19 Sep

whatever happened to …

Corey Wimberly, the former Alcorn State star and longtime minor leaguer, is coaching for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League, which began play Wednesday. He has managed in the Boston Red Sox organization for the last two seasons, spending 2019 at Class A Salem. His charges lost in the Carolina League title series. Wimberly was an All-SWAC infielder for Alcorn who batted .462 with 42 stolen bases, 55 runs and 32 RBIs in 38 games in 2005. (Somehow, he did not win the Ferriss Trophy.) He was drafted as a sophomore-eligible in the sixth round by Colorado in 2005. Wimberly played 12 years of pro ball, reaching the Triple-A level (including a stint with Atlanta) but never getting the big league call. He batted .297 with 351 stolen bases for his career. He last played in the Mexican League three years ago. P.S. There are three Mississippi college products on the current AFL rosters. Ole Miss alum Brady Feigl, a right-hander in Oakland’s system, pitched a scoreless inning for Mesa in its opener. Ex-Southern Miss standout Kirk McCarty, a pitcher in the Cleveland system, is also on the Mesa club. USM product Bradley Roney, who pitched for the Mississippi Braves this season, gave up a home run but registered a hold for Scottsdale. M-Braves alum Trey Harris, Atlanta’s 2019 minor league player of the year, went 2-for-4 with a homer for the Scorpions.

16 Sep

title hungry

Congratulations to Phillip Wellman, the former Mississippi Braves manager who piloted the Amarillo Sod Poodles to a Texas League championship on Sunday, beating Tulsa 8-3 in the decisive fifth game. This is the team’s first year in Amarillo after the franchise – still a San Diego affiliate — moved from San Antonio. (Sod poodle is a pioneer nickname for prairie dog.) It was the second championship for Wellman in 19 seasons as a minor league skipper; he won the other in 2008 in the second of his four seasons with the M-Braves. … Condolences to the Biloxi Shuckers, who lost at Jackson, Tenn., on Sunday in Game 5 of the Southern League Championship Series. The Shuckers, a Milwaukee affiliate, have lost in the SL finals in three of their five seasons on the Coast. … It’s now been 11 years since Mississippi celebrated a pro baseball championship, which is beginning to feel like a drought. Over a 15-year span starting in 1981, Jackson’s Texas League clubs won five championships – the Mets in 1981, ’84 and ’85 and the Generals in ’93 and ’96. The independent Senators won a Central League crown in 2003, and five years later, the M-Braves won their lone Southern League title. Long before that, Jackson-based teams won league championships in 1908, 1913, 1925, 1927, 1931, 1940 and 1947, according to research in the Minor League Encyclopedia of Baseball. The 1913 team, known as the Lawmakers, posted an impressive 71-24 record (.747 winning percentage) in the old Cotton States League. Mississippi did not have a pro club from 1953, when the original Senators left town, to 1975, when the Mets moved into Smith-Wills Stadium.

06 Sep

three things

Thing 1: If you watched Max Fried pitch Thursday night, you’d be lying if you claimed your jaw didn’t drop. One hit and no walks allowed over seven shutout innings against a loaded Washington lineup in the opener of a big four-game series in Atlanta. Fried is 16-4, 3.86 ERA, for the first-place Braves, who won 4-2 on Thursday. If you watched Fried pitch in 2017 for the Mississippi Braves, you’d be stretching it to say you saw this coming. In his second season after returning from Tommy John surgery, the tall left-hander from California went 2-11 with a 5.92 ERA. Ugh. He struck out 85 in 86 2/3 innings but walked 43. Acquired from San Diego in 2014 as part of the Justin Upton deal, Fried was a highly rated prospect in 2017. The Braves gave him a big league look that season and more time in 2018, when Fried posted a 2.94 ERA over 14 games. He won a job in the rotation this spring, and his development hit a new peak on Thursday. “As good as it gets” is how catcher Brian McCann described it to mlb.com. … Thing 2: Dakota Hudson, the ex-Mississippi State star and current St. Louis ace, had a day on Thursday. The rookie right-hander tossed six shutout innings, yielding just one hit, and picked up the first two RBIs of his MLB career in a 10-0 win against San Francisco. Hudson is 15-6 — two wins off the big league lead and tops among all rookies – and has a 3.40 ERA for the surging first-place Cardinals, who, according to Hudson, are having “a blast.” … Thing 3: Dylan File gave up one run over 8 1/3 innings to pace Biloxi to a 4-1 win over Pensacola in Game 2 of the Southern League South playoff series at MGM Park. The Shuckers lead the best-of-5 series 2-0. File went 9-2, 2.79 this season for the Double-A Shuckers, a Milwaukee affiliate.

