In a Carolina League contest in North Carolina on Sunday, a couple of former Mississippi college stars played their own little game of “top that.” Southern Miss product Chuckie Robinson ultimately came out ahead. He hit a grand slam in the third inning and then added a tie-breaking three-run blast in the eighth as Buies Creek (a Class A Houston affiliate) beat visiting Down East (Texas Rangers) 10-7. LeDarious Clark, the former East Mississippi Community College standout, went deep twice for Down East, which rallied from a 7-0 deficit and eventually tied the score on Clark’s three-run homer in the seventh inning. Clark, a 12th-round pick in 2015 by the Rangers out of West Florida, had three hits and raised his average to .278 with five homers and 11 RBIs in 27 games for the Wood Ducks. Robinson, a 21st-rounder in 2016 by the Astros out of USM, hit homers No. 5 and 6 on the year for Buies Creek and now has 23 RBIs. A recent surge (.324 in his last 10 games) has boosted his average to .218. “It’s always good and rewarding when you have a good game at the plate, but I’ve been working hard and I’ll continue to work hard,” Robinson told milb.com. He was a Midwest League All-Star at catcher in 2017 and is the Astros’ No. 26 prospect (per MLB Pipeline).
Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High star and Atlanta prospect, is 6-for-21 since he returned to Triple-A Gwinnett from a rehab assignment in rookie ball. Riley, out roughly a month with a knee injury, is hitting .285 with four home runs and 19 RBIs in 31 games for the Stripers. He was promoted from Double-A Mississippi in early May. … The hits keep coming for Jacob Robson, the former Mississippi State standout now at Triple-A Toledo in Detroit’s farm system. Robson is hitting .414 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 15 games for the Mud Hens. Also at Toledo is ex-State star Zac Houston, a big right-hander who has a 2.08 ERA and three saves in 16 appearances. … Southern Miss alum Mason Robbins went into last week’s Triple-A All-Star break with a 12-game hitting streak for Charlotte (Chicago White Sox). He is 0-for-12 since play resumed. Overall, the lefty-hitting outfielder is at .269 with two homers and 24 RBIs in 54 games. … Former State star Reid Humphreys notched his 20th save on Sunday for Lancaster, Colorado’s high Class A affiliate. Humphreys, who leads the California League in saves, has a 1.67 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings. … USM product Chuckie Robinson has started to hit at high-A Buies Creek in Houston’s system. An 11-for-33 surge has boosted his average to .204 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 53 games. Robinson, a catcher, was a Midwest League All-Star in 2017, when he batted .274 with 15 homers and 32 doubles for a championship club at Quad Cities. … LeDarious Clark, the East Mississippi Community College alum from Meridian, has hit in six straight games since he returned to the Down East (Texas Rangers) lineup from an extended rehab stint. He is batting .266 with three homers for the high-A club in the Carolina League. He hit 13 homers and stole 20 bases there last year. … One of the more interesting picks in this year’s draft was Dallas Woolfolk, taken by Oakland in the 13th round. Right-hander Woolfolk, who had some struggles at Ole Miss late last season and ultimately left the team, has been up and down for the Arizona League A’s. In five games (six innings), he has two saves and a win with a 6.00 ERA, seven strikeouts and seven walks.
Reid Humphreys, a dual standout at Mississippi State and Northwest Rankin High, is focused on pitching in pro ball, and he looked sharp in his second season. Humphreys, who’s on Colorado’s Instructional League roster for this fall, notched 13 saves in 14 chances with a 2.56 ERA at Class A Asheville. The Rockies drafted Humphreys – brother of Miami Marlins first baseman Tyler Moore, another ex-Bulldog — in the seventh round in 2016. Humphreys batted .310 with five homers and 44 RBIs and posted seven saves (despite a 5.56 ERA) in 17 mound appearances for State that year. The Rockies preferred him as a pitcher, and he has not disappointed. … Also slated for extended work in Instructional League in either Arizona or Florida are State product Ryan Gridley (Oakland), East Mississippi Community College alum Vijay Miller (San Diego), ex-State star Zac Houston (Detroit), Ole Miss alum Colby Bortles (Detroit), former UM standout Henri Lartigue (Philadelphia) and Ti’Quan Forbes, the 2014 Mr. Baseball from Columbia who was traded late in the season from Texas to the Chicago White Sox. Forbes, a former second-round pick now in his fourth pro season, hit .222 at Class A Down East before the trade and played just four games for Winston-Salem in the same league before the season ended.
