17 Aug

hot stuff

Red-hot Alex Jackson banged out a couple more hits, including a home run, in the Mississippi Braves’ loss to Pensacola at Trustmark Park on Wednesday night. He is 10-for-23 with two bombs and seven RBIs in his last five games. If you follow the MLB draft – and who doesn’t, right? – you may remember the name Alex Jackson. In 2014, he was a high school phenom in San Diego, a big masher considered to be one of the best hitters available, a possible No. 1 overall pick. Seattle took him with the sixth selection, and for two years he sat atop their prospect chart. For whatever reason, the Mariners soured on Jackson. After the 2016 season, when he hit .243 with 11 homers and 103 strikeouts in low-A ball, the M’s traded Jackson to Atlanta in a minor league deal. Seattle had converted the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Jackson from catcher to the outfield; the Braves moved him back behind the plate, a switch Jackson reportedly was eager to make. He started 2017 at high-A Florida, hit .270 with 14 homers and 45 RBIs in 66 games and began to revive some of the old hype. He was promoted to Double-A on July 30. After a slow start, Jackson’s recent surge has raised his average to .239 in 12 games. … Also on fire for the M-Braves is Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High star who was a first-round supplemental pick in 2015. The 20-year-old third baseman, who also started 2017 at Florida, is hitting .364 with two homers and 10 RBIs over his last 10 games and is at .276 with four homers in 29 Double-A games. … And up at Triple-A Gwinnett, Ronald Acuna, the Braves’ No. 1 prospect, is batting .341 with seven homers and is banging on the big-league door. The 19-year-old outfielder, who also started this season in A-ball, blew through Mississippi, hitting .326 with nine bombs in 57 games. P.S. Madison Central product Spencer Turnbull, pitching in the Detroit system, got roughed up in his Double-A debut on Wednesday night. He allowed six hits, five walks and six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings for Erie in the Eastern League. The 2014 second-round pick out of Alabama was 7-3 with a 3.05 ERA in high-A ball this season.

02 Aug

line of night

Competition was stiff for MLB Line of the Night, Mississippi Division. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton put up a 4223 (AB-R-H-RBI) on Tuesday, with a homer and a triple, his eighth, which ranks second in the big leagues. Ole Miss product Seth Smith had a 3223 with a double. Jarrod Dyson, the ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star, produced a 5221 with a stolen base, No. 24 on the year. Former Mississippi State standouts Hunter Renfroe (3220) and Adam Frazier (4030) also put up some numbers worthy of mention. But Line of the Night must go to State product Mitch Moreland, whose 5323 included a double, a homer, his 13th, and a “productive” out that figured prominently in Boston’s crazy 12-10 win against Cleveland. With two outs and one on in the ninth at Fenway Park, the Red Sox down a run, Moreland reached first on a wild-pitch third strike. Christian Vazquez followed with a three-run bomb that beat Indians closer Cody Allen and moved Boston back into first place in the American League East. P.S. Dyson’s stolen base was the 200th of his career. He has an amazing 85 percent success rate. The McComb native ranks third among Mississippians on the all-time steals list, behind Hamilton (228) and Gee Walker (223). … Smith’s big night helped Baltimore beat Kansas City and give Buck Showalter his 1,481st managerial victory. The former State star moved into sole possession of 24th place on the all-time list, ahead of Earl Weaver. … Former Mississippi Braves Lucas Sims and Ozzie Albies debuted for Atlanta on Tuesday. Sims took the loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing three runs in six innings. Albies went 0-for-2 with a run.

26 Jul

alive and kicking?

