Jarrod Dyson, who’s had to scrap for playing time over most of his 10-year big league career, may well begin the 2020 season as Pittsburgh’s starting center fielder. The Pirates reportedly have agreed to a contract with the McComb native, who spent last year with Arizona and batted .230 with 30 steals in a career-high 130 games and 400 at-bats. Dyson is 35 and has had some injury issues in recent seasons, but when healthy he brings plus-speed on the bases and in the field. He had a very productive 2019, setting career-highs for hits, runs, home runs and total bases. He’s a career .247 hitter (.319 on-base percentage) with 250 steals, second all-time (to Billy Hamilton’s 299) among Mississippi natives. A 50th-round draft pick out of Southwest Mississippi Community College by Kansas City in 2006, Dyson won a ring with the Royals in 2015.
While the Pittsburgh Pirates were sinking to the bottom of the National League Central last season, Chris Stratton may have kept his career afloat with his work out of the Bucs’ bullpen. The former Mississippi State star from Tupelo was traded twice in a two-month span in 2019, by San Francisco to the Los Angeles Angels during spring training and from the Angels to Pittsburgh in May. His numbers for the Angels weren’t good: an 8.59 ERA working primarily as a starter. He went straight to the bullpen in Pittsburgh and delivered a 3.66 ERA over 28 appearances with only a couple of truly bad outings. The 29-year-old right-hander would appear to have a good shot at winning a bullpen job in spring training. A Pirates-centric website, rumbunter.com, named Stratton a breakout candidate for 2020. A first-round pick by the Giants in 2012, Stratton’s stuff is reputed to be top drawer; the spin rates on his curveball and fastball are among the best in the game, according to rumbunter. But his career hasn’t taken off; he is 16-17, 4.88 in 83 MLB games dating to 2016. This might be the year. P.S. Billy Hamilton, the speedy center fielder from Taylorsville, is called “a perfect fit for Oracle Park,” by nbcsports.com/bayarea. First of all, Hamilton, signed to a minor league deal by San Francisco on Friday, will have to make the big league roster this spring. Hamilton doesn’t hit much but, at 29, is still a factor with his legs, glove and arm. The Giants are shrinking the outfield in Oracle Park — from 399 in center to 391 and from 421 to 415 in the right-center field alley — but speed in center field is still a priority. The team currently lists rising star Mike Yastrzemski as the starter there and also has speedy Steven Duggar as an option.
Pittsburgh reportedly is considering Billy Hamilton, among others, to fill its vacancy in center field after the trade of Starling Marte. Taylorsville’s Hamilton, a free agent, is coming off the worst of his six full big league seasons, but at age 29 can still fly. He batted .218 overall with 22 steals last season, .268 with four bags in 26 games for Atlanta, which used him primarily as a pinch runner and defensive replacement after grabbing him on waivers from Kansas City. Hamilton finished second in the National League rookie of the year voting in 2014 with Cincinnati but hasn’t progressed as a hitter. A switch-hitter, he has a woeful .297 career on-base percentage but also 299 steals and a .995 fielding percentage with 55 assists. Oddly enough, Hamilton has not won a Gold Glove or a stolen base crown.
Adam Frazier and Hunter Renfroe, former Mississippi State teammates who just completed their fourth major league season, have been named Gold Glove finalists in the National League. Neither has previously won the Rawlings-sponsored defensive award. The 18 winners, one at each position in both leagues, will be announced on Nov. 3. Frazier, who has played six different positions for Pittsburgh, took over as team’s regular second baseman in 2019. In 142 games, he made six errors and posted a .989 fielding percentage. Analytics credited him with six Defensive Runs Saved. Renfroe is a finalist in left field, though he actually spent more time in right for San Diego down the stretch. The former Copiah Academy standout played 127 games in the outfield and registered 13 assists with just two errors. He was credited with seven Defensive Runs Saved. For the record, Frazier batted .278 with 10 homers and 50 RBIs, Renfroe .216 with 33 bombs and 64 RBIs. … A Mississippian has won a Gold Glove in each of the last three seasons: Mitch Moreland in 2016, Brian Dozier in 2017 and Corey Dickerson last year.
