It’s the type of headline that compels you to click: “The best hitter you know nothing about.” The mlb.com story is a statistical analysis of the very fine 2017 season put together by St. Louis rookie Jose Martinez, a hitter whom Mississippi Braves fans actually do know something about. Martinez played right field for the 2013 M-Braves, and he stood out – and not just because he is 6 feet 6. Martinez was one of the best hitters on that team, batting .285 with six homers and 39 RBIs. He became a minor league free agent after that year, his eighth in pro ball. The Venezuela native briefly returned to the Atlanta organization – playing in A-ball — in 2014. He finally made his MLB debut in 2016 with the Cardinals – at age 28 – then broke out last summer after a swing change, batting .309 with 14 homers and 46 RBIs in 106 games. P.S. Atlanta had eight players – including No. 1 Ronald Acuna (see previous post) — in Baseball America’s new Top 100 prospects rankings, most of any organization. … Four Mississippi products made BA’s list: Austin Riley (Braves) at 54, Anthony Alford (Toronto) at 60, Brandon Woodruff (Milwaukee) at 61 and Brent Rooker (Minnesota) at 92. … Riley, the former DeSoto Central High standout, is the No. 6 third base prospect in mlb.com’s position rankings. … Ex-Picayune High star T.J. House has signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox; the veteran left-hander got some big league time with Toronto in 2017 but spent most of the season in Triple-A.
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.
Four Mississippians made their big league debut in 2017: ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford, Ole Miss products Bobby Wahl and Stuart Turner and Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff. Turner, who stuck with Cincinnati as a Rule 5 draftee, was the first of that group to break through, getting a start at catcher on April 6. Woodruff had the most significant impact, going 2-3 with a 4.81 ERA in eight starts down the stretch for a Milwaukee team that contended for a playoff berth. Who’ll be the first Magnolia State product to debut in 2018? Odds are it’ll be ex-State standout Dakota Hudson, a top 10 St. Louis prospect who reached Triple-A last year in his first full pro season. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound right-hander was 10-5, 3.01 overall between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017. MLB Pipeline forecasts Hudson, 23, to make the majors sometime this year. Heading into spring training, the Cardinals have at least one spot to fill in their rotation, with Ole Miss product Lance Lynn having moved on as a free agent. If the season started today, Braxton Lee apparently would be Miami’s center fielder. The Ole Miss alum from Picayune is currently listed as the starter on the depth chart on mlb.com, though he isn’t listed among the Marlins’ top 30 prospects. Lee, a 2014 draftee by Tampa Bay, won the Double-A Southern League batting title in 2017, hitting .309 between Montgomery and Jacksonville. He was traded in midseason. Lee also played well in the star-studded Arizona Fall League, making the All-Prospect Team. Another intriguing possibility for Next Mississippian Up is Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star who finished his 2017 campaign with the Mississippi Braves, then went on to shine in the AFL. “His power was as prolific as any prospect in the AFL, both in terms of raw strength and his ability to get to it,” Baseball America wrote. “Defensively Riley is in better shape and moves better than he did when he was drafted, and now he’s actually an asset at third base.” Riley is only 20 – he turns 21 in April – but Atlanta has been fast-tracking its prospects of late, so he figures to get a long look in spring camp. It’s notable here that the Braves released Adonis Garcia earlier this week. Riley batted .275 with 20 homers and 74 RBIs between high-A and Double-A in 2017. A much longer shot to debut in 2018 is Brent Rooker, the ex-State All-American who had a very solid debut in pro ball last summer. The outfielder/first baseman, 23, belted 18 homers in the low minors and is already rated Minnesota’s No. 7 prospect by Baseball America.
Any player news is big news right now, so here we go: Former Ole Miss star J.B. Woodman, who just finished his second pro season, is changing teams, going from Toronto to St. Louis in a Friday trade for major league infielder Aledmys Diaz. Woodman, a lefty-hitting outfielder, batted .240 with seven home runs in the Class A Midwest League in 2017. He was rated the No. 15 prospect in the Blue Jays’ system in The Sporting News’ 2017 preseason magazine after hitting .297 in his debut season. Toronto drafted him in the second round in 2016 following a big year at Ole Miss. Woodman hit .322 with an SEC-leading 14 homers plus 55 RBIs. He is also considered a good defensive outfielder.
