16 Jun

grae area

Good story now posted on milb.com about former Ole Miss star Grae Kessinger, now in the Houston Astros’ system, and the legacy he carries. Kessinger, a second-round pick by the Astros in 2019, is the grandson of ex-MLB All-Star Don, nephew of former big leaguer Keith and son of ex-minor leaguer Kevin. Grae leans on that family history. “It’s something that I think motivates me,” he said in the milb.com piece. “I think it motivates me that I know these people in my family, they gave it all they got every single day. They tell me about it and that makes me want to do it even more.” A .283 career hitter in Oxford, he played at two pro levels last summer, batting .224 with two homers and 17 RBIs in 50 games at low Class A Quad Cities. He played mostly shortstop — his UM position — but the 6-foot-2 Oxford native also got work at second and third base last season. He went 0-for-9 with a walk in big league spring action before the shutdown. P.S. Jordan Fowler, a former Ole Miss pitcher who played at Central Missouri this season, signed with Philadelphia for the $20,000 bonus available this year to eligible players not picked in the five-round draft. … The Tupelo Thunder sits atop the Cotton States League standings with a 5-0-1 record, led by Itawamba Community College alum Riley Davis (.538, four RBIs) and Blue Mountain College’s Easton Williams (2-0, 1.12 ERA).

21 May

back, back, back …

Setting Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine for 90 years takes us to 1930, the year Ludlow native Hal Lee made his big league debut. There was an offensive explosion in the game that season, due in large part to a juiced ball. The average batting average was .294. Both leagues set records for home runs and runs. Hack Wilson drove in 191 runs, a record that still stands. Lee didn’t quite catch that wave. He only got 37 at-bats for the Brooklyn Robins in 1930 and hit .162. Two years later, with the Philadelphia Phillies, he redeemed himself. The right-handed hitting outfielder, nicknamed Sheriff, hit .303 with 18 homers, 45 RBIs, 42 doubles and 10 triples. Nice numbers. Lee was overshadowed on his own team, however, by the likes of Chuck Klein (.348, 38 homers, 137 RBIs, 50 doubles), Don Hurst (.339, 24 homers, 143 RBIs) and Pinky Whitney (.298, 13 homers, 124 RBIs). Yes, hitters generally flourished in the ’30s. Lee, who died in 1989, is one of six former Mississippi College players to reach the majors and is arguably the most accomplished. He hit .275 over seven seasons with 33 homers and 323 RBIs. He played in more games, hit for a better average, drove in more runs and scored more runs than the better-known Harry Craft, who batted .253 over his six seasons (1937-42).

20 Dec

buzzworthy

“The best free agent that no one is talking about” is, according to an mlb.com story published Thursday, former Brookhaven Academy and Meridian Community College star Corey Dickerson. That headline is a bit of hyperbole, of course, because there is little doubt people are talking about Dickerson, a lefty-hitting outfielder with a career .286 average on his baseball card and a Gold Glove in his trophy case. He has hit .300 or better in five of his seven big league campaigns. Injuries limited him to 78 games in 2019, which he split between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. A scout recently told yahoo!sports about Dickerson: “He really produced in a short time in Philly, but with McCutchen and Harper there, where’s he going to play? He’s more than a bench bat. He’ll be somewhere.” The mlb.com story speculates that Cincinnati, Miami and St. Louis are the favorites to sign Dickerson, one of several notable Mississippians (see Brian Dozier, Mitch Moreland, Billy Hamilton) still on the market. The 30-year-old McComb native made $8.5 million last year. P.S. Tim Dillard, the ex-Saltillo High and Itawamba Community College standout, has signed on for an 18th season of pro ball. Dillard, 36, signed a minor league contract with Texas; he put up a 4.75 ERA in 33 games (21 starts) for Triple-A Nashville in the Rangers’ system in 2019. Dillard, son of Ole Miss product and ex-big leaguer Steve Dillard, has made 619 appearances, 73 in the majors (all with Milwaukee). The Brewers drafted him twice, out of Saltillo in 2001 and ICC in 2002.

18 Sep

touching the bases

On this date in 2013, Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made his first big league start for Cincinnati and flashed the skills that had so many in baseball excited about his future. Hamilton, who had already stolen five bases as a pinch runner before he got his first start, went 3-for-4 with a double, two walks, two runs, an RBI and four stolen bases as the Reds beat Houston 6-5 in 13 innings at Minute Maid Park. Hamilton led off the 13th with a walk, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Jay Bruce’s two-run double. Though he now has 298 steals – most ever by a Mississippi native – Hamilton’s inability to hit consistently (.242) has dogged his career. He is currently filling a role – and filling it well — as a pinch runner/defensive replacement for Atlanta. … With a 4-for-6 effort on Tuesday, East Central Community College alumnus Tim Anderson moved into the major league lead with a .336 batting average. The Chicago White Sox shortstop hit his 17th home run in a loss to Minnesota. The last Mississippian (native or college alum) to win a batting title was Grenada native Dave Parker, who won the National League crown in 1978 with Pittsburgh. … Corey Dickerson may have played his last game for Philadelphia. The Meridian Community College alum from McComb, a free agent after this season, went on the injured list for the Phillies on Tuesday with a broken foot. He hit .293 with eight homers and 34 RBIs in 34 games for Philly. Dickerson, a .286 career hitter, also missed a lot of time early in the season with Pittsburgh because of a shoulder injury.