Chicago Cubs fans might look back on the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park as the inning that finally put the fork in their 2019 season. It wasn’t surprising that Adam Frazier, the ex-Mississippi State standout, played a lead role for the Pirates in that pivotal frame, starting the seven-run inning with a double and capping it with an RBI single. The Pirates, shut out by Kyle Hendricks to that point, rolled to a 9-2 victory that snapped their nine-game losing streak and extended the Cubs’ losing skid to seven. One more Cubs loss or one more Milwaukee win will officially eliminate Chicago from playoff contention. “It just went away, brother. It went away,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who might be nearing the end of his tenure. Frazier, who took over as the Bucs’ regular second baseman this season, has been flourishing down the stretch for a team that long ago fell out of the playoff race. The lefty hitter, a sixth-round pick out of State by Pittsburgh in 2013, has batted .353 over his last 30 games with three homers, 16 RBIs and 18 runs. Frazier is batting .281 with 10 homers (matching his career-high) and 49 RBIs on the year. He has set career marks with 32 doubles, seven triples and 77 runs. He is eligible for arbitration after this season and should get a nice raise. P.S. Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss standout, enjoyed a celebration Tuesday with the Washington Nationals, who swept two from Philadelphia to capture a National League wild card berth. Dozier, who went 1-for-3 in Game 1, will be in the postseason for the third straight year and with a third different team (Minnesota, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Nats). He is hitting .233 with 19 homers this year.
Though the benches-clearing melee will get most of the attention, they did play some baseball in Cincinnati on Tuesday. Corey Dickerson, the McComb native and ex-Meridian Community College star, drove in a career-best five runs and hit two homers to lead Pittsburgh to an 11-4 win that stopped a nine-game losing streak. Dickerson, who has battled injuries all season, appeared to stay on the fringes of the fracas in the ninth inning that resulted in multiple ejections. The lefty-hitting outfielder has played well when he’s been on the field (.317, four homers, 25 RBIs) but has appeared in just 43 games, most recently sidelined for three days by a groin problem. He also has been the subject of trade rumors, which he claimed have not been a distraction. “I’ve been so focused on my routine (and) the process of being healthy and trying to be the best version of me every day,” Dickerson told mlb.com. P.S. East Central CC alum Tim Anderson returned to the Chicago White Sox’s lineup from the injured list and went 0-for-3 with a ninth-inning sac fly in a game won by the New York Mets 5-2 in 11 innings. … Former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull began a rehab assignment for Detroit by throwing 3 2/3 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts for Triple-A Toledo. Turnbull is 3-9 with a 3.65 ERA for the Tigers.
There were five Mississippi college products in uniform for Tuesday night’s St. Louis-Pittsburgh game, and all five had something to feel good about. Start with Dakota Hudson, the ex-Mississippi State star. He went 6 1/3 innings in a 4-3 Cardinals victory, winning his fourth straight start to improve to 10-4 on the year. Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers did not pitch for St. Louis but was available in the bullpen for the first time since mid-April, having come off the injured list on Tuesday. MSU product Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh’s second baseman, led off the bottom of the first with a single and went 2-for-4 with a run. Former Meridian Community College standout Corey Dickerson, the Pirates’ left fielder, went 1-for-3 with a double, boosting his average to .301. And ex-State star Chris Stratton worked three perfect innings in relief for the Pirates. Hudson’s performance stole the show for a surging Cardinals club that has moved to within a half-game of first-place Chicago in the National League Central. After allowing a three-run homer in the first inning, Hudson pitched into the seventh without surrendering another run. He valiantly worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth, getting a strikeout (of Josh Bell) and a double-play ball. “What it comes down to, it’s just bearing down and having some guts and trusting your stuff to make quality pitches,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt told mlb.com. St. Louis had taken the lead in the top of the fifth on a homer by Mississippi Braves alum Jose Martinez. P.S. Mitch Moreland, the State product from Amory, came off the IL and went 0-for-2 for Boston in a win at Tampa Bay. … Former Bulldogs star Jonathan Holder of Gulfport was recalled from the minors by the New York Yankees on Monday and pitched a clean inning that night at Minnesota. He did not appear in Tuesday’s wild 14-12 Yankees win.
