Ole Miss product Chris Ellis, coming off a good 2018 minor league campaign, is getting some off-season work in the Dominican Winter League. The right-hander threw seven shutout innings to get a win on Wednesday and has yet to allow an earned run in three starts (17 2/3 innings) for Escogido. Ellis went 10-4, 3.93 at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in the St. Louis system in 2018. This was the fifth year in pro ball for Ellis, 26, a former third-round draftee (by the Los Angeles Angels) who starred for the Mississippi Braves in 2016. … Louis Coleman, the former Pillow Academy star from Greenwood, and Southwest Mississippi Community College alum Kade Scivicque have re-signed with Detroit on minor league deals. Veteran big leaguer Coleman, a right-handed reliever, had a 3.51 ERA in 51 games with the Tigers last season. Scivicque, a catcher, played in Triple-A in 2018. … Jackson Prep’s Jerrion Ealy and Southern Miss’ Matt Wallner, both outfielders, made mlb.com’s latest list of the top 50 2019 draft prospects. Ealy, a two-sport star and Ole Miss commit, is ranked No. 18, while Wallner, who has 35 homers in his two seasons in Hattiesburg, is No. 26. Ealy’s skill set is compared to that of Kyler Murray, the Oklahoma quarterback who has signed to play pro baseball with Oakland. … Former Mississippi State standout Hunter Stovall didn’t impress just with his bat during his pro debut this summer. He also played five different positions at rookie-level Grand Junction in the Colorado system, and he may add a sixth to his resume in 2019. Stovall, a catcher in high school before shifting to the infield at State, brushed up on his catching skills in Instructional League this fall. “He’s got a chance to be a true super-utility (player),” Rockies farm director Zach Wilson told Baseball America. The 5-foot-7, 170-pound Stovall, a 21st-round pick last June, homered in his first two at-bats for Grand Junction and wound up at .296 with 10 bombs and 41 RBIs in 49 games. He played primarily second base. … Charlie Hayes, the Hattiesburg native and ex-Forrest County AHS star, was a good big league third baseman for a long time. He batted .262 with 144 homers over 14 seasons and won a World Series ring with the 1996 New York Yankees. That’s a tough act for son Ke’Bryan to follow – but there are those who think he’s up to the task. Ke’Bryan Hayes, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first-round pick out of a Texas high school in 2015, was the organization’s minor league player of the year in 2018. He batted .293 with seven homers, seven triples, 31 doubles and 12 stolen bases in the Double-A Eastern League. He also won a Gold Glove and played in the All-Star Futures Game. “I think we’re looking at him long term to be the anchor in our infield and our lineup in Pittsburgh at some point,” farm director Larry Broadway told milb.com. That point could come in 2019.
Today’s subject: Bobby Etheridge. Etheridge’s first start in the big leagues came on July 17, 1967, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco — and it was one to write home about. Batting second for the Giants – behind Southern Miss alum Jim Davenport – Greenville native Etheridge went 2-for-5, including a two-run ninth-inning triple in a 4-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs. Etheridge didn’t play a lot that year (40 games) on a team that included Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry, but he made enough of an impression that his 1968 Topps card included one of those sweet All-Star Rookie gold trophies. Etheridge played a year at Mississippi State and another at Mississippi Delta Junior College (where he helped win a state title) before entering pro ball in 1964. He played his last MLB game in 1969, finishing with a .244 career average. Etheridge played four more years in the minors, finishing up with Double-A Memphis in 1973. He spent the rest of his days back in Greenville, where he worked for Mississippi Marine. He died in 2015; the obit described him as “humble,” “a man of integrity” and “an avid hunter.” He could also play a little ball.
Among the gaggle of big league players not offered contracts for 2019 were a couple of Mississippi-connected names of note: Billy Hamilton and Kendall Graveman. Ex-Taylorsville High star Hamilton was cut loose Friday by Cincinnati, for which he has been the starting center fielder most of the past five years, and Mississippi State product Graveman was non-tendered by Oakland, for which he was the opening day starter the last two seasons. They are now free agents. There are reports that both could be re-signed to minor league deals by their former clubs if they don’t land a job elsewhere. Hamilton, 28, is a spectacular outfielder and base stealer who just hasn’t hit (.236 in 2018, .245 career). Graveman, 27, had a brutal 2018, possibly related to injury. He underwent Tommy John surgery in July and is expected to miss most of the 2019 season. He was 1-5 with a 7.60 ERA in his seven big league starts this past season. His career ERA over five seasons is 4.38.