05 Sep

watch for it

Riding a hot hand, Washington manager Dave Martinez has been giving more playing time to Asdrubal Cabrera at second base, relegating Southern Miss product Brian Dozier to spot duty. Cabrera had started the last three games, but for tonight’s contest at Atlanta, the opener of a huge four-game series between the top two teams in the National League East, Dozier is back in the lineup. Left-hander Max Fried (15-4), a Mississippi Braves alumnus, is slated to start for the Braves; Stephen Strasburg (16-5, 3-0 vs. the Braves in 2019) goes for Washington. Dozier has been the Nats’ regular second baseman most of the season after signing as a free agent late last year, but he last started a game on Aug. 31. (Howie Kendrick got a start on Sept. 1.) Dozier, 32, coming off a disappointing finish to his 2018 season, is batting .236 with 19 homers and 45 RBIs for Washington. He will be a free agent again after this season. Veteran switch-hitter Cabrera, signed last month after being released by Texas, is batting .324 with three homers and 23 RBIs in 20 games with the Nationals. … Watch for ex-Ole Miss star and Nats reliever Aaron Barrett (see previous posts) to make his first MLB appearance in over four years during this series.

04 Sep

in hot pursuit

After winning both halves of their division race, the Biloxi Shuckers will begin pursuit of an elusive pennant tonight when the Southern League South playoffs start at MGM Park. The Shuckers went 82-55 overall in 2019. They play wild card qualifier Pensacola in the best-of-5 division series. Biloxi made the postseason in 2015, its first year on the Coast, and again last year but did not capture the league title. Milwaukee’s Double-A club last won the SL pennant in 2001, when it was in Huntsville. (The Mississippi Braves, who just completed their 15th year in Pearl, have won one SL pennant, that coming in 2008.) Biloxi will be without league pitcher of the year Trey Supak, who was promoted in July, and All-Star first baseman Patrick Leonard, who is injured. All-Star closer Nate Griep (1.98 ERA, 22 saves) is still around, as is the power-hitting foursome of Weston Wilson (19 homers), Cooper Hummel (17), Jake Gatewood (13) and Dillon Thomas (13). C.J. Hinojosa is the leading hitter at .280, and Luis Aviles Jr. stole 27 bags. Alec Bettinger (5-7, 3.44) is slated to start Game 1. Former Mississippi State standout Daniel Brown (3.19) works out of the Biloxi pen, as does Clayton Andrews (2.59), who also plays some outfield (.281). … The M-Braves finished 62-74 overall and, despite a prospect-filled roster, didn’t seriously challenge in either half in the South. The M-Braves also had three players make the All-Star team: pitcher Ian Anderson and outfielders Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, who was the league’s MVP. Waters became the fifth Jackson area Double-A player to win a player of the year honor. Tim Leary, a pitcher for the Jackson Mets, won the Texas League award in 1980, a year when the league did not have a separate award for pitchers. Darryl Strawberry (1982) and Gregg Jefferies (1987) also won the TL award as JaxMets, and Roberto Petagine won it in 1993 with the Jackson Generals. Javy Lopez in 1992 was the last Braves prospect to win the SL MVP; the team was in Greenville, S.C., at that time.

