One of the great mysteries of this season at Trustmark Park is the abrupt decline of Alex Jackson. The 22-year-old catcher, rated Atlanta’s No. 14 prospect entering the year, is batting .182 with one home run and eight RBIs in 32 games for the Mississippi Braves. He started off well enough, with eight hits in his first seven games in his second Double-A stint, but has since fallen into an abyss with no signs of climbing out. He’s batting .132 over his last 10 games, including an 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Thursday’s first game against Jacksonville at the TeePee. Jackson was the sixth overall pick by Seattle in the 2014 draft, but he struggled to adjust to pro ball. Prior to last season, the Braves acquired him in a trade, moved him back to catcher – his high school position – and watched him take off. He hit .272 with 14 homers at Class A Florida before getting bumped to Mississippi. In 30 games in the Southern League, he batted .255 with five homers and 20 RBIs. He went to the Arizona Fall League and made the Top Prospects Team, sort of an All-AFL list. He was named an Atlanta organization All-Star by milb.com and invited to big league camp. MLB Pipeline projected him as a “Javy Lopez type of regular big league backstop when it’s all said and done.” That was before this season began. With three months left, Jackson has time to get back on that track. Some mysteries do have happy endings. P.S. Laurel’s Wooten Legion Field is the site for tonight’s National Urban Professional Baseball League (see previous posts) inaugural game, with the Josh Gibson All-Stars hosting the Vickie Pasley All-Stars in the opener of a four-game series. The four-team NUPBL was founded in response to declining numbers of African-American players in the game but is open to players of all races.
Jarrod Dyson – and the Seattle Mariners – got some bad news on Monday when it was revealed that the M’s center fielder would have season-ending surgery for an apparent sports hernia. The Southwest Mississippi Community College product from McComb hit .251 with five homers, 30 RBIs, 56 runs and 28 steals in 111 games. He also had 11 outfield assists. The Mariners, still in the American League wild card hunt, will no doubt miss Dyson. “When he was healthy, he did a lot for us in the outfield defense-wise and what he can do on the bases, that’s his game,” Seattle manager Scott Servais told the Seattle Times. Dyson, 33, is a free agent at the end of this season. He joins a sizable list of Mississippians in the majors who have suffered significant injuries this season. Billy Hamilton and Bobby Wahl are also out for the year, and Kendall Graveman, Tony Sipp, Brandon Woodruff, Zack Cozart and Adam Frazier missed chunks of time. Woodruff’s big league debut was delayed by a pregame injury. Anthony Alford, called up by Toronto on May 19, went on the DL on May 24, was optioned back to the minors on July 25 and hasn’t been back up. JaCoby Jones also was knocked out of the big leagues by an injury, though he is with Detroit again now.
In Baseball America’s recent rankings of the Best Tools in the major leagues, Aaron Hicks, Kevin Kiermaier and Alex Gordon were 1-2-3 in the American League’s Best Outfield Arm category. In the NL, it was Yoenis Cespedes, Mississippi’s own Hunter Renfroe and Yasiel Puig. The MLB leader in outfield assists is … none of the above. Jarrod Dyson, the ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star from McComb, tops that list with 11. The Seattle center fielder got one on Tuesday night, cutting down Baltimore’s Manny Machado at the plate in the Mariners’ 3-1 victory in a meeting of AL playoff contenders. Dyson has 47 assists in his eight-year career, and he hasn’t played regularly for much of that time. Dyson did show up in three of the Baseball America Best Tools rankings, which are based on a poll of managers, coaches and scouts. He was the AL’s Best Bunter – he put down a nice sacrifice on Tuesday – and ranked second in Best Baserunner and Fastest Baserunner. … It’s impressive that the names of four Mississippi natives show up in the rankings. In addition to Dyson and Crystal Springs’ Renfroe, Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton was No. 1 in the NL’s Fastest Baserunner – duh – and Best Baserunner categories and No. 3 in Best Defensive Outfielder, and Amory’s Mitch Moreland was second in the AL’s Best Defensive First Baseman chart. P.S. East Central CC product Tim Anderson led off with a first-pitch home run against Alex Wood in Tuesday night’s Chicago White Sox-Los Angeles Dodgers game at Dodger Stadium. It was Anderson’s 14th homer and fifth in nine games. It was the only run former Mississippi Braves ace Wood would allow in seven innings, but he took a no-decision in the Dodgers’ 6-1 win. He is 14-1 for a team that is now a jaw-dropping 84-34. … Ole Miss alum Colby Bortles homered in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game in York, N.Y. Bortles has only one homer in 35 regular season games for Connecticut in the Detroit system. A 2017 draftee, he is batting .273 with 15 RBIs.
