It’s safe to assume Hunter Renfroe is on a mission to get back to the big leagues, and he is certainly off to a good start. Renfroe, the Mississippi State product from Crystal Springs, went 3-for-5 with a double and a triple Monday in his first game with Triple-A El Paso. The rookie outfielder was sent down by San Diego after hitting .230 with 20 home runs and 125 strikeouts through 111 games. … Ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford is on a similar mission. Alford, who got a brief call-up with Toronto in May, doubled, homered and stole a base Monday for Double-A New Hampshire. Alford is hitting .371 over his last 10 games and .322 for the season, with five homers, 23 RBIs and 15 bags. … Bobby Bradley, the former Harrison Central star and a top Cleveland prospect, also had a day: a double, a homer and four RBIs for Double-A Akron. Bradley, a lefty-hitting first baseman, has hit at a .389 clip over his last 10 games, raising his average to .246 with 21 homers and 82 RBIs. Not yet on the Indians’ 40-man roster, the 21-year-old Bradley may be a year away from the big leagues. … Ole Miss alum J.B. Woodman, a Toronto prospect in just his second pro season, went 2-for-5 with two doubles on Monday for Class A Lansing and is hitting .342 over his last 10 games. He’s at .255 with six homers and 42 RBIs this season.
On this date in 1949, Luke Easter became the first black Mississippian to play in a major league game. A native of Jonestown, in Coahoma County, Easter made his debut as a pinch hitter for the Cleveland Indians at old Cleveland Stadium. This was two years and several months after Jackie Robinson broke the modern-era color line. Easter was 34 when he got his chance, having already played numerous years in various Negro Leagues. Easter did not homer in 45 at-bats for the Indians in 1949 but mashed 93 homers over the next four seasons, many of them tape-measure shots. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound first baseman produced two 100-RBI campaigns and had another of 97. Easter’s big league career was over after six games in 1954, but he played 10 more years in the minors. Despite his short time with the team, Easter was selected as one of the 100 Greatest Cleveland Indians in 2001, when the club celebrated its 100th anniversary. He died tragically in 1979 (see previous posts). P.S. In the majors on Thursday: Corey Dickerson, the former Meridian Community College star, snapped an 0-for-21 skid with a game-changing three-run homer for Tampa Bay in a win over Cleveland. It was homer No. 22 for Dickerson, who joins Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier atop the leaderboard in the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby. Ex-Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe has 20. … Ole Miss product Lance Lynn was hit in the head by a batted ball in the third inning but stayed in the game for St. Louis. He worked six innings all told, allowing two runs, and took a no-decision in the surging Cardinals’ 8-6 win vs. Kansas City.
The home run was big, but the single proved bigger for Bobby Bradley on Tuesday night. Bradley, the ex-Harrison Central High star, delivered a walk-off hit in the ninth inning for Akron in a 4-3 win against New Hampshire in the Double-A Eastern League. Bradley hit his 19th homer in the sixth, helping the Rubber Ducks rally from a 3-0 deficit. The lefty-hitting first baseman, 21, one of Cleveland’s highest-rated prospects, is batting .242 with 73 RBIs in his Double-A debut. Bradley has a .335 on-base percentage thanks in part to 49 walks, and he has cut down on strikeouts (95 in 364 at-bats) this year. He is slugging .456. A third-round pick by the Indians in 2014, he has blasted 83 homers in his four pro seasons. He’s getting close. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford, one of Toronto’s top prospects, was in New Hampshire’s lineup and went 1-for-4. Alford, 23, batting .308 in his first Class AA campaign, got a cup of coffee in the majors earlier this season before an injury knocked him back to the minors. He’ll likely return to the Blue Jays next month. P.S. Former Ole Miss and Mississippi Braves standout Chris Ellis notched his second straight win for Springfield, St. Louis’ Double-A club in the Texas League, on Tuesday. Ellis, who scuffled at Triple-A Memphis to start 2017, is 4-6, 3.60 ERA at Springfield. … Mississippi State product Zac Houston recently was elevated from low-A to high-A ball in the Detroit system. The 6-foot-5 right-hander, a 2016 draftee, has thrown 2 2/3 scoreless innings in his two appearances for Lakeland, where he has joined fellow Mississippians Will Allen, Jake Robson and Spencer Turnbull.
