15 Aug

making tracks

The Milwaukee Brewers are taking the slow and steady approach with Ethan Small, their first-round pick in June from Mississippi State (and the first Mississippian chosen at 28th overall). The left-hander, who worked 107 innings for the Bulldogs on their road to the College World Series, has made just four pro appearances, the last on Aug. 9 for Class A Wisconsin. He is slated to start again Friday. He has yet to allow a run over nine innings and has punched out 13. Already rated the Brewers’ No. 5 prospect (MLB Pipeline), Small is projected to make the majors by 2021, which sounds like a fast track but isn’t out of the ordinary for advanced college players. Take Dakota Hudson, for instance. The ex-MSU right-hander was the top pick out of the state in 2016 – 34th overall – and debuted with St. Louis last year. Hudson threw six shutout innings to beat Kansas City on Wednesday, improving to 11-6 with a 3.82 ERA as one of the Cardinals’ steadiest starters. The first pick from the state in 2018 was Ryan Rolison, taken 22nd overall out of Ole Miss by Colorado. Lefty Rolison, the Rockies’ No. 2 prospect, has reached high Class A Lancaster, where he is 4-5, 5.02, possibly on track to reach The Show next season. The state’s top pick in 2017 was Brent Rooker, the SEC Triple Crown winner at State who went 35th overall to Minnesota. Rooker’s rise has been stalled by injuries this year. Currently on the IL at Triple-A Rochester, he is batting .281 with 14 homers. Austin Riley was the first Mississippian picked in 2015 – 41st overall out of DeSoto Central High by Atlanta. The third baseman/outfielder made a smashing MLB debut this spring – at age 22 – but is currently out with a knee injury. (He is expected to start a rehab assignment soon.) MSU alum Hunter Renfroe – the first Mississippian picked in 2013 – and ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz – the first in 2010 – are currently in the big leagues. Renfroe, who debuted in 2016, is with San Diego, and the well-traveled Pomeranz, who was up by 2011, is with Milwaukee. The other three top picks from this decade, all high school players, did not fare so well. Blake Anderson (36th overall in 2014 out of West Lauderdale High) hasn’t played since 2017 and isn’t currently listed on a roster in Miami’s system. D.J. Davis (17th overall out of Stone County in 2012) was released by Toronto last summer, having never climbed above A-ball. Connor Barron (third round out of Sumrall in 2011 by Florida/Miami) opted to attend Southern Miss, where he had an up-and-down career and never got drafted again.

13 Aug

cub futures

Wyatt Short, the former Ole Miss standout from Southaven, has been promoted to Triple-A Iowa in the Chicago Cubs’ system and pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his debut on Sunday. Short, a 5-foot-8 left-hander, posted a 1.63 ERA and nine saves at Double-A Tennessee, where he was a Southern League All-Star this summer. He has a career 2.37 ERA with 16 wins and 38 saves in 136 relief appearances. Short was a 13th-round pick by the Cubs in 2016 and is one of six Mississippi products now in that organization. Ex-Mississippi State star and veteran big league pitcher Kendall Graveman signed as a free agent in the off-season but is on the injured list recovering from Tommy John surgery in July 2018. George County High alum Justin Steele is also on the Cubs’ 40-man roster, but the injury-hampered top 20 prospect, a 2014 draft pick, is on the IL at Double-A Tennessee. With Short at Iowa is Delta State product Trent Giambrone, the Cubs’ No. 28 prospect (per MLB Pipeline); the versatile Giambrone, a 2016 draftee, is batting .242 with 23 home runs. Playing the infield at Class A Myrtle Beach are former Southern Miss star Luke Reynolds and Itawamba Community College product Delvin Zinn. Zinn, a 2016 draftee, is hitting .233 with 12 RBIs and eight steals in 35 games since he moved up from low-A ball in early July. Reynolds, C-USA player of the year in 2018 and a 10th-round pick that year, was demoted from Myrtle Beach to low-A South Bend when Zinn moved up. He returned to the Carolina League on Aug. 2 and is 10-for-33 with a homer and five RBIs since.

