Lance Lynn did not have strong numbers in 2018, but his reputation as a workhorse may have been more important to Texas, which reportedly has signed the ex-Ole Miss star to a 3-year, $30 million contract. Lynn, 31, a former first-round pick by St. Louis, signed as a free agent with Minnesota last year and was acquired by the New York Yankees in a July trade. He did not have a big impact with either club. For the season, he was 10-10 with a 4.77 ERA, far off his career results (82-57, 3.57). The Rangers are looking to fortify a thin rotation. Lynn, who missed the 2016 season following Tommy John surgery, has worked at least 156 innings in each of his six full MLB seasons and twice topped 200. Lynn joins Billy Hamilton (Kansas City) and Louis Coleman (minor league deal with Detroit) as Mississippi-connected free agents who have signed for 2019. Brian Dozier, Drew Pomeranz, Tony Sipp and Kendall Graveman are still looking. Mississippi State product Graveman’s situation is complicated by the fact that he’ll miss much of 2019 after Tommy John surgery. P.S. The Rangers took another former UM pitcher, Chris Ellis (see previous post), in the major league phase of today’s Rule 5 draft. Ellis, who was in the St. Louis system, will try to earn a spot on Texas’ 25-man roster in spring training.
Errol Robinson, the former Ole Miss standout, got the best of Petal High product Demarcus Evans on Wednesday in one of those Arizona Fall League matchups that scouts surely love to see. Robinson, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ No. 20 prospect, banged a one-out, walk-off single against Evans, a rising star in the Texas system, giving Glendale a 3-2 win against Surprise. Robinson, coming off an injury at the end of the regular season, is batting just .188 in the AFL but is excited about the opportunity he is getting in the showcase league. “It’s just another level up. It’s great stuff,” he told milb.com. Robinson hit .247 with 10 homers, 50 RBIs and 18 steals at Double-A Tulsa this season. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound Evans averaged a ridiculous 16.6 strikeouts per nine innings this year at Class A Hickory. In four games and five innings against the stiffer competition in the AFL, he has nine punchouts while yielding four hits, four walks and three runs. Evans, moved from starter to reliever this year, told an mlb.com writer that he wasn’t happy initially about the shift but decided it was an “opportunity for me to get better.” That, he did, posting a 1.77 ERA, four wins and nine saves in the South Atlantic League. … Justin Steele, the Lucedale native and George County High alum, made a second straight solid start for Mesa on Wednesday, yielding a run on four hits with four K’s in four innings. The left-hander, a Chicago Cubs prospect, is 1-0, 5.19 ERA in three AFL outings. Former Delta State standout Trent Giambrone, another Cubs prospect with Mesa, didn’t play Wednesday but leads the club with a .412 average. … Mississippi State product Daniel Brown (a Milwaukee farmhand) and DSU alum Dalton Moats (Tampa Bay), both pitching for Peoria, are among the handful of AFL hurlers yet to allow a run. Brown has worked 6 2/3 innings, Moats 5 1/3. … Ex-State star Brent Rooker is not going to play in the AFL because of a sprained ankle suffered during a mini-camp. The Minnesota Twins prospect hit .254 with 22 home runs at Double-A Chattanooga this season.
