If he produces a typical season, Brian Dozier will easily top 1,000 career hits in the big leagues in 2019. The Fulton native and former Southern Miss star is the active leader in hits among Mississippi-born players in MLB with 954 through six-plus seasons. Notching a thousand career hits is an impressive feat, requiring a combination of skill, opportunity and longevity. Dozier, 32 in May, will need another six or so productive seasons to reach 2,000 hits, which only four Mississippi-born players have managed to do. Grenada native Dave Parker tops that list with 2,712, followed by Ellisville’s Buddy Myer (2,131), Vicksburg’s Ellis Burks (2,107) and Greenville’s Frank White (2,006). Dozier, who’ll play second base for the Washington Nationals in 2019, could also reach another hits milestone this season. The record for a USM alum is 1,142, by Jim Davenport. Kevin Young is second with 1,007. … Former Mississippi State star Rafael Palmeiro is among the 32 players with 3,000 hits; his 3,020 are by far the most by a Mississippi college alumnus. Ex-Bulldogs great Will Clark had 2,176. The most by an Ole Miss product is 1,991 by Gee Walker, a Gulfport native who played in the 1930s and ’40s. Don Kessinger had 1,931. Dave Clark leads Jackson State alums with 518. … Amory’s Mitch Moreland, another Mississippi State product, is No. 2 on the state’s active hits list with 857. (Jackson’s Seth Smith, presumably retired, is sitting on 934.) Moreland, Boston first baseman, probably won’t get to 1,000 this year – his career-high for a season is 131 – but should make it in 2020. … … Bobby Abreu, who played for the Jackson Generals in the mid-’90s, is the leader, with 2,470 hits, among former Jackson area Double-A players. Hubie Brooks leads former Jackson Mets with 1,608, and Brian McCann, still active, is tops among ex-Mississippi Braves with 1,521.
So many numbers to absorb in the young college season, but there is one that blinks like a blinkin’ beacon: 0.89. That would be Delta State’s staff ERA nine games — and nine wins — into the year. Hunter Riggins, a sophomore from Hernando, is leading the way with two wins and a spotless ERA.
Another shiny object: 17,660, the total attendance for the two dates at newly renovated Dudy Noble Field in Starkville, where Mississippi State celebrated its rich history and also found time to bushwhack Youngstown State in three games, outscoring the Penguins 36-5. Tanner Allen moved to the top in the way-too-early Ferriss Trophy race, going 7-for-13 with two homers and a ridiculous 13 RBIs.
At Oxford, Ole Miss drew 17,634 faithful for its two-game split with Wright State. Thomas Dillard, junior from Oxford, went 5-for-6 with a homer for the Rebels.
At Hattiesburg, Southern Miss swept Purdue in three games — starting with an epic walk-off in Friday’s opener — as 11,030 turned out at Taylor Park. Hunter Slater paced the Golden Eagles’ attack with eight hits, including a homer, with four RBIs and four runs.
In Clinton, Mississippi College lost two of three to Quincy, surrendering 29 runs. But only one of those runs was allowed by Ryan Lane, who turned in a two-hit, 11-strikeout performance in the 7-3 Choctaws’ lone victory.
There was no joy at Braddy Field in Jackson, where the J-State Tigers lost three games to Boston College, which was visiting the Magnolia State for the first time since winning the NCAA Oxford Regional in 2016.
Meanwhile, Millsaps (1-5) went on the road and allowed 38 runs in three losses. William Carey University (3-7) went on the road and scored just two runs total in a pair of losses to LSU-Alexandria.
