10 Feb

breakout candidate

While the Pittsburgh Pirates were sinking to the bottom of the National League Central last season, Chris Stratton may have kept his career afloat with his work out of the Bucs’ bullpen. The former Mississippi State star from Tupelo was traded twice in a two-month span in 2019, by San Francisco to the Los Angeles Angels during spring training and from the Angels to Pittsburgh in May. His numbers for the Angels weren’t good: an 8.59 ERA working primarily as a starter. He went straight to the bullpen in Pittsburgh and delivered a 3.66 ERA over 28 appearances with only a couple of truly bad outings. The 29-year-old right-hander would appear to have a good shot at winning a bullpen job in spring training. A Pirates-centric website, rumbunter.com, named Stratton a breakout candidate for 2020. A first-round pick by the Giants in 2012, Stratton’s stuff is reputed to be top drawer; the spin rates on his curveball and fastball are among the best in the game, according to rumbunter. But his career hasn’t taken off; he is 16-17, 4.88 in 83 MLB games dating to 2016. This might be the year. P.S. Billy Hamilton, the speedy center fielder from Taylorsville, is called “a perfect fit for Oracle Park,” by nbcsports.com/bayarea. First of all, Hamilton, signed to a minor league deal by San Francisco on Friday, will have to make the big league roster this spring. Hamilton doesn’t hit much but, at 29, is still a factor with his legs, glove and arm. The Giants are shrinking the outfield in Oracle Park — from 399 in center to 391 and from 421 to 415 in the right-center field alley — but speed in center field is still a priority. The team currently lists rising star Mike Yastrzemski as the starter there and also has speedy Steven Duggar as an option.

14 Jan

what’s next?

Zack Cozart’s future grew a little foggy on Monday when the former Ole Miss star was designated for assignment by San Francisco, which had acquired the veteran infielder in a trade in mid-December. Cozart, a 2017 All-Star in Cincinnati, is coming off two injury-wracked seasons with the Los Angeles Angels that saw him bat .190 with five homers in 96 games. The Giants took on Cozart’s $13 million salary as part of a deal that netted them highly regarded shortstop prospect Will Wilson. It seems likely that Cozart, 34, will be released. Perhaps he’ll get a minor league deal somewhere. Perhaps. He was a second-round pick by the Reds in 2007 out of UM and has played nine years in the majors, mostly as a shortstop, batting .247 with 87 homers. P.S. Something to keep an eye on: Mississippi State product Dakota Hudson, who went 16-7 with a 3.35 ERA as a rookie for St. Louis in 2019, has been rumored to be part of the Nolan Arenado trade talks between the Cardinals and Colorado.

11 Dec

change of scene

After two injury-wracked seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, former Ole Miss star Zack Cozart will get a fresh start next spring with San Francisco. It’s unclear exactly how healthy Cozart is after two shoulder surgeries or how the third baseman/shortstop fits into the Giants’ infield plans. The Angels, reportedly looking to clear salary, traded Cozart, slated to make about $13 million in 2020, and a highly regarded prospect (shortstop Will Wilson) to the Giants, who currently have Evan Longoria at third and Brandon Crawford at short. Former Biloxi Shuckers star Mauricio Dubon is also in the infield mix there. Cozart, 34, was an All-Star in Cincinnati in 2017, when he batted .297 with 24 homers. He signed a three-year, $38 million free agent deal with the Angels prior to the 2018 season but has played just 96 games in two years, hitting .190 with five homers. … Cozart is the fifth Mississippian in the majors to land with a new team this off-season: UM alum Mike Mayers was a waiver claim by the Angels, Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman signed with Seattle, ex-Rebels standout Drew Pomeranz signed with San Diego and State alum Hunter Renfroe went to Tampa Bay in a trade.

