You still have to scroll down quite a ways to find Billy Hamilton’s name on the MLB batting average list. But a recent hot streak has carried the former Taylorsville High star above the proverbial Mendoza Line and could be a good sign for a Cincinnati club that needs some. Hamilton, batting .346 in May, went 2-for-4 for the Reds on Thursday with a triple and an RBI in a 4-1 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The switch-hitting center fielder is now at .212 for the year with a .314 on-base average. He has two homers, 11 RBIs and 21 runs hitting mostly at the bottom of the order. As recently as April 29, he was hitting .169. “It’s been a grind but I have more confidence than I’ve had all year,” he told mlb.com a few days ago. Jim Riggleman, who took over as Reds manager for the fired Bryan Price on April 19, has kept Hamilton in the lineup, citing the value of his defense. Oddly enough, Hamilton has only five stolen bases, the most recent on April 23. The Reds, even after a season-best three-game win streak, are 11-27, worst record in the National League. … Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss standout from Fulton, has not been hot of late but may have had a breakout Thursday, going 4-for-4 with a homer in Minnesota’s loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Dozier is batting just .190 over his last 15 games and is at .246 with six homers, 14 RBIs and 20 runs for the season. Production from Dozier, who typically hits first or second in the lineup, is essential for Minnesota (15-18) as it battles to stay in the American League Central race. P.S. Scott Copeland, the former Southern Miss ace, is off to Las Vegas; that is, he has been promoted to the Triple-A 51s by the New York Mets. Copeland was 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA in two starts for Double-A Binghamton. Copeland, in his ninth year of pro ball, had signed with a team in the independent Atlantic League this spring but was purchased by the Mets a short time thereafter. He has five MLB appearances on his resume, all with Toronto in 2015. At age 30, Copeland was a bit old for Double-A, though one of his teammates was another 30-year-old name of Tim Tebow.
Nathaniel Lowe, a former Mississippi State standout, had a day in the Florida State League on Friday. Lowe went 4-for-5 with two home runs and six RBIs for Port Charlotte, Tampa Bay’s high Class A club. The left-handed hitting first baseman, a 13th-round pick out of State in 2016, is actually having quite a season, leading the FSL in hitting at .390 and hits with 32. He has four homers and 21 RBIs. “As long as I play like I know how to play, then everything is going to be all right,” Lowe told milb.com. He hit .348 with five homers and 49 RBIs in his one season in Starkville. Among Lowe’s teammates this season is his younger brother Josh, who was a first-round pick by the Rays out of high school in 2016 and is considered the better prospect. Maybe there’s some sibling rivalry at work there. … The minor league hot list includes former Northwest Rankin High star Daniel Sweet, who is batting .356 in the FSL for Daytona, a Cincinnati affiliate. Sweet, a switch-hitting outfielder, was a 29th-round pick out of Dallas Baptist in 2016. … Ole Miss product Tate Blackman is among the top hitters in the low-A South Atlantic League, batting .359 with three homers for Kannapolis in the Chicago White Sox system. Second baseman Blackman was a 13th-round pick last June.
On this date in 2006, the Milwaukee Brewers slugged five home runs in one inning, tying a major league record. The first of those five was hit by Bill Hall, the pride of Nettleton. Hall went deep against Cincinnati’s Brandon Claussen in the bottom of the fourth at Miller Park. Damian Miller, Brady Clark, J.J. Hardy and Prince Fielder followed with bombs. The first four came against Claussen; Fielder hit his off Chris Hammond. Milwaukee won the game 11-0. For Hall, the April 22 homer was the third of the 35 he would hit that season, which was far and away the best of his 11 in the big leagues. A couple of weeks later, on Mother’s Day, Hall hit a memorable walk-off home run with a pink bat. He finished the 2006 season with a .270 average, 85 RBIs and 39 doubles. He hit 125 homers in his MLB career, which ended in 2012. He played a couple of years of independent ball after that.
Stuart Turner, the former Ole Miss standout, is catching at Triple-A Louisville in the Cincinnati system. He is 3-for-13 in four games. Turner spent 2017 in the big leagues after the Reds took him as a Rule 5 pick from Minnesota’s minor league system. He hit .134 with two homers in 37 games. He was designated for assignment by the Reds late in spring training, passed through waivers and was outrighted to Louisville. … Louis Coleman, the Greenwood native and ex-Pillow Academy star, is pitching at Triple-A Toledo in the Detroit organization. He has a 3.38 ERA and two saves in four appearances. The 32-year-old right-hander has a 3.15 ERA in 213 MLB games, the last with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016. … T.J. House, the Picayune High product, is pitching at Triple-A Charlotte in the Chicago White Sox’s system. The left-hander is 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in two starts. House has a 4.44 ERA in 29 big league games with Cleveland and Toronto. The White Sox signed him as a minor league free agent in the off-season.
