10 Sep

just having fun

The team he left behind in late June will play for the Southern League championship this week. But rest assured former Biloxi Shuckers standout Trent Grisham is quite happy to be where he is – with Milwaukee in the heat of a playoff race. The 22-year-old outfielder, batting leadoff for the Brewers at Miami, matched a franchise rookie record with five hits on Monday, sparking the club to an 8-3 win that kept it within 2 games of the second wild card in the National League. “It’s a lot of fun,” Grisham told mlb.com. Grisham doubled, tripled, scored twice and drove in two runs in Monday’s victory. Called up on Aug. 1, the lefty hitter is batting .260 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 32 big league games. He batted .254 with 13 homers for the Shuckers this season – his second tour with the Double-A team – and made the SL All-Star Game. He was promoted to Triple-A San Antonio on June 20. A 2015 first-round pick, Grisham is one of several ex-Shuckers having an impact with the Brewers. … The current Biloxi team, in the SL Championship Series for the third time since 2015, hosts Game 1 against the Jackson (Tenn.) Generals tonight at MGM Park.

09 Sep

newsworthy

Another dominant season by Demarcus Evans has landed the former Petal High standout on MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Year. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound right-hander pitched 60 innings over two levels in the Texas system, posting a 0.90 ERA, a 6-0 record, 12 saves, 100 strikeouts and a .119 batting average against. In his last 24 appearances at Double-A Frisco, Evans yielded just one earned run. Evans was a Class A South Atlantic League All-Star in 2018 and later was picked for the Arizona Fall League’s Rising Stars game. A 25th-round draft pick, Evans is in his fifth pro season but is only 22 years old. He is not currently ranked among the Rangers’ Top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline, but that will change next time the rankings are reconfigured. P.S. Brandon Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State and Wheeler High star, threw two simulated innings for Milwaukee on Sunday, according to reports. Out since July with an oblique injury, the 2019 All-Star may be close to returning to duty. He is 11-3 with a 3.75 ERA in 20 starts. The Brewers are just 2 games back in the National League wild card race and 6.5 behind NL Central leader St. Louis.

06 Sep

three things

Thing 1: If you watched Max Fried pitch Thursday night, you’d be lying if you claimed your jaw didn’t drop. One hit and no walks allowed over seven shutout innings against a loaded Washington lineup in the opener of a big four-game series in Atlanta. Fried is 16-4, 3.86 ERA, for the first-place Braves, who won 4-2 on Thursday. If you watched Fried pitch in 2017 for the Mississippi Braves, you’d be stretching it to say you saw this coming. In his second season after returning from Tommy John surgery, the tall left-hander from California went 2-11 with a 5.92 ERA. Ugh. He struck out 85 in 86 2/3 innings but walked 43. Acquired from San Diego in 2014 as part of the Justin Upton deal, Fried was a highly rated prospect in 2017. The Braves gave him a big league look that season and more time in 2018, when Fried posted a 2.94 ERA over 14 games. He won a job in the rotation this spring, and his development hit a new peak on Thursday. “As good as it gets” is how catcher Brian McCann described it to mlb.com. … Thing 2: Dakota Hudson, the ex-Mississippi State star and current St. Louis ace, had a day on Thursday. The rookie right-hander tossed six shutout innings, yielding just one hit, and picked up the first two RBIs of his MLB career in a 10-0 win against San Francisco. Hudson is 15-6 — two wins off the big league lead and tops among all rookies – and has a 3.40 ERA for the surging first-place Cardinals, who, according to Hudson, are having “a blast.” … Thing 3: Dylan File gave up one run over 8 1/3 innings to pace Biloxi to a 4-1 win over Pensacola in Game 2 of the Southern League South playoff series at MGM Park. The Shuckers lead the best-of-5 series 2-0. File went 9-2, 2.79 this season for the Double-A Shuckers, a Milwaukee affiliate.

