You’d be unlikely to hear the clanging of cowbells or screams of “Hotty Toddy” at Oracle Park in San Francisco tonight, but there will be a hint of the Mississippi State-Ole Miss rivalry in the air. Former State star Dakota Hudson is scheduled to start for St. Louis against ex-UM star Drew Pomeranz in a matchup of former first-round draft picks. That fact aside, the two pitchers are a study in contrast. Hudson, 24, is a right-hander in his first full MLB season and has been one of the Cardinals’ most consistent arms. He is 6-4 with a 3.40 ERA in 17 games, though he is coming off one of his worst outings of the year, last Saturday against San Diego. Pomeranz, 30, is a left-handed veteran of nine big league campaigns. Though he is 2-8, 6.25 ERA, he threw five shutout innings vs. Arizona his last time out, one of his better outings in what has been a rough season. He signed as a free agent with the Giants, his sixth big league team, after winning a ring with Boston in 2018. Hudson’s Cardinals are in the thick of a mad National League Central race, while Pomeranz’s Giants are buried in last place in the NL West. P.S. Detroit has put former Richton High standout JaCoby Jones (back) on the injured list, where he joins a host of other Mississippians: Spencer Turnbull, Tim Anderson, Mike Mayers, Mitch Moreland, Zack Cozart and Bobby Wahl. Pomeranz, Corey Dickerson, Tony Sipp, Chris Stratton and Jacob Waguespack all have spent time on the IL but are active now. … Tampa Bay has recalled MSU product Nate Lowe (see previous post) from Triple-A.
While his Boston teammates are making the much-ballyhooed trip to London this weekend, Mitch Moreland is staying stateside. The Mississippi State alum remains on the injured list, recuperating from a quadriceps injury. He has been sidelined for all but one day since May 26. Moreland took live batting practice at Fenway Park this week and reportedly will head out on a rehab assignment soon. The Red Sox, the defending world champs, could certainly use Moreland’s bat (not to mention his glove at first base) as they try to chase down the New York Yankees in the American League East. When he initially went on the injured list with a back injury in late May, Moreland was leading the Red Sox in home runs with 13. He was activated on June 7, went 0-for-2 against Tampa Bay, then went back on the IL the next day with the quad injury. He is batting .225 (slugging .543) with 34 RBIs in 47 games. An All-Star in 2018, the injury woes have assured that Moreland won’t be going to Cleveland on July 9. P.S. Former Ole Miss standout Mike Mayers, on the IL (shoulder) since mid-April for St. Louis, has begun a rehab assignment at Triple-A Memphis. Mayers, in his fourth big league tour, had a 5.40 ERA in eight appearances for the Cardinals this season.
The college season in Mississippi ended with such cruel irony. Mississippi State, which won so many big games in comeback fashion, was eliminated from the College World Series by a bottom-of-the-ninth rally by Louisville. Having allowed time for the hangover to pass, we can now look back on the 2019 season as one with more than its share of thrills. State, under first-year coach Chris Lemonis, won 52 games, went 37-5 at the “New Dude” (renovated Dudy Noble Field), made its 38th NCAA Tournament appearance, hosted a regional and a Super Regional and made its 11th CWS trip. The Bulldogs earn top-of-the-class honors in the state, but quite a few others belong on the honor roll. Ole Miss made its 23rd NCAA appearance and fell one win shy of the CWS, losing at Arkansas in the Super Regional to end the year at 41-27. Southern Miss went on a late-season roll, winning the Conference USA Tournament and earning its 16th NCAA bid. The Golden Eagles fell in the Baton Rouge Regional to LSU and finished 40-21. Jackson State went 31-24, notching a 13th straight winning season under Omar Johnson. Delta State won another Gulf South Conference title and reached the Super Regional round of the Division II Tournament, falling out at Tampa. The Statesmen went 42-14 in what turned out to be the legendary Mike Kinnison’s last year as coach. Mississippi College also put up a second straight winning season (28-17) under fourth-year coach Jeremy Haworth and just missed a second straight D-II regional invite. Blue Mountain went 26-25-1 in the NAIA ranks, and Mississippi University for Women went 18-13 as a non-scholarship independent and made the USCAA postseason tournament. That’s eight four-year schools with winning seasons. William Carey (24-26), Millsaps (10-33) and Belhaven (11-29) endured rare down years, while Alcorn State (14-31), Mississippi Valley State (8-27) and Tougaloo (5-29) continue to seek the right formula for their programs. Fall ball will be here in a blink.