The news slipped by quietly. Silento Sayles retired on July 6 at age 21. The former Port Gibson High star – who garnered national attention when he stole a prep record 103 bases during his senior year in 2013 – was playing for Mahoning Valley, the Cleveland Indians’ affiliate in the short-season New York-Penn League. In seven games, Sayles was batting .143 with no steals. Drafted by the Indians in the 14th round in 2013, Sayles was projected by some as the next Billy Hamilton, the Taylorsville High product who set a minor league stolen base record en route to the big leagues. But the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Sayles stole only 36 bases and was caught stealing 18 times in his 200 minor league games. He batted .222 with a .320 on-base average. Sayles is one of those players who probably would have benefitted from playing college ball before jumping into the pros. P.S. Kudos to Brent Rooker, who was promoted to high Class A Fort Myers by Minnesota, and Hill Denson, who will be inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2018. Ex-Mississippi State star Rooker, the 35th overall pick last month, went 0-for-4 in his Florida State League debut; he was batting .270 with seven homers in rookie ball. Denson, now the coach at Belhaven University after a long tenure at Southern Miss, has more than 1,000 wins on a resume that includes many coach of the year honors and other achievements.
Bobby Bradley made some headlines with a three-homer game for Double-A Akron on Tuesday. The former Harrison Central High star also drove in seven runs, boosting his season totals to 14 homers and 48 RBIs. Bradley, who recently turned 21, is on a 12-for-36 roll that has raised his average to .254. He has struck out just four times in that stretch. Cutting down on the punchouts is a key to his advancement, various scouting reports say. First baseman Bradley, who hit 29 homers a year ago and 27 in 2015 in A-ball, is rated Cleveland’s No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline with an ETA of 2018. … The headlines weren’t as welcome for another Gulfport native, Jonathan Holder, who was sent down to Triple-A by the New York Yankees. Holder was 1-1 (0-for-2 in save chances) with a 3.78 ERA in 32 games, all in relief. Drafted in 2014 out of Mississippi State, Holder reached the majors last summer, then won a big league roster spot in spring training this year. The 24-year-old right-hander will be back. … Ole Miss product Mike Mayers, recently promoted by St. Louis, has yet to make his 2017 debut for the Cardinals. He was 5-6, 3.74 ERA as a starter at Triple-A Memphis but is expected to work in long relief in the big leagues. The right-hander pitched in four games for St. Louis in 2016. … The current list of Mississippians on the MLB disabled list: Anthony Alford, Chris Coghlan, Zack Cozart, Kendall Graveman, Alex Presley, Bobby Wahl and Brandon Woodruff.
Splash some water on Anthony Alford. He’s that hot. The former Petal High star is 9-for-12 with four walks through his first four games at the Double-A level. He has scored three runs, driven in two and stolen a base for New Hampshire in the Toronto system. Alford, 22, was drafted in the third round out of Petal in 2012 but this will be only his third full season in the minors since he gave up football at Ole Miss. The outfielder, rated the Blue Jays’ No. 2 prospect by Baseball America, made the 40-man roster in the off-season and drew praise for his progress from Toronto manager John Gibbons in spring training. Alford’s time is coming. … Gulfport native Bobby Bradley’s first taste of Double-A hasn’t been as sweet. The ex-Harrison Central standout is 3-for-16 in five games for Akron, Cleveland’s Eastern League club. On a positive note, the 20-year-old Bradley, the Indians’ No. 5 prospect, slugged his first homer on Monday; he now has 65 in 285 minor league games. P.S. Itawamba Community College alum Desmond Jennings is 3-for-13 through four games for Triple-A Las Vegas in the New York Mets’ system. The 30-year-old MLB veteran was released by Tampa Bay last summer and by Cincinnati this spring. Injuries have plagued Jennings the past couple of years.
Kudos to Mitch Moreland for winning the first Gold Glove of his career. The ex-Mississippi State star, now a free agent, led American League first basemen in fielding percentage (.998) playing for Texas in 2016. He committed just two errors in 1,103 chances. (And it didn’t hurt that he hit 22 home runs.) … Former Harrison Central High standout Bobby Bradley is rated the No. 5 prospect (again) and best power hitter in Cleveland’s system in Baseball America’s new rankings. Bradley, a lefty-hitting first baseman, was the Class A Carolina League MVP this past season, when he belted 29 homers and drove in 102 runs. He hit just .235 but had a .344 on-base percentage. … Picayune High product T.J. House, Itawamba Community College alum Tim Dillard and former Southern Miss star Scott Copeland are on the list of minor league free agents published by Baseball America. A host of former Mississippi Braves are also on the market, including Matt Lipka, Daniel Castro, Brandon Cunniff, Willians Astudillo, Madison Younginer, Joey Terdoslavich, Brandon Hicks, Jordan Schafer and David Hale. … Richton’s JaCoby Jones had another big hit on Tuesday for Salt River, boosting his Arizona Fall League average to .333 and RBI total to 11 in 16 games. Ex-Madison Central star Spencer Turnbull, another Detroit prospect with Salt River, worked strong four innings in that game, allowing one unearned run and fanning five. His ERA in five AFL starts is now 4.50.