12 Sep

helping hand

The South Bend Cubs got to use a “ringer” as their starting pitcher in Game 1 of the Midwest League Championship Series, and former Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman gave them the type of performance they might have expected. Veteran big leaguer Graveman, on an injury rehab assignment for the Class A Cubs, worked 3 2/3 innings, allowing a run on three hits, and South Bend beat Clinton 3-1 on Wednesday night. Graveman, 28, made his fourth rehab start – each one at a different minor league level — as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery last summer. In 13 1/3 innings, the right-hander has a 2.03 ERA and 16 strikeouts. Graveman signed with Chicago as a free agent after being a fixture in Oakland’s rotation for most of the previous four seasons. P.S. Hot-hitting Corey Dickerson left Philadelphia’s game – a 3-1 loss — against Atlanta on Wednesday with a sore left foot that the Meridian Community College alum described as “pretty painful.” … Ex-State star Brandon Woodruff threw live batting practice for Milwaukee on Wednesday and the All-Star righty appears close to returning to the club’s rotation. The Brewers, smarting from the loss of MVP candidate Christian Yelich, won their sixth straight Wednesday to move into a tie with the fading Cubs for the second wild card spot in the National League.

11 Sep

ups and downs

Corey Dickerson, who hasn’t yet played a postseason game in his seven-year big league career, is playing like a man on a mission for a Philadelphia team battling for a wild card berth in the National League. The former Meridian Community College star from McComb hit two home runs on Tuesday night, propelling the Phillies to a huge 6-5 win against visiting Atlanta. Philly is 2 games out of the second wild card spot. Since joining the Phillies at the trade deadline, Dickerson has batted .300 with eight homers and 34 RBIs in 33 games. “I’ve loved it here,” he told mlb.com. For the year, including 44 games with Pittsburgh, Dickerson is batting .307 with 12 bombs and 59 RBIs. … Hunter Renfroe, the Mississippi State product from Crystal Springs, has been out of the San Diego lineup for several days and apparently will be out for quite a few more as he rests a sore ankle. The ankle issue, coupled with an elbow problem, helps to explain Renfroe’s woeful second half. (He never publicly complained about either injury.) He is batting .169 with four homers and 13 RBIs since the All-Star break. He has two homers since the start of August. On the year, Renfroe has 31 homers with a .222 average and 143 strikeouts in 414 at-bats. P.S. Down on the farms: Harrison Central High alum Bobby Bradley hit a three-run homer to help Columbus beat Durham 8-3 in the opener of the Governors’ Cup, aka the International League Championship Series. It was the second postseason clout for Bradley, who hit 33 homers for the Clippers in the regular season, plus one in MLB with Cleveland. … Ex-State star Jake Mangum singled and scored the tying run in the seventh inning as Brooklyn rallied past Lowell 4-3 to win the New York-Penn League championship. Mangum, a 2019 draftee of the New York Mets, batted .247 with 18 RBIs and 29 runs in 53 games for the short season Class A Cyclones.

06 Aug

rookie tales

The impact of rookies with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2019 has been something to behold. First it was Vladimir Guerrero Jr., then Cavan Biggio and now Bo Bichette. Though he hasn’t generated the kind of buzz afforded those sons of former big leaguers, Jacob Waguespack also has had a solid debut season. The Ole Miss product picked up another win on Monday – boosted by a Bichette homer and an RBI hit by Biggio – as the Blue Jays topped Tampa Bay 2-0. Waguespack allowed just four hits and one walk in six innings, pitching in front of a bunch of family and friends assembled at Tropicana Field by an uncle who lives in the area. “Warms your heart, and it takes a village, to have those people in your corner. I’m pretty humbled,” Waguespack told the Toronto Sun. Now 3-1 with a 4.00 ERA in seven MLB appearances, Waguespack doesn’t have the legacy of those other rookies, but his story is interesting just the same. The Louisiana native was drafted out of high school (37th round, 2012) by Pittsburgh but chose to play at Ole Miss, where he had a largely unsung career. He wasn’t drafted out of UM, instead signing in June 2015 as a free agent with Philadelphia. The Phillies traded the 6-foot-6, 225-pound right-hander to Toronto last July. Though he never posted any eye-opening numbers in the minors, the Blue Jays put him on their 40-man roster last fall and called him up in May. He struck out a club rookie record seven batters in his debut. P.S. Madison Central High alum Spencer Turnbull, a rookie right-hander with Detroit, returned Monday from a stint on the injured list and worked three innings vs. the Chicago White Sox, yielding two runs but fanning seven. He wasn’t involved in the decision as the Tigers lost. Again. … Drew Pomeranz, the veteran lefty out of Ole Miss, pitched a scoreless inning for Milwaukee against Pittsburgh and got his first hold in his second Brewers appearance. Traded from San Francisco last week, Pomeranz (5.54 ERA) has strung together six straight scoreless relief outings after struggling as a starter.