Brent Rooker, the first Mississippian picked in the 2017 draft (35th overall), has proven to be a quick study in pro ball. The ex-Mississippi State standout has already advanced a level in Minnesota’s system and is batting .314 with four home runs over his last 10 games, raising his average at high Class A Fort Myers to .237 with seven homers. But Rooker has a lot of company in the fast lane. Each of the top 10 Mississippi-connected players drafted and signed in June is off to a good start, some a great start. Tyreque Reed (Itawamba Community College) is batting .350 with five homers and 26 RBIs in the rookie Arizona League, though he hasn’t played in over a week for the AZL (Texas) Rangers. Dylan Burdeaux (Southern Miss) hit .319 in short-season A for Detroit and was quickly bumped up to low-A, where he is batting .265 in 23 games. Taylor Braley (USM), the second Mississippian picked (sixth round, Miami), is 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA in four appearances in the short-season A New York-Penn League. It may feel like old home week at times in the NYPL. Other Mississippians in the league: Braley’s former teammate Kirk McCarty is with Cleveland’s affiliate and is 2-1, 2.05 in nine games; Ryan Gridley (MSU), an Oakland draftee, is batting .268 with 17 RBIs and five steals; and David Parkinson (Ole Miss) is 1-1, 2.84 for Philadelphia’s affiliate. Tate Blackman (UM), in rookie ball with the Chicago White Sox, is hitting .227 with two homers and 13 RBIs and is over .300 in his last 10 games. Bryce Brown (Jackson State) is batting .254 with 20 RBIs and 12 steals at the rookie level for Tampa Bay. Erstwhile East Mississippi CC quarterback Vijay Miller, a San Diego draftee who apparently has given up football, has a 4.00 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 18 innings in the rookie Arizona League.
The MLB draft isn’t done yet, but the most intriguing pick from Mississippi may already have been made. The San Diego Padres took Vijay Miller, a right-handed pitcher – and a quarterback, from East Mississippi Community College in the 14th round. Miller was a two-way star at Itawamba AHS before heading to EMCC, a.k.a. Last Chance U. As a freshman last fall, he threw for 599 yards and six touchdowns as the Lions’ No. 2 quarterback. On the diamond, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Miller went 5-0 with a 3.97 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings. The Padres obviously like what they saw.
Ti’Quan Forbes, in his fourth pro season but still only 20 years old, has come out swinging at Class A Hickory. The former Mr. Baseball from Columbia is batting .353 with five home runs and 12 RBIs through 17 games in the South Atlantic League. He already has more homers than he got all of last season, when he hit four in 120 games with the same Hickory club. He didn’t go deep in either of his first two minor league seasons. Forbes, 6 feet 3, 180 pounds, was a second-round pick by Texas in the 2014 draft. A shortstop at Columbia High, he is now playing third base, a power position. Forbes hit just .251 last year with 24 extra-base hits. If he continues to rake at his current pace, he could get a midseason promotion to high-A Down East in the Carolina League, where former East Mississippi Community College standout LeDarious Clark is now playing. They were teammates in Hickory in 2016.
There are five outfielders scattered through mlb.com’s chart of the top 30 prospects in the Texas system. LeDarious Clark is not one of them, but the former East Mississippi Community College star from Meridian is building his resume in the Australian Baseball League. Clark, drafted by the Rangers in the 12th round in 2015, went 2-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs today in Adelaide’s 8-3 win against Brisbane. Clark is batting .357 over his last 10 games and is at .277 with two homers, 17 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in 20 games for the season. In his two minor league campaigns, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Clark has hit .256 with 21 homers and 55 steals. The onetime football standout presents an intriguing power-speed combination. P.S. Back in the States, it’s been a slow go for free agent Mississippians. There has been no hard news since Dec. 19, when Ole Miss alum Alex Presley signed as a minor league free agent with Detroit, one of the two MLB clubs he played for in 2016. The lefty-hitting outfielder, 31, is a .253 career hitter with 26 homers and 25 steals over parts of seven big league campaigns. Mitch Moreland (Boston), Jacob Lindgren (Atlanta), Tyler Moore (Miami), T.J. House (Toronto) and Scott Copeland (Miami) also have signed, the latter three on minor league contracts. Still out there are Chris Coghlan, Louis Coleman, Desmond Jennings, Joey Butler, Aaron Barrett, Jonathan Papelbon and Julio Borbon.