They have a pulse. Given up for dead two weeks ago when their record fell to 4-15, the Mississippi Braves have come alive on the current homestand. The 11-19 record still looks bad, and they’re in last place, but they’re just 3.5 games back of first-place Jacksonville in the Southern League South. After starting the second half 0-10 at Trustmark Park, the M-Braves have won five of six on this homestand, three by walk-off, including the victory against Jacksonville on Tuesday night. Those kind of wins can energize a team. They’ve got the starting pitching — always the key ingredient — to make a run at the division title. Mike Soroka – a true ace at 10-5, 2.32 ERA – Kolby Allard and Luiz Gohara rank in the top 10 in Baseball America’s recently updated Atlanta prospect chart. Max Fried is a prospect, too, his 2-11, 6.44 ledger notwithstanding. The bullpen has been a bit of a revolving door, with 11 different pitchers recording at least one save, but there are good arms out there. The lineup, on paper, doesn’t scare anybody. The averages, 1 through 8, from Tuesday: .220, .187, .244, .263, .273, .215, .269, .202. Mega-prospect Ronald Acuna is gone to Triple-A. Recent arrivals Austin Riley and Tyler Neslony, the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters, would certainly help the cause if they can muster big finishes. Riley, the highly regarded former DeSoto Central High star, has power. Neslony, a 2016 draftee out of Texas Tech, hit .309 at Class A Florida before his promotion. Joey Meneses (.273), Jared James (.272) and Southwest Mississippi CC alum Kade Scivicque (.269) have been solid all season. Travis Demeritte and Connor Lien have struggled but do provide pop with 13 and nine homers, respectively. There are 40 games left in the half. The M-Braves have time. And, as they’ve shown these last few days, they have a pulse.

24 Jul

around the horn

Only one player in the majors was hotter than Alex Presley over the last seven days. The former Ole Miss standout went 13-for-25, including a 3-for-5 on Sunday, for Detroit. His .520 average was second to Chris Taylor’s .542 for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Journeyman Presley, who is with his fifth major league team, is batting .344 on the year for the Tigers, who appear to have waved the white flag on 2017. … Ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton was hot, too, batting .385 over the last seven days for Cincinnati, another scuffling team. “Billy is hitting the ball on the screws again,” Reds manager Bryan Price said in an Associated Press story. Hamilton (.258 on the season) had three hits and stole two bases on Sunday; he leads the majors with 43 bags. … Southern Miss product Brian Dozier is riding a nine-game hit streak for Minnesota, still contending in the American League Central. He hit his 16th homer on Sunday, his third during the streak. … Former Ole Miss star Bobby Wahl, on a rehab assignment with Oakland, has fanned six batters in two innings of work at Class A Stockton. He has eight K’s in 7 2/3 MLB innings this year; he has been on the disabled list since May 24. … USM alum Dylan Burdeaux, a 20th-round pick by Detroit last month, is batting .294 in four games at Class A West Michigan; the first baseman hit .319 in 13 games at the short-season A level. Burdeaux led NCAA Division I in hits this season with 102 (six more than Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker). … Kirk McCarty, also drafted out of USM in June (seventh round), has a 0.59 ERA in six appearances for Cleveland’s short-season Mahoning Valley club. Left-hander McCarty tossed three hitless innings on Sunday. … Ex-State star Jake Robson, a second-year pro, is batting .340 in 24 games at high-A Lakeland in the Detroit system. The lefty-swinging outfielder is hitting .432 over his last 10 games. … Highly rated Atlanta prospect Kolby Allard yielded a grand slam and a three-run bomb in the Mississippi Braves’ 7-0 loss to Biloxi at Trustmark Park on Sunday. Allard (5-9) has allowed six homers in his last three starts and seen his ERA jump from 2.88 to 3.75. … Ole Miss’ Ryan Rolison got the win with a 1-2-3 inning in Saturday’s Cape Cod League All-Star Game. Rolison, 4-0 with a 1.86 ERA for Orleans this summer, also got rave reviews from Baseball America, which reports that the left-hander is looking like a first-round pick in 2018.

