Tyler James, whose speed helped William Carey University reach the NAIA World Series in 2017 and helped him get drafted into pro ball, has not slowed down. James led the rookie Pioneer League in stolen bases this season with 38 and now has 69 bags in two years in the Kansas City Royals’ system. The 5-foot-10 outfielder/second baseman also batted .312 with 55 runs in 47 games for Idaho Falls. One of his two homers came against former Mississippi State ace Konnor Pilkington, leading off a game on Aug. 11. James, a Louisiana native, batted .282 with 111 stolen bases in three years at Carey. The Royals drafted him in the 25th round in 2017. James is now in Instructional League in Surprise, Ariz., with a bevy of other Royals minor leaguers who are getting some extra work before calling it a season. … Other Mississippi-connected players on IL rosters in either Arizona or Florida include: Austin Riley with Atlanta; Taylor Braley, Davis Bradshaw and Milton Smith, Jr., with Miami; Joe Gray with Milwaukee; Zack Shannon with Arizona; Ryan Rolison, Will Golsan and Hunter Stovall with Colorado; Simon Landry with the Los Angeles Dodgers; Steffon Moore with Tampa Bay; Brent Rooker and Willie Joe Garry are with Minnesota; Jacob Billingsley with Houston; Jack Kruger with the LA Angels; Dallas Woolfolk with Oakland; and Demarcus Evans with Texas.
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.
There is something about the name that gets your attention: Delvin Zinn. Some clever headlines in that name. Of course, he’s got game, too. The Chicago Cubs certainly seem to think so, having drafted Pontotoc native Zinn twice. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound shortstop, who made his pro debut on July 28 for the Arizona League Cubs, is still in Arizona for the Instructional League season. His numbers in the AZL weren’t much to shout about. In just 11 games, he batted .182 with one extra-base hit. Zinn was chosen in the 23rd round in June out of Itawamba Community College, where he batted .411 as a freshman this past season with 34 RBIs, 41 runs and seven steals. Scouting reports rave about his defense. Drafted by the Cubs in the 28th round in 2015 out of Pontotoc High, Zinn opted to go to Mississippi State, where he took part in fall ball before transferring to ICC, where he was eligible to be drafted again after his freshman season. Zinn, just 19, isn’t yet among the Cubs’ rated prospects, but he is one to watch in an organization that appears to be set up for long-term success. … Also on the Cubs’ IL roster are left-handers Wyatt Short, drafted out of Ole Miss this year, and Justin Steele, a 2014 fifth-rounder from George County. Southaven native Short (see previous post) had a very good debut in the Northwest League. Steele, the highest-drafted prep pitcher from Mississippi since Matt Butler in 1999, went 5-7 with a 5.00 ERA in the Class A Midwest League this season. Scouting reports say the Cubs’ No. 23 prospect is still harnessing command of his three pitches. P.S. Former DeSoto Central All-Stater Austin Riley is on Atlanta’s IL roster; the third baseman is coming off a 20-homer year at low Class A Rome. Outfield prospect Braxton Davidson, who could be with the Mississippi Braves in 2017, also is in Florida, along with pitchers Carlos Salazar and Chad Sobotka, two other likely candidates for Pearl next year.
Joe Gray, the highly touted junior at Hattiesburg High, is featured in a story currently posted on Baseball America’s website. Gray is playing on an elite travel team, the EvoShield Canes, with a group of seniors. Gray, a 6-foot-2, 194-pound outfielder, hit .474 with seven homers, 45 RBIs, 11 steals and 12 assists as a sophomore last year for Hattiesburg, helping the Tigers reach the Class 5A finals. He hit .380 as a freshman. Gray, who has not committed to a college, figures to be a high MLB draft pick in 2018. … Fall ball is in the air in Oxford, where the Rebels scrimmaged last Friday. Ole Miss, 43-19 and an NCAA Regional participant in 2016, returns infielders Tate Blackman, Colby Bortles and Will Golsan and reliever Will Stokes. Among the newcomers are freshmen Grae Kessinger, Jason Barber, Thomas Dillard and Houston Roth from powerhouse Oxford High. … Wyatt Short and Trent Giambrone – 2016 draftees out of Mississippi colleges by the Chicago Cubs – helped short-season Class A Eugene win the Northwest League pennant. Left-hander Short, a 13th-round pick from Ole Miss, where he was a standout closer, had a 0.00 ERA and seven saves in 15 games; he got the save in the final game of the title series. Second baseman Giambrone, a 25th-rounder out of Delta State, batted .292 with four homers and 22 RBIs for the Emeralds. … Blake Anderson, a supplemental first-round pick in 2014 out of West Lauderdale High, is on Miami’s Instructional League roster as a rehabbing player. The catcher played only one game this season, going on the disabled list with a shoulder injury on July 7. He has played only 58 games over three seasons. … Bryant Nelson, at age 42, is having a nice season in the independent Atlantic League. The switch-hitting second baseman/outfielder is batting .279 with 49 RBIs and 13 stolen bases for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. For fans of the old Jackson Generals — the ones who played at Smith-Wills Stadium from 1991-99 — the name might ring a bell. Nelson is the last link to a bygone era — the only former General still playing. (Freddy Garcia pitched briefly for Monterrey in the Mexican League this season but is not currently on the roster.) Nelson’s pro baseball odyssey began when Houston drafted him in the 44th round in 1993. He made the Generals’ roster in the 1996 postseason as an injury replacement and helped the Gens win the Texas League championship. Nelson has played in 2,463 pro games, according to baseball-reference.com, and gotten 2,632 hits. He has played in Mexico, Japan and Italy and even made it to the big leagues for 25 games with Boston in 2002.
At some point during Instructional League in Florida, the Toronto Blue Jays could trot out an outfield of three Mississippians. (Since no box scores are available from this league, it may already have happened.) The Blue Jays have former Petal High star Anthony Alford, Stone County product D.J. Davis and Mississippi Valley State alum Kalik May in their Dunedin camp this fall. All three have multiple tools and, presumably, bright futures. Alford, a third-round pick in 2012 who gave up football last year, is the most advanced. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound right-handed hitter batted .298 with four homers, 35 RBIs and 27 steals at two levels of A-ball. He was anointed by Baseball America as the best player in the Toronto system. Not far behind is Davis, 6-1, 180, a left-handed hitter drafted in the first round in 2012. He had a strong second year at low Class A Lansing: .282, seven homers, 59 RBIs and 21 bags. He is rated the No. 12 prospect in the system by mlb.com; Alford is No. 3. May, 6-2, 205, was just drafted in June, in the 33rd round. More project than prospect at this time, the switch-hitter batted .261 with two homers, 12 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in the Gulf Coast League — not a bad start. As a senior at Valley in 2015, May hit .335 with four homers, 33 RBIs and 22 steals. He was a standout at East Central Community College in 2012-13 (where he played with Chicago White Sox prospect Tim Anderson). Obviously, the odds of Alford, Davis and May reaching the big leagues with the Blue Jays at the same time would have to be pretty long. But, hey, stuff like that happens in baseball. The three Alous in San Francisco. The Young, Frank and Stynes outfield in Cincinnati. … Note, also, that the Blue Jays have a fourth Mississippi-connected outfielder in their system but not in the IL: Alcorn State alum Earl Burl III, a 30th-round selection in June who batted .216 at short season Class A Vancouver.