22 Feb

big league chew

Grapefruit and Cactus League games start Friday, and Mississippians Corey Dickerson, Lance Lynn, Seth Smith and Tyler Moore, among others, don’t yet have a team to play for. Zack Cozart, Jarrod Dyson, Alex Presley and T.J. House are suiting up for new teams. Hunter Renfroe may soon be doing that, too. Brian Dozier is finally in camp after a detour to have a kidney stone removed. Austin Riley, Cody Carroll and Dakota Hudson are in big league camp as non-roster invitees for the first time. Mickey Callaway is now a manager, and Ron Gardenhire, the old Jackson Met and ex-Minnesota skipper, is back in the saddle. So, yeah, there’s a lot of interesting stuff to keep tabs on. Start with Renfroe, the former Mississippi State standout who hit 26 homers as a rookie for San Diego last year but may now be squeezed out of a roster spot. The Padres’ signing of Eric Hosmer and shifting of Wil Myers to right field has fueled rumors that Renfroe will be traded. “We’re all chess pieces in a huge game here – that’s the way you look at it,” Renfroe told mlb.com. … Dyson, the ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star, signed a two-year, $7.5M deal with Arizona earlier this week. A good defensive outfielder, Dyson, 33, had a strong offensive season with Seattle in 2017, batting. 251 with 56 runs and 28 steals in 111 games. He has 204 career steals over eight seasons. … Ole Miss product Presley signed a minor league deal with Baltimore, which had been seeking a lefty-hitting outfielder. Presley, 32, hit .314 in 71 games last year with Detroit, the fifth different MLB club he has played for over eight seasons. … Dozier, the former Southern Miss standout, reportedly won’t play in Minnesota’s games on Friday and Saturday as he eases into the spring routine. A pending free agent after this season, he batted .271 with 34 homers last year and says he wants to remain a Twin. Stay tuned. … UM alum Bobby Wahl is in Oakland’s camp as a non-roster pitcher this year, trying to bounce back from a shoulder injury that required surgery and cost him his spot on the A’s 40-man roster. Wahl, who pitched just 7 2/3 innings as a rookie in 2017, used to throw 100 mph. Can he get there again? “The way the ball’s coming out, it feels easy,” he said last week in an mlb.com article. “So far, this is the best I’ve felt throwing a baseball in a long time.” … Tim Anderson, the former East Central CC star who had a tough year with the Chicago White Sox in 2017, said he feels refreshed this spring. “Getting away from it definitely helped me and kind of gave me some breathing room,” he told mlb.com. “I’m hungry and excited about this season coming up.” Anderson lost a close friend to a shooting and scuffled at times on the field, batting .257 with 28 errors at shortstop. … This should be a fun spring for Marcus Thames, another former East Central CC standout. Thames, recently named hitting coach of the New York Yankees, gets to work with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius, et al., an array of sluggers that some expect to threaten the MLB home run record. Once the games begin to count, there might be a little pressure there for Thames.

16 Feb

there and here

Sports Illustrated’s ranking of the Top 100 players in the big leagues includes Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier (41), who “lacks the exposure he deserves” in Minnesota; ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart (87), who left Cincinnati for the Los Angeles Angels; and as-yet-unsigned UM product Lance Lynn (93). Former Mississippi Braves standout Freddie Freeman is No. 22. … Ole Miss product Matt Tracy, whose one MLB appearance came three years ago, reportedly has signed a minor league contract with Toronto. Tracy, 29, was drafted by the New York Yankees in 2011 and made a two-inning appearance for the Yanks on April 11, 2015. The left-hander, who has a 4.03 career ERA in 151 minor league games, pitched in Minnesota’s system last year (7.64 ERA in Triple-A). … MUW notched its first-ever win – and then added another – by sweeping Crowley’s Ridge, 5-4 and 11-1, on Thursday at Columbus. Johndavid Birdsong, who got a walk-off hit in Game 1, is 5-for-10 with three RBIs for the Owls (2-3). … Vicksburg native Dmitri Young and former Jackson State star Marvin Freeman, both ex-big leaguers, are among the dignitaries expected in New Orleans for this weekend’s Andre Dawson Classic, formerly known as the MLB Urban Invitational. Alcorn State is in the field. … MGM Park in Biloxi, home of the Shuckers, has an interesting doubleheader slated for March 14: William Carey vs. Mississippi College followed by Mississippi State vs. Southeastern Louisiana. … Luke Wallner, brother of USM star Matt Wallner, is a freshman pitcher on Meridian Community College’s roster. The 6-foot, 195-pound right-hander pitched at Forest Lake (Minn.) High last year. … Baseball America ranks Gulfport High No. 40 in its Top 50 preseason prep poll. The Admirals were 33-6 in 2017 and finished runner-up (to Tupelo) in the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs. Outfielder Joe Gray of Hattiesburg High made BA’s All-America first team.