Each of the state’s Big 3 is ranked in multiple preseason polls, testament to the talent they return from championship teams in 2018. But there will be opportunities for newcomers to step up. With the start of the 2019 NCAA Division I season upon us, here are some newbies of note at Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss: At State, freshman J.T. Ginn should need no introduction. Already pegged as a second-team All-America by Baseball America, the ex-Brandon High star — and first-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers last June — is expected to pitch and hit for the Bulldogs. Slightly less heralded among the State newcomers is Gunner Halter, a junior college transfer who could also have a major impact. The son of former major leaguer Shane Halter, Gunner figures to start at second base. He goes 6 feet 3, 180 pounds and slugged 29 homers in two years at Seminole (Okla.) State. He was drafted in 2017 and 2018. “He can do a lot of special things,” State coach Chris Lemonis said of Halter at media day. … The newcomer generating most of the buzz at Ole Miss is Gunnar Hoglund, the two-way star from Florida who was the 36th overall pick by Pittsburgh in last summer’s draft. But another freshman to watch is outfielder Josh Hall. Considering how stacked the Rebels are in the outfield, Hall may find playing time hard to come by, but he has a certain set of skills that could prove valuable. The Alabama native set a national prep record with 224 career steals, including 82 bags as a senior. In addition to his speed, he is also reputed to be a great bunter. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Hall was a first-team prep All-America pick and his state’s Class 6A player of the year. … At USM, true freshman Danny Lynch is expected to start at third base, filling the job vacated by C-USA hitter of the year and pro draftee Luke Reynolds. Florida native Lynch is the younger brother of ex-USM star Tim Lynch, who played three years in the New York Yankees’ system. Danny Lynch, listed at 6 feet 2, 225 pounds, is expected to provide some left-handed power for the Golden Eagles. “We really just have this great lineup. It’s easy, I just have to go out and play my role,” Lynch told the school newspaper, the Student Printz.
Big league camps in Florida and Arizona are buzzing with activity this week, and here’s the list of Mississippi-connected players living the dream:
40-man roster members
Anthony Alford (Petal), Toronto; Tim Anderson (East Central CC), Chicago White Sox; Bobby Bradley (Harrison Central), Cleveland; Zack Cozart (Ole Miss), Los Angeles Angels; Brian Dozier (Southern Miss), Washington; Corey Dickerson (Meridian CC), Pittsburgh; Jarrod Dyson (Southwest CC), Arizona; Adam Frazier (Mississippi State), Pittsburgh; Billy Hamilton (Taylorsville), Kansas City; JaCoby Jones (Richton), Detroit; Mitch Moreland (MSU), Boston; Hunter Renfroe (MSU), San Diego
Cody Carroll (USM), Baltimore; Chris Ellis (Ole Miss), Kansas City – Rule 5; Kendall Graveman (MSU), Chicago Cubs; Jonathan Holder (MSU), New York Yankees; Dakota Hudson (MSU), St. Louis; Lance Lynn (Ole Miss), Texas; Mike Mayers (Ole Miss), St. Louis; Drew Pomeranz (Ole Miss), San Francisco; Cody Reed (Northwest CC), Cincinnati; Justin Steele (George County High), Chicago Cubs; Chris Stratton (MSU), San Francisco; Spencer Turnbull (Madison Central), Detroit; Jacob Waguespack (Ole Miss), Toronto; Bobby Wahl (Ole Miss), Milwaukee; Brandon Woodruff (MSU), Milwaukee
Trent Giambroni (Delta State), Chicago Cubs; Jack Kruger (MSU), Los Angeles Angels; Braxton Lee (Ole Miss), New York Mets; Nathaniel Lowe (MSU), Tampa Bay; Austin Riley (DeSoto Central), Atlanta; Chuckie Robinson (USM), Houston; Jacob Robson (MSU), Detroit; Brent Rooker (MSU), Minnesota; Kade Scivicque (Southwest CC), Detroit
Aaron Barrett (Ole Miss), Washington; Louis Coleman (Pillow Academy), Detroit; Scott Copeland (USM), Washington; Tim Dillard (Itawamba CC), Texas; Zac Houston (MSU), Detroit; Jacob Lindgren (MSU), Chicago White Sox; Dalton Moats (Delta State), Tampa Bay
As a flight of fancy, ncaa.com recently picked an all-time starting lineup of Mississippi State alumni, a Maroon 9, so to speak. It’s a very impressive bunch: CF Dan Van Cleve, SS Adam Frazier, 1B Will Clark, RF Rafael Palmeiro, LF Brent Rooker, 3B Travis Chapman, C Ed Easley, 2B Jeffrey Rea and P Jeff Brantley. Of course, a lot of great players were left off. One of the more glaring omissions would seem to be Jake Mangum, currently the Bulldogs’ center fielder. The former Jackson Prep star has a .356 average, 49 doubles, 87 RBIs, 154 runs and 34 stolen bases over 195 games entering 2019. He has been the SEC’s freshman of the year, an All-SEC pick, a Ferriss Trophy winner and an All-America selection. He has been drafted twice by MLB clubs. He led State to the College World Series last summer and returned for his senior season to try again for that elusive national title. It’s hard to imagine a player having had a greater impact on the program. He certainly rates a spot in the Maroon 9.
