It’s a small sample size but still worth noting: Former DeSoto Central High standout Austin Riley is batting .325 (13-for-40) with three homers and 11 RBIs through his first 10 games in Triple-A. He has hit safely in eight of those games, including a four-hit, three-homer performance on Sunday, and has yet to make an error at third base. He also has two hat tricks (three-strikeout games) for Gwinnett. “It’s all about adjustments,” Riley told the Marietta Daily Journal. “Each level you move up, the pitchers get better. You never stop learning in this game.” Riley, one of Atlanta’s top-rated prospects, batted .333 with six homers in 27 games for the Double-A Mississippi Braves before his promotion. At 21, Riley is the same age as Ozzie Albies and a year older than Ronald Acuna, who are leading the “Baby Braves” contingent that has helped revitalize the big league club. Most projections have Riley making the majors in 2019, but he could force the Braves’ hand this summer. P.S. Ex-Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson is also in Triple-A and knocking on the MLB door. St. Louis’ first-round pick in 2016, right-hander Hudson is 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA in seven starts for Memphis. He is rated the Cardinals’ No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline. … Hunter Renfroe, the State alum who is hoping to get back to the big leagues, went 1-for-5 with an RBI double and three K’s Thursday in his first game after being sent to Triple-A El Paso. Renfroe was batting .200 with two homers for San Diego when he went on the disabled list in mid-April. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford, sent down by Toronto earlier this week, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts at Triple-A Buffalo on Wednesday. … Also itching for another shot in The Show is Ole Miss product Bobby Wahl, who has a 1.50 ERA, two saves and 26 punchouts in 18 innings for Triple-A Nashville in Oakland’s system. Wahl made seven appearances for the A’s last year before suffering a shoulder injury. He was dropped from the 40-man roster in the fall. … Braxton Lee, the ex-UM standout from Picayune who started this season in the majors with Miami, is currently on the DL at Triple-A New Orleans. He hit .176 in eight MLB games and is at .186 in 12 games for the Baby Cakes. … Ole Miss alum and onetime big leaguer Alex Presley, who had been at Triple-A Norfolk in Baltimore’s system, has been granted his release and is now a free agent.
Today’s subject: Frank W. Baker. Not to be confused with Frank “Home Run” Baker, an early 1900s star, or Frank Baker Jr., who played for Cleveland in 1969 and ’71, this Baker was a second-round draft pick out of Southern Miss by the New York Yankees in 1967. Baker, a lanky, left-handed hitting middle infielder, is one of a large contingent of players from the Meridian area to make the majors. He played three years at USM, where he is in the Hall of Fame, and parts of four years in the big leagues. After batting .259 at Triple-A Syracuse in 1970, Baker debuted with the Yankees on Aug. 9, going 0-for-3 against Baltimore’s Jim Palmer. In 146 MLB games with New York and then Baltimore, Baker batted just .191. He hit his one big league homer in 1973. He was out of the game by 1975.
September is not the time to fall into a hitting funk. With their teams fighting for postseason berths, three Mississippians, all toiling in the American League East, are fighting slumps. With less than three weeks left in the season, Mitch Moreland, Seth Smith and Corey Dickerson need to rise and shine. Boston leads the division but only by 3 games over the New York Yankees. Moreland, the former Mississippi State star from Amory, has had a productive first year with the Red Sox (.248, 18 home runs, 68 RBIs) but currently finds himself in a 6-for-38 skid. He is homer-less in September. Jackson native and Ole Miss product Smith is just 2-for-23 in September for Baltimore, which sits 4.5 games out in the wild card chase and is desperate for some offensive spark. Smith, batting .259 overall, has contributed 13 homers and 31 RBIs in his first (and probably last) year with the Orioles. Tampa Bay’s playoff hopes are also rather dim; the Rays are 5 games out. Dickerson, the McComb native and ex-Meridian Community College standout, is just 3-for-35 this month and has been slumping for a while. He was hitting .312 at the All-Star break – when he started for the AL – but has hit .218 since with just 18 RBIs. For the year, he’s at .277 with 26 homers and 60 RBIs. The Rays would certainly love to see the All-Star version of Dickerson reemerge. P.S. For the record, ex-State star Dakota Hudson got the win for Memphis in Game 1 of the Pacific Coast League title series on Wednesday night; former Bulldogs slugger Hunter Renfroe went 1-for-4 for El Paso.
