05 Sep

making it work

Just as he was getting hot, the curtain fell on Braxton Lee’s season. The Picayune native, who has endured a rollercoaster campaign, hit .324 over his final 10 games at Triple-A New Orleans and had a four-hit game in Monday’s season finale. Though he is on Miami’s 40-man roster – and on the club’s Top 30 prospect chart – Lee didn’t get a September call-up, at least he hasn’t yet. He batted .235 in 47 games at New Orleans. Lee’s career took off last year, when he won the Southern League batting title and made the All-Prospect team in the Arizona Fall League. He made the Marlins’ roster for opening day and debuted on March 30, the first Mississippian to break in in 2018. He played in only eight big league games. He was sent down, struggled, got hurt, rehabbed in A-ball, spent time in Double-A – it was just that kind of season. For the year, he batted .233 over three minor league levels. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound outfielder has always been a grinder, relying on speed and defense to succeed, from Picayune High to Pearl River Community College to Ole Miss and into pro ball. He was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2014 and traded to Miami last summer. “I’ve never thought, “What if it didn’t work?’” Lee told the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Sun-Sentinel back in the spring. “I’m going to make it work regardless of what happens.” You have to admire that mindset. This season might be over, but Lee will fight again another day.

03 Sep

into the wild

The headlines went to Christian Yelich, who provided the offense for Milwaukee on Sunday. A less-heralded but no less important role was played by Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff, whose relief work helped the Brewers beat Washington 9-4. “This is Brandon Woodruff’s game,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell told mlb.com. “(T)o deliver four innings of scoreless relief in that situation is absolutely huge.” Woodruff, making his first big league appearance since July 23, came on in the fourth inning with the Brewers trailing and held the Nationals to three hits with five strikeouts through the seventh. A seven-run fifth inning, highlighted by a Yelich grand slam, put Milwaukee in charge. Combined with St. Louis’ loss to Cincinnati, the win puts the Brewers back on top in the National League wild card standings. Woodruff is 3-0 with a 4.24 ERA in 13 games with Milwaukee this season. He was 3-2, 4.04 working primarily as a starter at Triple-A Colorado Springs. He could be a valuable piece for the Brewers in the heat of this playoff chase. … The New York Yankees, leading the American League wild card race, were hoping for better stuff from ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn than they’ve gotten of late. Lynn was KO’d in the fourth inning — by a two-run double by Richton High alum JaCoby Jones — and wound up taking the loss in an 11-7 defeat against Detroit at Yankee Stadium. Lynn was charged with six runs in 3 2/3 innings. Acquired from Minnesota in a July trade, the big right-hander is 1-2 with a 5.09 ERA in his seven games with the Yankees. The Yanks head to Oakland, No. 2 in the wild card standings, for a three-game series beginning today. P.S. Former State star Chris Stratton, whose San Francisco club has waved a white flag on the postseason, pitched well on Sunday: three hits, two runs in six innings. But he was up against the New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard, who tossed a complete game and beat the Giants 4-1. Stratton is 9-8, 4.90.

01 Sep

fall is coming

October isn’t only for playoffs. There’s also the Arizona Fall League, a de facto select circuit for minor league players. It’s a feather in the cap to get an invite. The preliminary rosters for the AFL, which starts Oct. 9, include several Mississippi-connected players: Ole Miss product Errol Robinson, a shortstop in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ system; ex-Delta State star Trent Giambrone, a second baseman in the Chicago Cubs’ system; Petal High alum Demarcus Evans, a pitcher in the Texas chain; former Mississippi State standout Brent Rooker, a first baseman/outfielder in Minnesota’s organization; Mississippi Braves outfielder Cristian Pache and shortstop Ray-Patrick Didder; and Biloxi Shuckers infielder Keston Hiura. The most intriguing member of this bunch might be the 21-year-old Evans, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound right-hander who has dominated in low-A ball this summer. Working as a closer at Hickory in the South Atlantic League, Evans has struck 101 batters in 55 innings with just 27 walks. He is 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA and nine saves. He’ll face much better competition in the AFL, so it’ll be extremely interesting to see how he fares. He is on the Surprise roster. … Robinson, Giambroni and Rooker are all in Double-A. Giambroni, a 25th-round draft pick in 2016, has had an emergent season, batting .254 with 17 homers and 26 steals. Rooker has hit 22 bombs in his second pro season, while Robinson, a third-year pro, has 10 homers and 18 steals. Pache, a top Atlanta prospect, Didder and Hiura will be together on the Peoria club. P.S. Arizona has sent Jarrod Dyson on a rehab assignment, meaning the McComb native may be close to returning from his long stint on the disabled list.

