18 May

one step away

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.

06 May

big league chew

Lance Lynn did not downplay the significance of his outing for Minnesota on Saturday. “It feels like a monkey is off my back, honestly,” the ex-Ole Miss star told mlb.com. Lynn, signed as a free agent this spring to bolster the rotation of team expecting to contend, earned his first win as a Twin in an 8-4 victory over the White Sox at Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field. He pitched out of some trouble early to go six innings, allowing eight hits and two runs with seven strikeouts. He is 1-3 with a 7.28 ERA this year. His career mark, in six years with St. Louis, is 73-50, 3.49. … Former East Central Community College star Tim Anderson hit two homers for the ChiSox — neither of them off Lynn — to give him six for the season, most of any Mississippian in the majors. … Mitch Moreland, the Mississippi State product from Amory, hit his fifth homer for Boston in an 8-5 win at Texas. Moreland is batting .338 with 16 RBIs for the first-place Red Sox. Also in that game, Mississippi Braves alum Craig Kimbrel notched his 300th save, becoming the sixth former Jackson area Double-A player to hit that milestone. joining Billy Wagner, Jeff Reardon, Randy Myers, Todd Jones and Rick Aguilera on that list. Ex-MSU star Jonathan Papelbon also had 300-plus. Kimbrel reached the plateau in fewer games than any pitcher in history. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford is getting his second chance in The Show, having been recalled Saturday by Toronto. Alford, one of the Blue Jays’ highest rated prospects, was injured in spring training, one of several setbacks he has suffered in his career. He is batting just .154 in 10 games at Triple-A Buffalo. He went 1-for-8 in four big league games in 2017. Alford’s career minor league average is .269 with 21 homers and 76 steals in 317 games.

01 Mar

battle-tested

Once he finally got his chance in the big leagues, former Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff did not disappoint. His numbers weren’t eye-popping – 2-3, 4.81 ERA in eight games last summer – but the touted prospect displayed some mettle for a Milwaukee team that was in a playoff race. “He made eight starts last year, and all of them were what we would all consider really big starts in big moments,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said in a recent mlb.com article. “I think he handled himself well.” Woodruff is currently battling as many as five other pitchers for two jobs on the Brewers’ opening day roster. He has made two Cactus League appearances, allowing two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. The Brewers are aiming to be a contender again in 2018. P.S. Tyler Moore, the former Northwest Rankin High, Meridian Community College and MSU standout, has been in the Florida camp for MLB free agents and played in Tuesday’s exhibition game against a Japanese amateur team. First baseman/outfielder Moore, 31, hit .230 with six homers in 101 games for Miami last season. He has spent parts of five seasons in the majors. … A scoring change erased a two-run single by Petal High product Anthony Alford in Toronto’s Wednesday exhibition game (see previous post). Alford is 4-for-11 in five games this spring.

28 Feb

coming soon

The time is near for Anthony Alford’s breakthrough. Has to be. The former Mr. Baseball from Petal isn’t penciled in as a regular outfielder for Toronto just yet, but he is in the competition for a spot on the 25-man roster. And he’s off to a good start this spring. Alford had a hit, a sacrifice fly and three RBIs in the Blue Jays’ 7-1 Grapefruit League win against Philadelphia today. He is 5-for-12 overall with a home run, a triple and six RBIs. This comes on the heels of a strong performance in the Mexican Pacific League over the winter. He batted .352 with a pair of homers, 15 RBIs and eight steals. Alford, 23, made his big league debut last season, but his stay was curtailed after eight at-bats by a hand injury. He had good numbers in Double-A before and after the injury. Alford’s career started slowly while he played football at Southern Miss and Ole Miss. He has played only 391 games over six seasons. But he has impressed. MLB Pipeline rates him the No. 3 prospect in the Jays’ system and No. 47 overall. He goes 6 feet 1, 215 pounds and is considered the fastest player in Toronto’s organization. His time is near.

19 Jan

making a list

Six Mississippians cracked Baseball America’s Top 10 Prospects lists for the 30 MLB organizations. (BA published the last of the lists today on its website.) Brandon Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State star who made his big league debut in 2017 but still has rookie status, was rated No. 2 in Milwaukee’s system. The right-hander was 2-3 with a 4.81 ERA in eight starts last year and figures to compete for a rotation spot this spring. Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal, was No. 3 in Toronto’s system, and Bobby Bradley, the ex-Harrison Central High standout, was Cleveland’s No. 3. Alford, an outfielder, had a cup of coffee with the Blue Jays last spring and is coming off a strong winter league showing. Bradley, a first baseman, has intriguing left-handed power but didn’t have a great season in Double-A and scuffled in the Arizona Fall League. Still, the 21-year-old is rated the No. 6 overall first base prospect by mlb.com, and he did get another invite to big league camp. DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley climbed to No. 6 on Atlanta’s chart. The power-hitting third baseman reached Double-A Mississippi last summer and likely will start 2018 in Triple-A. Brent Rooker, who had a monster season for MSU last spring, continued to rake (.281, 18 homers, 52 RBIs) in Minnesota’s system and earned a No. 7 rating. Dakota Hudson, another ex-Bulldogs star, is St. Louis’ No. 9 prospect after going 10-3 with a 3.01 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017. Not yet on the 40-man roster, Hudson probably will get some time in the big camp this spring. Worth noting: Ke’Bryan Hayes, son of Hattiesburg native and ex-big leaguer Charlie Hayes, is the fourth-rated prospect in Pittsburgh’s organization.

21 Dec

waiting in the wings

You won’t find Anthony Alford’s name on the Toronto Blue Jays’ outfield depth chart that appears on mlb.com. But the former Petal High star will certainly get a long look in spring training, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him make the opening day roster. Alford, 23, has enhanced his credentials with his play in the Mexican Pacific League, a winter assignment he reportedly asked for. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound right-handed hitter is riding a nine-game hit streak that has boosted his average to .344. He has two homers, 15 RBIs, 17 runs and eight steals in 23 games for Jalisco. “Anthony can make your day on and off the field on a regular basis,” Toronto general manager Ross Atkins recently told the Toronto Sun. Alford spent most of 2017 in Double-A, batting .310 with five homers. He played four games in the majors early in the season before being derailed by a hand injury. Expect his next big league stay to be much longer.

06 Dec

quality at-bats

Limited to 81 games – four in the majors — in 2017 because of injury, Anthony Alford is making up for the lost at-bats in the Mexican Pacific League. The ex-Petal High star, a highly rated Toronto prospect, debuted for Jalisco on Nov. 22 and is batting .367 over his first 12 games. He has two three-hit games with a homer, six RBIs and eight runs. Alford, 23, jumped from Double-A to the big leagues last May but got hurt and spent the rest of the season in the minors. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound outfielder batted .310 with five homers in 68 games at New Hampshire. P.S. Detroit has signed veteran Leonys Martin, ostensibly to compete with Richton High product JaCoby Jones for the center field job. Jones batted .170 with three homers, 13 RBIs and six steals in 56 games with the Tigers. He was hit in the face by a pitch early in the season and spent time on the disabled list.