12 Aug

a thrill for will

A list that includes Willie Mays, Christy Mathewson, Mel Ott, Juan Marichal and Barry Bonds is pretty darn special. Will Clark, the former Mississippi State standout, is joining it. During an on-field ceremony Sunday honoring their 1989 World Series team, the San Francisco Giants announced that Clark’s No. 22 will be retired at another ceremony next year. Clark, nicknamed “The Thrill,” was taken aback by the exuberant reaction of his old teammates, who were hearing the news for the first time: “(T)hat right there just killed me.” After his star-spangled career in Starkville, Clark was the No. 2 overall pick – the highest any Mississippi product has been taken – in the 1985 draft by the Giants and reached the big leagues the next year. He played the first eight of his 15 MLB seasons for the Giants and was a driving force for the ’89 club that also included his former State teammate Jeff Brantley and Jackson Mets alum Kevin Mitchell. In the National League Championship Series against Chicago, Clark put on an unforgettable performance: 13-for-20, two homers and eight RBIs in five games. That World Series trip (a loss to Oakland) ended a 27-year drought for the storied franchise. Clark finished his career with a .303 average and 284 home runs. He and Bonds are the only two Giants to have their number retired who aren’t in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

09 Aug

right choice

Right field in San Diego now belongs to Hunter Renfroe. With the trade of Franmil Reyes on July 31, the Padres committed to Renfroe, the former Mississippi State star from Crystal Springs, as their regular in right. Before Reyes’ departure, Renfroe had played more left field this season and wasn’t an everyday starter. Now in his fourth MLB season, the 27-year-old Renfroe has the kind of power in his bat and arm that you’d want in a right fielder. The monstrous Reyes, shipped off to Cleveland, can slug with anyone but is a weak defender. It would seem the Padres made the smart choice. And Renfroe seemed to justify their faith in him by hitting his 30th home run of the season on Aug. 1 against Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Renfroe hasn’t homered – or driven in a run – in six games since. He’s hit .185 this month and is at .233 for the year. He also has 110 strikeouts in 105 games, which is a lot (though less than Javy Baez, Ronald Acuna, Pete Alonso and some other All-Star types). Renfroe is just one of those players for whom the pursuit of more consistent contact is eternal. But if he belts 40 homers a year and makes some plays in right field, the Padres likely can live with that.

09 Aug

minor matters

Nobody doubts that Jake Mangum can put the bat on the ball. After a sluggish start to his pro career, the ex-Mississippi State and Jackson Prep standout is batting .345 over his last 10 games, boosting his average to .252 for short season Class A Brooklyn in the New York Mets’ chain. A fourth-round pick in June, Mangum is rated the No. 24 prospect (by MLB Pipeline) in the Mets’ system. He’s shown off his plus speed, with 11 stolen bases. He has made just one error in 31 games in the outfield, playing mostly center. The question about Mangum is power, which seems to be of utmost importance in today’s game. So far, Mangum hasn’t shown much: five extra-base hits and no homers in 113 at-bats. … Former George County High two-way star Walker Robbins’ switch from hitter to pitcher in the St. Louis system has gone well. The 6-foot-3 left-hander has a 3.95 ERA and two saves in 11 games at rookie-level Johnson City. A fifth-round pick in 2016, he batted .170 over three seasons before going on a pitching program this past off-season. “Hitting’s fun and playing every day is great, but striking somebody out is an adrenaline rush. All eyes are pretty much on you when you’re on the mound. It’s fun.” Robbins told the Johnson City (Tenn.) Press. … Tyreque Reed, the Itawamba Community College product from Houlka, took one step forward and then one step back this season and appears to have regained his footing. Reed began 2019 at high Class A Down East in the Texas system but batted just .216 with four homers in 32 games. He returned to low-A Hickory, where he is hitting .268 with 11 homers in 42 games. Reed batted .267 with 18 bombs at Hickory in 2018, his second pro season. This is a guy who hit .504 with 15 homers at ICC in 2017. … Ex-State star Jacob Lindgren is making progress in his bounce-back season from two Tommy John surgeries. The onetime big leaguer has allowed one run in nine innings at high-A Winston-Salem (Chicago White Sox) and has punched out 13, including four in two innings Thursday. (Ole Miss product Tate Blackman hit a home run for the Dash in that game.) … Southern Miss alum Bradley Roney, also coming back from injury, has an 0.69 ERA in his last 10 appearances for the Double-A Mississippi Braves. He has 27 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings. … MSU product Nate Lowe was bumped back to Triple-A Durham — despite a .294 average and five homers over 30 MLB games – when Tampa Bay acquired Jesus Aguilar. MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis predicts that the lefty-hitting Lowe will soon get another call-up, which would be his fourth of 2019. The Rays are an American League wild card contender.