04 Sep

in hot pursuit

After winning both halves of their division race, the Biloxi Shuckers will begin pursuit of an elusive pennant tonight when the Southern League South playoffs start at MGM Park. The Shuckers went 82-55 overall in 2019. They play wild card qualifier Pensacola in the best-of-5 division series. Biloxi made the postseason in 2015, its first year on the Coast, and again last year but did not capture the league title. Milwaukee’s Double-A club last won the SL pennant in 2001, when it was in Huntsville. (The Mississippi Braves, who just completed their 15th year in Pearl, have won one SL pennant, that coming in 2008.) Biloxi will be without league pitcher of the year Trey Supak, who was promoted in July, and All-Star first baseman Patrick Leonard, who is injured. All-Star closer Nate Griep (1.98 ERA, 22 saves) is still around, as is the power-hitting foursome of Weston Wilson (19 homers), Cooper Hummel (17), Jake Gatewood (13) and Dillon Thomas (13). C.J. Hinojosa is the leading hitter at .280, and Luis Aviles Jr. stole 27 bags. Alec Bettinger (5-7, 3.44) is slated to start Game 1. Former Mississippi State standout Daniel Brown (3.19) works out of the Biloxi pen, as does Clayton Andrews (2.59), who also plays some outfield (.281). … The M-Braves finished 62-74 overall and, despite a prospect-filled roster, didn’t seriously challenge in either half in the South. The M-Braves also had three players make the All-Star team: pitcher Ian Anderson and outfielders Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, who was the league’s MVP. Waters became the fifth Jackson area Double-A player to win a player of the year honor. Tim Leary, a pitcher for the Jackson Mets, won the Texas League award in 1980, a year when the league did not have a separate award for pitchers. Darryl Strawberry (1982) and Gregg Jefferies (1987) also won the TL award as JaxMets, and Roberto Petagine won it in 1993 with the Jackson Generals. Javy Lopez in 1992 was the last Braves prospect to win the SL MVP; the team was in Greenville, S.C., at that time.

29 Aug

boys of fall

A pair of former Southern Miss pitchers will get some bonus work in the Arizona Fall League, the select circuit that begins its season on Sept. 18. Bradley Roney, currently with the Mississippi Braves in Atlanta’s system, and Kirk McCarty, pitching for Lynchburg in the Cleveland organization, are on the AFL’s initial rosters announced Wednesday. More names will be added soon. Roney is one of four current M-Braves on the Scottsdale roster, joined by outfielder Greyson Jenista, outfielder Trey Harris and pitcher Connor Johnstone. Roney returned in May from roughly two years on the injured list. The 26-year-old right-handed reliever has a 2.70 ERA, two saves and 34 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings for Double-A Mississippi. Drafted in 2014, he reached Triple-A in 2016 before stalling out with arm injuries. McCarty, a left-handed starter, was a seventh-round pick in 2017. He has spent two stints on the IL this season at high Class A Lynchburg, where he has posted a 3-6 record with a 5.37 ERA in 12 games. He has a 4.03 career ERA. He’ll pitch for Mesa. Lefty Clayton Andrews, a Milwaukee prospect currently on Biloxi’s roster, is slated to pitch for Glendale.

26 Aug

that’s the ticket

Chicago White Sox scouting and development folks had to be smiling Sunday when they got the report on James Beard. Batting leadoff and playing center field for their rookie Arizona League club, the fourth-round pick out of Loyd Star High went 3-for-5 with a double, a triple, three runs and a stolen base. Beard, the first high school player picked out of Mississippi, was widely regarded as the fastest player in the 2019 draft. How much he would hit in pro ball was the great unknown, but Beard has flashed some bat skills of late. In his last four games, the 5-foot-10, 170-pounder is 7-for-20 with three RBIs. For the season, in 31 games, he is at .213 with two homers, 12 RBIs, 19 runs and nine bags (in 12 tries). Beard was compared to Taylorsville High product Billy Hamilton in pre-draft buzz, though, as MLB Pipeline’s scouting report now says: “Beard shows the potential to make much more impact at the plate than Hamilton.” Beard is rated the White Sox’s No. 21 prospect. … Joe Gray, the top prep pick from the state who signed in 2018, is rated the No. 10 prospect in Milwaukee’s system, but the ex-Hattiesburg High star is, like Beard, more of a project at this stage. Gray, also a center fielder, is batting .191 with two homers, six RBIs and three steals in 20 games at Rocky Mountain in the rookie-level Pioneer League. A second-round pick last year, the 6-1, 195-pound Gray batted .182 with two homers and six steals in the AZL last summer. His best tool might be his arm.