12 Aug

a thrill for will

A list that includes Willie Mays, Christy Mathewson, Mel Ott, Juan Marichal and Barry Bonds is pretty darn special. Will Clark, the former Mississippi State standout, is joining it. During an on-field ceremony Sunday honoring their 1989 World Series team, the San Francisco Giants announced that Clark’s No. 22 will be retired at another ceremony next year. Clark, nicknamed “The Thrill,” was taken aback by the exuberant reaction of his old teammates, who were hearing the news for the first time: “(T)hat right there just killed me.” After his star-spangled career in Starkville, Clark was the No. 2 overall pick – the highest any Mississippi product has been taken – in the 1985 draft by the Giants and reached the big leagues the next year. He played the first eight of his 15 MLB seasons for the Giants and was a driving force for the ’89 club that also included his former State teammate Jeff Brantley and Jackson Mets alum Kevin Mitchell. In the National League Championship Series against Chicago, Clark put on an unforgettable performance: 13-for-20, two homers and eight RBIs in five games. That World Series trip (a loss to Oakland) ended a 27-year drought for the storied franchise. Clark finished his career with a .303 average and 284 home runs. He and Bonds are the only two Giants to have their number retired who aren’t in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

05 Jul

watch for it

You’d be unlikely to hear the clanging of cowbells or screams of “Hotty Toddy” at Oracle Park in San Francisco tonight, but there will be a hint of the Mississippi State-Ole Miss rivalry in the air. Former State star Dakota Hudson is scheduled to start for St. Louis against ex-UM star Drew Pomeranz in a matchup of former first-round draft picks. That fact aside, the two pitchers are a study in contrast. Hudson, 24, is a right-hander in his first full MLB season and has been one of the Cardinals’ most consistent arms. He is 6-4 with a 3.40 ERA in 17 games, though he is coming off one of his worst outings of the year, last Saturday against San Diego. Pomeranz, 30, is a left-handed veteran of nine big league campaigns. Though he is 2-8, 6.25 ERA, he threw five shutout innings vs. Arizona his last time out, one of his better outings in what has been a rough season. He signed as a free agent with the Giants, his sixth big league team, after winning a ring with Boston in 2018. Hudson’s Cardinals are in the thick of a mad National League Central race, while Pomeranz’s Giants are buried in last place in the NL West. P.S. Detroit has put former Richton High standout JaCoby Jones (back) on the injured list, where he joins a host of other Mississippians: Spencer Turnbull, Tim Anderson, Mike Mayers, Mitch Moreland, Zack Cozart and Bobby Wahl. Pomeranz, Corey Dickerson, Tony Sipp, Chris Stratton and Jacob Waguespack all have spent time on the IL but are active now. … Tampa Bay has recalled MSU product Nate Lowe (see previous post) from Triple-A.

10 May

pleasantville

The Arizona Diamondbacks, who exploited Atlanta’s bullpen for a comeback win on Thursday night, have been one of the top five pleasant surprises of this season, according to mlb.com. One of the pleasantly surprising individual performances for the D’backs has come from Jarrod Dyson. The 34-year-old McComb native, playing more regularly than anticipated, is batting .291 (.400 on-base percentage) with three homers, eight RBIs, 16 runs and seven steals in 28 games for a 16-12 club. Leading off and playing center field on Thursday, he was on base twice, stole two bags and threw a runner – Ozzie Albies – out at third base, his fourth assist of the season. Injuries limited Dyson to 67 games for Arizona in 2018, when he batted .189. He also had an injury in spring training this year. Projected to be primarily a spare outfielder and pinch runner this season, he has gotten 18 starts. This is Dyson’s 10th big league season – the first seven were with Kansas City – and he is batting .253 with 227 stolen bases in 756 career games. He also has a World Series ring. Not bad for a 50th-round draft pick out of Southwest Mississippi Community College. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, who coughed up seven runs in a 1 2/3 innings in his last start on Monday, went on the injured list for San Francisco with a lat strain. The big left-hander is 1-4 with a 5.93 ERA in his first season with the Giants.