Former Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz reportedly has signed with San Francisco, where he’s expected to compete for a job in the Giants’ rotation with Mississippi State product Chris Stratton, among others. The deal is said to be one year for $1.5 million plus incentives. Pomeranz, a 30-year-old left-hander, went 2-6 with a 6.08 ERA in 26 games (11 starts) for Boston in 2018. The Giants will be the sixth different organization the former first-round pick and 2016 All-Star has played for. Stratton, a right-hander and a first-round selection by the Giants in 2012, went 10-10, 5.09 in 2018.
Other contract offers for more money and years reportedly were on the table when Brian Dozier chose a 1-year, $9 million deal with Washington last week. The Southern Miss product from Fulton is betting on himself to rebound from a tough 2018 season that may have caused his stock to drop. “Going into this year, personally, you kind of have a chip on your shoulder,” Dozier said in an mlb.com story. Dozier, 31, hit .215 last year with 21 homers playing for Minnesota and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He admitted that a knee injury hampered him but says he is fully recovered now. The former All-Star also said he feels he is a good fit with the Nationals – who needed a second baseman — and likes the club’s prospects of contending for the postseason in 2019. He’ll be back on the market in 2020. … In an under-the-radar move over the weekend, the Chicago White Sox signed Biloxi native Jacob Lindgren to a minor league deal. The former St. Stanislaus High and Mississippi State star has missed the last two seasons with injuries. He had Tommy John surgery last spring. The 25-year-old left-hander was in Atlanta’s system in 2018 but was cut loose in October. A former second-round pick by the New York Yankees in 2014, he had a cup of coffee in the big leagues in 2015. … The Philadelphia Phillies signed Laurel’s Bobby Dickerson, formerly of Buck Showalter’s Baltimore staff, as their new first-base coach last week. Dickerson, coincidentally, has been a longtime mentor to free agent Manny Machado, whom the Phillies have been hotly pursuing. … What has 199 big league wins, 22 saves, 148 professional home runs, 1,417 minor league managerial victories and a World Series ring? The four featured guests – Roy Oswalt, Jay Powell, Hunter Renfroe and Chris Maloney, all Mississippi natives with impressive baseball pedigrees – at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame’s Hot Stove Hall of Fame Evening, set for Jan. 24 at the museum in Jackson. Tickets are on sale at the museum or online at www.msfame.com.
With its recent trade for ex-Ole Miss star Bobby Wahl, Milwaukee has added an intriguing piece to what was one of the best bullpens in baseball in 2018. Wahl, 26, was one of three players the Brewers obtained from the New York Mets for Keon Broxton. Wahl was a fifth-round pick by Oakland back in 2013 whose advancement has been stalled by injuries. The right-hander, who once threw 100 mph, has worked just 13 innings (6.92 ERA) in the big leagues the last two seasons. He had a good 2018 campaign in the minors – making the Pacific Coast League All-Star Game before the A’s sent him to New York – and he’ll go to spring camp with the Brewers bidding for a job with a club that went to the NLCS last fall. “(W)e certainly anticipate he’s a person who will contribute for us at the major league level this year,” Milwaukee GM David Stearns told mlb.com. A writer from brewcrewball.com recently offered this assessment: “Wahl’s pure ‘stuff’ screams dominant relief ace, but his middling command … may cause the kind of frustrating inconsistency that holds him back from locking down a late-inning relief role.” Wahl aims to join a Milwaukee staff that includes ex-Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff and several Biloxi Shuckers alumni.
