16 Aug

it’s a start

Making the New York-Penn League All-Star Game likely was not a major goal for Milton Smith II — who has expressed a much bigger dream — but it’s a nice feather in his cap. Smith, a former Meridian Community College and Starkville High star, was named to the short season Class A league’s showcase event on Thursday. The game is Aug. 21 at Staten Island, N.Y. A 22nd-round pick by Miami out of MCC in 2018, Smith is batting .319 (sixth in the NYPL) with 27 runs and 17 steals in 47 games for Batavia. He hit .362 last year, playing at the rookie level plus five games in high-A. That followed his sophomore season at Meridian when he batted .381 and swiped 24 bags in 40 games. Smith, a 5-foot-10, left-handed hitting outfielder, has what his former high school coach called “elite” speed. That’s a valuable tool, one that could help him stand out in a Marlins system that currently features 11 other outfielders among its Top 30 prospects. Smith also possesses a high level of confidence. Three years ago, at a ceremony when he signed with MCC, Smith told The Dispatch of Columbus/Starkville that his goal in baseball was not just to make the major leagues but to make it to Cooperstown, i.e., the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

07 Aug

starry, starry night

A couple of Mississippi products took star turns on Tuesday night in Boise, Idaho, when the Pioneer League and Northwest League All-Stars faced off in the annual clash of rookie-level circuits. Former Mississippi College standout Blaine Crim went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and earned Top Star honors for the NWL squad. He was upstaged a bit by Sam McWilliams, a Meridian Community College alum from Magee who hit a two-run homer, one of the four homers mashed by Pioneer stars in their 11-7 victory. “It was great to be here with the best guys around the league and just have fun for a night,” Crim told milb.com. “Definitely worth the trip.” Crim, the Gulf South Conference player of the year in 2019, was a 19th-round pick by Texas in June and is having an excellent season at Spokane. The first baseman/DH is hitting .341 with four homers and 24 RBIs. McWilliams, a 19th-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018 off a loaded MCC club, is batting .291 with 11 homers and 29 RBIs at Ogden. A second baseman, he hit .276 in the Arizona League last season. P.S. Former Mississippi Braves Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, both promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday, made smashing debuts on Tuesday, Waters going 3-for-5 with an RBI and Pache 2-for-5 with an RBI. Pache is the Braves’ No. 1 prospect, Waters No. 2.

05 Aug

starting point

Corey Dickerson’s first start for Philadelphia on Sunday went well. The former Meridian Community College standout from McComb, acquired from Pittsburgh last week, played left field and batted leadoff; he banged out two hits – including his fifth homer – and drove in three runs in a 10-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox. For the season, the lefty-hitting Dickerson is at .316 in 133 at-bats. He missed a big chunk of the season with a shoulder injury. There is speculation he will get some time in center field when Jay Bruce, also a lefty-hitting left fielder, returns from the injured list. Dickerson told nj.com that he would welcome the opportunity to play center, where he has some experience: “I feel like center field is easier as long as you can cover the ground. It’s easier to read the pitches and the balls off the bat. I think I can handle it.” He won a Gold Glove in left field for the Pirates in 2018. P.S. Dickerson, who hit leadoff once this season for Pittsburgh, is one of six Mississippians to bat first in an MLB game in 2019. Oddly enough, Billy Hamilton is not among that group. The Taylorsville High product, one of the fastest players in the game, frequently led off during his years in Cincinnati, but he has struggled at the plate most of this first season in Kansas City. He is hitting .209 and has seen his playing time reduced dramatically of late. … East Central CC alum Tim Anderson, a .300 hitter this year, has led off just once for the White Sox; he went 4-for-5. … Ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier, with Pittsburgh, and Southwest Mississippi CC product Jarrod Dyson (Arizona) have gotten the majority of their starts in the leadoff spot. Frazier is a .272 hitter, Dyson .250. … Richton’s JaCoby Jones (Detroit) and Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart (Los Angeles Angels) also have hit at the top of the order in 2019. Cozart is out for the season.