Competition was stiff for MLB Line of the Night, Mississippi Division. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton put up a 4223 (AB-R-H-RBI) on Tuesday, with a homer and a triple, his eighth, which ranks second in the big leagues. Ole Miss product Seth Smith had a 3223 with a double. Jarrod Dyson, the ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star, produced a 5221 with a stolen base, No. 24 on the year. Former Mississippi State standouts Hunter Renfroe (3220) and Adam Frazier (4030) also put up some numbers worthy of mention. But Line of the Night must go to State product Mitch Moreland, whose 5323 included a double, a homer, his 13th, and a “productive” out that figured prominently in Boston’s crazy 12-10 win against Cleveland. With two outs and one on in the ninth at Fenway Park, the Red Sox down a run, Moreland reached first on a wild-pitch third strike. Christian Vazquez followed with a three-run bomb that beat Indians closer Cody Allen and moved Boston back into first place in the American League East. P.S. Dyson’s stolen base was the 200th of his career. He has an amazing 85 percent success rate. The McComb native ranks third among Mississippians on the all-time steals list, behind Hamilton (228) and Gee Walker (223). … Smith’s big night helped Baltimore beat Kansas City and give Buck Showalter his 1,481st managerial victory. The former State star moved into sole possession of 24th place on the all-time list, ahead of Earl Weaver. … Former Mississippi Braves Lucas Sims and Ozzie Albies debuted for Atlanta on Tuesday. Sims took the loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing three runs in six innings. Albies went 0-for-2 with a run.
Ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford, promoted to the big leagues today by Toronto, is in the starting lineup for tonight’s game at Baltimore, according to mlb.com. He’s batting eighth and playing left field. It might be a one-day visit, but still, it’s The Show. The former Mr. Baseball (and Mr. Football) at Petal is batting .325 with three homers and nine steals at Double-A New Hampshire. He has hit .382 over his last 10 games. Alford, 6 feet 1, 215 pounds, was a third-round pick by the Blue Jays in 2012. After playing football at Southern Miss and then Ole Miss, he turned to baseball full-time in 2015. In 257 minor league games, Alford is batting .273 with 19 homers, 98 RBIs and 65 steals.
Keep seeing these references to Aaron Judge’s size, which is an impressive 6 feet 7, 282 pounds. A chart in the May 15-22 Sports Illustrated lists New York Yankees star Judge, Frank Howard (6-7, 255) and Nate Freiman (6-8, 245) as the biggest position players “by a combination of height and weight.” Not sure where this leaves the late Walter Young. The former Purvis High star, who had 10 big league hits, including a homer off R.A. Dickey, with Baltimore in 2005, checked in at 6 feet 5 and somewhere in the vicinity of 315-320 pounds. Some sites listed his weight at much more than that. Young is generally considered the heaviest position player to appear in an MLB game.
Lot of good stuff happened on Tuesday: Zack Shannon was named the Most Outstanding Player in the Gulf South Conference Tournament after sparking Delta State to a 6-3 win over West Alabama in Cleveland for the program’s 14th conference tourney title. Shannon, a junior college transfer, belted a three-run home run – his 18th — in the third inning to get the ball rolling for DSU, which clinched a berth in the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament. … Atlanta prospect Ronald Acuna hit the first pitch he saw in Double-A out of the park en route to a 3-for-4, three-RBI night as the Mississippi Braves whipped Mobile 9-1 at Trustmark Park. Fellow 19-year-old Kolby Allard (3-1) got the win. … Seth Smith, the former Ole Miss star, went 2-for-4 with his third homer of the year to help Baltimore beat Washington 5-4 in 12 innings for its sixth straight victory. Mississippi State product Buck Showalter’s Orioles have MLB’s best record at 22-10. … Taylorsville High alum Billy Hamilton had two hits, two RBIs and a run as Cincinnati cooled off the New York Yankees 5-3. Hamilton has 15 hits, 14 runs, 10 RBIs and nine steals over his last 10 games while boosting his average some 40 points to .252. … Ex-State standout Tyler Moore was added to Miami’s big league roster, recalled from Triple-A New Orleans. Moore, who didn’t play Tuesday, was 4-for-11 in an earlier stint with the Marlins. … There were a couple of downers: Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz got lit up in Boston’s 11-7 loss at Milwaukee. He gave up six runs in four innings and fell to 3-2 with a 5.23 ERA on the season. … Ex-State star Hunter Renfroe took an 0-for-3 for San Diego in an 11-0 loss to Texas and saw his average drop to .200. He hasn’t homered since April 26, a span of 10 games. P.S. Nice feature on State slugger Brent Rooker posted today on Baseball America’s web site. The story suggests that Rooker, a 22-year-old senior, has played his way into consideration as a first-day pick in the MLB draft.