No big surprise here: Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High All-Stater, was named Atlanta’s minor league hitter of the year by MLB Pipeline. The 21-year-old third baseman hit .294 with 19 homers at two levels (Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett). “The sky is the limit for this guy,” Braves assistant farm director (and former M-Braves second baseman) Jonathan Schuerholz told Baseball America, which also named Riley the Best Player in Atlanta’s system. Touki Toussaint, who started 2018 in Pearl and rose all the way to the big leagues, was named the system’s pitcher of the year by MLB Pipeline and BA. … Ole Miss product David Parkinson was named Philadelphia’s pitcher of the year. A 12th-round pick in 2017, he went 11-1 with a 1.45 ERA in A-ball this past season. His ERA was the lowest in the minors among qualifying pitchers. … Ex-Mississippi State star Nathaniel Lowe was Tampa Bay’s hitter of the year after batting .330 with 27 homers and 102 RBIs between A-ball and Triple-A. … In the Arizona Fall League on Thursday, Ole Miss alum Errol Robinson (Los Angeles Dodgers) debuted with a 2-for-4, two-RBI effort for Glendale, and in the same game Petal’s Demarcus Evans (Texas) threw two scoreless innings for Surprise. Delta State product Trent Giambrone (Chicago Cubs) banged out four hits in his debut for Mesa, while ex-George County High standout Justin Steele did not have his best stuff in that same game. He gave up four runs in 1 2/3 innings as Mesa’s starter. The Cubs’ No. 8 prospect yielded five hits, a walk, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch. Former DSU star Dalton Moats (Tampa Bay) worked two hitless innings for Peoria on Wednesday, and Daniel Brown (Milwaukee), a left-hander out of MSU, tossed 2 1/3 hitless innings for the same club on Tuesday. … Starkville native and ex-big leaguer Julio Borbon won a Mexican League championship with Monterrey, which wrapped up the pennant on Tuesday. Borbon went 8-for-26 with three runs and an RBI in the title series. He hit .301 with 14 steals during the season. A former first-round pick out of Tennessee by Texas, the 32-year-old Borbon last played in the majors in 2016. … Ke’Bryan Hayes, son of ex-big leaguer and Forrest County AHS product Charlie Hayes, won a minor league Gold Glove award at third base for the second straight year. The younger Hayes, a first-round pick out of a Texas high school by Pittsburgh in 2015, played at Double-A Altoona in 2018. … On this date in 2010, the Texas Rangers scored a landmark victory, thanks in large part to former Meridian Community College star Cliff Lee. Lee threw a six-hitter with 11 strikeouts to beat Tampa Bay (and David Price) in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, giving the Rangers their first playoff series victory. Texas would go on to the World Series, losing to San Francisco. Lee, incidentally, was 7-3, 2.52 ERA with three complete games in 11 postseason starts but never won a ring.
Mitch Moreland has done quite a bit of celebrating in his big league career. The Amory native and ex-Mississippi State star was on the field at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night when Boston clinched the American League East with a rollicking 11-6 victory over New York. In his nine MLB seasons, Moreland has had a hand in six division championships, four with Texas and the last two with the Red Sox. He was also on the Rangers’ wild card team in 2012. Moreland is batting .243 with 15 homers and 67 RBIs this season. After making his first All-Star Game in July, he has struggled much of the second half and lost playing time at first base to Steve Pearce. But Moreland’s superior defense will get him into games, and his postseason experience (37 games) is also valuable. He hit .385 in Boston’s division series loss to Houston in 2017. Moreland has played in two World Series – with Texas in 2010 and ’11 – but is yet to win a ring. That could change this fall. P.S. Former Northwest Mississippi Community College standout Cody Reed threw six shutout innings for Cincinnati to get his first win as a big league starter (see previous post). He allowed five hits, no walks and punched out six Miami batters. Lefty Reed, who threw five scoreless innings in his previous start, is 1-2 with a 3.66 ERA in 16 games (six starts) this season.
In a Carolina League contest in North Carolina on Sunday, a couple of former Mississippi college stars played their own little game of “top that.” Southern Miss product Chuckie Robinson ultimately came out ahead. He hit a grand slam in the third inning and then added a tie-breaking three-run blast in the eighth as Buies Creek (a Class A Houston affiliate) beat visiting Down East (Texas Rangers) 10-7. LeDarious Clark, the former East Mississippi Community College standout, went deep twice for Down East, which rallied from a 7-0 deficit and eventually tied the score on Clark’s three-run homer in the seventh inning. Clark, a 12th-round pick in 2015 by the Rangers out of West Florida, had three hits and raised his average to .278 with five homers and 11 RBIs in 27 games for the Wood Ducks. Robinson, a 21st-rounder in 2016 by the Astros out of USM, hit homers No. 5 and 6 on the year for Buies Creek and now has 23 RBIs. A recent surge (.324 in his last 10 games) has boosted his average to .218. “It’s always good and rewarding when you have a good game at the plate, but I’ve been working hard and I’ll continue to work hard,” Robinson told milb.com. He was a Midwest League All-Star at catcher in 2017 and is the Astros’ No. 26 prospect (per MLB Pipeline).
