIs for the Florida Fire Frogs.
Don’t look now, but ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart has climbed into the top two at shortstop in the National League All-Star voting. Cozart, batting .348 with nine home runs and 33 RBIs for Cincinnati, trails the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Corey Seager and is just ahead of the Chicago Cubs’ Addison Russell. Cozart, in his seventh big league season, has never made the All-Star Game. He said it was “a little shocking” to pass Russell, who is buoyed by Cubs fever. Cozart leads NL shortstops in most offensive categories and is also tops in Defensive Runs Saved. He went 2-for-4 on Monday night against St. Louis – extending his on-base streak to 27 games – and was in the middle of a game-winning four-run rally in the seventh inning. The Reds (26-30) are battling to stay afloat in the NL Central. P.S. Former Biloxi Shuckers standout Brett Phillips was 1-for-3 with an outfield assist (and an error) in his MLB debut for Milwaukee. Phillips is the 12th Shuckers alum to make the majors, a list that includes Orlando Arcia, Jacob Barnes and Yadiel Rivera.