As major league clubs begin to make cuts, there are a handful of Mississippians on 40-man rosters who are out of options, which essentially means they can’t be sent to the minors without passing through waivers and possibly being snatched by another club. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for the player. Of particular interest is the case of ex-Petal High standout Anthony Alford, a longtime outfield prospect in Toronto’s system. Alford, 25, who has had limited big league time (33 games from 2017-19), has been inconsistent and injured over much of his minor league career. He is batting .167 in 24 at-bats with four steals this spring. Per milb.com, “(H)is plus speed and ability to cover plenty of ground on defense would be assets to the back end of the Blue Jays roster.” Alford is competing with several others for a backup outfield job. Three veteran pitchers are also on the roster bubble: Former Mississippi State standout Chris Stratton (Pittsburgh), Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers (Los Angeles Angels) and Northwest Mississippi Community College product Cody Reed (Cincinnati). Mayers has been the most effective this spring, with a 4.76 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. … Former George County High star Justin Steele was optioned out by the Chicago Cubs last week. The oft-injured Steele, 24, had allowed six runs on two hits and six walks in 2 2/3 innings this spring. He was 0-6, 5.59 at Double-A Tennessee in 2019, his sixth pro season. Those numbers notwithstanding, the Cubs reportedly really like the left-hander’s upside.
Before the dust gets kicked up again in the MACJC, here’s how the teams stack up with roughly two weeks left in the regular season: Fourth-ranked Itawamba Community College (14-4) and No. 11 Northwest Mississippi (15-5), after their split on Tuesday, remain in a virtual tie for first in the standings. No. 6 Pearl River and No. 9 Jones County, both on extended winning streaks, are third at 12-6. Gulf Coast (11-7) and East Central (12-8) are in a virtual tie for fifth, and No. 10 Meridian and 14th-ranked Hinds are knotted in seventh at 10-7. Copiah-Lincoln sits at 9-9. Yes, it’s going to be a mad scramble to the finish and on into the playoffs. The big doubleheader this weekend is Saturday’s matchup of Northwest and Meridian in the Queen City. … Pitching – good pitching — has been a main storyline this season. MACJC schools occupy the Nos. 7 to 11 spots in the NJCAA Division II team stats for ERA. Itawamba, featuring ace Houston Harding, has a 3.28, Northwest a 3.29 and Pearl River a 3.34. Meridian’s Braden Forsyth, who has worked as a starter and reliever, has a 1.15, while Harding, 8-0 as a starter, is at 1.72. PRCC’s Miles Smith has 69 strikeouts, eighth in the nation. Jones County leads state schools in batting with a .337 average, led by Brandon Hale at .398. Pearl River has mashed 59 homers, second-most in the country. Dexter Jordan has 10, and Wiley Cleland and Kasey Donaldson nine apiece. Meridian’s Kace Garner leads the state with 12 bombs, and Gulf Coast’s Brandon Parker has 10.
If you’re a Mississippi baseball aficionado, Roy Cresap Field in Fulton is the place you oughta be today. The top two teams in the MACJC standings will clash in a doubleheader that should be worth the price of admission and then some. Host Itawamba Community College is ranked No. 4 in the latest NJCAA Division II poll, sporting a 28-5 overall record and 13-3 mark in the conference. Northwest Mississippi CC, ranked 15th, is 25-7, 14-4. ICC’s Houston Harding, a lefty from Walls and a Mississippi State commit, is one of the top pitchers in the country; he is 8-0 with a 1.72 ERA. The staff’s other ace is Austin King, 5-1, 3.22. Two-way standout Justin Medlin is 4-0, 2.05 as a pitcher and is batting .355 with seven homers and 31 RBIs. Northwest trots out a powerful lineup that features five hitters with five or more homers, led by Hammer Franks with seven. Franks is batting .316 with 32 RBIs. Brayland Skinner leads the Rangers regulars with a .359 average and 12 steals. The Rangers’ best pitchers have been the Stinnett brothers – sophomore Carson is 6-0, 3.22, freshman Parker 4-2, 1.80 – and lefty Dalton Fowler (5-1, 2.32).
