22 Aug

minor matters

It’s safe to assume Hunter Renfroe is on a mission to get back to the big leagues, and he is certainly off to a good start. Renfroe, the Mississippi State product from Crystal Springs, went 3-for-5 with a double and a triple Monday in his first game with Triple-A El Paso. The rookie outfielder was sent down by San Diego after hitting .230 with 20 home runs and 125 strikeouts through 111 games. … Ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford is on a similar mission. Alford, who got a brief call-up with Toronto in May, doubled, homered and stole a base Monday for Double-A New Hampshire. Alford is hitting .371 over his last 10 games and .322 for the season, with five homers, 23 RBIs and 15 bags. … Bobby Bradley, the former Harrison Central star and a top Cleveland prospect, also had a day: a double, a homer and four RBIs for Double-A Akron. Bradley, a lefty-hitting first baseman, has hit at a .389 clip over his last 10 games, raising his average to .246 with 21 homers and 82 RBIs. Not yet on the Indians’ 40-man roster, the 21-year-old Bradley may be a year away from the big leagues. … Ole Miss alum J.B. Woodman, a Toronto prospect in just his second pro season, went 2-for-5 with two doubles on Monday for Class A Lansing and is hitting .342 over his last 10 games. He’s at .255 with six homers and 42 RBIs this season.

16 Aug

mad skills

In Baseball America’s recent rankings of the Best Tools in the major leagues, Aaron Hicks, Kevin Kiermaier and Alex Gordon were 1-2-3 in the American League’s Best Outfield Arm category. In the NL, it was Yoenis Cespedes, Mississippi’s own Hunter Renfroe and Yasiel Puig. The MLB leader in outfield assists is … none of the above. Jarrod Dyson, the ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star from McComb, tops that list with 11. The Seattle center fielder got one on Tuesday night, cutting down Baltimore’s Manny Machado at the plate in the Mariners’ 3-1 victory in a meeting of AL playoff contenders. Dyson has 47 assists in his eight-year career, and he hasn’t played regularly for much of that time. Dyson did show up in three of the Baseball America Best Tools rankings, which are based on a poll of managers, coaches and scouts. He was the AL’s Best Bunter – he put down a nice sacrifice on Tuesday – and ranked second in Best Baserunner and Fastest Baserunner. … It’s impressive that the names of four Mississippi natives show up in the rankings. In addition to Dyson and Crystal Springs’ Renfroe, Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton was No. 1 in the NL’s Fastest Baserunner – duh – and Best Baserunner categories and No. 3 in Best Defensive Outfielder, and Amory’s Mitch Moreland was second in the AL’s Best Defensive First Baseman chart. P.S. East Central CC product Tim Anderson led off with a first-pitch home run against Alex Wood in Tuesday night’s Chicago White Sox-Los Angeles Dodgers game at Dodger Stadium. It was Anderson’s 14th homer and fifth in nine games. It was the only run former Mississippi Braves ace Wood would allow in seven innings, but he took a no-decision in the Dodgers’ 6-1 win. He is 14-1 for a team that is now a jaw-dropping 84-34. … Ole Miss alum Colby Bortles homered in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game in York, N.Y. Bortles has only one homer in 35 regular season games for Connecticut in the Detroit system. A 2017 draftee, he is batting .273 with 15 RBIs.

15 Aug

it’s a journey

Drafted by the Florida Marlins out of Ole Miss in 2006, Chris Coghlan has worn a lot of different unies and played in a lot of different towns over the years. “I am really grateful for the journey that I’ve had, honestly,” he told MLB Network earlier this year. He won a rookie of the year award in 2009 and a World Series ring last fall. He also endured injuries and demotions. Alas, his mercurial career took another downturn last week. Coghlan was on a rehab assignment for Toronto when the Blue Jays, needing to clear roster space, released the 32-year-old outfielder/infielder. He has been with four different teams since the start of 2016 and now finds himself looking for a fifth. He hit .200 in 36 games for the Blue Jays, making his biggest impression when he hurtled Yadier Molina at home plate back in April. A lefty hitter with versatility, Coghlan might be able to catch on with a contending team in need. Maybe his journey will continue, maybe not. Desmond Jennings has been without a team since mid-June. The former Itawamba Community College star, drafted the same year as Coghlan, has been released three times since last August, most recently by the New York Mets. He was batting .237 with eight homers for their Triple-A Las Vegas club. Beset by injuries in recent years, the 30-year-old outfielder’s once-promising career has veered way off course. Hopefully, he enjoyed the journey.

15 Aug

progress report

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.

