Way back in 2010, the scouting department of the Cleveland Indians envisioned Drew Pomeranz pitching in big games. The Indians drafted the big lefty out of Ole Miss with the fifth overall pick and signed him for $2.6 million. He was the second pitcher taken – behind Jameson Taillon – and went ahead of Matt Harvey and Chris Sale. Though he no longer pitches for Cleveland – that was four teams ago – Pomeranz’s big game is here. He takes the ball for Boston today at Houston’s Minute Maid Park with his team down 1-0 in the best-of-5 American League Division Series. Pomeranz (17-6, 3.32 ERA) got the win against the Astros last week in the victory that secured the AL East title. That was a big game, too. But this is certainly bigger. It’ll be Pomeranz’s first postseason start. And he’s facing an Astros team that raked Red Sox pitching – including Sale — for 12 hits and eight runs in Thursday’s opener. And he’ll be opposed by Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 Cy Young Award winner who is 14-5, 2.90 ERA. Pomeranz may be able to draw on his success from last week, when he checked the Astros on three hits and a lone run in six-plus innings. “Kind of goes both ways,” Pomeranz told masslive.com. “They got to see me; I got to see them.” And that was at Fenway Park, with the backing of Red Sox Nation. Today will be different. And so much bigger. … It’ll be interesting to see if former Mississippi State standout Mitch Moreland, a lefty hitter, is in the Boston lineup against left-hander Keuchel. The Red Sox might want Moreland at first base for his defense.
The MLB draft is just around the corner. Well, no, that’s not true. It’s about eight months away. But speculation on the draft is never out of season, certainly not at Baseball America. Ole Miss left-hander Ryan Rolison, coming off a strong showing in the Cape Cod League this summer, is ranked seventh in the magazine’s new list of the Top 50 draft prospects in the college ranks. In a mock draft posted by BA on Monday, Rolison, a draft-eligible sophomore, was pegged to go 11th overall to Baltimore. Mississippi State’s ace lefty, Konnor Pilkington, who pitched well for Team USA this summer, is No. 17 in the Top 50, and Bulldogs outfielder Jake Mangum checks in at 44. Former Jackson Prep star Mangum was picked in the 30th round this year by the New York Yankees as a draft-eligible sophomore. … In the high school Top 50, Brandon High’s J.T. Ginn and Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray are ranked Nos. 24 and 28. Ginn is committed to State, Gray to Ole Miss. Odds are they’ll be in pro ball next summer. … There weren’t any juco players in BA’s college Top 50, but one to watch leading up to next summer’s draft is Jones County JC’s Will Freeman, a right-hander who was the top-rated prospect in the Prospect League this summer.
Brent Rooker, the first Mississippian picked in the 2017 draft (35th overall), has proven to be a quick study in pro ball. The ex-Mississippi State standout has already advanced a level in Minnesota’s system and is batting .314 with four home runs over his last 10 games, raising his average at high Class A Fort Myers to .237 with seven homers. But Rooker has a lot of company in the fast lane. Each of the top 10 Mississippi-connected players drafted and signed in June is off to a good start, some a great start. Tyreque Reed (Itawamba Community College) is batting .350 with five homers and 26 RBIs in the rookie Arizona League, though he hasn’t played in over a week for the AZL (Texas) Rangers. Dylan Burdeaux (Southern Miss) hit .319 in short-season A for Detroit and was quickly bumped up to low-A, where he is batting .265 in 23 games. Taylor Braley (USM), the second Mississippian picked (sixth round, Miami), is 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA in four appearances in the short-season A New York-Penn League. It may feel like old home week at times in the NYPL. Other Mississippians in the league: Braley’s former teammate Kirk McCarty is with Cleveland’s affiliate and is 2-1, 2.05 in nine games; Ryan Gridley (MSU), an Oakland draftee, is batting .268 with 17 RBIs and five steals; and David Parkinson (Ole Miss) is 1-1, 2.84 for Philadelphia’s affiliate. Tate Blackman (UM), in rookie ball with the Chicago White Sox, is hitting .227 with two homers and 13 RBIs and is over .300 in his last 10 games. Bryce Brown (Jackson State) is batting .254 with 20 RBIs and 12 steals at the rookie level for Tampa Bay. Erstwhile East Mississippi CC quarterback Vijay Miller, a San Diego draftee who apparently has given up football, has a 4.00 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 18 innings in the rookie Arizona League.
