The hits keep coming for Drew Waters. The Mississippi Braves star, the reigning Southern League player of the week, homered in Tuesday night’s SL All-Star game at Biloxi. The 20-year-old, switch-hitting outfielder finished the first half of his first Double-A season batting .338 with five homers, 27 RBIs, 42 runs, 10 steals, 23 doubles and eight triples. He currently has a 13-game hitting streak and a 25-game on-base streak. He also moved up to No. 45 on MLB Pipeline’s updated Top 100 Prospects list. How much longer will he be in Pearl? … Waters’ teammate Cristian Pache, another young outfielder also having a stellar season, is No. 14 on the Top 100, and M-Braves pitcher Ian Anderson is 27th. … Ryan Rolison, the ex-Ole Miss left-hander, moved up 22 spots to No. 70 on the Top 100 chart. The Colorado prospect went 2-1, 0.61 in low-A ball to start 2019 and is 2-3, 4.23 (with one terrible outing) at the high-A level. … Several of the top draft picks out of the state reportedly have signed pro contracts, including Southern Miss All-American Matt Wallner (Minnesota), Ole Miss All-American Grae Kessinger (Houston), Loyd Star High’s James Beard (Chicago White Sox), Ole Miss’ Cooper Johnson (Detroit) and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Brandon Parker (Atlanta). Also, Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, who pitched his prep ball in Florida, has signed with Toronto. Mississippi State All-American Ethan Small was the top pick from the state, going 28th overall to Milwaukee, but he is attending to other business in Omaha. … Ole Miss’ Doug Nikhazy, a freshman All-America pick, has been invited to camp with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. … In MLB, Mississippi State product Chris Stratton was activated from the injured list by Pittsburgh on Tuesday; he didn’t appear in the Pirates’ game against Detroit. … Ex-Bulldogs standout Brandon Woodruff took a loss for Milwaukee on Tuesday, the first time in his last 10 starts that the Brewers have lost. Woodruff (8-2, 4.04) yielded four runs in six innings in a 4-1 loss to San Diego. On the positive side, he went 2-for-2 at the plate, raising his average to .364.
One of the more intriguing names floating about in connection with the upcoming MLB draft (June 3-5) is James Beard. The Loyd Star outfielder is rated by Baseball America and MLB Pipeline as the fastest prep player in the 2019 draft class. MLB Pipeline, which ranks Beard No. 127 on its list of the top 200 prospects, says his speed compares to Billy Hamilton’s — and he has better bat skills. He hit .429 with 10 homers and 26 steals this season. A Meridian Community College commit, the 6-foot, 190-pound Beard is among 12 state-connected players in MLB Pipeline’s latest top 200, four rating in the top 100. At No. 54 is Kendall Williams, a 6-foot-6 right-hander from Olive Branch who now plays at IMG Academy in Florida. Mississippi State lefty Ethan Small – a 26th-round pick in 2018 — is rated No. 56, Southern Miss’ Matt Wallner No. 60 and Jackson Prep’s Jerrion Ealy No. 66. Ealy, a two-sport star who signed with Ole Miss, is widely considered a first-round talent, but his college commitment seemingly has caused his draft stock to drop. On draftsite.com, Ealy was pegged to go sixth overall and Wallner 34th with Ole Miss’ Thomas Dillard, Williams and State’s Jake Mangum projected as second-round picks and UM’s Cooper Johnson and Grae Kessinger as third-rounders. Northwest Mississippi Community College left-hander Dalton Fowler, a freshman, appears to be the top juco prospect in the state (MLB Pipeline has him at No. 150). Other high school players of note are Pearl River Central’s Hayden Dunhurst, a switch-hitting catcher and UM signee, and Smithville High right-hander/catcher Jared Johnson, a State commit who was recently featured in Baseball America.
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.