’Tis the season for speculation on MLB player movement, and there is plenty of it out there. Lance Lynn, the ex-Ole Miss standout, did not make Sports Illustrated’s list of the top 50 free agents last month but is rated as one of the next best six in a piece posted today. The right-hander, 10-10 with a 4.77 ERA for Minnesota and the New York Yankees in 2018, is projected as a good fit for Philadelphia. Southern Miss product Brian Dozier was rated No. 28 by SI and projected as a nice fit in Cleveland, while Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College alum Tony Sipp ranked No. 46 and was targeted for the Chicago Cubs. … Ex-UM star Drew Pomeranz, also a free agent after winning a ring with Boston, might be on San Diego’s radar. The big lefty was an All-Star for the Padres in 2016 before being traded to the Red Sox. … Trade rumors again are mentioning Hunter Renfroe and Billy Hamilton. Former Mississippi State standout Renfroe mashed 26 homers last season for the Padres, who have a surplus of outfielders. “Renfroe would help fetch a nice return,” mlb.com’s AJ Cassavell wrote. “But he’s not an overwhelming favorite to be traded.” Taylorsville native Hamilton, a standout center fielder who hit just .236 with a career-low 34 steals for Cincinnati, will be a free agent after the 2019 season. … It’ll be interesting to see what Toronto’s plans are for Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal. He scuffled in Triple-A (.240) and barely played after a late September call-up. And the Blue Jays appear set in the outfield. … Seemingly entrenched in Pittsburgh is ex-State star Adam Frazier, who is projected as the Pirates’ regular second baseman or an everyday-playing utility man. Considered a natural leadoff hitter, Frazier batted .277 with 10 homers last season. “It seems like the more he plays, the better he gets,” Pirates GM Neal Huntington said in September.
As the Arizona Fall League season winds down, two former Delta State players have clearly stepped up as the best of the Mississippi contingent in the highly regarded off-season loop. Second baseman Trent Giambrone, a Chicago Cubs prospect, and left-hander Dalton Moats, a Tampa Bay farmhand, have put up nice numbers on the heels of their first Double-A campaign. The 5-foot-8 Giambrone is hitting .348 with two home runs and six RBIs for Mesa and has had two three-hit games. At Tennessee in the Southern League in 2018, he batted .251 with 17 homers and 20 steals. Moats (see previous post) has a 0.84 ERA in seven appearances for Peoria, which will play in the AFL Championship Game on Saturday on MLB Network. (Several Atlanta and Milwaukee prospects are also on that Peoria club.) Moats put up a 5.34 ERA in 41 games at Montgomery in the SL last season. Ex-Petal High star Demarcus Evans (Texas) has a 6.30 ERA as a late-inning reliever in the AFL and George County product Justin Steele (Cubs) is 1-1, 5.79 in six starts. Both have shown flashes of good stuff. Former Ole Miss standout Errol Robinson (Los Angeles Dodgers) is batting .186 with eight runs in 12 games. P.S. The NAIA’s preseason coaches poll is out, and William Carey University is not ranked for the first time in three years. Bobby Halford’s Crusaders entered the 2018 season ranked No. 6 and finished 36-25 (and unranked). … In some way-too-early recruiting rankings for the Class of 2019 (and the 2020 college season), Pearl River Community College’s 16-player haul is listed at No. 4 among all jucos by Perfect Game. Jones County JC checked in at No. 12. Mississippi State is No. 6 and Ole Miss No. 10 in the NCAA Division I rankings.
The MLB Manager of the Year awards will be announced today, and there’s a good chance former Mississippi Braves manager Brian Snitker will win the National League honor. Snitker, skipper of the first M-Braves team in 2005, guided the 2018 Atlanta Braves to a division championship, exceeding most expectations. Ronald Acuna, a former M-Braves player, was a key piece on this year’s Braves club and won NL rookie of the year honors on Monday. Acuna is the third former Jackson area Double-A player to win the top rookie honor, following M-Braves alumnus Craig Kimbrel (2011) and former Jackson Mets star Darryl Strawberry (1983). Ole Miss alum Chris Coghlan took that award in 2009. Four other Mississippi-connected managers have won the top managerial award. Ex-Mississippi State star Buck Showalter has won three American League awards; former Jackson Mets manager Davey Johnson owns two trophies (one from each league); and Clint Hurdle, another JaxMets manager, and former JaxMets player Ron Gardenhire have won once each. Former Meridian Community College star Cliff Lee and JaxMets alum Mike Scott won the Cy Young Award, which will be handed out on Wednesday. The MVP awards go out Thursday. Mississippi native Dave Parker claimed one of those, as did ex-JaxMets star Kevin Mitchell. For the record, adopted Mississippian Dizzy Dean also won an MVP, back in 1934.
