If the reports are true, former Ole Miss standout Chris Ellis, a fast-rising pitching prospect, is changing organizations. Ellis is reported to be part of the package the Los Angeles Angels are sending to Atlanta in the eye-opening deal for Andrelton Simmons, the ex-Mississippi Braves shortstop. Erick Aybar, a veteran shortstop, and Sean Newcomb, another pitching prospect, are also said to be joining the Braves. Ellis, a third-round pick by the Angels in 2014, made it to Double-A last summer and handled that key level very well. He was 7-4 with a 3.92 ERA. The 6-foot-4 right-hander started 2015 at Class A Inland Empire, going 4-5, 3.88 before getting the bump to Arkansas. He was rated the No. 9 prospect in the California League by Baseball America.
If you believe that starting pitching is the primary key to winning in baseball — and many people do — then you’ve got to feel pretty good about Ole Miss’ chances in the College World Series. The Rebels have two excellent arms at the top of their rotation: Chris Ellis, who starts tonight against Virginia, and Christian Trent. Both were drafted — among the nine Rebels picked by MLB clubs — and their stats give indication as to why. Ellis is 10-2 with a 2.45 ERA, Trent 9-0, 2.21. Both won numerous big games in SEC play and beyond. The Rebels’ No. 3, should they need one in this double-elimination affair, is Sam Smith (5-4, 3.45), who was KO’d early in the Super Regional title game at Louisiana-Lafayette. (The bullpen came to the rescue.) A problem for Ole Miss is that two of the other three teams in its CWS bracket have better starting pitching, at least on paper. UVA, which spent part of the season ranked No. 1 in the nation, will throw All-American Nathan Kirby, a sophomore left-hander, at the Rebels in tonight’s game. He is 9-2 with a 1.73 — including an 18-strikeout no-hitter in April — though he did get roughed up a bit in his Super Regional start against Maryland. He fronts what might be the deepest rotation in Omaha. Then there’s TCU, which leads the country with a 2.19 staff ERA. The Horned Frogs’ top two starters are top-shelf arms: Brandon Finnegan and Preston Morrison. Morrison is slated to start today against Texas Tech, which means Ole Miss would face left-hander Finnegan (9-3, 2.12, 17th overall draft pick) should they meet in Round 2. Texas Tech isn’t known for its pitching, but the Red Raiders did post four shutouts in NCAA play en route to Omaha. They’ll start lefty Chris Sadberry against TCU, with Dylan Dusek, another solid lefty (8-0, 1.94), waiting in the wings.