30 Aug

three things

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.

29 Aug

bronx fever

Yankee Stadium must be an awesome place to call home when you’re winning. On the other hand, when things aren’t going well … . The boo birds were out in force in the sixth inning on Tuesday night. The central object of their derision was Jonathan Holder, the ex-Mississippi State standout who has pitched exceedingly well of late. He hadn’t allowed a run in eight straight appearances when he replaced Lance Lynn, the former Ole Miss star, in the sixth inning with two outs, two runners on and New York down 1-0 to the awful Chicago White Sox. Holder promptly gave up two hits. Three runs scored. Yankees fans were not happy. To his credit, Holder endured. He got out of the sixth and followed with two scoreless frames. And, yes, mystique and aura showed up and the Yankees came back. Two in the sixth, two in the eighth, a walk-off homer by Neil Walker in the ninth. Yankees fans were happy. The stadium rocked. And, hey, it’s only going to get crazier from here. … Lynn, coming off two rocky starts, is 1-1 with a 3.98 ERA in his six games with the Yankees. Holder now has a 3.05 ERA in 49 appearances. P.S. Southern Miss product Brian Dozier hit his 20th homer of the year, helping the Los Angeles Dodgers, also in a fevered playoff race, beat Texas. Dozier has reached the 20-homer level in each of his last five big league seasons. He hit a grand total of 16 homers in four minor league seasons.

28 Aug

in the distance

Jerrion Ealy, Jackson Prep’s two-sport star, checks in at No. 10 on mlb.com’s new list of the top 10 high school prospects for the 2019 draft. (Just think: It’s less than 10 months away!) The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Ealy, an outfielder who has signed with Ole Miss in football, is widely hailed for his speed. He stole 18 bases and legged out five triples at Prep this past season while hitting .364 in 77 at-bats, according to MaxPreps. Ealy participated in both the Under Armour and Perfect Game all-star contests and the East Coast Pro Showcase this summer. Perfect Game rates Ealy the No. 4 prep prospect. … Southern Miss outfielder Matt Wallner was ranked No. 8 by mlb.com on the 2019 college prospect list published last week. Wallner, a lefty hitter who also pitches, batted .351 with 16 homers for the Golden Eagles in 2018 and spent time with Team USA and in the Cape Cod League over the summer.

28 Aug

learning curve

Tim Anderson went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs on Monday night, but ESPN analysts Tim Kurkjian and Eduardo Perez were singing the praises of the shortstop’s defense during the network’s game coverage. The former East Central Community College standout made two highlight-worthy plays in the Chicago White Sox’s 6-2 win over the New York Yankees. On the first, he went deep into the hole and made a jump-and-throw play to nail the batter at first base. On the second, playing in with a runner at third, he short-hopped a hard-hit grounder and cut down the runner at the plate. Defense has been an issue for Anderson, a relative latecomer to baseball, during his three years in the big leagues. He made 28 errors in in 145 games in 2017. But, by all accounts, he is improving. He has just 15 errors in 125 games this year and reportedly is making more plays like the ones he pulled off Monday. “He’s growing and maturing,” Perez said. “He’s a great athlete learning to play baseball,” Kurkjian said. A basketball star in high school in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Anderson didn’t play baseball until his junior year. East Central was his only baseball scholarship offer. In his second year with the Warriors, he batted .495 with 10 homers and 41 steals for a state championship team and was named an NJCAA All-American. Intrigued by his raw skills, the White Sox drafted him 17th overall in 2013. There was speculation then that Anderson might have to move to center field in pro ball, but he has stuck at short. He is also making strides as an offensive threat; he’s at .249 with 17 homers, 58 RBIs and 25 steals in 2018. The White Sox have seen enough that they signed him last year through the 2022 season. P.S. Ex-Mississippi State star Chris Stratton threw a career-high eight innings on Monday as San Francisco shut out Arizona 2-0. Stratton (9-7, 4.99 ERA) allowed five hits, no walks and fanned six in his second straight quality start since returning from a second pit stop in the minors. … In recent MLB moves: Richton High alum JaCoby Jones has been activated from the disabled list by Detroit; Southern Miss product Cody Carroll was sent to the minors by Baltimore; former Ole Miss star Mike Mayers has landed on the DL for St. Louis; and UM alum Bobby Wahl is eligible to come off the DL for the New York Mets but there’s been no word on when that might happen.