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.
Trent Giambrone has put on a nice little show of power at Triple-A Iowa, homering for the third straight game on Sunday and for the fourth time in his last seven contests with the Chicago Cubs affiliate. More impressive, however, than what the Delta State product has done is what ex-Harrison Central High star Bobby Bradley has managed. He went deep twice for Triple-A Columbus on Sunday after also homering twice on Friday. The highly rated Cleveland prospect leads the International League with 22 home runs. Bradley, a first baseman who is on the Indians’ 40-man roster, is batting .310 over his last 10 games and .287 with 52 RBIs for the year as he awaits his first big league call-up, which reportedly might happen in July. He has 136 homers in his six minor league campaigns. Giambrone, a fourth-year pro who is not on the Cubs’ 40-man, is batting .375 in his last seven games and .220 with 13 homers on the season. He has played seven different positions for the I-Cubs. He opened some eyes in the Cubs’ system when he batted .324 in major league camp this spring. Of course, no discussion of power hitting can be complete without mention of Hunter Renfroe, the Mississippi State alum who hit two homers for San Diego on Sunday after belting three – 1,316 feet worth — on Friday. He has nine in his last 15 games and 23 for the season, tied for second in the majors. P.S. Former Ole Miss and Pearl River Community College standout Braxton Lee leads the Eastern League with a .304 average in 51 games for Double-A Binghamton in the New York Mets’ chain. The onetime big leaguer is batting .346 over his last 10 games. … Drew Waters of the Mississippi Braves is batting an absurd .463 in his last 10 games and leads the Southern League in hitting at .338 heading into the SL All-Star break. He has a 25-game on-base streak. He also leads the loop in triples, doubles and OPS.
Awards season has begun for the colleges. To recap what’s happened so far: Mississippi State’s Ethan Small has been named the College Baseball Foundation’s national pitcher of the year. J.T. Ginn, the State star from Brandon, was named Perfect Game’s freshman of the year and a Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American. Ole Miss’ Grae Kessinger was named the nation’s top shortstop, winning the Mizuno-sponsored Brooks Wallace Award. Southern Miss’ Matt Wallner and State’s Small were tabbed first-team All-Americans by Baseball America, which also honored Bulldogs Jake Mangum and Justin Foscue as second- and third-teamers, respectively. That MSU trio made Collegiate Baseball’s All-America list, as well. Delta State’s Jake Barlow and Hunter Riggins have earned NCAA D-II All-America honors, and Mississippi College’s Blaine Crim, the Gulf South Conference player of the year, was named a D-II Academic All-American. Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Brandon Parker was an NJCAA Division II first-team All-America, Northwest CC’s Ben Van Cleve made the second team and Itawamba’s Houston Harding and Pearl River’s Wiley Cleland were on the third team. … Former Mississippi Braves are getting a lot of respect from voters in the early returns from the MLB All-Star Game ballots. Ozzie Albies led National League second basemen and Tommy La Stella, now with the Los Angeles Angels, led the AL at the same position. Brian McCann was second among NL catchers and Dansby Swanson second on the shortstop list. Freddie Freeman (first base) and Ronald Acuna (outfield) came in third at their respective positions. (Unfortunately, Austin Riley is not on the ballot.) East Central Community College product Tim Anderson, who has been at or near the top of the AL batting race all season, was fourth in the shortstop voting. … Former Mississippi State standouts Brandon Woodruff and Dakota Hudson likely will get consideration for the NL pitching staff, while Madison Central product Spencer Turnbull and Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn could be candidates in the AL. Pitchers are chosen by a vote of fellow players. … The current Mississippi Braves are slated to send seven players – five pitchers plus outfielders Drew Waters and Cristian Pache — to next week’s Southern League All-Star Game at MGM Park in Biloxi. Nine Shuckers – yes, nine — are on the South roster.