Apparently, Brian Dozier’s bruised knee is just fine. After sitting out Saturday’s game, the former Southern Miss star smacked an inside-the-park home run on Sunday, producing the only run Minnesota would score in a 3-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox at Target Field. It was Dozier’s 119th career homer but first inside-the-parker. “I put it in a different gear,” he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Dozier’s recent power surge has overshadowed the fact that he can run a little bit. He has five steals already this season and has swiped 12 or more bags in each of the last four seasons. … Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland continues to deliver big hits for Boston, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs on Sunday. He had the go-ahead hit in the seventh inning of the Red Sox’s 7-5 win over Tampa Bay at Fenway Park. Moreland is hitting .356 with a homer, five RBIs and seven runs in his first season with Boston. “It’s been a smooth transition,” he told The Associated Press. … Jarrod Dyson, inserted as a pinch hitter, sparked a ninth-inning rally for Seattle with an infield hit and a stolen base, his fourth of the year. “We are down one (run), and I am on base with no outs? I am looking to go — and go early,” McComb native Dyson told the Bellingham (Wash.) Herald. He scored the tying run in the Mariners’ 8-7 win against Texas at Safeco Field. Dyson is batting just .200 with five runs in 12 games for his new club. … Ex-State star Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh’s super utility man, went 3-for-4 with homer – his first – and three RBIs as the Pirates completed a sweep of the Chicago Cubs with a 6-1 victory at Wrigley Field. Frazier is batting .343. … Ole Miss alum Chris Coghlan, who’s due a World Series ring from the Cubs, got his first hit and first RBI for Toronto, but the scuffling Blue Jays fell to Baltimore 11-4 at Rogers Centre. Coghlan was called up from Triple-A last week as a replacement for injured Josh Donaldson.
Gotta love this comment from Jarrod Dyson: “I want to take that job and run with it.” The ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star was talking to an mlb.com writer about being Seattle’s everyday left fielder and leadoff batter. And of course, running is what Dyson does best. He has 176 stolen bases (and 211 runs) in 550 career MLB games. And he tracks down virtually everything in the outfield. The Mariners, who traded for Dyson in the off-season, want him to play every day. Manager Scott Servais has said the team is better with Dyson at the top of the lineup. The key will be how well the left-handed hitting Dyson fares against lefty pitching. He is a .231 career hitter against lefties, .260 overall with a .325 on-base percentage. The Royals used Dyson a lot as a pinch runner, pinch hitter and defensive replacement, and he played a key role in their World Series trips in 2014 and ’15. He had hopes of winning a regular job last spring but was derailed by an injury. Now the Mariners are going to give him another shot at full-time duty. The McComb native has had a great spring: .343, five steals. The former 50th-round draft pick is 32 but showing no signs of slowing down. He hit .278 with 30 bags for the Royals last summer.
It has been a quiet spring for Seth Smith. Too quiet. The Jackson native and ex-Ole Miss star is 0-for-9 in four games with his new club, the Baltimore Orioles. But with the team’s World Baseball Classic participants heading out, Smith is expected to play more regularly in the coming days. The O’s host the Dominican Republic team today in Sarasota, Fla. Believe it or not, Smith is 34 and entering his ninth full season in the big leagues. The lefty-hitting outfielder, a .261 career hitter with 113 homers, has gone from Colorado to Oakland to San Diego to Seattle to Baltimore, which traded for him in January. Smith is coming off a productive year: He hit 16 homers and drove in a career-high 63 runs for the Mariners. He batted just .249 but put up a .342 on-base percentage. Smith likely will platoon in right field for Buck Showalter’s O’s, who made the postseason in 2016. … Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland, who also changed teams this year, is also having a quiet spring. Now with American League East heavyweight Boston after seven years in Texas, Moreland is 2-for-11 in Grapefruit League play, with three RBIs. … Jarrod Dyson, the Southwest Mississippi Community College alum, has been more impactful with his new club, Seattle. Dyson, who won a ring with Kansas City in 2015, is 6-for-17 (.353) with two RBIs, two runs and a stolen base for the M’s, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2001.