Friday was a good day for baseball in Perth, where the temperature at game time between the Adelaide Bite and the host Heat was 73 degrees, according to the Australian Baseball League box score. It was a good day for LeDarious Clark, too, according to the same box score. The former Southeast Lauderdale High and East Mississippi Community College standout, batting leadoff and playing left field for Adelaide, went 2-for-6 with a couple of RBIs and a run in the Bite’s 8-2 win. Clark, a Texas Rangers prospect, is batting .214 with eight RBIs, seven runs and seven steals in 13 games in the ABL. A 12th-round pick in 2015 out of West Florida, Clark hit .276 with eight homers, 24 RBIs, seven triples and 29 runs at the short season level that summer. He smacked 11 homers and stole 24 bases in low Class A this past season but batted only .242 and fanned 99 times in 314 at-bats. … The other Mississippi native playing Down Under, former Stone County star D.J. Davis, is struggling. Davis, a former first-round pick by Toronto, is batting .095 in 11 games for Canberra.
The Hickory Crawdads tapped into some Magnolia State power sources in a Class A South Atlantic League victory against Delmarva. Meridian’s LeDarious Clark and Columbia’s Ti’Quan Forbes, both seeking a strong finish to a lackluster 2016 season, homered in the same inning for the Texas Rangers’ low-A club on Tuesday. It was the seventh bomb of the year for Clark and the third for Forbes. Clark, a 12th-round pick by the Rangers last year, went 2-for-5 with four RBIs, boosting his season stats to .222 and 40. Forbes, a second-rounder in 2014, also had two hits and is at .253 with 28 RBIs. Former East Mississippi Community College and Southeast Lauderdale High star Clark had a good debut season, batting .278 with eight homers, seven triples and 29 steals in short-season A-ball. This season has been tougher sledding for the 5-foot-10, 185-pound outfielder, who has done time on the disabled list. With seven hits, including two homers, in his last six games, Clark is showing signs of heating up, as is Forbes. The 6-3 third baseman, the state’s Mr. Baseball at Columbia High in 2014, is hitting .405 over his last 10 games. Neither Forbes nor Clark currently shows up in rankings of the Rangers’ elite prospects, but both have obvious talent. And, at 19 and 22, respectively, both still have time on their side.
Bobby Bradley ain’t goin’ away. The former Harrison Central High star homered Thursday for the second straight game and now has 22 for the season at Class A Lake County. The lefty-hitting first baseman, Cleveland’s No. 7 prospect (by mlb.com), is hitting .275 with four homers and 17 RBIs in his last 10 games, boosting his season stats to .254 with 74 RBIs. And remember, he’s 19 years old. … Kansas City, which already has a great bullpen, also has Louis Coleman humming along at Triple-A Omaha, apparently ready if needed. The former Pillow Academy star and Greenwood native has seven saves, seven wins and a 1.84 ERA in 33 games. Coleman, 29, has 148 big league appearances but none in 2015. … Starkville native Julio Borbon is batting .483 over his last 10 games for Norfolk, Baltimore’s Triple-A club, and is at .281 with 20 steals for the season. Like Coleman, onetime big leaguer Borbon isn’t on the 40-man roster, but it would seem he could help the Orioles as they fight to stay in the American League playoff race. … DeSoto Central product Austin Riley, the first Mississippian picked in this year’s draft, is back from a short stint on the disabled list and hitting .325 with two homers and seven RBIs for Atlanta’s rookie-level Danville club. … West Lauderdale alum Blake Anderson, the first Mississippian picked in the 2014 draft, is on the DL at short-season Class A Batavia. The catcher, a first-round supplemental pick by Miami, is hitting .220 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 22 games. … Wade Wass, former Meridian Community College slugger, has seven homers at Class A Burlington in the Los Angeles Angels’ system. Wass, a catcher who signed out of the Cape Cod League last summer, is batting .256 with 35 RBIs in 75 games. … Ex-Murrah star Zack Bird took his first Double-A loss on Thursday for the Mississippi Braves. The right-hander lasted just two innings against Mobile, yielded five runs and walked five batters; M-Braves pitchers walked 11 all told in the 9-1 loss. Bird is 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA, 12 walks and eight strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings over three starts. … East Mississippi CC alum LeDarious Clark’s scorching start (see previous posts) is a fading memory. He went hitless in seven straight games from late July into August, and despite a current five-game hit streak, is batting .135 over his last 10 games at short-season Spokane in the Texas system. His average is down to .298. For the season, Clark’s numbers look good: eight homers, 21 RBIs, 37 runs and 19 steals in 45 games. But he hasn’t homered since July 22 and has one RBI, five steals and 22 strikeouts since that date.