Nick Sandlin has made a rapid ascent in the Cleveland organization. A second-round pick and the fourth player drafted out of Mississippi in 2018, the ex-Southern Miss ace was promoted to Triple-A last week and has made two relief appearances for the Columbus Clippers. He allowed two runs in his debut but worked a clean inning on Saturday. The 22-year-old right-hander posted a 1.56 ERA in 15 games at Double-A Akron this year. He climbed through four levels of the minors last summer, finishing with a 3.00 ERA and five saves. He has 67 strikeouts in 43 2/3 pro innings. Rated the No. 17 prospect in the Indians’ system by MLB Pipeline, Sandlin could make the big league team this season. … The first Mississippian chosen in 2018, Ole Miss alum Ryan Rolison, is now with Colorado’s advanced Class A Lancaster club. The lefty, the Rockies’ No. 3 prospect, is 2-2 with a 2.96 ERA in nine starts and has made the California League All-Star Game. … Forecast by many as a first-round draft pick in 2018, Mississippi State’s Konnor Pilkington slipped to the third round, where he was plucked by the Chicago White Sox. The East Central High alum, who moved from low-A Kannapolis to high-A Winston Salem in mid-May, is 1-1, 6.16 in four starts at the new level. He had a 1.62 ERA at the low-A level. … Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray, the top high school pick from the state last year who signed a pro contract (first-rounder J.T. Ginn of Brandon went to State), is already rated the No. 7 prospect in Milwaukee’s system though he has yet to play above the rookie level. The 2018 second-rounder hit .182 with two homers in 24 games in the Arizona League, playing through a bout of pneumonia. He’ll likely go to the Pioneer League this summer. “He has the tools, no doubt about it,” Rafael Neda, Gray’s manager last year, told Baseball America this spring. “He’s a really athletic kid with a high ceiling. We’ve started to see that.”
The New Albany-based Cotton States League is under way, with the Tippah County Tribe, featuring several Blue Mountain College players, off to a 3-1 start. Among the league’s top hitters to date are Northeast Mississippi CC alum Landon Wilkerson (.500, eight RBIs for the Tupelo Thunder) and Belhaven’s Nathan Herron (.500, homer, nine RBIs for the Golden Triangle Jets). Northeast CC alum Nikolas Wilcher is 2-0, 1.80 ERA for 3-2 Tupelo. This is the CSL’s 11th season. … In the Texas Collegiate League, the Acadiana Cane Cutters’ roster is replete with Mississippians: Southern Miss’ Hunter LeBlanc, Fisher Norris, Josh Lewis and Drew Boyd, Delta State’s Kris Peet, Hunter Stafford and Bailey Hargrave, Hinds Community College alum Noah Hughes and Jones JC product Trace Henry. … The Cape Cod League season starts today, though none of the Mississippi State or Ole Miss players slated for the high-profile summer league are there yet for obvious reasons. One of the main attractions in the Cape figures to be J.T. Ginn, who starred as a freshman (8-4, 3.36 ERA) for State this season after being a first-round MLB draft pick last summer. Ginn is ticketed to pitch for Orleans. After a star-studded career as a two-way player at Brandon High, Ginn was drafted 30th overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers but passed on the pro opportunity to play at State with no apparent regrets. The Hyannis team has a distinct Mississippi flavor, with three MSU players and one from Ole Miss listed on the club’s preseason roster. Bulldogs Tanner Allen, Rowdey Jordan and Jordan Westburg are joined by the Rebels’ Anthony Servideo. UM’s Tyler Keenan and former Ocean Springs High star Garrett Crochet, now at Tennessee, will play for Harwich, and State’s Justin Foscue is on the Wareham roster.