It now appears that Brian Dozier will be staying in Minnesota. For sure he won’t be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have acquired Logan Forsythe from Tampa Bay to play second base in 2017. Dozier, the former Southern Miss standout, has said all along that he wants to stay with the Twins, though the team, which won only 59 games in 2016, isn’t likely to be a contender anytime soon. Dozier hit 42 homers – an American League record for second basemen — in 2016, to go with a .268 average, 99 RBIs and 104 runs. He is under contract for two more years. … Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz has pronounced himself fit for 2017 and eager to win a job in Boston’s rotation. The left-hander’s ERA was 4.59 last year for the Red Sox after they acquired him from San Diego, where he had a 2.47 and was an All-Star. Pomeranz recently told reporters that he had elbow pain late last year, an ailment that has been treated with a stem cell shot. The Red Sox’s rotation is stacked at the top with Rick Porcello, David Price and Chris Sale. Competition for the other two jobs will be stiff. “In my head, I always feel like I’m competing for something,” Pomeranz said in an mlb.com article. The well-traveled Pomeranz also has experience as a reliever. … Expectations are that Jarrod Dyson will play regularly in left field and bat leadoff for Seattle, which traded for the Southwest Mississippi Community College product earlier this month. Regular time was hard to come by for Dyson in Kansas City, where, over seven seasons, he batted .260 with 176 steals and played excellent defense, something Seattle was seeking. … DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley was rated the No. 8 third base prospect in the minors by MLB Pipeline. Riley played at the low Class A level in 2016, batting .271 with 20 homers in his first full year in Atlanta’s system. Ex-Mississippi Braves star Ozzie Albies was rated the No. 2 second base prospect and Travis Demeritte, expected to play in Pearl this year, was pegged at No. 5. Demeritte may be shifted to third base.
Having traded away a Mississippian today, Seattle then dealt for one. Welcome to the Mariners, Jarrod Dyson. The M’s, who earlier shipped lefty-hitting outfielder Seth Smith to Baltimore for pitcher Yovani Gallardo, traded pitcher Nathan Karns to Kansas City for Dyson, another lefty-hitting outfielder. Dyson’s game is more about speed and defense than Smith’s (see previous post). The ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College standout has 176 steals over parts of seven MLB campaigns; he’s a .260 career hitter who can play any of the outfield spots. He put up good numbers in a reserve role in 2016: .278, 14 doubles, eight triples, 25 RBIs, 46 runs and 30 steals in 107 games. Kansas City is the only club Dyson has played for.
Seth Smith will wear another hat in 2017. If you’re counting, that’ll be his fifth in 11 years in the big leagues. The Ole Miss alum and Jackson native has been traded from Seattle to Baltimore for pitcher Yovani Gallardo. Smith, a lefty-hitting corner outfielder, is 34 and in the last year of a three-year contract. He batted .249 with 16 homers and 63 RBIs for the Mariners in 2016, his second year with that club. He has previously played for Colorado, Oakland and San Diego. Smith has been a serviceable player in his MLB career, with 113 homers and a .261 average, though he is limited because he doesn’t hit lefties. His bat should benefit from playing in Camden Yards and those other American League East parks. Plus, he gets to play for Buck Showalter.
In announcing the trade of Cameron Maybin on Thursday, Detroit officials said there would be “a wide-open competition” for the center field job in spring training. Former Richton High star JaCoby Jones will be in the mix. Jones, who can also play the infield, is playing center field in the Arizona Fall League and batting .318 with a homer, eight RBIs and five steals in 13 games for Salt River. He went 6-for-28 in a big league trial this summer. In four minor league seasons, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Jones is hitting .269 with 47 homers and 58 bags. The Tigers acquired him in 2015 from Pittsburgh, which drafted Jones in the third round in 2013 out of LSU. … Seattle picked up the 2017 option on Seth Smith’s contract. The Jackson native and Ole Miss alum, a lefty-hitting outfielder, batted .249 with 16 homers for the Mariners in 2016, his second year with the club and 10th in the majors. … Chris Maloney, a Jackson native and ex-Mississippi State standout, will be back for a sixth year on the St. Louis coaching staff in 2017. Maloney coached third base for manager Mike Matheny this past season.