14 Aug

numbers to crunch

10 – Strikeouts by Chris Stratton on Sunday. The ex-Mississippi State star threw 6 2/3 shutout innings for San Francisco against Washington, notching his first win as an MLB starter. The Tupelo native has made 13 appearances, three starts, over the last two seasons.
8 – Strikeouts by Kendall Graveman, matching a career-high. The former State standout got his third win – and first since May – for Oakland, going seven innings against Baltimore. Graveman was on the disabled list for all of June and July.
122 – Strikeouts, as a hitter, this season by Hunter Renfroe, who took a hat trick for San Diego against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The State alum ranks 16th on the MLB strikeout chart and first among Mississippians. Tim Anderson has 118, Corey Dickerson 115.
6 – Leadoff home runs this season by Brian Dozier. The Southern Miss product’s 23rd bomb of the year helped Minnesota beat Detroit.
3 – Hits by Alex Presley in his second game off the disabled list for Detroit. The ex-Ole Miss standout is batting .327 in 36 games.
3 – Hits for Corey Dickerson in his last 33 at-bats. The former Meridian Community College standout went 1-for-4 in Tampa Bay’s loss to Cleveland and saw his average dip to .289.
9 – Hitting streak for Jarrod Dyson, who went 2-for-4 for Seattle in a loss to the Los Angeles Angels. The ex-Southwest Miss CC star is 14-for-34 (.418) during his streak, boosting his average to .258.
15 – Hits for Tim Anderson in his last 48 at-bats, a .312 average. The East Central CC alum hit his 13th homer for the Chicago White Sox in a loss to Kansas City.
49 – Stolen bases by Billy Hamilton, who got one Sunday in Cincinnati’s loss to Milwaukee. The Taylorsville High product has topped 50 steals in each of the previous three seasons and has 233 career, the most by a Mississippi native.

13 Aug

role-playing

Spoiler. It’s not a role Zack Cozart, the ex-Ole Mis star, or any of his Cincinnati teammates want to be playing, but it’s where they are in mid-August. Buried in the cellar of the National League Central, the Reds (49-68) have a boatload of games left against the other four division teams, which are bunched within 3 games of each other in the division standings. Cozart in particular could be a major thorn in the side of those clubs. The starting shortstop for the NL All-Star team last month, he is having a career year and showing no signs of easing off on the gas. Since coming off a second stint on the disabled list last Sunday, Cozart is 9-for-26 with four home runs and seven RBIs. “I want to be playing and playing well the rest of the year,” he told mlb.com. “That’s the goal.” Overall, he is batting .316 with 16 homers (matching his career-best) and 46 RBIs. A pending free agent, Cozart has been the subject of trade rumors dating back to the off-season, but it doesn’t appear now that he’s going anywhere this season. That could be bad news for Milwaukee, which has seven games left with the Reds including today’s at Miller Park, the Chicago Cubs (10), St. Louis (six) and Pittsburgh (nine). … The Reds’ roster includes two other Mississippi-connected players, Taylorsville High alum Billy Hamilton and Ole Miss product Stuart Turner. Former Northwest Mississippi Community College star Cody Reed is pitching in Triple-A and could be added in September. P.S. Props to UM alum Drew Pomeranz, who notched his career-best 12th win – and fifth in a row – as Boston beat the New York Yankees 10-5 on Saturday. … Ex-Rebels star Chris Coghlan, who has been on Toronto’s DL for weeks, was designated for assignment, clouding the remainder of his year. … The Cardinals honored their 1987 pennant-winning team on Saturday (before beating hapless Atlanta) at Busch Stadium. Jackson native and Jackson State product Curtis Ford was a semi-regular outfielder on that club, which lost to Minnesota in the World Series.

12 Aug

reveal party

There’s only one way to celebrate National Baseball Card Day: Tear open a pack of Topps cards. The anticipation of the big reveal makes you feel like a kid again. Every time. You remember when you got that Richie Allen rookie card that nobody else had. So there you go, hoping for, say, a Cody Bellinger or an Aaron Judge or a Ronald Acuna. Instead you pull out a Miguel Rojas, a Kolten Wong and a Melvin Upton Jr. It happens. There’s also a card of James Loney in the uniform of the Texas Rangers, a team he never officially played for, and a reprint of a 1989 Bill Schroeder. Oh well, there will always be another pack — and the wonderful anticipation that comes with it. P.S. Watch for it: Boston-New York at Yankee Stadium, today. Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz (11-4, 3.36 ERA) will pitch for the Red Sox against Luis Severino in Game 2 of the latest huge series between these ancient rivals. The Yankees won an electric Game 1 on Friday night. … Perfect Game All-American Classic at San Diego’s Petco Park, Sunday. Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray and Brandon’s J.T. Ginn will participate in this high school showcase to be televised by MLB Network at 3 p.m. (Both also played in the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field.) Gray, an Ole Miss commit, is one of the six finalists for Perfect Game’s Jackie Robinson Award, which goes to the organization’s national player of the year. Gray batted .477 with seven homers and 19 steals for Hattiesburg this past season.