15 Feb

other guys

You know these names: Wallner, Rolison, Pilkington. They’re the stars at the state’s Big 3 Division I schools, the centers of preseason attention. Here are some names from outside the spotlight, lesser-heralded players who could have significant impact this season, which begins Friday. At Southern Miss, there’s Luke Reynolds, a transfer from Mississippi State, which the Golden Eagles meet in the opener in Hattiesburg. Forest native Reynolds is expected to replace Taylor Braley at third base for USM. Reynolds batted .304 at State in 2015. He left the program in 2016 without playing in a game but still had to sit out last season. He did play summer ball, batting .306 with four homers in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. In 2014, Reynolds was the star on the Hinds Community College team that made it to the NJCAA Division II title game. He hit .376 that year. … At Ole Miss, which opens against Winthrop in Oxford, there’s Tim Rowe. The Hernando native, a senior outfielder/DH who batted .254 with three homers and 20 RBIs in 2017, has some power in his bat, something the Rebels need with top sluggers Colby Bortles and Tate Blackman having moved on to pro ball. Two years ago at Itawamba Community College, Rowe hit .418 with eight homers and 48 RBIs. … At State, there’s Ethan Small, a sophomore left-hander who missed 2017 after Tommy John surgery. Konnor Pilkington sits atop the Bulldogs’ rotation and Riley Self and Spencer Price man the back end of the bullpen. Small is one of the other pieces – and he could be poised for a breakout campaign if he can harness his nasty stuff. A two-time prep All-America pick in Tennessee, he pitched sparingly as a freshman in 2016 but is penciled in as the No. 2 starter now. P.S. Alcorn State again starts its season in the Andre Dawson Classic (formerly the MLB Urban Invitational) in New Orleans. The Braves’ first game is against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Friday. Mississippi Valley State hosts South Dakota State in Itta Bena. Jackson State opens on Feb. 20 at the University of New Orleans.

11 Feb

springing ahead

Kendall Graveman lost his arbitration case with the Oakland A’s, but the former Mississippi State standout will still be a happy camper in spring training, which formally begins this week in Arizona and Florida. Graveman, who made $545,000 in 2017, will get $2.36 million this season, not the $2.6M he had asked for. Hi ho. Graveman, 27, Oakland’s opening day starter last year, went 6-4 with a 4.19 ERA, missing considerable time with an arm injury. He is 22-24, 4.11 career. Ole Miss alum Braxton Lee, on Miami’s 40-man roster, is headed for his first big league camp, while ex-State star Dakota Hudson and Southern Miss product Cody Carroll got coveted non-roster invites from St. Louis and the New York Yankees, respectively. On the flip side, big league vets such as Lance Lynn, Seth Smith, Jarrod Dyson, Chris Coghlan and Tyler Moore remain among the throng of unsigned players.
Here’s the list of Mississippians headed for camp:

40-man roster members
Position players
Anthony Alford (Petal), Toronto; Tim Anderson (East Central CC), Chicago White Sox; Zack Cozart (Ole Miss), Los Angeles Angels; Brian Dozier (Southern Miss), Minnesota; Corey Dickerson (Meridian CC), Tampa Bay; Adam Frazier (Mississippi State), Pittsburgh; Billy Hamilton (Taylorsville), Cincinnati; JaCoby Jones (Richton), Detroit; Braxton Lee (Ole Miss), Miami; Mitch Moreland (Mississippi State), Boston; Hunter Renfroe (MSU), San Diego; Stuart Turner (Ole Miss), Cincinnati 
Pitchers
Kendall Graveman (MSU), Oakland; Jonathan Holder (MSU), New York Yankees; Jacob Lindgren (MSU), Atlanta; Mike Mayers (Ole Miss), St. Louis; Drew Pomeranz (Ole Miss), Boston; Cody Reed (Northwest CC), Cincinnati; Tony Sipp (Gulf Coast CC), Houston; Chris Stratton (MSU), San Francisco; Brandon Woodruff (MSU), Milwaukee

Non-roster invitees
Position players
Bobby Bradley (Gulfport/Harrison Central), Cleveland; Jack Kruger (MSU), Los Angeles Angels; Austin Riley (Southaven/DeSoto Central), Atlanta; Kade Scivicque (Southwest CC), Atlanta
Pitchers
Cody Carroll (USM), New York Yankees; Chad Girodo (MSU), Toronto; David Goforth (Ole Miss), Washington; T.J. House (Picayune), Chicago White Sox; Dakota Hudson (MSU), St. Louis; Cody Satterwhite (Ole Miss), Washington; Bobby Wahl (Ole Miss), Oakland