Only one player in the majors was hotter than Alex Presley over the last seven days. The former Ole Miss standout went 13-for-25, including a 3-for-5 on Sunday, for Detroit. His .520 average was second to Chris Taylor’s .542 for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Journeyman Presley, who is with his fifth major league team, is batting .344 on the year for the Tigers, who appear to have waved the white flag on 2017. … Ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton was hot, too, batting .385 over the last seven days for Cincinnati, another scuffling team. “Billy is hitting the ball on the screws again,” Reds manager Bryan Price said in an Associated Press story. Hamilton (.258 on the season) had three hits and stole two bases on Sunday; he leads the majors with 43 bags. … Southern Miss product Brian Dozier is riding a nine-game hit streak for Minnesota, still contending in the American League Central. He hit his 16th homer on Sunday, his third during the streak. … Former Ole Miss star Bobby Wahl, on a rehab assignment with Oakland, has fanned six batters in two innings of work at Class A Stockton. He has eight K’s in 7 2/3 MLB innings this year; he has been on the disabled list since May 24. … USM alum Dylan Burdeaux, a 20th-round pick by Detroit last month, is batting .294 in four games at Class A West Michigan; the first baseman hit .319 in 13 games at the short-season A level. Burdeaux led NCAA Division I in hits this season with 102 (six more than Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker). … Kirk McCarty, also drafted out of USM in June (seventh round), has a 0.59 ERA in six appearances for Cleveland’s short-season Mahoning Valley club. Left-hander McCarty tossed three hitless innings on Sunday. … Ex-State star Jake Robson, a second-year pro, is batting .340 in 24 games at high-A Lakeland in the Detroit system. The lefty-swinging outfielder is hitting .432 over his last 10 games. … Highly rated Atlanta prospect Kolby Allard yielded a grand slam and a three-run bomb in the Mississippi Braves’ 7-0 loss to Biloxi at Trustmark Park on Sunday. Allard (5-9) has allowed six homers in his last three starts and seen his ERA jump from 2.88 to 3.75. … Ole Miss’ Ryan Rolison got the win with a 1-2-3 inning in Saturday’s Cape Cod League All-Star Game. Rolison, 4-0 with a 1.86 ERA for Orleans this summer, also got rave reviews from Baseball America, which reports that the left-hander is looking like a first-round pick in 2018.
Anthony Alford is back in Dunedin of the Florida State League, where he is reunited with fellow Mississippian D.J. Davis. The 2012 Toronto draft picks have seen their careers veer off in very different directions. Alford, a third-round selection out of Petal High, is in A-ball again on a major league rehab assignment. The outfielder, who turns 23 next week, was batting .325 with three homers and nine steals at Double-A New Hampshire when he was promoted to the big leagues on May 19. He was 1-for-8 before suffering a broken left wrist and landing on the disabled list on May 24. Alford, whose career was stalled for a couple of years while he played college football, is rated among the top prospects in the Blue Jays’ system. He is No. 38 on Baseball America’s most recent chart of the Top 100 overall. Davis, a first-round draftee out of Stone County, was once a highly rated prospect himself. Not so much now. The outfielder, who turns 23 on July 25, is in his second season at Dunedin after spending two years in low-A ball. He is batting .218 with 19 steals but has just six extra-base hits. He batted .197 in 2016. Perhaps inspired by Alford’s arrival, Davis went 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI for Dunedin on Wednesday. He needs a lot more days like that in what remains of his season.