A shoulder injury apparently will land JaCoby Jones on the injured list to start the season, a blow for both Jones and his team, the Detroit Tigers. The ex-Richton High star was penciled in as the starting center fielder, despite a less than stellar spring with the bat (.196). A published report said he could be out a month. Jones, no longer a kid at 27, finally got extended paying time last year and hit .207 with 11 homers, 34 RBIs and 13 steals. The Tigers like his speed and athleticism, especially in the outfield. He injured his left (non-throwing) shoulder diving for a ball on Saturday. … A season-ending injury to Tigers ace Michael Fulmer may have opened the door for Madison Central alum Spencer Turnbull to make Detroit’s rotation to start the season. Turnbull, who debuted last summer, has been impressive this spring with a 1.80 ERA in five outings, including a strong start against Bryce Harper and Philadelphia on Wednesday. “I’m happy with how I’ve done,” he told the Detroit Free Press. … Former Horn Lake and Northwest Mississippi Community College standout Cody Reed got bad news on Friday when he was optioned to Triple-A by Cincinnati. After a good showing at the end of 2018, Reed went into spring training expected to contend for a job in the Reds’ rotation. He was shifted to bullpen duty and posted a 7.00 ERA in eight games, much of the damage being done in one appearance. A hard-throwing lefty, he’ll get back to The Show at some point.
The Cincinnati Reds, coming off a terrible season, beefed up their rotation by trading for three veteran pitchers in the off-season. What that means for Cody Reed is that cracking the starting corps this spring will be a lot tougher. The former Northwest Mississippi Community College star from Horn Lake will be in the mix based on his relatively strong finish in 2018. Reed, a 25-year-old lefty, posted a 3.99 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings over his last seven appearances, six of them as a starter, which is the role he has said he wants. After back-to-back scoreless starts, his final game of the season didn’t go so well (a loss to Kansas City), but he ended the year with a 3.98 ERA in 17 games. “It’s a tough one to end on if this is it,” Reed told mlb.com after that final outing. “I definitely feel like I (left a good impression). I’m going to come into spring fighting … .” Reed was a second-round pick out of NWCC by Kansas City in 2013 and was a highly rated prospect when traded to the Reds while in Double-A in 2015. He made the big leagues in 2016 but endured a rough baptism, going 0-7 with a 7.36 ERA. Reed has bounced between Triple-A and the big club the last two seasons, working as both a starter and reliever. Maybe he sticks in 2019. Reds pitchers and catchers report for work, officially, on Feb. 13.
Mitch Moreland has done quite a bit of celebrating in his big league career. The Amory native and ex-Mississippi State star was on the field at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night when Boston clinched the American League East with a rollicking 11-6 victory over New York. In his nine MLB seasons, Moreland has had a hand in six division championships, four with Texas and the last two with the Red Sox. He was also on the Rangers’ wild card team in 2012. Moreland is batting .243 with 15 homers and 67 RBIs this season. After making his first All-Star Game in July, he has struggled much of the second half and lost playing time at first base to Steve Pearce. But Moreland’s superior defense will get him into games, and his postseason experience (37 games) is also valuable. He hit .385 in Boston’s division series loss to Houston in 2017. Moreland has played in two World Series – with Texas in 2010 and ’11 – but is yet to win a ring. That could change this fall. P.S. Former Northwest Mississippi Community College standout Cody Reed threw six shutout innings for Cincinnati to get his first win as a big league starter (see previous post). He allowed five hits, no walks and punched out six Miami batters. Lefty Reed, who threw five scoreless innings in his previous start, is 1-2 with a 3.66 ERA in 16 games (six starts) this season.
As the Cincinnati Reds look ahead to 2019, they’re surely giving strong consideration to making Cody Reed a part of their starting rotation. The ex-Northwest Mississippi Community College standout from Horn Lake showed his potential on Saturday against the Chicago Cubs. Going head-to-head with Cubs ace Jon Lester, Reed threw five scoreless innings, yielding just two hits and striking out 10. Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart told mlb.com that it was the best he’d ever seen Reed throw and could be a “springboard outing” for the 25-year-old left-hander. Reed got a no-decision — the Reds ultimately lost 1-0 to the first-place Cubs — but trimmed his ERA to 4.32 in his 15th appearance and fifth start this season. He was recalled from Triple-A Louisville in mid-August and given a spot in the rotation shortly thereafter. In 16 career starts spread over three seasons, Reed is still looking for his first win. His lone MLB victory came as a reliever. Based on Saturday’s performance, that breakthrough W could be coming soon. P.S. Four Mississippians earned spots on Baseball America’s Classification All-Star teams, one at each of the top four levels of the minors. Mississippi State alum Dakota Hudson, now pitching in the big leagues with St. Louis, made the Triple-A team; former Bulldogs star Nathaniel (Nate) Lowe (in Tampa Bay’s system) is the first baseman on the Double-A team; MSU product Reid Humphreys (Colorado) is the closer on the high Class A team; and ex-Ole Miss standout David Parkinson (Philadelphia) made the low-A team as a starter. Lowe, named to the all-classification All-Stars second team after batting .330 with 27 homers and 102 RBIs across three levels, is on the Triple-A Durham team that just won the International League pennant. Mississippi Braves 2018 alums Touki Toussaint and Ian Anderson, both hurlers, were chosen as first-team all-classification All-Stars by BA.
