22 Aug

minor matters

It’s safe to assume Hunter Renfroe is on a mission to get back to the big leagues, and he is certainly off to a good start. Renfroe, the Mississippi State product from Crystal Springs, went 3-for-5 with a double and a triple Monday in his first game with Triple-A El Paso. The rookie outfielder was sent down by San Diego after hitting .230 with 20 home runs and 125 strikeouts through 111 games. … Ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford is on a similar mission. Alford, who got a brief call-up with Toronto in May, doubled, homered and stole a base Monday for Double-A New Hampshire. Alford is hitting .371 over his last 10 games and .322 for the season, with five homers, 23 RBIs and 15 bags. … Bobby Bradley, the former Harrison Central star and a top Cleveland prospect, also had a day: a double, a homer and four RBIs for Double-A Akron. Bradley, a lefty-hitting first baseman, has hit at a .389 clip over his last 10 games, raising his average to .246 with 21 homers and 82 RBIs. Not yet on the Indians’ 40-man roster, the 21-year-old Bradley may be a year away from the big leagues. … Ole Miss alum J.B. Woodman, a Toronto prospect in just his second pro season, went 2-for-5 with two doubles on Monday for Class A Lansing and is hitting .342 over his last 10 games. He’s at .255 with six homers and 42 RBIs this season.

18 Aug

whatever happened to …

Scott Copeland, the former Southern Miss ace and onetime big leaguer, is still taking the mound every fifth day for the New Orleans Baby Cakes, Miami’s Triple-A affiliate. The 6-foot-3 right-hander, 29, worked 7 2/3 innings on Thursday night, yielding just two runs with eight strikeouts but getting no decision. He is 8-10 with a 5.31 ERA, a number inflated by a couple of bad outings. Copeland was a horse at USM in 2010, winning his first 11 decisions and earning Conference USA Tournament MVP honors. Drafted by Baltimore in the 21st round in 2010, he was released in 2012 and signed with Toronto. He spent parts of five seasons in the Blue Jays’ system and got his cup of coffee in the big leagues – with several refills, actually – for the Jays in 2015. He was up and down from Triple-A Buffalo to Toronto multiple times that season and managed to get into five MLB games, going 1-1, 6.46. He went to Korea for a stint in 2016, returned and re-signed with Toronto. He became a free agent again last off-season and signed a minor league deal with the Marlins. Copeland has a career minor league ledger of 60-62, 4.18 over 174 games, 57 of those in Triple-A, where you can smell the big league coffee but not quite taste it.

15 Aug

it’s a journey

Drafted by the Florida Marlins out of Ole Miss in 2006, Chris Coghlan has worn a lot of different unies and played in a lot of different towns over the years. “I am really grateful for the journey that I’ve had, honestly,” he told MLB Network earlier this year. He won a rookie of the year award in 2009 and a World Series ring last fall. He also endured injuries and demotions. Alas, his mercurial career took another downturn last week. Coghlan was on a rehab assignment for Toronto when the Blue Jays, needing to clear roster space, released the 32-year-old outfielder/infielder. He has been with four different teams since the start of 2016 and now finds himself looking for a fifth. He hit .200 in 36 games for the Blue Jays, making his biggest impression when he hurtled Yadier Molina at home plate back in April. A lefty hitter with versatility, Coghlan might be able to catch on with a contending team in need. Maybe his journey will continue, maybe not. Desmond Jennings has been without a team since mid-June. The former Itawamba Community College star, drafted the same year as Coghlan, has been released three times since last August, most recently by the New York Mets. He was batting .237 with eight homers for their Triple-A Las Vegas club. Beset by injuries in recent years, the 30-year-old outfielder’s once-promising career has veered way off course. Hopefully, he enjoyed the journey.

09 Aug

coming up big

The home run was big, but the single proved bigger for Bobby Bradley on Tuesday night. Bradley, the ex-Harrison Central High star, delivered a walk-off hit in the ninth inning for Akron in a 4-3 win against New Hampshire in the Double-A Eastern League. Bradley hit his 19th homer in the sixth, helping the Rubber Ducks rally from a 3-0 deficit. The lefty-hitting first baseman, 21, one of Cleveland’s highest-rated prospects, is batting .242 with 73 RBIs in his Double-A debut. Bradley has a .335 on-base percentage thanks in part to 49 walks, and he has cut down on strikeouts (95 in 364 at-bats) this year. He is slugging .456. A third-round pick by the Indians in 2014, he has blasted 83 homers in his four pro seasons. He’s getting close. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford, one of Toronto’s top prospects, was in New Hampshire’s lineup and went 1-for-4. Alford, 23, batting .308 in his first Class AA campaign, got a cup of coffee in the majors earlier this season before an injury knocked him back to the minors. He’ll likely return to the Blue Jays next month. P.S. Former Ole Miss and Mississippi Braves standout Chris Ellis notched his second straight win for Springfield, St. Louis’ Double-A club in the Texas League, on Tuesday. Ellis, who scuffled at Triple-A Memphis to start 2017, is 4-6, 3.60 ERA at Springfield. … Mississippi State product Zac Houston recently was elevated from low-A to high-A ball in the Detroit system. The 6-foot-5 right-hander, a 2016 draftee, has thrown 2 2/3 scoreless innings in his two appearances for Lakeland, where he has joined fellow Mississippians Will Allen, Jake Robson and Spencer Turnbull.

