It’s no shocker, really, that Florida high schools produce more pro baseball players per capita than any other state. Lot of athletes, lot of warm weather. From 2011-17, 1,311 Sunshine State products appeared on MLB-affiliated rosters, which comes to 4.16 players per 100,000 people, according to a study by Baseball America published in its Sept. 7-21 issue. Fourth on this list is — drumroll, please — Mississippi, with 3.31 players per 100,000 people. That’s more per capita than California, Texas, Arizona or Louisiana, to name a few. That’s kind of amazing. Magnolia State high schools produced 149 pros in the seven-year span that BA surveyed. Hattiesburg — presumably, the baseball-rich Pine Belt area — produced 11, earning the designation of “hotbed” in Mississippi. Another Hattiesburg kid was drafted in the second round this year — Joe Gray, now in the Milwaukee system. … Among those 149 prep products is Hunter Renfroe, the pride of Copiah Academy. Renfroe, now with the San Diego Padres, is about as hot as anybody from anywhere of late. He hit two home runs on Saturday, giving him 12 in his last 30 games and 19 for the year. He is batting .259 — .302 over his last 30 games — and has 56 RBIs, including a major league-best 27 in August. Also deserving of a nod is Tony Sipp, the ex-Moss Point High star who threw another clean inning in middle relief for Houston in a win on Saturday. The situational lefty has a 2.20 ERA in 44 games and is at 1.61 over his last 30 appearances for the first-place Astros. Renfroe and Sipp are among the 15 Mississippi prep products who have appeared in the big leagues in 2018. Don’t know the per capita rating on that but it’s gotta be up there.
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.
As home run celebrations go, Hunter Renfroe’s on Thursday was a little bit unusual and a whole lot exhilarating. You can’t watch it without feeling his emotion. The ex-Mississippi State standout yanked a ninth-inning grand slam that put San Diego ahead of Milwaukee at Miller Park. After he hit it, Renfroe bent forward in a bow with the bat clutched in front of him, as if to say, “Oooh, I got all of that one.” “It was just like, ‘[Heck] yeah!'” Renfroe told mlb.com. “Let’s be honest here, that’s just the way it was.” He then flipped the bat away and broke into his trot. His teammates went bonkers. The Padres would win 8-4. The resurgent Renfroe has homered in four straight games and now has 12 on the season. He is creeping up on the leaders in the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby, currently topped by Brian Dozier, the Southern Miss alum who hit his 19th – third with the Los Angeles Dodgers — on Thursday. (With 170 career bombs, Dozier trails fifth-place Dmitri Young by one on the all-time list of homers by Magnolia State natives.) Former East Central Community College star Tim Anderson has 15 homers this season and State alum Mitch Moreland sits on 14. (Moreland is ninth on the career list with 146.) Ex-Meridian CC standout Corey Dickerson now trails Renfroe with 11.
Mitch Moreland is caught up in the middle of something special. Moreland, the Mississippi State alum from Amory, hit a key home run on Tuesday night to help Boston repel Toronto 10-7 in a wild 10-inning affair. It was the Red Sox’s 80th win of the year; that’s seven more than the next best total. They swept the rival New York Yankees four straight over the weekend. They’re on a 24-5 roll. There’s even buzz about them threatening Seattle’s 2001 record of 116 wins. “Yeah, we’re pretty good,” Moreland said in his typically understated manner in an mlb.com story. His decision to re-sign with the Red Sox as a free agent in the off-season is shaping up as a brilliant career move. He has delivered 14 homers and 55 RBIs as part of a lineup stacked with All-Stars, himself included. And consider that the Red Sox have achieved these heights with little contribution from ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, a 17-game winner in 2017 who has one victory this season. He started Tuesday’s game and lasted just 4 2/3 innings, yielding two runs. His ERA is 6.31. “We need this guy,” manager Alex Cora told mlb.com. “This guy is very important to us for what we want to try to accomplish, so we’ll keep working at it.” P.S. Former State standout Hunter Renfroe went deep for San Diego, his 10th of the year and 40th of his career. He is hitting .297 with three homers in his last seven games.
The San Diego Padres are an awful 44-70 and careening toward their eighth straight losing season. But hope springs eternal in baseball, and apparently there is a feeling that a turnaround is coming soon. Hunter Renfroe, the former Mississippi State star from Crystal Springs, is bidding to be a part of that brighter future. Getting a start in all four of the Padres’ games in Chicago over the weekend, Renfroe went 5-for-15, including a two-run homer in Sunday’s 10-6 win over the first-place Cubs. For the year, the 26-year-old outfielder is batting .238 with nine homers and 31 RBIs. He has 20 walks and 62 strikeouts in 214 at-bats over 69 games. After an uneven 2017 campaign, during which he hit 26 homers but fanned 140 times, Renfroe had to win a roster spot in spring training. He did, but an elbow injury put him on the disabled list in mid-April and he didn’t return to the Padres’ roster until May 28. His playing time was sporadic in June and July. The Padres have a boatload of outfielders and presumably will use the remaining weeks of the season to sort out who they want to keep around. “We have all these other guys. I just have to keep healthy, keep growing as a player and go into spring next year and be better than them,” Renfroe told the San Diego Union-Tribune. P.S. Home run-robbing catches by Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton and Richton’s JaCoby Jones ranked second and third on MLB Network’s countdown of the top plays in the majors in July. A Keon Broxton homer-robbing catch was the No. 1 play.