25 Apr

gimme five

He came up in the ninth inning Wednesday needing a home run for the cycle. Delvin Zinn had to settle for a double, his fifth hit of the game in what was the best performance in his four years of pro ball. “One-hundred percent I was (thinking home run), but I guess if you miss with a double, that’s alright,” the ex-Itawamba Community College star from Pontotoc told milb.com. Zinn is batting .375 through 13 games in his second season with South Bend, the Chicago Cubs’ Class A club. The 21-year-old middle infielder was drafted in the 23rd round in 2016 by the Cubs. He had hit .411 and drawn raves for his defense during his one season at ICC, but he’s moved slowly in pro ball. He spent two years at the rookie level, helping the Cubs win an Arizona League title in 2017. He batted .286 in 59 games for South Bend last year. The five-hit game might be a springboard for him. … Five was also a number of note for Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz. The big lefty got his first win for San Francisco, throwing six shutout innings at Toronto. He now has big league wins for five different clubs. The fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft by Cleveland, Pomeranz has been a relatively effective pitcher (45-50, 3.91 ERA) who just never stays in one place for very long.

26 Mar

newsworthy

With opening day a mere two days away, Chris Stratton finds himself on a new team. Stratton, a former Mississippi State star from Tupelo, was traded late Monday from San Francisco to the Los Angeles Angels. “I’m definitely in shock,” the right-hander told the San Francisco Chronicle. Stratton, a former first-round pick who has a 4.63 ERA over three MLB campaigns, did not win a job in the Giants’ rotation this spring. (Former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz, a free agent signee, took one of those spots.) Stratton is out of minor league options, so rather than run him through waivers, the Giants worked a trade with the Angels for lefty Williams Jerez. At some point, Stratton may get a shot at a starting job with the Angels, who play their last exhibition game tonight at Dodger Stadium. … Kudos to Spencer Turnbull and Brandon Woodruff, who have officially earned spots in the rotation with Detroit and Milwaukee, respectively. Madison Central alum Turnbull is slotted as the Tigers’ No. 3 and will work at Toronto on Saturday. Woodruff, a State product from Wheeler, will pitch one of the three weekend games in Milwaukee against St. Louis. … Cool moment on MLB Network Monday night: Ex-Ole Miss star Aaron Barrett made his first appearance at Washington’s Nationals Park in four years and got a rousing ovation. The right-hander, battling back from a series of injuries, including a broken arm, worked in the exhibition game against the New York Yankees. In camp as a non-roster invitee, Barrett posted a 6.75 ERA in seven games; he’ll start the year in the minors.

01 Mar

it’s all good

Bryce Harper’s flirtation with San Francisco had put Giants pitcher Chris Stratton on alert. The former Mississippi State standout wears No. 34, which is Harper’s number. As you might’ve heard, Harper spurned the Giants and chose to sign with Philadelphia on Thursday. “Not gonna lie, I’m a little disappointed because maybe I could have gotten a Rolex or something like that,” Stratton told mlb.com. Now that he knows he’s keeping his number, Stratton will continue to work on keeping a job in the Giants’ rotation. He pitched well on Thursday, throwing three scoreless innings against Milwaukee in his second Cactus League outing. Stratton, 28, had an up-and-down 2018 campaign, going 10-10 with a 5.09 ERA and spending some time in the minors. The former first-round pick is 15-14, 4.63 over three MLB seasons. His competition in Giants camp includes Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz, a free agent signee who has made one spring appearance to date. … Several other former Mississippi college pitchers did positive work on Thursday: Ex-State star Jonathan Holder retired all four batters he faced and notched a win for the New York Yankees against Pittsburgh. Brandon Woodruff, another former Bulldogs standout, made his first appearance for Milwaukee and pitched a shutout inning against Cincinnati despite issuing three walks. Southern Miss product Conor Fisk, in Toronto’s camp as a minor leaguer, pitched a scoreless inning vs. Philadelphia, his third appearance without yielding a run.

23 Jan

land of giants

Former Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz reportedly has signed with San Francisco, where he’s expected to compete for a job in the Giants’ rotation with Mississippi State product Chris Stratton, among others. The deal is said to be one year for $1.5 million plus incentives. Pomeranz, a 30-year-old left-hander, went 2-6 with a 6.08 ERA in 26 games (11 starts) for Boston in 2018. The Giants will be the sixth different organization the former first-round pick and 2016 All-Star has played for. Stratton, a right-hander and a first-round selection by the Giants in 2012, went 10-10, 5.09 in 2018.