One has to wonder if the Minnesota Twins are considering a promotion for Brent Rooker, who is wearing out the rookie-level Appalachian League. The ex-Mississippi State star – the 35th overall pick last month — has 12 hits in his last seven games for Elizabethton and is at .323 with five home runs and 10 RBIs in 16 pro games. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Rooker has been playing left field; he played mostly first base at State this year. … Rehabbing big leaguer Sean Rodriguez went 1-for-5 with four strikeouts for the Mississippi Braves in an 8-7 loss to Jackson (Tenn.) on Tuesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The M-Braves fanned 11 times all told and dropped to 4-14 in the second half of the Southern League season. They play the Generals again tonight at the TeePee. … Blake Anderson, the former West Lauderdale High star catcher, is now listed as a pitcher on the roster of the Gulf Coast League Marlins. Anderson, widely hailed for his defensive abilities, was a supplemental first-round pick by Miami in 2014. Injuries have limited him to 58 pro games (one in 2016), and he carries a .173 average. He has not appeared in a game this season. … None of the four high school players drafted out of the state this year signed to play pro ball. Myles Christian of Olive Branch, the highest prep pick (18th round, Seattle), is bound for Middle Tennessee State. C.J. Dunn of Center Hill, a Toronto pick, is going to Texas Tech; Ocean Springs’ Garrett Crochet, a Milwaukee pick, is off to Tennessee; and McLaurin’s Davis Bradshaw, another Brewers draftee, will play at Meridian Community College in 2018. The state’s Gatorade player of the year, Trey Shaffer, a left-hander from Biloxi, wasn’t drafted. The Southeastern Louisiana signee went 8-1 with a 1.20 ERA for the Indians. He also hit .380. … The only other 2017 draftees who didn’t sign were Mississippi State’s Jake Mangum, Ole Miss’ Brady Feigl and East Mississippi Community College’s Marcus Ragan, who is bound for Arkansas-Little Rock. State’s Cody Brown (New York Yankees) and Southern Miss’ Tracy Hadley (Chicago White Sox) signed as non-drafted free agents. … The Mississippi Semi-Pro State Tournament is scheduled for Thursday through Sunday at Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium. Among the participants will be the Hattiesburg Black Sox, who won the Magnolia Adult Baseball League title. … USA Baseball has unveiled the 40-man group that will go to Minneapolis in August to take part in the 18U National Team Trials. Pitcher J.T. Ginn of Brandon and outfielder Joe Gray of Hattiesburg made the cut. The team trials begin on Aug. 19 and the final 20-man roster will be announced on Aug. 24. The 18U National Team will compete in the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 World Cup in Thunder Bay, Canada, from Sept. 1-10.
Draft doodles: Twenty players were picked from Mississippi schools in the three-day MLB draft, from Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker at No. 35 overall to Ole Miss’ Kyle Watson at No. 1108. Southern Miss and Ole Miss had four players drafted each. State had three and Jackson State and William Carey one each. Three juco players were selected, two from East Mississippi CC (and none from Jones County JC, which spent most of the season ranked No. 1, or Hinds, the NJCAA Region 23 champion). Four high school players were tabbed, the first being Myles Christian from Olive Branch in the 18th round by Seattle. … Milwaukee picked two prep players: Lefty Garrett Crochet from Ocean Springs in the 34th round and outfielder Davis Bradshaw from McLaurin in the 35th. … Detroit picked two college players: USM’s Dylan Burdeaux (20th round) and UM’s Colby Bortles (22nd), both infielders. The Tigers have stocked up on Mississippi connections of late. Already in the system are Ole Miss alum Alex Presley on the big league team; Richton High product JaCoby Jones in Triple-A; ex-Madison Central standout Spencer Turnbull and former UM star Will Allen at high Class A; and State alums Jake Robson and Zac Houston in low-A ball. … Atlanta Braves prospect Mike Soroka, who has won five straight starts, takes the bump for the Mississippi Braves tonight against Montgomery at Trustmark Park. The big Canadian, 19 years old, is 7-3, 2.45 ERA and hasn’t allowed a run in 15 innings in his previous two starts. … On Montgomery’s roster is former Ole Miss and Pearl River CC standout Braxton Lee, who is enjoying a resurgent second season in Double-A. After batting .209 for the Biscuits in 2016, the lefty-hitting outfielder is at .310 with two homers, 16 RBIs, 42 runs and 10 steals in 59 games this season. … In the big leagues on Wednesday: Ex-State standout Hunter Renfroe hit his 14th homer for San Diego, matching Nate Colbert’s club record for most homers by a rookie before the All-Star break. Fellow Bulldogs alum Tyler Moore continues to shine as a regular for Miami, hitting his fifth home run. He is at .288 with 17 RBIs in 66 at-bats. MSU product Kendall Graveman, on Oakland’s disabled list with a shoulder strain since May 26, reportedly has started light throwing. The A’s opening day starter is 2-2, 3.83 in eight starts. Correction: Ole Miss had a fifth player picked, right-hander Brady Feigl in the 35th round by the Los Angeles Angels. His name did not appear on Baseball America’s chart of picks from Mississippi.