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.

02 Aug

the ratings game

Former Ole Miss standout Ryan Rolison jumped up to No. 2 in Colorado’s farm system rankings after MLB Pipeline reshuffled the lists of top prospects in every organization following Wednesday’s trade deadline. Left-hander Rolison, a first-round pick in 2018, is currently pitching at high Class A Lancaster, where he is 4-6 with a 4.85 ERA. He had dominated hitters at the low-A level this season. Also ranked as pitchers in the Rockies’ system are State product Reid Humphreys (19) and UM alum Will Ethridge (24), a fifth-round pick this year. … Former Southern Miss standout Nick Sandlin, a second-round pick last year by Cleveland, saw his ranking drop from No. 17 to No. 30. Sandlin had reached Triple-A but reportedly is done for the season with a forearm strain. … Also tumbling (again) was ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford, down to No. 21 (from 11) in Toronto’s system. The injury-plagued Alford, who has some big league time, is on the Triple-A roster but is currently on a rehab assignment in rookie ball. … MSU alum Ethan Small, a first-round draft pick in June by Milwaukee, jumped into the Brewers’ prospect rankings at No. 5. The SEC pitcher of the year has made two appearances in rookie ball. Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray, a second-round pick in 2018 currently in short season Class A, is the Brewers’ No. 10 (down from 7), and Ole Miss alum Thomas Dillard, a 2019 fifth-rounder, is No. 25. … Grae Kessinger, Houston’s second-round pick from Ole Miss, is No. 13 on the Astros’ chart; he is playing in low A. … Former USM star Matt Wallner, the 39th overall pick who is off to a good start in rookie ball, checks in at No. 15 in Minnesota’s system. MSU product Brent Rooker, currently on the injured list in Triple-A, is the Twins’ No. 8 (down from 6). … Loyd Star High alum James Beard, the first high school player picked (fourth round) from the state this year, is No. 22 in the Chicago White Sox’s system. Rated by some as the fastest player in the 2019 draft, Beard is batting .192 with six steals in rookie ball. … Ex-MSU standout Jake Mangum, the SEC’s career hits leader, is rated No. 24 in the New York Mets’ organization; the fourth-round draftee is hitting .230 in short season A-ball. … Former George County High star Trevor McDonald, an 11th-round pick by San Francisco, jumped in at No. 26 in the Giants’ system. The right-hander has yet to make his pro debut.

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.

30 Jul

whatever happened to …

Kade Scivicque, the former Southwest Mississippi Community College and Mississippi Braves standout, is plugging away – quite successfully – at Triple-A Toledo in the Detroit chain. The 26-year-old catcher is batting .288 with two homers (including one on Monday) and six RBIs in 15 games for the Mud Hens after earning a mid-June promotion from Double-A Erie. Scivicque has bounced around a lot the last couple years. He was a Southern League midseason All-Star with the M-Braves in 2017 and went to spring training with Atlanta’s big club in 2018. He was squeezed off the Triple-A Gwinnett roster that April and released, then re-signed by Detroit, which had drafted him in the fourth round out of LSU in 2015 and dealt him to Atlanta in 2017. He played at three levels with the Tigers last year and opened 2019 at Erie, where he hit .346 with five homers in 28 games. An All-America pick at LSU, the defense-minded Scivicque has a .275 career minor league average. … Also on the Toledo roster is former Mississippi State star Jacob Robson, a fourth-year outfielder who is hitting .278 with seven homers, 40 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. MLB Pipeline rates him as the Tigers’ No. 25 prospect.

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.