24 Aug

rookie report

He may have been the fourth player chosen out of Mississippi in the June draft, but Southern Miss product Nick Sandlin has taken a back seat to no one on the field this summer. Sandlin is the only Mississippian drafted this year to reach the Double-A level. The right-hander, picked in the second round by Cleveland, debuted for Akron on Wednesday with – what else? – a scoreless inning. In 21 games and 20 1/3 innings spread over four levels, Sandlin has a 1.31 ERA and 30 strikeouts with just two walks. He has two wins and five saves. “He’s uber-competitive and he trusts that he’s better than any hitter that steps in the box,” Kirk McCarty, Sandlin’s former USM teammate and fellow Indians farmhand, recently told milb.com. … There were two first-rounders from the state this year but only Ryan Rolison signed. (Brandon High star J.T. Ginn is now at Mississippi State.) Left-hander Rolison, tabbed 22nd overall by Colorado out of Ole Miss, has pitched well at the rookie level: 1.96 ERA over 23 innings. Second-rounder Joe Gray, taken by Milwaukee out of Hattiesburg High, is batting .182 (.347 on-base) with two homers and nine RBIs in the Arizona League. He hasn’t played in a game since last week. Ex-State ace Konnor Pilkington (third round, Chicago White Sox) has worked just 10 innings at two rookie levels and has a 9.00 ERA. Ex-Ole Miss catcher Nick Fortes (fourth round, Miami) also has scuffled, batting .212 with no homers in the Gulf Coast League. (Marlins late-rounders Davis Bradshaw and Milton Smith Jr., both Meridian Community College alums, have excelled, Bradshaw hitting .444 in short-season A-ball and Smith .343 in the GCL.) UM alum Brady Feigl, a fifth-round pick by Oakland, is currently injured but has a 1.73 ERA in 11 games at two levels. Luke Reynolds, a USM, State and Hinds CC alum, has had a solid debut season; a 10th-round pick by the Chicago Cubs, the third baseman is at .293 with a homer and 13 RBIs in 27 games at the short-season A level. Madison Central’s Regi Grace, a 10th-rounder by Minnesota, is 2-1, 2.70 in the GCL.

22 Aug

launch mode

The Cleveland Indians, running away with the American League Central, may not need the help that Bobby Bradley could provide down the stretch. But, if that need does arise, the left-handed slugger from Gulfport looks ready to launch. Bradley, 22, playing at Triple-A Columbus, hit his second home run in the past four games on Tuesday. He has 26 homers on the year, including the 24 he hit in Double-A. After a slow start with Columbus, the Indians’ No. 7 prospect is batting .273 over his last 10 games. … Apparently, there was something in the air on Tuesday. Mississippians all over the minors were in launch mode. DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley homered in both games of a doubleheader for Triple-A Gwinnett in Atlanta’s system. Riley has seven homers in Triple-A and 14 on the year, including six he hit for the Mississippi Braves. Former Mississippi State star Brent Rooker smacked a grand slam, his 22nd homer, for Double-A Chattanooga in the Minnesota organization. He is batting .263 with 77 RBIs in his second pro season. First-year pro Zack Shannon, the ex-Delta State slugger, belted his 12th homer at Missoula in Arizona’s system. He is batting .343 with 50 RBIs. (And to think there were questions about whether he’d even be drafted.) Worth noting: Itawamba Community College alum Tyreque Reed homered on Monday, his 14th at low Class A Hickory in Texas’ chain. Reed, batting .274 on the year, is hitting .324 over his last 10 games.

17 Aug

closing time

After two years as a closer extraordinaire for Southern Miss, Nick Sandlin moved to the rotation in 2018 to fill a team need. Shifted back to the bullpen in pro ball, he is showing that he hasn’t forgotten how to do the closer thing. The right-hander with the unconventional form registered his third save in his last three appearances on Thursday for Cleveland’s high Class A Lynchburg club. In six games all told in the Carolina League, Sandlin has a 1.69 ERA with eight strikeouts, two walks and two hits allowed in 5 1/3 innings. Picked in the second round – higher than most projections – by the Indians in June, Sandlin started his summer in rookie ball, moved quickly to the low-A level and then to Lynchburg on Aug. 1. He has a 1.45 ERA, 27 K’s and two walks overall in 18 2/3 innings. He is ranked 18th on Cleveland’s prospect chart by MLB Pipeline. Sandlin threw 102 innings for the Golden Eagles this season – going 10-0, 1.06 and winning a slew of awards, including the Ferriss Trophy – so it’s understandable why the Indians want to limit his innings. But they have to be thrilled with what they’ve seen.

13 Aug

helping hands

Mississippi college products Mike Mayers and Dakota Hudson, middle relievers for St. Louis, have played their roles well for the Cardinals, who – don’t look now – have won five straight, eight of 10 and jumped into the National League playoff race. Mayers, an Ole Miss product in his third big league campaign, notched his sixth hold on Sunday with a spotless seventh inning in an 8-2 win against Kansas City. He has allowed just one run in his last seven appearances and trimmed his ERA to 3.43 over 37 games. Hudson, a rookie out of Mississippi State, was called up on July 27 and has yielded just one run in seven appearances. He has an 0.96 ERA, two wins and three holds and has allowed only three hits in 9 1/3 innings. This comes on the heels of an excellent season at Triple-A Memphis (13-3, 2.50 as a starter). The Cardinals, playing better (16-9) under interim manager Mike Shildt, are 63-55 and just 5.5 games back of the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central. P.S. Southern Miss alum Kirk McCarty tossed six shutout innings Sunday – but got a no-decision — in his high Class A debut in Cleveland’s system. Lefty McCarty was 4-9, 4.29 with a league-best 132 strikeouts in the low-A Midwest League. … Touki Toussaint, who started this season with the Mississippi Braves, is slated to make his MLB debut today for Atlanta against Miami. Toussaint was 4-6, 2.93 for the Double-A M-Braves and 2-0, 2.01 at Triple-A Gwinnett.