Brian Dozier, who seemingly would be a nice catch for some team, hasn’t generated a lot of buzz on the free agent market. The second baseman out of Southern Miss has had talks with the Washington Nationals and may also be on Milwaukee’s radar, per various reports, but otherwise there has been little news or even rumor. Dozier, 31, has both an All-Star Game appearance and a Gold Glove on his resume. Though just a .246 career hitter, he has 172 homers and 102 steals over his six-plus seasons in the big leagues. He made $9 million last year when he played for Minnesota and the Los Angeles Dodgers. A knee problem may have been a factor in a late-season slump that carried into the postseason. … Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz and Pascagoula native Tony Sipp are also unsigned major league free agents. UM’s Lance Lynn (Texas), Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton (Kansas City) and former Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman (Chicago Cubs) have found homes for 2019, though Graveman isn’t likely to have an impact until 2020. The right-hander will make $575,000 this year while he rehabs from Tommy John surgery; an escalator clause will boost it to $2 million if he makes the big leagues in 2019. The team holds a $3M option for 2020. Graveman is 23-29, 4.38 ERA for his MLB career, spent mostly with Oakland. He was 1-5, 7.60 in 2018 before ultimately being shut down for the surgery. Interestingly enough, his one win last season came against the New York Yankees. It was his final big league start of 2018, on May 11 at Yankee Stadium, and he yielded just one earned run on three hits over six innings. … Hunter Renfroe, the ex-State standout and current San Diego outfielder, continues to see his name pop up in trade rumors. Renfroe, who’ll be 27 this month, started slowly in 2018 and also endured an injury but rebounded to hit .248 with 26 home runs and 68 RBIs over 117 games. He belted 18 homers and drove in 41 runs over the last two months. He’s not likely to ever be a high-average hitter – though he did hit .300 in Triple-A in 2016 — but he does have serious pop.
Atlanta made quite a few changes to its minor league field staff for 2019, but Jackson native Chris Maloney will be back for a second tour as manager of the Double-A Mississippi Braves. The formal announcement was made on Wednesday. Pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn and hitting coach Carlos Mendez will also return. Maloney, a longtime minor league manager and big league coach, is a former Mississippi State player and son of former Jackson Texas League franchise owner Con Maloney. The 2018 M-Braves, who endured a lot of roster changes, especially among pitchers, finished 67-71 overall but contended in the Southern League South into the final days in the second half. The team Maloney will manage this year won’t be settled until April, but there’s a good chance it’ll feature several intriguing prospects. Foremost among them is Cristian Pache, an outfielder who was with the M-Braves for 29 games last summer. The Braves’ No. 6 prospect, who played – and starred — in the 2018 Arizona Fall League, is a defensive whiz who is still developing as a hitter. He hit .260 with the M-Braves. William Contreras, the No. 13 prospect, is a 20-year-old catcher who reached high-A last year and might be on a fast track. The younger brother of the Chicago Cubs’ Willson Contreras, he hit .285 with 11 homers in 2018. Then there’s Drew Waters, the No. 8 prospect. A switch-hitting outfielder, he reached high-A at age 19 in just his second pro season. Described by MLB Pipeline as a “veritable toolshed,” Waters batted .293 with nine homers and 23 steals last season. No. 3 prospect Ian Anderson, a right-hander, made it to Mississippi late last season and went 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA in four starts. He could be back, along with Thomas Burrows, a left-handed closer and ex-Alabama star who arrived in Pearl late and posted a 1.42 ERA and six saves. Worth mentioning, too, is Braxton Davidson, a big first baseman and former first-round pick who has fallen off the prospect charts but got an AFL assignment – and hit a walk-off home run in the league title game. He clubbed 20 homers at high-A Florida in 2018 but batted .171 and struck out over 200 times. P.S. The M-Braves will launch their 15th season, on the road, on April 4, taking on the Tennessee Smokies in the opener of a five-game series. The first home game is April 10. … The M-Braves have reached the postseason four times, most recently in 2016, since the franchise relocated from Greenville, S.C., to Pearl in 2005. The club won its only SL pennant in 2008 under Phillip Wellman. … The Braves will have new managers at Florida, Rome and Danville this season. Former M-Braves infielder Barrett Kleinknect is the new skipper of the high-A Fire Frogs.