Hunter Renfroe’s reputation may have saved a game for San Diego on Saturday. Pittsburgh had the tying run at third base with no outs in the ninth inning but did not challenge the arm of the former Mississippi State standout on back-to-back fly balls to right field. Padres closer Brad Hand then ended the 4-3 game with a strikeout. On the second of the two fly balls to Renfroe, he smacked into the wall in foul territory while making the catch. Many in Petco Park seemed surprised the Pirates did not send Gregory Polanco from third base. “I know that I have a resume that I throw guys out … but in that case, I don’t know why they wouldn’t (run),” Renfroe told mlb.com. It would have taken a good — perhaps great — throw to get the runner. “If anybody’s got the arm strength to do, Hunter does,” Padres manager Andy Green said. Renfroe has two outfield assists this season and 12 in his big league career, nine coming in 2017 when he played more regularly. (He also has 14 errors all told, and he took a bad route on a fly ball hit by Polanco in the ninth that became an RBI triple.) Renfroe also has a reputation for tremendous power but has just four homers this season in 46 games. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts on Saturday and is at .252 for the season.
It’s a Dog Day in Omaha, where Mississippi State plays Washington in a College World Series opener. Meanwhile, some former Dogs enjoyed a day of their own on Friday in the big leagues. Atlanta Braves TV broadcasters, Jeff Francoeur in particular, were effusively impressed with the arm of Hunter Renfroe, the ex-State star who made a couple of cannon-shot throws from deep right field to third base for San Diego. More impressive was the two-strike, two-out, two-run single Renfroe stroked in the seventh inning, putting the Padres up a run in a game they would go on to win 9-3. Renfroe has been in the throes of a skid and was batting just .229 at the time. He got another hit in the ninth and finished with a .245 average. At Yankee Stadium, Bulldogs alum Jonathan Holder pitched a scoreless sixth inning for his third hold of the year as New York beat Tampa Bay 5-0. Holder trimmed his ERA to 2.28. At Seattle’s Safeco Field, former State standout Mitch Moreland drove in a run and scored in Boston’s six-run third inning against Mariners ace James Paxton, but the Red Sox squandered a lead and lost 7-6. P.S. Southern Miss product Brian Dozier hit his 10th homer — off Cleveland’s Corey Kluber — to help Minnesota beat the Indians 6-3. It was Dozier’s 161st career bomb, moving him into sixth place alone on the all-time list of Mississippi natives. … Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart (shoulder) was placed on the 10-day disabled list by the Los Angeles Angels.
When a scout told Sports Illustrated before the season that Hunter Renfroe reminded him of Jethro Bodine, he meant it as a compliment. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Renfroe, a country boy from Crystal Springs, has Jethro-type strength, and it was on full display Sunday in San Diego. The ex-Mississippi State star smashed a pinch-hit grand slam for the Padres, his first homer since he returned May 28 from a lengthy stay on the disabled list. The slam, which propelled the Padres to a 6-3 win against Cincinnati, hit high up on the Western Metal Supply Co. Building down the left-field line at Petco Park. Renfroe pointed down the line with his bat as the ball flew out and then made an impressive bat flip when it hit the wall. “I’m swinging the bat well now, just got to keep it going,” he told mlb.com. Renfroe was a regular much of last season, when he hit 26 bombs, but his strikeout numbers (140) raised questions and he entered 2018 battling for a job. Hitting just .200 with two homers when he went down with an elbow problem in mid-April, Renfroe is 7-for-14 since he came back from Triple-A El Paso. The Padres reportedly are encouraged. “Anybody that’s ever doubted him has probably learned not to doubt him,” Padres manager Andy Green said in an mlb.com article. P.S. Renfroe, who debuted in 2016, now has three career grand slams and 33 career homers. He has a ways to go to catch fellow Mississippians Brian Dozier and Mitch Moreland, who also went deep on Sunday in big games. Fulton’s Dozier, who hit his ninth of the year as Minnesota beat Cleveland, has 160 career, joining Bill Melton and Frank White in a tie for sixth on the all-time list of Mississippi natives. Amory’s Moreland hit his 10th in Boston’s win at Houston and now has 142 career, two shy of ninth-place Charlie Hayes.
Hunter Renfroe appears to have found his stroke at Triple-A El Paso, which could mean a return to San Diego is imminent. Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State and Copiah Academy star, went 3-for-4 and belted two home runs on Wednesday in his seventh game with the Chihuahuas. With six hits in his past three games, Renfroe has raised his average from .118 to .276. Renfroe last played in game for the Padres on April 18. He went on the disabled list (right elbow inflammation) on April 21 and was shipped to El Paso on May 17. Renfroe hit .200 with two homers in 17 games in a platoon role for San Diego. Over parts of three MLB seasons, he is batting .238 with 32 homers. The last-place Padres (21-30) rank near the bottom of the National League in home runs. P.S. Another State product, Kendall Graveman, could also be returning to the big leagues soon, according to some reports. Graveman is 2-0 with a 5.00 ERA in three starts for Oakland’s Triple-A Nashville club. After a rough start with the A’s, the right-hander was sent down on April 26. He returned on May 11 and beat the New York Yankees but was sent back to Nashville a couple days later. He won his only start since.
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.