18 Jul

sneak preview

Austin Riley is projected by Baseball America to be Atlanta’s third baseman by 2020. The former DeSoto Central High star has climbed the minor-league ladder at a good pace, reaching the Double-A level midway through his third pro season at age 20. He’ll make his much-anticipated Trustmark Park debut on Wednesday as the Mississippi Braves open a 10-game homestand during which Riley will have a chance to display the power bat and rifle arm that enticed the Braves to draft him 41st overall in 2015. Riley, 6 feet 3, 220 pounds, is 4-for-18 for the M-Braves to date; he hit his first Double-A homer on Monday at Pensacola. He doesn’t arrive in Pearl with quite the same pizzazz that accompanied Ronald Acuna, but Riley is rated among the top 18 prospects in Atlanta’s loaded system by three different publications. He has already had a decorated minor league career, making Baseball America’s rookie-level All-Star team in 2015 and low Class A team in 2016. He was a midseason All-Star pick in the high-A Florida State League last month and was batting .252 with 12 homers for Florida at the time of his promotion. MLB Pipeline’s scouting report notes that Riley, like many young sluggers, needs to be more selective at the plate, cut down on strikeouts and draw more walks. But his raw power excites, and how that tool plays at Trustmark Park will be something to watch for. … Riley, who was born in Memphis but grew up in Southaven, joins the list of Mississippians to play for the M-Braves that includes Zack Bird, Jay Powell, Michael Rosamond, John Thomson, Van Pope and Brent Leach.

18 Jul

here and there

Seth Smith’s 10th home run of the season helped Baltimore beat Texas 3-1 on Monday. The former Ole Miss standout has reached double digits in home runs in all but one of his last nine MLB seasons, which he has spent with five different clubs. … UM alum Alex Presley had two hits for Detroit and is now 20-for-67 (.299) in 25 games as a bench player for the Tigers. … All-Star Corey Dickerson, the ex-Meridian Community College star, has gone homerless in 18 straight games for Tampa Bay. He has 17 bombs on the year. His recent slump has dropped his average to .311. … Mississippi Gulf Coast CC product Tony Sipp gave up two homers in the 10th inning and took the loss for Houston against Seattle. Sipp, whose ERA rose to 4.45, has yielded five homers in 28 1/3 innings. He allowed 12 in 43 2/3 in 2016. … There are reports that Atlanta is considering sending Dansby Swanson to the minors. The ex-Mississippi Braves star is batting .220 and losing playing time at shortstop to Johan Camargo, who is batting .322. … Mississippi State alum Dakota Hudson improved to 8-4 with a 2.69 ERA for Double-A Springfield in the St. Louis system. The 2016 first-round draftee allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings of work on Monday. … Also on that Springfield team is Ole Miss product Chris Ellis, who has trimmed his ERA to 3.82 with a couple of good outings. Ellis began the season in Triple-A but was demoted with a 7.88 ERA. … Former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley belted his first Double-A homer on Monday for the M-Braves, who lost at Pensacola to fall to 6-18 in the second half of the Southern League campaign. The M-Braves, 0-10 at Trustmark Park this half, host Biloxi (11-14) for a five-game series starting Wednesday. … Ole Miss’ Ryan Rolison and State’s Jake Mangum have been chosen for the Cape Cod League All-Star Game, set for Saturday in Wareham, Mass. Rolison is 4-0, 1.86 ERA for Orleans (East), and Mangum is batting .337 with 12 runs and 10 steals for Harwich (West).

14 Jul

going places

New level, no problem for Atlanta prospects Austin Riley and Ronald Acuna. Former DeSoto Central High star Riley went 2-for-4 in his Double-A debut with the Mississippi Braves on Thursday night, while Acuna, promoted from the M-Braves to Triple-A Gwinnett, homered and added two more hits for the G-Braves. Riley, a first-round supplemental pick in 2015, is rated the No. 11 prospect in Atlanta’s system by Baseball America and No. 12 by MLB Pipeline. The 20-year-old played third base and batted third for the M-Braves in a 2-0 win at Pensacola. He was batting .252 with 12 homers at high Class A Florida after belting 20 bombs at low-A Rome in 2016. Travis Demeritte, also regarded as a prospect, moved back to second base from third in Thursday’s game for the M-Braves; Demeritte has 11 homers but is hitting just .211. (The M-Braves’ next home game is July 19.) In Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, the 19-year-old Acuna, BA’s No. 10 overall prospect, played right field and batted leadoff in the G-Braves’ 13-4 victory. After fanning in his first at-bat, he went yard in his second. He scored three times and drove in two runs. Acuna, who began this season with the high-A Florida club, hit .326 with nine homers – including a shot over the Trustmark Park batter’s eye on Tuesday – 30 RBIs and 19 steals in 57 games for the M-Braves. He played in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday. The Braves may be considering adding Acuna to the big league roster if they are still in the playoff hunt in the season’s final weeks. He could be a difference-maker.