08 Aug

billy by number

Billy Hamilton went from the batter’s box to third base in 10.62 seconds on a triple in Cincinnati’s game against San Diego on Monday night. According to mlb.com, that’s tied for the third fastest time this season; the ex-Taylorsville High star already claims the two fastest times. Hamilton presents a bundle of compelling — and sometimes head-scratching — numbers. To wit:
44 – Stolen bases, best in the majors. His career-best is 58, which he’ll probably surpass.
9 – Triples this season, second in the big leagues and a career-high. Oddly enough, he has only 12 doubles.
70 – Runs this season, which is tied for 18th among MLB qualifiers. This despite the fact he is hitting just .251 with a .299 on-base percentage; 136 players have a higher OBP.
.340 – Batting average in the first inning. His triple on Monday came in the first – as the leadoff batter — and he would score the first run in the Reds’ 11-3 victory at Great American Ballpark.
.367 – Batting average on the first pitch. He has a homer, three triples, three doubles and seven RBIs when he puts the ball in play on the 0-0, which he has done 49 times in his 438 at-bats. As a leadoff batter, he is normally expected to work the count.
.219 – Batting average as a right-handed hitter. That’s his natural side. He is batting .265 as a lefty, where he gets most of his ABs. The Reds made Hamilton a switch-hitter after drafting him.
P.S. Former first-round pick D.J. Davis has perked up a bit at Class A Dunedin in the Toronto system. The former Stone County High standout is batting .343 over his last 10 games, raising his season average to .247. He has 28 stolen bases. This may be a critical year for the 23-year-old Davis, drafted in 2012, after he batted just .197 at the high-A level in 2016.

22 Jul

when it’s working

Where’d that come from? It has been an uneven season for Conor Fisk, the Southern Miss product now in the Toronto system. Entering Friday night’s game for Class A Dunedin, the 25-year-old right-hander had a 4-9 record and a 4.13 ERA. Then came his performance against Lakeland, one he’d surely like to bottle. Fisk retired the first 12 batters he faced and the last 12 sandwiched around one hit. He struck out six in his eight-inning effort, leading the Blue Jays to a 1-0 victory. “It was just one of those games where things were working,” Fisk told milb.com. Fisk, drafted in the 24th round out of USM in 2014, has a 3.73 career ERA working mostly out of the bullpen. This is his third stint at high-A Dunedin; he went 10-3, 3.25 for the D-Jays in 2016. While this season has been a trying one for Fisk, over his last seven appearances, all starts, he has been relatively sharp. He has a 2.09 ERA in that span, with only a couple of wobbly outings. He may have made a good case Friday for a move to Double-A. … Ex-Petal High star – and onetime USM quarterback – Anthony Alford, who was with Dunedin for several days on a big league rehab assignment, is now at Double-A New Hampshire. He went 1-for-4 on Friday.

13 Jul

divergent

Anthony Alford is back in Dunedin of the Florida State League, where he is reunited with fellow Mississippian D.J. Davis. The 2012 Toronto draft picks have seen their careers veer off in very different directions. Alford, a third-round selection out of Petal High, is in A-ball again on a major league rehab assignment. The outfielder, who turns 23 next week, was batting .325 with three homers and nine steals at Double-A New Hampshire when he was promoted to the big leagues on May 19. He was 1-for-8 before suffering a broken left wrist and landing on the disabled list on May 24. Alford, whose career was stalled for a couple of years while he played college football, is rated among the top prospects in the Blue Jays’ system. He is No. 38 on Baseball America’s most recent chart of the Top 100 overall. Davis, a first-round draftee out of Stone County, was once a highly rated prospect himself. Not so much now. The outfielder, who turns 23 on July 25, is in his second season at Dunedin after spending two years in low-A ball. He is batting .218 with 19 steals but has just six extra-base hits. He batted .197 in 2016. Perhaps inspired by Alford’s arrival, Davis went 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI for Dunedin on Wednesday. He needs a lot more days like that in what remains of his season.