Miami has optioned Braxton Lee to the minors, which shouldn’t have come as a big surprise to the 24-year-old outfielder who hasn’t played above Double-A. At one stage in the off-season, when the Marlins were in the process of purging their 2017 roster, Ole Miss product Lee was the only center fielder on the depth chart. The club has since added Cameron Maybin and Lewis Brinson. Lee, a lefty hitter with outstanding speed, likely will start 2018 at Triple-A New Orleans. The Picayune native is coming off a breakthrough year in which he hit .309 to win the Southern League batting crown and raked at a .347 clip in the Arizona Fall League. Drafted in the 12th round in 2014 by Tampa Bay, Lee was traded last summer, moving from Montgomery to Jacksonville in the SL without missing a beat. He hit .219 with four steals in 20 MLB spring training games. Rated Miami’s No. 17 prospect by MLB Pipeline, he’ll be heard from again.
Though it wasn’t a storybook moment, Corey Dickerson has symbolically turned a page in his career. The McComb native made his first plate appearance in a Pittsburgh uniform today, striking out against Philadelphia’s Ben Lively in a Grapefruit League game. Cast off – technically “designated for assignment” — by Tampa Bay in a rather surprising move on Feb. 18, Dickerson learned four days later he had been traded to Pittsburgh. He reported to Pirates camp in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday. He spent his time in baseball limbo back in Mississippi, where his wife gave birth to their second child. He also worked out at Meridian Community College, where he played in 2009 and ’10. Dickerson, who played high school ball at Brookhaven Academy, was an eighth-round draft pick by the Rockies out of MCC in 2010 and arrived in the big leagues in 2013. The 28-year-old came into this spring with a .280 average, 90 homers and 256 RBIs in 563 big league games, split between Colorado and Tampa Bay. An All-Star starter in 2017, the last thing he expected was to be DFA’d just after spring camp began in an apparent salary dump. “It’s hard to stomach,” he told mlb.com. “At the time, I was caught off guard.” In a sense, it was a lateral move. Neither the Rays nor the Pirates are expected to contend. Dickerson, a lefty hitter, is expected to be the Pirates’ left fielder, joining Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco in what shapes up as a pretty good outfield. P.S. Staying on the Pirates track: Adam Frazier isn’t expected to hold a regular job with Clint Hurdle’s Bucs but does figure to get a fair number of at-bats as a utility man. The Mississippi State alum, who had quite a day at the plate on Friday (three hits, including a triple, three RBIs and two runs), enjoyed a solid 2017 campaign. He batted .276 with six homers, 53 RBIs and 55 runs in 121 games in his second big league season, and he also won the Pirates’ Heart and Hustle Award.
Pittsburgh announced today that it has acquired Corey Dickerson, the ex-Meridian Community College star, in a trade with Tampa Bay for reliever Daniel Hudson, a minor league infielder and cash. Dickerson, a 2017 All-Star, was designated for assignment by the Rays last week. The 28-year-old outfielder has a .280 career average with 90 homers and a .504 slugging percentage in 563 MLB games.
He won the Southern League batting title, made the league’s postseason All-Star team and was named the best defensive outfielder by SL managers. He received a coveted spot in the Arizona Fall League and through five games there is batting .500, including a 3-for-4 effort on Thursday. Oh, and he took a few days off last week to return to Mississippi and get married. Braxton Lee, the ex-Ole Miss standout from Picayune, is riding the wave, as the saying goes. Lee was a 12th-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2014 and was traded to Miami this past summer in the midst of a breakout year. After scuffling in Double-A in 2016, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound lefty hitter batted .309 this season with 81 runs and 20 stolen bases in 127 games split between Montgomery and Jacksonville. He has shown no sign of letdown in the AFL. What’s next? “I’m hoping I’ll be a big league invite (to Marlins spring camp) where I’ll be there and they can see me play and see what they think of me,” Lee recently told the Biloxi Sun-Herald.
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.
Ready or not, MLB’s Players Weekend arrives today, complete with alternate uniforms, funky accessories and, for some players, nicknames on their backs. Many traditionalists will be cringing. Here’s a sampling of what Mississippians will be wearing: Billy Hamilton is “Bone,” Zack Cozart is “Coach,” Drew Pomeranz is “Big Smooth,” Tim Anderson is “B. Moss” (in honor of a childhood friend killed earlier this year), Mitch Moreland is “2-Bags,” Kendall Graveman is “Digger,” Brian Dozier is “Doz,” and Tyler Moore is “T-Mo.” Jarrod Dyson was slated to wear “Zoombiya” (from his twitter handle) but is on the disabled list, as is Bobby “Peanut” Wahl. Seth Smith, whose unofficial nickname is “Dad” (after the character on American Dad), is sticking with “Smith.” Good call. P.S. Amidst all the shouting and brawling and ejecting at Comerica Park on Thursday, JaCoby Jones, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton High, had a good day for Detroit: 2-for-4, two RBIs and a stolen base. … Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland homered twice for Boston in its loss to Cleveland and now has 17 on the season, three in the last two days. … Ex-Meridian Community College star Corey Dickerson went deep for Tampa Bay in a win against Toronto. Dickerson has 24 homers. … J.T. Ginn, a pitcher/infielder at Brandon High, made the 20-man roster for USA Baseball’s Under-18 World Cup team. The team will compete in the tournament in Thunder Bay, Canada, from Sept. 1-10. Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray was among the 40 finalists invited to the national trials. Ginn, 6 feet 2, 200 pounds, a Mississippi State commit, was 5-1 with a 1.78 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings for Brandon in 2017. He also hit .483 with 16 homers.
Braxton Lee’s work with the bat has been impossible to ignore this season. The Picayune native is hitting .316 — best in the Southern League – and has scored 69 runs – second in the SL — for Double-A Jacksonville. His work with the glove also has gotten some attention. Lee was rated the Best Defensive Outfielder in the league in Baseball America’s annual poll of managers. Lee, listed at 5 feet 10, 185 pounds, can really run, a skill he demonstrated at Picayune High, Pearl River Community College and Ole Miss. He was the leadoff batter and left fielder on the Rebels’ 2014 College World Series team, batting .281 with 56 runs and 30 steals in 69 games. He plays center field now and, from all indications, is playing it very well. A 12th-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2014, Lee seemed to have hit a wall when he reached Double-A in 2016. He batted .209 for Montgomery. This season has been an about-face. He has been among the league leaders in hitting all season and was named to the SL All-Star Game in June. “I wouldn’t say anything is better other than my mindset every single day,” Lee recently told the Biloxi Sun-Herald. He was batting .321 on June 26 when Tampa Bay traded him to Miami in the Adeiny Hechavarria deal. Lee was SL player of the week in his first week with Jacksonville. Not yet on the Marlins’ list of top prospects, that likely will change this off-season. … Former Mississippi Braves star Ronald Acuna, now at Triple-A Gwinnett, was ranked as the SL’s Best Batting Prospect and Most Exciting Player.