It’s a good bet that Adam Frazier did not want to break for the All-Star Game — and not because he wasn’t invited to the event. Frazier, a Mississippi State alum, was on fire at the plate in the days leading up to the break. The Pittsburgh second baseman had 18 hits in seven games from July 1-7, raking at a .600 clip that raised his average to .287. He scored 11 runs and drove in seven and was named the National League’s player of the week for his efforts. Frazier will hit the restart button today when the Pirates play National League Central rival Chicago at Wrigley Field. The lefty-hitting Frazier figures to be in the lineup, probably leading off, against Cubs righty Yu Darvish. … On the other hand, Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High standout, was playing like someone who needed the All-Star break. The Kansas City center fielder, batting .217 for the year, hit .198 with just four RBIs and five runs in his previous 30 games. Renowned for his speed, he has just 16 steals in 78 games. It might not be a good sign for Hamilton that the Royals have called up prospect Bubba Starling, a center fielder in the minors. The Royals host Detroit today. P.S. Ole Miss product Lance Lynn earned his MLB-leading 12th win on Thursday, throwing seven innings (with 11 punchouts) in Texas’ 5-0 victory vs. Houston. Lynn is 5-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his last five starts. … Ex-Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland went 0-for-4 in his rehab debut with Triple-A Pawtucket. The Boston first baseman has been on the injured list for all but one game since May 25. He is batting .225 with 13 homers.
Having made two trips to the big leagues this season, Nate Lowe looks like he’s ready for a third. The Mississippi State alum smacked three home runs for Triple-A Durham on Tuesday and is batting .350 over his last 10 games. Lowe went 10-for-38 in two short stints with Tampa Bay but was squeezed out of a roster spot. He slumped for a while after returning to Durham but has picked it up of late. He is batting .290 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs for the season with the Bulls and now has 50 career minor league bombs over four years. The left-handed hitting first baseman, 23, rocketed through three levels of the minors in 2018 and made his big league debut on April 29 of this season. He’s due another look from a playoff-contending Rays club. P.S. After getting five hits on Monday, ex-State star Adam Frazier banged out four more on Tuesday for Pittsburgh and will take a streak of seven straight hits into today’s game. Frazier, back in the leadoff spot where he began the season, hit his fourth homer of the year in the 5-1 win over the Chicago Cubs and boosted his average to .276. “I feel like I’m onto something,” he told mlb.com. … Former Harrison Central High star Bobby Bradley, who doubled in his first big league at-bat for Cleveland last week (see previous post), is just 3-for-27 (.111) in eight games. He has struck out 12 times.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle put Adam Frazier in the leadoff spot on Monday for the first time since early June. It was a salient move by the former Jackson Mets skipper. Ex-Mississippi State standout Frazier went 5-for-6, scored three runs, drove in a pair and etched his name in the baseball record book with four doubles. And the Pirates, who also got three homers from Josh Bell, beat the first-place Chicago Cubs 18-5 at PNC Park. Frazier was in a 2-for-18 funk before Monday’s breakout, which might lead to more opportunities at the top of the order. He joins an impressive list of players with four two-baggers in a nine-inning game. Among the others to achieve the feat are Lou Boudreau, Joe Medwick, Orlando Cepeda, Billy Williams, Kirby Puckett, Albert Belle and Jeff Bagwell. Frazier has become the Pirates’ regular second baseman this season with the departure of Josh Harrison, and the lefty-hitting four-year veteran is batting .266 with three homers, 21 RBIs and 41 runs. The Pirates are hanging around in a crowded race in the National League Central.