No big surprise here: Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High All-Stater, was named Atlanta’s minor league hitter of the year by MLB Pipeline. The 21-year-old third baseman hit .294 with 19 homers at two levels (Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett). “The sky is the limit for this guy,” Braves assistant farm director (and former M-Braves second baseman) Jonathan Schuerholz told Baseball America, which also named Riley the Best Player in Atlanta’s system. Touki Toussaint, who started 2018 in Pearl and rose all the way to the big leagues, was named the system’s pitcher of the year by MLB Pipeline and BA. … Ole Miss product David Parkinson was named Philadelphia’s pitcher of the year. A 12th-round pick in 2017, he went 11-1 with a 1.45 ERA in A-ball this past season. His ERA was the lowest in the minors among qualifying pitchers. … Ex-Mississippi State star Nathaniel Lowe was Tampa Bay’s hitter of the year after batting .330 with 27 homers and 102 RBIs between A-ball and Triple-A. … In the Arizona Fall League on Thursday, Ole Miss alum Errol Robinson (Los Angeles Dodgers) debuted with a 2-for-4, two-RBI effort for Glendale, and in the same game Petal’s Demarcus Evans (Texas) threw two scoreless innings for Surprise. Delta State product Trent Giambrone (Chicago Cubs) banged out four hits in his debut for Mesa, while ex-George County High standout Justin Steele did not have his best stuff in that same game. He gave up four runs in 1 2/3 innings as Mesa’s starter. The Cubs’ No. 8 prospect yielded five hits, a walk, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch. Former DSU star Dalton Moats (Tampa Bay) worked two hitless innings for Peoria on Wednesday, and Daniel Brown (Milwaukee), a left-hander out of MSU, tossed 2 1/3 hitless innings for the same club on Tuesday. … Starkville native and ex-big leaguer Julio Borbon won a Mexican League championship with Monterrey, which wrapped up the pennant on Tuesday. Borbon went 8-for-26 with three runs and an RBI in the title series. He hit .301 with 14 steals during the season. A former first-round pick out of Tennessee by Texas, the 32-year-old Borbon last played in the majors in 2016. … Ke’Bryan Hayes, son of ex-big leaguer and Forrest County AHS product Charlie Hayes, won a minor league Gold Glove award at third base for the second straight year. The younger Hayes, a first-round pick out of a Texas high school by Pittsburgh in 2015, played at Double-A Altoona in 2018. … On this date in 2010, the Texas Rangers scored a landmark victory, thanks in large part to former Meridian Community College star Cliff Lee. Lee threw a six-hitter with 11 strikeouts to beat Tampa Bay (and David Price) in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, giving the Rangers their first playoff series victory. Texas would go on to the World Series, losing to San Francisco. Lee, incidentally, was 7-3, 2.52 ERA with three complete games in 11 postseason starts but never won a ring.
Anthony Alford has been on the Toronto Blue Jays’ top prospect lists for several years. That’s kind of a problem. You don’t want to be on those lists for too long. You want to be in the big leagues. Former Petal High star Alford turned 24 in July. The right-handed hitting outfielder, who has a total of 22 MLB at-bats, is currently at Triple-A Buffalo and not exactly tearing it up. In 83 games, he is batting .223 with five homers, 24 RBIs, 43 runs and 13 steals. The launch of his pro baseball career was delayed while he played college football, and he has endured a variety of injuries, including a setback this spring in big league camp. When MLB Pipeline updated its top 100 prospects chart last month, Alford dropped from No. 47 to No. 94. Other young outfielders have emerged in the Blue Jays’ system: Teoscar Hernandez, Dwight Smith Jr., Dalton Pompey and Jonathan Davis. Alford is still on the 40-man roster, so one assumes he’ll get a call-up when rosters expand in September. He’ll need to show something.
Last week was a good week in Brent Rooker’s world. The ex-Mississippi State standout, now playing at Double-A Chattanooga, went 13-for-26 with seven walks, three home runs and seven RBIs. Today, he was named Southern League Player of the Week and made MLB Pipeline’s minor league Team of the Week at first base. Rated the No. 7 prospect in Minnesota’s system – up from 8th – by MLB Pipeline last week, the second-year pro is batting .277 with 20 homers, an SL-best 67 RBIs and 56 runs in 100 games. Though he has fanned 121 times, he is slugging .522. MSU fans might want to circle the date Aug. 14 – and keep their fingers crossed. That’s when Chattanooga arrives at Trustmark Park to play the Mississippi Braves in a five-game series.
Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star, saw his stock skyrocket in the refreshed Top 100 prospect rankings posted Thursday by MLB Pipeline. Riley, a third baseman now at Triple-A Gwinnett in Atlanta’s chain, jumped to No. 44 from No. 97 in the preseason rankings. He is now No. 4 on Atlanta’s chart, up from 8th. The 21-year-old Riley, on a tear of late, is hitting .295 with four home runs and 23 RBIs at Gwinnett after hitting .333 with 11 homers to start 2018 at Double-A Mississippi. He was a first-round supplemental pick in the 2015 draft. Going the other way was former Petal High standout Anthony Alford, who fell 47 spots to No. 94. Alford, who has had injury issues, is batting .220 with five homers, 21 RBIs and 13 steals at Triple-A Buffalo in the Toronto system. The former Southern Miss and Ole Miss football player, a third-round draftee in 2012, only became a full-time baseball player in 2015. Now 24, he has had cups of coffee in the big leagues each of the last two seasons. … Ryan Rolison, the Ole Miss alum and first player from the state picked in the June draft, broke into Colorado’s Top 30 at No. 6. Other 2018 draftees who made the organization rankings: Hattiesburg High product Joe Gray (No. 9, Milwaukee); ex-State star Konnor Pilkington (No. 18, Chicago White Sox); and ex-Southern Miss standout Nick Sandlin (No. 20, Cleveland). … Also of note: MSU product Nathaniel (Nate) Lowe, a third-year pro, jumped into Tampa Bay’s rankings at No. 13; now in Double-A, he has had a breakout season. Ex-Bulldogs star Reid Humphreys, having a strong year in high-A ball, entered Colorado’s Top 30 at No. 14. David Parkinson, a second-year pro out of Ole Miss, is newly rated No. 21 in Philadelphia’s system. Former George County High star Justin Steele, coming back from Tommy John surgery this year, moved from No. 16 to 9th in the Chicago Cubs’ Top 30. MSU alum Jacob (Jake) Robson, who has reached Triple-A for Detroit in his third year, moved up to 15th from 28th in the Tigers’ rankings. P.S. Ex-State ace Chris Stratton was recalled by San Francisco on Thursday (see previous post) and gave up three runs in 1 1/3 innings of relief work in a loss to Milwaukee. … Bulldogs product Adam Frazier, back up with Pittsburgh after a Triple-A stint, is 3-for-5 in two games since returning. … Ole Miss alum Cody Satterwhite has been released by his Mexican League club after seven appearances.