With apologies to Clark and Palmeiro, there is a Thunder and Lightning duo with Mississippi ties doing some damage for the Hickory Crawdads of the Class A South Atlantic League. The thunder in this case comes from the bat of Houlka’s Tyreque Reed, the lightning from the arm of Petal’s Demarcus Evans. On Friday night, Evans, a 21-year-old right-hander, jolted visiting West Virginia with three hitless innings of relief work, striking out five as the Crawdads, the low-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, rallied to win 5-4 in 10 innings. Reed, the Hickory cleanup batter, also 21, put up a relatively quiet 1-for-4, but the hit was his 17th in his last 10 games. He has hit .459 in that stretch. The 6-foot-2, 260-pound first baseman/DH is batting .271 with seven homers and 17 RBIs. A juco All-America at Itawamba Community College, where he hit .504 as a sophomore, Reed was an eighth-round selection in the 2017 draft. After he batted .350 with five homers in 35 games in rookie ball last summer, the Rangers started him out in the full-season SAL this year. He hit a walk-off homer in his first at-bat, as a pinch hitter. The Rangers picked Evans, 6-4, 240, out of Petal High in the 25th round in 2015. He has shown strikeout stuff at every level, averaging over 12 K’s per nine innings. Working exclusively in relief this year, Evans is 2-0 with two saves and a 2.23 ERA in 22 games. The spin rate on his fastball reportedly is among the best in the minors. He has a 3.35 career ERA, though his walk totals are high. Neither Reed nor Evans has cracked the Rangers’ top prospect charts, but they appear well on their way to refining their raw skills in 2018.
He has taken small and sometimes wobbly steps over the past five seasons, and he is still in the low minors. But Ti’Quan Forbes, a second-round draft pick in 2014 out of Columbia High, may soon be ready for the big leap to Double-A. Forbes, still only 21, has found his footing at high Class A Winston-Salem in the Chicago White Sox’s system. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound third baseman is batting .274 with four homers, 30 RBIs, four triples and 10 doubles in 67 games. He is 11-for-33 with two homers in his last 10 games. And he is making contact, with just 40 strikeouts in 237 at-bats. Forbes hit .234 in 2017 at two levels of A-ball but showed some power with 11 homers. Originally drafted by Texas, the former Mr. Baseball was traded to the White Sox on Aug. 31 last year (for pitcher Miguel Gonzalez) and played only four games at Winston-Salem before his season ended. Back with the Dash to open this year, Forbes helped the club – managed by Omar Vizquel – win a first-half title in the Carolina League. Maybe we see him with Birmingham in the Southern League before the season is done.
Former Columbia High star Ti’Quan Forbes changed organizations as part of an under-the-radar second-deadline trade on Thursday. Forbes, 21, a second-round pick by Texas in 2014 who is still in A-ball, went to the Chicago White Sox for major league pitcher Miguel Gonzalez. “Forbes seems like an intriguing enough return for a two-hours-’til-deadline August deal, as he has some pedigree and skills,” msn.com reported. And, a fresh start might do him some good, though the 2017 minor league season is almost over. Forbes was a shortstop at Columbia when he earned Mr. Baseball honors but now plays mostly third base. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Forbes is batting .227 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 51 games for high-A Down East. He batted .242 with eight homers at low-A Hickory before being promoted. He had hit just four homers prior to this season and is at .246 for his pro career.
Numbers tell us something, though not everything, about a player. When you see that a pitcher has 129 strikeouts in 95 innings as a pro, you’re intrigued. That tells you he has swing-and-miss stuff. Batters have hit just .217 with only four home runs against him. Again, good stuff. Other numbers associated with Demarcus Evans are also telling. The former Petal High star, pitching for Hickory in the low Class A South Atlantic League, has walked 19 batters and hit four others in 22 2/3 innings this season. That tells you he has command issues and at least partially explains his 5.56 ERA. A 25th-round pick by Texas in 2015, right-hander Evans, only 20 years old, goes 6 feet 4, 240 pounds — more numbers to like. He had a 2.95 ERA over two levels of rookie ball in 2016, earning a jump to the SAL. He spent several weeks on the disabled list this season, only returning to Hickory on Wednesday, when he worked a clean inning in relief and notched his 34th punchout. Four of his nine appearances this season have been starts. Obviously, Evans has a long way to go and many more numbers to put up. It could be fun to chart his progress.
Ti’Quan Forbes, in his fourth pro season but still only 20 years old, has come out swinging at Class A Hickory. The former Mr. Baseball from Columbia is batting .353 with five home runs and 12 RBIs through 17 games in the South Atlantic League. He already has more homers than he got all of last season, when he hit four in 120 games with the same Hickory club. He didn’t go deep in either of his first two minor league seasons. Forbes, 6 feet 3, 180 pounds, was a second-round pick by Texas in the 2014 draft. A shortstop at Columbia High, he is now playing third base, a power position. Forbes hit just .251 last year with 24 extra-base hits. If he continues to rake at his current pace, he could get a midseason promotion to high-A Down East in the Carolina League, where former East Mississippi Community College standout LeDarious Clark is now playing. They were teammates in Hickory in 2016.