03 Sep

nothing doing

Among the impressive pitching feats of 2019, this one deserves a special mention: Former Mississippi Braves left-hander Mike Minor and a pair of Texas relievers beat the New York Yankees 7-0 on Monday, handing the Bronx Bombers their first shutout in 221 games. The Yankees – whose hitting coach is Louisville native Marcus Thames — have averaged 5.8 runs per game this season. Minor worked 7 1/3 innings, scattering five hits, walking one and fanning five. One of the Yankees hitters called Minor’s four-pitch repertoire “nasty.” “We mixed every pitch,” Minor told mlb.com. “We didn’t get into any patterns. I felt like we attacked.” Minor, an All-Star this year, is 12-8 with a 3.12 ERA. He was a first-round pick by Atlanta out of Vanderbilt in 2009 and pitched for the M-Braves in 2010. He was 2-6, 4.03 but showed his stuff by striking out 109 in 87 innings. He debuted in the big leagues later that season. His career was derailed by injuries in 2015, but he has made a strong comeback the last two years with Texas.

29 Aug

boys of fall

A pair of former Southern Miss pitchers will get some bonus work in the Arizona Fall League, the select circuit that begins its season on Sept. 18. Bradley Roney, currently with the Mississippi Braves in Atlanta’s system, and Kirk McCarty, pitching for Lynchburg in the Cleveland organization, are on the AFL’s initial rosters announced Wednesday. More names will be added soon. Roney is one of four current M-Braves on the Scottsdale roster, joined by outfielder Greyson Jenista, outfielder Trey Harris and pitcher Connor Johnstone. Roney returned in May from roughly two years on the injured list. The 26-year-old right-handed reliever has a 2.70 ERA, two saves and 34 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings for Double-A Mississippi. Drafted in 2014, he reached Triple-A in 2016 before stalling out with arm injuries. McCarty, a left-handed starter, was a seventh-round pick in 2017. He has spent two stints on the IL this season at high Class A Lynchburg, where he has posted a 3-6 record with a 5.37 ERA in 12 games. He has a 4.03 career ERA. He’ll pitch for Mesa. Lefty Clayton Andrews, a Milwaukee prospect currently on Biloxi’s roster, is slated to pitch for Glendale.

23 Aug

odds and ends

From the Sometimes This Game Ain’t Fair Dept.: Ole Miss product Jacob Waguespack shut out the best team in baseball for seven innings on Thursday night. He wound up with a no-decision as his team — the Toronto Blue Jays – lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 via a ninth-inning walk-off hit. Waguespack, pitching his 10th big league game, allowed one hit, one walk and one HBP in a 95-pitch outing. He was pulled — with a 2-0 lead — because of stomach cramps. The Jays’ bullpen gave up three runs in the ninth. Waguespack is 4-1 with a 3.63 ERA this season. … Former Southern Miss star Brian Dozier returned from paternity leave on Thursday and was back in the lineup for Washington. He went 0-for-3 in a win against Pittsburgh. … DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley is slated to begin a rehab assignment tonight for Class A Rome in the Atlanta system. Riley, coming back from a knee injury, has 17 homers with 45 RBIs in 66 games as a Braves rookie. … Ex-Mississippi State standout Nate Lowe is batting .375 over his last 10 games at Triple-A Durham, eagerly awaiting a recall by Tampa Bay. Lowe batted .295 with five homers during previous stints with the Rays this season. … Also hoping for a September call-up is Bobby Bradley, the former Harrison Central star now at Triple-A Columbus in Cleveland’s chain. Bradley is hitting just .138 over his last 10 games. He leads all Mississippians in the minors with 30 homers; he hit one during his 15-game big league tour. … Behind the pitching of Claudio Custodio, the Mississippi Braves beat Pensacola 3-1 on Thursday at Pearl’s Trustmark Park to conclude a 4-7 homestand. At 27-33 in the second half, the M-Braves have an elimination number of 1 in the Southern League South. They have 10 games left, including an Aug. 29-Sept. 2 homestand that will end the season. … Former M-Braves star Mallex Smith, now with Seattle, will wear WATER on the back of his jersey for Players Weekend (which starts today). Why? “Because I flow anywhere.”