01 Aug

on the move — again

Corey Dickerson and Drew Pomeranz have new addresses and new perspectives on their 2019 season. The Mississippi college products were among the slew of players traded on Wednesday, both moving to teams with designs on a division title. Former Meridian Community College standout Dickerson, an outfielder, was traded from last-place Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, which is still in the hunt in the National League East. Ole Miss product Pomeranz, a left-hander who can start or relieve, went from San Francisco, barely an NL wild card contender, to Milwaukee, which is in the thick of the NL Central battle. (Former Biloxi Shuckers shortstop Mauricio Dubon, a top Brewers prospect, went to the Giants as part of the Pomeranz deal.) Dickerson, who figures to play regularly for the Phillies, is a .285 career hitter with 107 homers. Now in his seventh MLB season, the former All-Star and Gold Glove winner is joining a fourth different team. Pomeranz, in his ninth big league season, is now with his seventh different organization. Also a one-time All-Star, he has a 4.09 career ERA, a 46-57 record, 14 holds and three saves. He is expected to work out of the Brewers’ bullpen. … Atlanta, in much-needed moves, added relievers Shane Greene (from Detroit) and Mark Melancon (Giants). In the Greene deal, the Braves parted with Mississippi Braves alums Joey Wentz (5-8, 4.72 for the current club) and Travis Demeritte. Former M-Braves standout Kolby Allard was traded to Texas on Tuesday for reliever Chris Martin. … Other Mississippians who were rumored to be on the block – Jarrod Dyson (Arizona), Billy Hamilton (Kansas City), Lance Lynn (Texas), Hunter Renfroe (San Diego) – stayed put. P.S. Former Mississippi State standout Jonathan Holder is back up with the New York Yankees after a second stint this season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Holder has a 6.63 ERA in 32 MLB appearances.

31 Jul

in other news

Though the benches-clearing melee will get most of the attention, they did play some baseball in Cincinnati on Tuesday. Corey Dickerson, the McComb native and ex-Meridian Community College star, drove in a career-best five runs and hit two homers to lead Pittsburgh to an 11-4 win that stopped a nine-game losing streak. Dickerson, who has battled injuries all season, appeared to stay on the fringes of the fracas in the ninth inning that resulted in multiple ejections. The lefty-hitting outfielder has played well when he’s been on the field (.317, four homers, 25 RBIs) but has appeared in just 43 games, most recently sidelined for three days by a groin problem. He also has been the subject of trade rumors, which he claimed have not been a distraction. “I’ve been so focused on my routine (and) the process of being healthy and trying to be the best version of me every day,” Dickerson told mlb.com. P.S. East Central CC alum Tim Anderson returned to the Chicago White Sox’s lineup from the injured list and went 0-for-3 with a ninth-inning sac fly in a game won by the New York Mets 5-2 in 11 innings. … Former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull began a rehab assignment for Detroit by throwing 3 2/3 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts for Triple-A Toledo. Turnbull is 3-9 with a 3.65 ERA for the Tigers.

30 Jul

trade winds

Jarrod Dyson, having a good season with Arizona, is rumored to be drawing interest from other clubs as the MLB trade deadline approaches. MLB Trade Rumors rates the former Southwest Mississippi Community College standout No. 31 among its top 75 trade candidates, and he is one of five Mississippi products appearing on that list. The others are Corey Dickerson (No. 3), Hunter Renfroe (39), Lance Lynn (67) and Drew Pomeranz (72). The trade deadline is Wednesday at 3 p.m. CDT. Dyson, a speedy center fielder, is batting .251 with six home runs and ranks among the MLB leaders with 24 steals. He will be a free agent after this season. Meridian Community College product Dickerson, a left fielder, has had an injury-dampened season with Pittsburgh but is hitting .300. He is also a pending free agent. Mississippi State alum Renfroe, a corner outfielder with San Diego, has a career-high 29 homers plus 58 RBIs. He is arbitration-eligible next year. Lynn, the veteran right-hander out of Ole Miss, has been a stalwart starter for Texas, posting a 13-6 record with a 3.83 ERA. He is in the first year of a 3-year, $30 million free agent deal. Lefty Pomeranz, also a UM product, is on a one-year deal with San Francisco and has mostly struggled. He is 2-9, 5.75 and recently was moved to the bullpen, where he has posted three straight scoreless appearances.