22 Aug

whatever happened to …

Tim Dillard, at age 36 and in his 18th pro season, has enjoyed a resurgence the last few weeks at Triple-A Nashville. Dillard, the former Itawamba Community College star from Saltillo, went seven innings Wednesday night to beat Oklahoma City 7-2 and improve to 3-0 over his last six starts. The sidewinding right-hander is 8-8 with a 4.61 ERA this season, his first in the Texas system after 17 in Milwaukee’s. The Brewers drafted Dillard, son of former big leaguer and Ole Miss alum Steve, out of ICC in 2002. He has made 582 appearances – working more than 1,500 innings — in affiliated ball, including 73 major league games, a commendable accomplishment for a 34th-round draft pick. His last MLB appearance was in 2012. Whether another call to The Show is in the cards is not something Dillard, a bit of a free spirit, is worried about. “I would say the secret to success in baseball is finding joy in every moment,” he told the Tupelo Daily Journal earlier this month. “But that’s really for life. I try to find the joy in every moment, even the bad moments.” Words to live by, for sure. P.S. Mississippi State right-hander J.T. Ginn is rated the No. 10 college prospect in the 2020 draft by mlb.com’s Jim Callis. Ginn went 8-4 with a 3.13 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 86 1/3 innings as a freshman in 2019. He’ll turn 21 next May, making him eligible for the June draft. He was the 30th overall pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of Brandon High in 2018.

19 Aug

join the crowd

Brian Dozier did not contribute to Washington’s 18-hit, 14-run barrage in a 14-inning loss to Milwaukee on Saturday night, going 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter. Maybe he felt a little left out. On Sunday, the ex-Southern Miss star started at second base and made quite an impact. Dozier went 3-for-4 with two of the Nationals’ eight home runs plus a season-high four RBIs in a 16-8 victory against the Brewers, the Nats’ sixth win in the last seven games. Dozier said in a TV interview that he felt energized by the way his teammates were swinging the bats; they had 19 hits all told on Sunday. “You kind of want to join the crowd,” he said. A free agent signee in the off-season, Dozier has struggled at times this year. His .236 average is about 10 points below his career mark coming into 2019. He had only two homers this month before Sunday’s outburst. He now has 19 on the year, one shy of reaching 20 for the sixth straight season. He has 191 career homers; only four Mississippi natives have topped 200 career bombs in the big leagues. And he went over 1,000 career hits earlier this year. As the Nationals chase a playoff berth – they’re 5.5 games out in the National League East and lead the wild card race – they can probably count on Dozier, now an eight-year veteran, to step up in some big moments. P.S. The Brewers, also in the NL playoff hunt, surely are missing Brandon Woodruff, their All-Star starter out of Wheeler High and Mississippi State. Woodruff (11-3, 3.75 ERA) has been out since July 22 with an oblique injury. He reportedly has resumed throwing and could return next month.