20 Aug

just stuff

St. Louis right-hander Dakota Hudson, the ex-Mississippi State star, told reporters after Monday’s game that he wasn’t surprised when he was pulled in the seventh inning with a lead because he knew his pitch count was running high. The surprise, Hudson said, came when he got into the Cardinals’ clubhouse and learned that he had not allowed a hit to the Milwaukee Brewers. Alas, the no-hitter was broken up in the eighth, but St. Louis won 3-0 to take sole possession of first place in the National League Central. The hyper-focused Hudson went 6 2/3, walking four and fanning seven, to improve to 12-3, 3.63 ERA. He had thrown 111 pitches when he departed. “He had more than done his job,” manager Mike Shildt told mlb.com. Hudson’s last no-hitter was in high school in Tennessee. … No Mississippian, native or college alum, has thrown a solo no-no in the big leagues. Roy Oswalt worked the first inning of a six-man no-hitter for Houston in 2003, and Jonathan Papelbon finished off a four-man no-no for Philadelphia in 2014. … A day after belting two homers in a big win for Washington, Fulton native and Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier went on paternity leave to return home for the birth of his first child. … Curious to see what kind of impact Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton will have with Atlanta. The Braves, who have three outfielders on the injured list, claimed the light-hitting but fast-running center fielder on waivers Monday. His likely roles are pinch runner and late-inning defensive replacement. Hamilton has 295 career MLB steals, most ever by a Mississippian, and swiped an all-time pro record 155 in the minors in 2012. … Former Mississippi Braves standout Travis Demeritte, traded to Detroit in the Shane Greene deal, has quietly gotten off to a nice start: .292, two homers, 10 runs, three doubles, two triples and three steals in 18 games for the Tigers. He is one of eight M-Braves products to debut in the majors in 2019. … DeSoto Central High’s Blaze Jordan is ranked the No. 11 high school prospect for the 2020 draft by mlb.com’s Jim Callis. An MSU commit, Jordan hit .440 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs in 37 games for the MHSAA Class 6A state champs last season.

13 Aug

m-braves new world

In a span of six days starting July 31, the Mississippi Braves’ prospect-packed roster was gouged. Pitcher Joey Wentz, Atlanta’s No. 9 prospect (MLB Pipeline), was traded on deadline day. On Aug. 4, No. 7 Kyle Muller, also a pitcher, went on the injured list. On Aug. 5 — the final day of the last homestand — No. 1 Cristian Pache, No. 2 Drew Waters, No. 3 Ian Anderson and No. 13 Tucker Davidson (two outfielders and two more starting pitchers) were promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett. Boom. As the M-Braves begin a 10-game homestand tonight, you might be wondering, what’s left? Well, Atlanta does have one of the strongest farm systems, and there are several intriguing top 20 prospects on the current club. Start with Trey Harris, a former SEC (Missouri) outfielder promoted from A-ball last month. The No. 18 prospect, he is batting .310 in 20 games after blowing through low-A Rome (.366, eight homers) and high-A Florida (.303, four homers). William Contreras, No. 8, the younger brother of big leaguer Willson, is regarded as a strong defensive catcher and is batting .237 in 44 Double-A games. No. 11 Greyson Jenista is a 6-foot-4, 210-pound outfielder out of Wichita State who has four homers and 20 RBIs in 55 games. Another potential power bat belongs to C.J. Alexander, No. 19, a 6-5, 215 third baseman who has two homers in 20 games as he comes back from an injury earlier in the year. And Jassell De La Cruz, No. 14, is a hard-throwing right-hander with a 3-7, 4.41 ledger over 13 games. Bradley Roney isn’t on the top prospect charts, but the former Southern Miss star has been pitching like one: one earned run allowed in his last nine appearances, 3.26 ERA in 15 games all told. The team is in a period of adjustment – they went 1-4 on their recent road trip – but has enough pieces to put together a nice run over the next 10 days at Trustmark Park.
P.S. Biloxi High’s Colten Keith was invited to the USA Baseball 18-and-Under National Team Trials and Training starting today in California. The final 20-man 18U National Team will be named on Saturday and will compete in the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup in Gijang City, South Korea, from Aug. 30-Sept. 8. Keith hit .527 with eight homers for Biloxi as a junior in 2019 after transferring from Arizona; he was Mississippi’s Gatorade Player of the Year. … Oxford’s Tyrus Williams competed in the 15U National Team Trials held in July at the National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. Two Mississippians took part in this summer’s 14U National Team Development Program in Cary: Keondre Fields of Nesbit and Keilon Parnell of Pascagoula.