Count Hunter Renfroe among those who’ll hate to see August end. The ex-Mississippi State star has had that kind of a month for the San Diego Padres. He hit his ninth homer of August — 17th of the season — in the Padres’ 8-3 win against Seattle on Wednesday. The big outfielder is batting .299 this month with 26 RBIs. He is at .253 with 53 RBIs for the season, which included a sluggish start, an injury and a stay in the minors. One writer called Renfroe’s resurgence “astounding.” The Padres, in the throes of a rebuild, surely must like what they’ve seen of late. … Fours were wild for Billy Hamilton on Wednesday in Cincinnati’s crazy 13-12 loss to Milwaukee at Great American Ballpark. The ex-Taylorsville High standout — the recent subject of trade speculation — hit his fourth career leadoff homer, which was his fourth bomb of the season, and matched a career-high with four hits. He also scored three times, though he departed the game after a headfirst slide into home. Hamilton is batting .243 with 28 RBIs, 66 runs and 29 steals, way down from his average (58) the previous four seasons. He was caught stealing for the eighth time on Wednesday. … Drew Pomeranz, whose turn in Boston’s rotation in 2018 had been largely terrible, has fared better in the bullpen. The big lefty from Ole Miss threw a scoreless ninth in the Red Sox’s wild 14-6 win over Miami. In seven relief appearances, he has a win and a 3.97 ERA. He won just once in his 11 starts. His season ERA is still an ugly 5.89. P.S. And one more thing: Cody Reed gets his second start of 2018 today as the Reds play Milwaukee again. The Northwest Mississippi Community College product has pitched well in relief since returning from the minors (see previous post) and has a 3.68 ERA in 11 MLB games all told this season.
Give it up for “Bull” and “TA7” for their contributions in winning efforts on the official opening night of Players Weekend in MLB. “Fraz” had three hits Friday in a losing cause. “CC” got rocked and took a loss. “Bone” had a quiet night, and “C-Dizzle” struck out in a pinch-hit appearance. “2-Bags” sat, resting a sore knee, and “Juicy J” and “Zoombiya” are, unfortunately, on the DL. Easy to overlook was the performance by “Goggles,” who escaped a major jam to keep his club in a game it would go on to lose. “Goggles” is the nickname worn by Cody Reed, the former Northwest Mississippi Community College star from Horn Lake. Working in relief for Cincinnati, the bespectacled Reed — can’t miss those thick, black rims — came on in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and one out in a 1-1 game vs. Chicago at Wrigley Field. The left-hander got Anthony Rizzo to bounce into a 1-2-3 double play on a 3-2 pitch. Reed then pitched a scoreless seventh, but the Cubs would ultimately win the game 3-2 on a David Bote walk-off homer. Reed, recently recalled from the minors, has now made three straight scoreless appearances for the Reds, cutting his season ERA to 3.95. He was a starter in Triple-A; maybe the Reds will finally give him another shot in their rotation. Nickname key: Bull is Brian Dozier, TA7 Tim Anderson, Fraz Adam Frazier, CC Cody Carroll, Bone Billy Hamilton, C-Dizzle Corey Dickerson, 2-Bags Mitch Moreland, Juicy J JaCoby Jones and Zoombiya Jarrod Dyson. (Tony Sipp, who notched a hold for Houston, is “Sipp,” in case anyone was confused.)
Cody Reed was making strides in his quest to get back to the big leagues, winning two straight starts in impressive fashion at Triple-A Louisville. Then came Friday night’s outing at Toledo and a stumble. Reed, the former Northwest Mississippi Community College standout from Horn Lake, got knocked around for 10 hits and eight runs in seven innings. His record dipped to 2-6 and his ERA rose to 4.57 in 12 starts for Cincinnati’s International League affiliate. Reed had a good spring with the Reds and opened this season in the big leagues but appeared in just four games (5.40 ERA) before being sent down. After a decent start at Louisville, the 25-year-old lefty went through a rough patch where he lost five of six outings before the back-to-back wins that preceded Friday’s defeat. Reed was a second-round pick out of Northwest CC in 2013 by Kansas City and was a highly rated prospect when the Royals traded him to the Reds in mid-2015. He made The Show in 2016, going 0-7, 7.36 ERA for a bad team. He got his first and only MLB W last year. You know he is hungry for another. P.S. Ole Miss product and onetime big leaguer Alex Presley was released from a minor league club for the second time this season. He had been playing at Triple-A Charlotte (batting .198) in the Chicago White Sox’s system following a stint with Baltimore’s Triple-A club. Presley, 32, has a .263 career average over eight MLB campaigns.