Three Mississippi products reached the 20-home run plateau in the big leagues in 2018, and there’s more Magnolia State power on the way. Four Mississippi prep or college alumni are rated by MLB Pipeline as the No. 1 power prospect in their big league organization. DeSoto Central High grad Austin Riley, Harrison Central product Bobby Bradley and ex-Mississippi State stars Brent Rooker and Nathaniel Lowe, each on the cusp of making the majors, made the list. MLB Pipeline’s writers note that the choices were made based on “usable” power, not just “raw” power. Atlanta prospect Riley hit 19 home runs in 2018, six for the Double-A Mississippi Braves before moving to Triple-A, and slugged .522. He could be the Braves’ third baseman by next spring. Bradley belted 27 homers between Double-A and Triple-A in Cleveland’s system and has 114 round-trippers in five pro seasons. Rooker hit 22 home runs in Double-A for Minnesota after blasting 18 in his pro debut in 2017. Lowe, a Tampa Bay prospect, hit 27 homers and slugged .568 over three levels of the minors, finishing in Triple-A in an amazing breakout season. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see all four of them in The Show at some point in 2019. P.S. In the 2018 All-Mississippi Home Run Derby in MLB, Hunter Renfroe, the former State star from Crystal Springs, led the way with 26 homers. Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier hit 21 and East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson whacked 20.
Fall ball wraps up for Ole Miss and Southern Miss this weekend. The Rebels play the annual Pizza Bowl intrasquad contest tonight at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field, while the Golden Eagles finish with a game at Tulane on Sunday. Mississippi State concluded its session on Oct. 13 with the finale of the Fall World Series in Starkville. … Ole Miss and USM played exhibition games last Sunday, UM hosting Arkansas-Little Rock and USM bringing in Nicholls State. … Cole Zabowski (homer, four RBIs), Will Ethridge and Gunnar Hoglund were among the Rebels who shined against UALR. Hoglund, a freshman who passed on pro ball to play for the Rebels, has made an impression both pitching and hitting this fall. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Hoglund was the 36th overall pick by Pittsburgh as a pitcher after posting a 0.27 ERA this past year in high school in Florida. … Matt Wallner and Brant Blaylock – a highly regarded transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College – hit clutch homers for the Golden Eagles against Nicholls at Taylor Park. Blaylock, who transferred to NWCC from State, hit .385 with 18 homers for the Rangers in 2018. He can also pitch. … Familiar names rose to the occasion for State in the decisive Game 3 of its Fall World Series last month. Ethan Small pitched four hitless innings and Dustin Skelton drove in Jake Mangum – yes, he’s still around — with the go-ahead run in the extra-inning contest. A newcomer, juco transfer infielder Gunner Halter, also had an impressive camp for the Bulldogs and could be a player to watch in 2019. He hit .440 with 19 homers at Seminole State in Oklahoma last season.
Curious to see what’s next for Jacob Lindgren, the ex-Mississippi State star from Biloxi who has been removed from Atlanta’s 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A. Lindgren had Tommy John surgery – his second one – last March and missed all of the 2018 season. The left-hander also missed all of the 2017 season and pitched just seven innings in 2016. The Braves signed him as a minor league free agent after the 2016 season. The future seemed so bright for Lindgren in 2014. After a dominant season at State (0.81 ERA, 100 strikeouts in 55 innings), he was picked in the second round of the draft by the New York Yankees. He made his big league debut in May of 2015. Shortly thereafter, the arm problems began. Some pitchers have returned from two Tommy John surgeries, but the odds aren’t great.
Mitch Moreland and Drew Pomeranz earned World Series rings on Sunday night when Boston dispatched Los Angeles in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium. Moreland, the ex-Mississippi State star from Amory, hit a key home run in Saturday’s comeback win; Ole Miss product Pomeranz did not make a Series appearance out of the Red Sox’s bullpen. This makes four straight years that a Mississippi-connected player has won a ring. Former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star Tony Sipp got one with Houston last year (though he didn’t play in the Series); UM alum Chris Coghlan won his with the Chicago Cubs in 2016; and Southwest Mississippi CC product Jarrod Dyson was on Kansas City’s title team in 2015. … Pomeranz, Sipp, former Southern Miss standout Brian Dozier (who was with the vanquished Dodgers in the 2018 Series) and ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn (who won a ring with St. Louis in 2011) are free agents this off-season. … Former Pillow Academy standout Louis Coleman reportedly elected free agency last week after he was removed from Detroit’s 40-man roster and outrighted to the minors.