15 Aug

making tracks

The Milwaukee Brewers are taking the slow and steady approach with Ethan Small, their first-round pick in June from Mississippi State (and the first Mississippian chosen at 28th overall). The left-hander, who worked 107 innings for the Bulldogs on their road to the College World Series, has made just four pro appearances, the last on Aug. 9 for Class A Wisconsin. He is slated to start again Friday. He has yet to allow a run over nine innings and has punched out 13. Already rated the Brewers’ No. 5 prospect (MLB Pipeline), Small is projected to make the majors by 2021, which sounds like a fast track but isn’t out of the ordinary for advanced college players. Take Dakota Hudson, for instance. The ex-MSU right-hander was the top pick out of the state in 2016 – 34th overall – and debuted with St. Louis last year. Hudson threw six shutout innings to beat Kansas City on Wednesday, improving to 11-6 with a 3.82 ERA as one of the Cardinals’ steadiest starters. The first pick from the state in 2018 was Ryan Rolison, taken 22nd overall out of Ole Miss by Colorado. Lefty Rolison, the Rockies’ No. 2 prospect, has reached high Class A Lancaster, where he is 4-5, 5.02, possibly on track to reach The Show next season. The state’s top pick in 2017 was Brent Rooker, the SEC Triple Crown winner at State who went 35th overall to Minnesota. Rooker’s rise has been stalled by injuries this year. Currently on the IL at Triple-A Rochester, he is batting .281 with 14 homers. Austin Riley was the first Mississippian picked in 2015 – 41st overall out of DeSoto Central High by Atlanta. The third baseman/outfielder made a smashing MLB debut this spring – at age 22 – but is currently out with a knee injury. (He is expected to start a rehab assignment soon.) MSU alum Hunter Renfroe – the first Mississippian picked in 2013 – and ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz – the first in 2010 – are currently in the big leagues. Renfroe, who debuted in 2016, is with San Diego, and the well-traveled Pomeranz, who was up by 2011, is with Milwaukee. The other three top picks from this decade, all high school players, did not fare so well. Blake Anderson (36th overall in 2014 out of West Lauderdale High) hasn’t played since 2017 and isn’t currently listed on a roster in Miami’s system. D.J. Davis (17th overall out of Stone County in 2012) was released by Toronto last summer, having never climbed above A-ball. Connor Barron (third round out of Sumrall in 2011 by Florida/Miami) opted to attend Southern Miss, where he had an up-and-down career and never got drafted again.

06 Aug

rookie tales

The impact of rookies with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2019 has been something to behold. First it was Vladimir Guerrero Jr., then Cavan Biggio and now Bo Bichette. Though he hasn’t generated the kind of buzz afforded those sons of former big leaguers, Jacob Waguespack also has had a solid debut season. The Ole Miss product picked up another win on Monday – boosted by a Bichette homer and an RBI hit by Biggio – as the Blue Jays topped Tampa Bay 2-0. Waguespack allowed just four hits and one walk in six innings, pitching in front of a bunch of family and friends assembled at Tropicana Field by an uncle who lives in the area. “Warms your heart, and it takes a village, to have those people in your corner. I’m pretty humbled,” Waguespack told the Toronto Sun. Now 3-1 with a 4.00 ERA in seven MLB appearances, Waguespack doesn’t have the legacy of those other rookies, but his story is interesting just the same. The Louisiana native was drafted out of high school (37th round, 2012) by Pittsburgh but chose to play at Ole Miss, where he had a largely unsung career. He wasn’t drafted out of UM, instead signing in June 2015 as a free agent with Philadelphia. The Phillies traded the 6-foot-6, 225-pound right-hander to Toronto last July. Though he never posted any eye-opening numbers in the minors, the Blue Jays put him on their 40-man roster last fall and called him up in May. He struck out a club rookie record seven batters in his debut. P.S. Madison Central High alum Spencer Turnbull, a rookie right-hander with Detroit, returned Monday from a stint on the injured list and worked three innings vs. the Chicago White Sox, yielding two runs but fanning seven. He wasn’t involved in the decision as the Tigers lost. Again. … Drew Pomeranz, the veteran lefty out of Ole Miss, pitched a scoreless inning for Milwaukee against Pittsburgh and got his first hold in his second Brewers appearance. Traded from San Francisco last week, Pomeranz (5.54 ERA) has strung together six straight scoreless relief outings after struggling as a starter.