When last we saw Mike Mayers in a big league game — for St. Louis on Aug. 18 — he was giving up four earned runs in 2/3 of an inning against Pittsburgh. That moved the Ole Miss product’s career ERA in seven appearances to 19.80, not what you wanna see on the back of your baseball card. That ugly number is due mostly to a couple of bad outings. But it is what it is. The Cardinals still have Mayers on their 40-man roster, and he has pitched well in winter ball. Through six starts for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League, Mayers is 2-1 with a 2.43 ERA. After a 12-day layoff, he threw five innings of one-hit, one-run ball on Tuesday. A third-round pick out of UM in 2013, Mayers, 25, has a career minor league ERA of 3.54. Only once in his five minor league seasons has he finished with an ERA above 3.39. He went 5-6 with a 3.28 in 2017 at Triple-A Memphis, splitting time between starting and relieving. He was up for three big league appearances, including that ERA wrecker on Aug. 18. He has to be champing at the bit for his next shot. P.S. Picayune native and Ole Miss alum Braxton Lee, the Southern League batting champ last season, recently was added to Miami’s 40-man roster, and ex-Madison Central High standout Spencer Turnbull made Detroit’s protected roster. Former UM star Bobby Wahl, who made his MLB debut with Oakland in 2017, has been removed from the A’s 40-man. Right-hander Wahl was injured (shoulder) in midseason and didn’t pitch after July 31.
The image is one that diehard fans of a certain age remember well, one that lives on in World Series highlight reels. Bob Gibson rocks and fires, the batter swings and misses, and the St. Louis Cardinals rush the infield to celebrate the 1967 World Series championship. The game was played on Oct. 12, 1967. The Game 7 defeat at Fenway Park crushed the Boston Red Sox’s “Impossible Dream” season during which they won a thrilling race to the American League pennant. The batter who made the final out was Greenville native George Scott. The ’67 Series was Scott’s only postseason appearance over a 14-year career. In Game 7, he had one of the three hits – a triple – and scored one of the two runs the magnificent Gibson yielded in a 7-2 win, Gibson’s third W of the Series. Scott was 6-for-26 without an RBI in the Series after batting .303 with 19 homers and 82 RBIs during the season, his second in the majors. Despite that grand disappointment – immortalized in the clip of Gibson’s final punchout — “Boomer” produced a lot of highlights in his big league career. He blasted 271 home runs, drove in over 1,000 runs, won eight Gold Gloves and made three All-Star teams. It’s a shame he never got another moment in the Fall Classic.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ playoff hopes ended on Thursday, and Ole Miss product Lance Lynn’s tenure with the team apparently is done, as well. “It’s not a good feeling,” Lynn told The Associated Press. The Cardinals lost 2-1 in 11 innings to what a St. Louis newspaper called the “Cubs’ scrubs.” Chicago clinched the National League Central on Wednesday and rested most of its starters. Lynn, a free agent after this season, his 10th in the Cardinals’ organization, went to the post for the 33rd time and worked five innings, allowing three hits, four walks and one run. He was saddled with his 14th no-decision. After missing 2016 following Tommy John surgery, Lynn finishes 11-8 with a 3.43 ERA. … Elsewhere on Thursday: Former Meridian Community College star Corey Dickerson went 2-for-5 with his 27th homer as Tampa Bay dealt New York a 9-6 loss that damaged the Yankees’ chances of an American League East title. They’re 3 back of Boston with three to play and can only hope to force a playoff. Mississippi State alum Jonathan Holder yielded hits to the only two batters he faced in the Rays’ pivotal seven-run fifth. … Ex-State standout Mitch Moreland’s 22nd homer was just eyewash in Boston’s 12-2 drubbing at the hands of Houston. … Milwaukee stayed alive in the NL wild card battle with a 4-3 win over Cincinnati, defying the efforts of Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton (1-for-4, 59th steal), UM alum Stuart Turner (1-for-4) and Northwest Mississippi CC product Cody Reed (one clean inning).