03 Aug

one step closer

Bobby Bradley has taken another step toward the big leagues, moving from Double-A to Triple-A in the Cleveland system. The lefty-hitting first baseman out of Harrison Central High went 0-for-4 in his debut with Columbus on Thursday night. He had 24 homers at Akron, though he was hitting just .214 with 105 strikeouts in 389 at-bats. Still only 22 years old, Bradley is rated the Indians’ No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline. Power is his calling card; in five pro seasons he has 111 bombs. … The Indians also bumped Nick Sandlin up a level, from low Class A Lake County to high-A Lynchburg. The Southern Miss product, a second-round pick in June, had a 1.74 ERA in 10 games at Lake County after making three scoreless appearances in the rookie Arizona League. He has 19 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings and has not walked a batter. Sandlin won a national pitcher of the year award and was the C-USA pitcher of the year in addition to claiming the Ferriss Trophy. P.S. Sandlin’s 2018 USM teammate Luke Reynolds, a 10th-round pick by the Chicago Cubs, has caught fire in the short-season Northwest League, batting .400 over his last 10 games and .358 in 15 games overall for Eugene. The C-USA hitter of the year has a homer and nine RBIs. … While things are looking up for former Golden Eagles Sandlin and Reynolds, Mason Robbins may have reached a dead end. The 25-year-old outfielder is currently out of the game, having been released by the Chicago White Sox on July 22. Robbins was hitting .265 at Triple-A Charlotte in his fifth pro season. He is a .283 career hitter but apparently lacks the power and/or speed to be a corner outfielder. … The Ugly Stat of the Day – maybe the year – in MLB goes to Jonathan Holder, who faced seven batters and saw all seven score in the New York Yankees’ 15-7 loss to Boston on Thursday. Former Mississippi State star Holder’s ERA jumped from 2.06 to 3.50.

16 Jul

grand finale

Though he is not heading to the MLB All-Star Game, Brian Dozier put on a star-worthy performance in his final game before the break. The Southern Miss product smacked a walk-off grand slam Sunday to give Minnesota a wild 11-7 win over Tampa Bay. He had five RBIs all told and scored a run by drawing a balk. The victory wrapped up a 9-2 homestand for the Twins, who are scrapping to stay in playoff contention. “I love it,” Dozier said in a postgame TV interview. The subject of trade speculation, Dozier hit .321 with three homers and 10 RBIs over the last seven games of the first half. He leads all Mississippians in the majors with 16 homers and 48 RBIs. East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox has 13 homers, and ex-Mississippi State standout Mitch Moreland – who is headed to the All-Star Game – has 11 for Boston. Moreland is second to Dozier among Mississippians with 46 RBIs and second to Meridian CC alum Corey Dickerson of Pittsburgh in batting average, .278 to .306. Dickerson, a 2017 All-Star with Tampa Bay, went 2-for-5 with his seventh homer on Sunday. … Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, with Cincinnati, has 22 steals, one more than Anderson. … The break may have come at a bad time for State product Hunter Renfroe, who homered on Saturday and Sunday for San Diego to boost his season total to seven. He hit 26 in 2017, when he played more regularly. P.S. Dakota Hudson threw a clean inning and fellow MSU alum Nate Lowe went 1-for-2 with an RBI in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game in Washington, D.C. … Down on the farm, Gulfport’s Bobby Bradley rated a headline on milb.com after hitting his 18th homer and diving into the stands to catch a pop fly for Double-A Akron. Bradley, a top Cleveland prospect at first base, is on an 11-game hit streak that has raised his average to .213. His homer total ranks second in the Eastern League.

12 Jul

so far, so great

If there were questions about how Nick Sandlin’s stuff would play in pro ball, the former Southern Miss star has wasted little time providing answers. A second-round draft pick by Cleveland last month, Sandlin has made seven scoreless appearances, the last four for Lake County in the Class A Midwest League. His stuff certainly played in Peoria on Wednesday night, when the 5-foot-11 right-hander struck out the side, running his K total to eight in four innings for Lake County. He has allowed two hits and no walks in that stretch. He notched a save on Saturday, closing out a win for former USM teammate Kirk McCarty. Sandlin, as a starter, went 10-0 with a 1.06 ERA and 140 punchouts in 102 1/3 innings for the Golden Eagles in 2018. He won all kinds of awards. The previous two seasons, working as a closer, he posted 20 saves and 13 wins. Yet Sandlin’s size, velocity and funky delivery reportedly were concerns for pro scouts heading into the draft. The Indians took him with the 67th pick. One MLB Network analyst, lamenting the state of the Indians’ bullpen on the night of the draft, suggested Cleveland throw Sandlin directly into the mix. That wasn’t going to happen, of course, but he might not be too far away. It’s not unheard of for college pitchers to make the big leagues in their draft year. P.S. Former Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson (now in the St. Louis system) started and got the win – despite allowing a run in his one inning – for the Pacific Coast League in Wednesday’s Triple-A All-Star Game. Ole Miss alum Bobby Wahl (Oakland) got the first out in the ninth for the PCL in its 12-7 win, and USM product Cody Carroll (New York Yankees) threw a clean inning for the International League team.