The wolves are howling again in Queens, where Ole Miss alum Mickey Callaway’s job as manager of the New York Mets appears in serious jeopardy. The Mets dropped their third straight on Tuesday after Callaway’s controversial decision to pull starter Noah Syndergaard with a lead in the seventh inning. Callaway later said he regretted making the move. The Mets are 28-32, 5½ games back in the National League East. … What more can one say about Austin Riley? The DeSoto Central product hit a go-ahead homer to spark Atlanta’s win on Tuesday and is now batting .324 with nine bombs and 25 RBIs in his first 18 MLB games, one of the best starts in history. … Former Mississippi State standout Mitch Moreland could come off the 10-day injured list on Friday for Boston, according to the Boston Globe. He leads the team with 13 home runs. … Ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier, enjoying a resurgence at the plate for resurgent Washington, left Tuesday’s game with a forearm contusion after an HBP and is considered day-to-day. Dozier is batting .283 over his last 15 games, boosting his season average to .223 with eight homers. … T.J. House, the former big leaguer from Picayune, is pitching for the Milwaukee Milkmen in the independent American Association. The 29-year-old left-hander is 2-0 with a 3.10 ERA in three starts. House was in Triple-A in the Chicago White Sox’s organization in 2018 before being released in June. He last pitched in the majors in 2017 with Toronto. As a rookie with Cleveland in 2014, House put up a 5-3 record and 3.35 ERA in 18 starts but never replicated those numbers in limited opportunities thereafter. … Former Petal High standout Demarcus Evans, recently promoted to Double-A in Texas’ system, yielded a couple of runs on Tuesday but wound up earning a win when his Frisco team rallied to beat Amarillo. Evans had made two scoreless appearances before Tuesday. He had an 0.81 ERA and six saves at Class A Down East. … USM product Bradley Roney has yet to yield an earned run in four appearances at Class A Florida in the Braves’ chain as he continues his comeback from injuries that had kept him out since mid-2017. … Brandon Parker grew up on the Coast rooting for the Braves. “Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been a Braves fan,” he told Biloxi’s WLOX. On Tuesday, the Braves, shopping for a power bat, drafted the former West Harrison High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star in the 10th round. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound right fielder, a Dallas Baptist signee, hit 38 home runs the last two seasons at MGCCC. He was the NJCAA Division II player of the year in 2018 when he batted .424 with 24 homers and 81 RBIs.
The first Mississippian to come off the board today, Day 2 of the three-day MLB draft, was James Beard, an outfielder from Class 2A Loyd Star High. He went in the fourth round, 110th overall and eight picks before Jake Mangum, the highly decorated Mississippi State senior outfielder who holds the SEC’s all-time hits record. Granted, Beard is generally regarded as the fastest player in the draft, but Mangum can run a little bit, too. And even though he lacks power, Mangum is certainly battle-tested after four years in the country’s best college conference. Oh well, the draft is all about potential. Beard went to the Chicago White Sox and Mangum to the New York Mets, who drafted him in the 32nd round in 2018. The Yankees drafted Mangum in Round 30 in 2017. Of the top 200 picks in the draft, which runs into Wednesday, a total of 10 players with Mississippi ties had their names called. Day 1, the first two rounds (plus supplemental picks), saw four Magnolia Staters taken, led by Mississippi State left-hander Ethan Small, the SEC pitcher of the year, at No. 28 to Milwaukee. (We could see him in Biloxi in a couple of years.) Southern Miss outfielder Matt Wallner, who is long on power, went just outside the first round at 39th overall to Minnesota. Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, a pitcher, went in the second round to Toronto and Ole Miss shortstop Grae Kessinger in Round 2 to Houston. (Grae’s father, Kevin, was a 22nd-round pick by the Chicago Cubs in 1992 out of Ole Miss. Grandfather Don, a longtime big league star, entered pro ball with the Cubs before the draft began.) Three more UM players were picked among the top 200: Will Ethridge (by Colorado), Thomas Dillard (Milwaukee) and Cooper Johnson (Detroit). MSU’s Colby White (Tampa Bay) also made that cut.