24 Jul

feel good story

There were five Mississippi college products in uniform for Tuesday night’s St. Louis-Pittsburgh game, and all five had something to feel good about. Start with Dakota Hudson, the ex-Mississippi State star. He went 6 1/3 innings in a 4-3 Cardinals victory, winning his fourth straight start to improve to 10-4 on the year. Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers did not pitch for St. Louis but was available in the bullpen for the first time since mid-April, having come off the injured list on Tuesday. MSU product Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh’s second baseman, led off the bottom of the first with a single and went 2-for-4 with a run. Former Meridian Community College standout Corey Dickerson, the Pirates’ left fielder, went 1-for-3 with a double, boosting his average to .301. And ex-State star Chris Stratton worked three perfect innings in relief for the Pirates. Hudson’s performance stole the show for a surging Cardinals club that has moved to within a half-game of first-place Chicago in the National League Central. After allowing a three-run homer in the first inning, Hudson pitched into the seventh without surrendering another run. He valiantly worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth, getting a strikeout (of Josh Bell) and a double-play ball. “What it comes down to, it’s just bearing down and having some guts and trusting your stuff to make quality pitches,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt told mlb.com. St. Louis had taken the lead in the top of the fifth on a homer by Mississippi Braves alum Jose Martinez. P.S. Mitch Moreland, the State product from Amory, came off the IL and went 0-for-2 for Boston in a win at Tampa Bay. … Former Bulldogs star Jonathan Holder of Gulfport was recalled from the minors by the New York Yankees on Monday and pitched a clean inning that night at Minnesota. He did not appear in Tuesday’s wild 14-12 Yankees win.

11 Jul

down on farm

The Miami Marlins, headed for a 10th straight losing season, are counting on their farm system to get things turned around. At short season Class A Batavia, Milton Smith II is clamoring to be a part of that rebuilding process. Starkville native Smith is leading the New York-Penn League in hitting with a .416 average through 22 games. The lefty-hitting outfielder, a 22nd-round pick out of Meridian Community College in 2018, has 15 runs and four steals and recently rang up a five-hit game. He hit .362 in his debut season. Smith is one of several Mississippians playing in the low levels of the Marlins’ system. Also on that Batavia club is Dustin Skelton, an 18th-round pick from Mississippi State last month. The catcher is 4-for-17 since joining the Muckdogs. A step up at low Class A Clinton is former McLaurin High and MCC star Davis Bradshaw, an 11th-round pick in 2018 who batted .354 in his debut campaign. The lefty-hitting outfielder has found the going a bit tougher in the Midwest League, batting .222 in 29 games. At high-A Jupiter, former Southern Miss pitcher Taylor Braley, a sixth-rounder in 2017, has a 3.45 ERA in 15 appearances (and 3.96 in his career), and ex-Ole Miss catcher Nick Fortes, a fourth-round selection in 2018, is hitting .212 with two homers and 18 RBIs. … Blake Anderson, a first-round pick out of West Lauderdale High in 2014 who converted from catcher to pitcher in 2017, is not currently listed on a Marlins minor league roster.

28 May

‘crazy journey’

He yielded hits to three of the first five batters he faced and three runs (two earned) in his first inning, but Ole Miss product Jacob Waguespack settled in nicely from there in his big league debut on Monday. Waguespack, called up on Sunday by Toronto, pitched four innings in relief at Tampa Bay and finished with seven strikeouts, most ever by a Blue Jays rookie in his debut. He allowed just two baserunners in his last three innings. “I’ve had a pretty crazy journey here,” Waguespack, who had an entourage of friends and family at the game, told mlb.com. “It’s not expected to make it this far and I’m just thankful for their support.” The 6-foot-6 Louisiana native signed with Philadelphia as a non-drafted free agent in 2015, grinded his way up the ladder to Triple-A and then was traded to Toronto last July 31 for big leaguer Aaron Loup. Waguespack was placed on the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster in November. The 25-year-old right-hander was just 2-6, 5.86 ERA in nine starts at Triple-A Buffalo when he was recalled. His career minor league ERA is 4.07. He follows Chris Ellis, Nate Lowe and Austin Riley as Mississippi-connected players to debut in MLB in 2019. P.S. Ex-Meridian Community College star Corey Dickerson, on the injured list (shoulder) for Pittsburgh since April 4, is 2-for-13 in three games on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Indianapolis. He was placed on the 60-day IL on Monday as a procedural move.

07 May

whatever happened to …

Corey Dickerson, on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 10-day injured list since April 4, remains in limbo with a shoulder problem. A rehab assignment that was to begin on April 26 was called off because the former Meridian Community College star was experiencing discomfort in his right (throwing) shoulder. The latest injury update indicates he has not resumed throwing or hitting. Dickerson, who turns 30 on May 22, played in just four games (2-for-13, one homer) before going on the IL. Dickerson was an All-Star for Tampa Bay in 2017 and won a Gold Glove in left field for the Pirates last season, when he batted .300 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs. (He also won All Mississippi Baseball’s Cool Papa Bell Award as the best Mississippian in the majors in 2018.)