Free agents: Jarrod Dyson (Southwest CC); Seth Smith (Ole Miss); Lance Lynn (Ole Miss); Chris Coghlan (Ole Miss); Desmond Jennings (Itawamba CC); Tyler Moore (MSU); Alex Presley (Ole Miss); Louis Coleman (Greenwood/Pillow Academy); Scott Copeland (USM)

19 Jan

making a list

Six Mississippians cracked Baseball America’s Top 10 Prospects lists for the 30 MLB organizations. (BA published the last of the lists today on its website.) Brandon Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State star who made his big league debut in 2017 but still has rookie status, was rated No. 2 in Milwaukee’s system. The right-hander was 2-3 with a 4.81 ERA in eight starts last year and figures to compete for a rotation spot this spring. Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal, was No. 3 in Toronto’s system, and Bobby Bradley, the ex-Harrison Central High standout, was Cleveland’s No. 3. Alford, an outfielder, had a cup of coffee with the Blue Jays last spring and is coming off a strong winter league showing. Bradley, a first baseman, has intriguing left-handed power but didn’t have a great season in Double-A and scuffled in the Arizona Fall League. Still, the 21-year-old is rated the No. 6 overall first base prospect by mlb.com, and he did get another invite to big league camp. DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley climbed to No. 6 on Atlanta’s chart. The power-hitting third baseman reached Double-A Mississippi last summer and likely will start 2018 in Triple-A. Brent Rooker, who had a monster season for MSU last spring, continued to rake (.281, 18 homers, 52 RBIs) in Minnesota’s system and earned a No. 7 rating. Dakota Hudson, another ex-Bulldogs star, is St. Louis’ No. 9 prospect after going 10-3 with a 3.01 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017. Not yet on the 40-man roster, Hudson probably will get some time in the big camp this spring. Worth noting: Ke’Bryan Hayes, son of Hattiesburg native and ex-big leaguer Charlie Hayes, is the fourth-rated prospect in Pittsburgh’s organization.

18 Jan

crowded house

Jonathan Holder’s task entering spring training with the New York Yankees will be challenging, to say the least. Mississippi State product Holder will be trying to nail down a job in what mlb.com speculates might be the best bullpen of all-time. Holder, 24, has pitched well in his 45 MLB appearances to date – 4.15 ERA, 45 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings – but he would appear to be far down in the Yankees’ pecking order. Aroldis Chapman, the fearsome left-hander, is the closer. The crew of middle relievers and set-up men includes Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Adam Warren, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green and Chasen Shreve, the former Mississippi Braves lefty. Holder, a sixth-round pick by New York in 2014, established himself as a prospect in 2016, when he struck out 101 batters and walked just seven in 65 1/3 innings in the minors. The Gulfport native made his big league debut that season and made the opening day roster last year, though he spent most of 2017 in the minors. And the competition for bullpen jobs has only grown more fierce in the Bronx.

16 Jan

big league chew

Though it was widely assumed that Andrew McCutchen would take over in center field this season for San Francisco, it is being reported by ESPN that the Giants are interested in signing free agent Mississippian Jarrod Dyson and bumping the newly acquired McCutchen to a corner spot. Former Southwest Mississippi Community College standout Dyson is an outstanding defender who batted .251 with 28 steals for Seattle in 2017. … Having gone four years without a postseason at-bat in Cincinnati, Zack Cozart surely improved his chances of a 2018 playoff appearance by signing with the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent last month. As the Ole Miss product tells it (to mlb.com), “It’s tough to beat playing with Joey Votto, but now I’m going to the Angels and probably the best player in the world (Mike Trout) is on the team, and I played against Albert (Pujols) early on when he was on the Cardinals, so I know how good he can be.” Cozart will join fellow newcomers Shohei Ohtani and Ian Kinsler on a loaded Angels club that could challenge Houston in the American League West. … Drew Pomeranz, the former Ole Miss standout who won 17 games for Boston in 2017, avoided arbitration by agreeing to a 1-year, $8.5 million contract last week. Also signing pre-arbitration deals were former Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton ($4.6M with Cincinnati) and Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson ($5.9M with Tampa Bay). … Ex-Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman has yet to reach an agreement with Oakland; he asked for $2.6M, the team offered $2.36M. … Columbia High product Ti’Quan Forbes is among a group of Chicago White Sox hitters gathered in Arizona this week for a mini-camp. Forbes, a second-round pick by Texas in 2014, was acquired by the ChiSox in a trade last summer. A 21-year-old third baseman/shortstop, Forbes is batting .242 for his pro career but hit 11 home runs in A-ball last season. … Worth noting (and reading): mlbtraderumors.com is now publishing installments of Tim Dillard’s “The Inner Monologue of @DimTillard.” The former Itawamba Community College star and onetime big leaguer, who is still an active pitcher in Milwaukee’s minor league system, is quite the entertaining fellow, as you’ll find from reading his posts. The hidden twinkies story is classic.