The time is near for Anthony Alford’s breakthrough. Has to be. The former Mr. Baseball from Petal isn’t penciled in as a regular outfielder for Toronto just yet, but he is in the competition for a spot on the 25-man roster. And he’s off to a good start this spring. Alford had a hit, a sacrifice fly and three RBIs in the Blue Jays’ 7-1 Grapefruit League win against Philadelphia today. He is 5-for-12 overall with a home run, a triple and six RBIs. This comes on the heels of a strong performance in the Mexican Pacific League over the winter. He batted .352 with a pair of homers, 15 RBIs and eight steals. Alford, 23, made his big league debut last season, but his stay was curtailed after eight at-bats by a hand injury. He had good numbers in Double-A before and after the injury. Alford’s career started slowly while he played football at Southern Miss and Ole Miss. He has played only 391 games over six seasons. But he has impressed. MLB Pipeline rates him the No. 3 prospect in the Jays’ system and No. 47 overall. He goes 6 feet 1, 215 pounds and is considered the fastest player in Toronto’s organization. His time is near.
Austin Riley is projected by Baseball America to be Atlanta’s third baseman by 2020. The former DeSoto Central High star has climbed the minor-league ladder at a good pace, reaching the Double-A level midway through his third pro season at age 20. He’ll make his much-anticipated Trustmark Park debut on Wednesday as the Mississippi Braves open a 10-game homestand during which Riley will have a chance to display the power bat and rifle arm that enticed the Braves to draft him 41st overall in 2015. Riley, 6 feet 3, 220 pounds, is 4-for-18 for the M-Braves to date; he hit his first Double-A homer on Monday at Pensacola. He doesn’t arrive in Pearl with quite the same pizzazz that accompanied Ronald Acuna, but Riley is rated among the top 18 prospects in Atlanta’s loaded system by three different publications. He has already had a decorated minor league career, making Baseball America’s rookie-level All-Star team in 2015 and low Class A team in 2016. He was a midseason All-Star pick in the high-A Florida State League last month and was batting .252 with 12 homers for Florida at the time of his promotion. MLB Pipeline’s scouting report notes that Riley, like many young sluggers, needs to be more selective at the plate, cut down on strikeouts and draw more walks. But his raw power excites, and how that tool plays at Trustmark Park will be something to watch for. … Riley, who was born in Memphis but grew up in Southaven, joins the list of Mississippians to play for the M-Braves that includes Zack Bird, Jay Powell, Michael Rosamond, John Thomson, Van Pope and Brent Leach.
The Atlanta Braves have chosen the fast track for three of their prized young pitchers. Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka and Max Fried are jumping the high Class A level to start 2017 with the Double-A Mississippi Braves, who released their official roster today. They are rated the Nos. 3, 4 and 8 prospects in the system by MLB Pipeline. Fried, whose career was slowed by injury, is 23 and has been in pro ball for six years. Allard and Soroka are just 19, very young for Double-A. “The good ones get there early and these are two really good ones,” Braves GM John Coppolella told Baseball America. Both were first-round picks in 2015 and are among the six first-rounders on the M-Braves’ roster. Soroka is a big right-hander, Allard a slender lefty. Soroka, featuring a hard sinker, went 9-9 with a 3.02 ERA for low-A Rome’s 2016 championship club. “He goes right after hitters, throws a ton of strikes and makes outstanding adjustments on the mound,” according to the MLB Pipeline scouting report. Allard, blessed with a superb breaking ball, was 8-3, 2.98 for Rome and threw 12 scoreless innings in the South Atlantic League playoffs. “His stuff plays up even more because of deception in his delivery and his outstanding command,” MLB Pipeline notes. Are the young guns ready for Double-A? M-Braves fans will have a front row seat as this question is answered. The opener is Thursday at Trustmark Park. P.S. Among several returnees from last year’s M-Braves team, which reached the Southern League finals, is Kade Scivicque, the former Southwest Mississippi Community College (and LSU) star. The 24-year-old catcher is a .273 hitter over two minor league seasons and had eight hits in four games in the SL postseason last year after coming to the Braves in a trade with Detroit.