05 Aug

starting point

Corey Dickerson’s first start for Philadelphia on Sunday went well. The former Meridian Community College standout from McComb, acquired from Pittsburgh last week, played left field and batted leadoff; he banged out two hits – including his fifth homer – and drove in three runs in a 10-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox. For the season, the lefty-hitting Dickerson is at .316 in 133 at-bats. He missed a big chunk of the season with a shoulder injury. There is speculation he will get some time in center field when Jay Bruce, also a lefty-hitting left fielder, returns from the injured list. Dickerson told nj.com that he would welcome the opportunity to play center, where he has some experience: “I feel like center field is easier as long as you can cover the ground. It’s easier to read the pitches and the balls off the bat. I think I can handle it.” He won a Gold Glove in left field for the Pirates in 2018. P.S. Dickerson, who hit leadoff once this season for Pittsburgh, is one of six Mississippians to bat first in an MLB game in 2019. Oddly enough, Billy Hamilton is not among that group. The Taylorsville High product, one of the fastest players in the game, frequently led off during his years in Cincinnati, but he has struggled at the plate most of this first season in Kansas City. He is hitting .209 and has seen his playing time reduced dramatically of late. … East Central CC alum Tim Anderson, a .300 hitter this year, has led off just once for the White Sox; he went 4-for-5. … Ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier, with Pittsburgh, and Southwest Mississippi CC product Jarrod Dyson (Arizona) have gotten the majority of their starts in the leadoff spot. Frazier is a .272 hitter, Dyson .250. … Richton’s JaCoby Jones (Detroit) and Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart (Los Angeles Angels) also have hit at the top of the order in 2019. Cozart is out for the season.

01 Aug

on the move — again

Corey Dickerson and Drew Pomeranz have new addresses and new perspectives on their 2019 season. The Mississippi college products were among the slew of players traded on Wednesday, both moving to teams with designs on a division title. Former Meridian Community College standout Dickerson, an outfielder, was traded from last-place Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, which is still in the hunt in the National League East. Ole Miss product Pomeranz, a left-hander who can start or relieve, went from San Francisco, barely an NL wild card contender, to Milwaukee, which is in the thick of the NL Central battle. (Former Biloxi Shuckers shortstop Mauricio Dubon, a top Brewers prospect, went to the Giants as part of the Pomeranz deal.) Dickerson, who figures to play regularly for the Phillies, is a .285 career hitter with 107 homers. Now in his seventh MLB season, the former All-Star and Gold Glove winner is joining a fourth different team. Pomeranz, in his ninth big league season, is now with his seventh different organization. Also a one-time All-Star, he has a 4.09 career ERA, a 46-57 record, 14 holds and three saves. He is expected to work out of the Brewers’ bullpen. … Atlanta, in much-needed moves, added relievers Shane Greene (from Detroit) and Mark Melancon (Giants). In the Greene deal, the Braves parted with Mississippi Braves alums Joey Wentz (5-8, 4.72 for the current club) and Travis Demeritte. Former M-Braves standout Kolby Allard was traded to Texas on Tuesday for reliever Chris Martin. … Other Mississippians who were rumored to be on the block – Jarrod Dyson (Arizona), Billy Hamilton (Kansas City), Lance Lynn (Texas), Hunter Renfroe (San Diego) – stayed put. P.S. Former Mississippi State standout Jonathan Holder is back up with the New York Yankees after a second stint this season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Holder has a 6.63 ERA in 32 MLB appearances.

20 Jun

bang for the buck

As the Washington Nationals try to stay relevant in the National League East race, they’ve been getting a lot of production of late from a certain free agent signee. Over his last 15 games, he’s batting .327 with five homers and 12 RBIs. He homered in both games of a Wednesday doubleheader and drove in four runs as the Nationals swept Philadelphia to get to 35-38. Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss star, has overcome a slow start with his new team to raise his average to .235. He’s got 12 homers, 28 RBIs and 28 runs. Dozier, who finished 2018 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, signed a one-year, $9 million deal with the Nationals, who are starting to get some bang for those bucks. For comparison sake, the marquee free agent who left Washington and signed with Philadelphia for 13 years and $330 million is in the throes of wicked slump. Bryce Harper, who went 0-for-4 in Wednesday’s twinbill, is hitting .208 with one homer in his last 15 games for a skidding Phillies team that has fallen to 39-34 and 4 games back of Atlanta in the NL East. Harper is batting .243 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs and is third in the NL in strikeouts with 91. (To be fair, he’s tied for second in walks with 47.) He’s even getting booed at home games. Philadelphia brass may not be feeling buyer’s remorse just yet, but they certainly aren’t getting the bang for the buck they expected. … Dozier’s 12th homer of the year accounted for one of the two runs the Nationals scored in a 2-0 win in Wednesday’s second game, the highlight of which was Max Scherzer’s seven brilliant innings the day after suffering a broken nose. “That’s why you put him in the category of one of the best, if not the best, in the game, the best of our generation,” Dozier told mlb.com.