Fans in Goodyear, Ariz., were treated to a noteworthy Mississippi matchup in the Cactus League on Saturday. Cody Reed, the former Northwest Mississippi Community College star from Horn Lake, opposed Chris Stratton, the ex-Mississippi State standout from Tupelo, as Cincinnati took on San Francisco. Both pitchers are trying to nail down a job on the big league roster. Reed, a left-hander, had the better day in a 5-4 Reds win, going four innings and allowing two runs – on solo homers in his final inning – with three strikeouts and no walks. “Throwing strikes – that was big for me,” Reed said in a video posted on mlb.com. “I got a lot of swing-and-misses today. … I feel good.” He has a 5.11 ERA this spring and a 6.75 in 22 big league games with the Reds over the last two seasons. Right-hander Stratton threw four shutout innings for the Giants before giving up four runs in the fifth. He allowed six hits with four punchouts and no walks as his spring ERA rose to 3.86. Stratton has appeared in 20 MLB games the last two years and has a 3.67 ERA. Reed-Stratton is a matchup we might be seeing again during the 2018 season, when as many as six Magnolia State products may be starting games in The Show. The others: Lance Lynn, Drew Pomeranz, Kendall Graveman and Brandon Woodruff.
Surely you’ve seen it: Billy Hamilton made another highlight-reel catch on Monday, robbing Shohei Ohtani of extra bases in a Cactus League game. Hamilton’s defense is Gold Glove-caliber – on that we can all agree. It’s that other phase of the game – offense – where the Taylorsville native has been lacking. He would seem to be the type of player – that is, small and really fast — who could benefit from bunting for a hit. Yes, he’s a base-stealing fool. But he has a career on-base percentage in MLB of .298, which is not good, especially for a leadoff batter, which is what Cincinnati wants him to be. According to research published by espn.com, Hamilton, now entering his fifth season with the Reds, is bunting less than ever and not doing it very well. He had four bunt hits in 2017 on 19 attempts. That’s down from career-highs of 15 and 44 in 2014. The 160-pound Hamilton had as many homers as bunt hits last season. And he struck out 133 times in 582 at-bats. When he gets on base, he scores quite often – 44 percent of the time in 2017, according to FanGraphs. Seems he just hasn’t been taking full advantage of his strongest tool – speed – and that’s very puzzling. Hamilton reportedly is working on his bunting this spring in Arizona, though we’ve heard that before. He has been out of sync at the plate generally, going hitless in his first 14 at-bats over seven games. He popped up, struck out and walked (then was caught stealing) on Monday.
Cody Reed had gotten rave reviews from Cincinnati manager Bryan Price during workouts in Arizona, but his first appearance in a spring training game was a dud. The ex-Northwest Mississippi Community College star from Horn Lake was touched for five hits and four runs in two innings against Colorado on Saturday. Nolan Arenado took Reed deep. The 6-foot-5 left-hander is competing for a spot in the Reds’ bullpen, though he says he would prefer to start. He has a 3.63 ERA in the minors working primarily as a starter. A second-round pick by Kansas City in 2013, Reed moved to the Reds in a 2015 trade and went 6-2 with a 2.17 ERA for Pensacola in the Double-A Southern League. He made the big leagues as a highly rated prospect in 2016 but hasn’t fulfilled his promise in The Show, posting a 1-8 record and 6.75 ERA. He’s better than that. P.S. Mississippi State product Jonathan Holder notched a save on Saturday with a scoreless inning for the New York Yankees against Pittsburgh, and ex-State star Chris Stratton worked two scoreless (though not exactly clean) innings in a start for San Francisco against the Los Angeles Dodgers. … Ole Miss alum Alex Presley, in his Baltimore debut, went 1-for-3 with a walk against Philadelphia. … Former Pillow Academy standout Louis Coleman has signed a minor league deal with Detroit. The veteran right-hander last pitched in the majors in 2016 and spent last year in Triple-A with Cincinnati and Arizona. … The honor of being the first Mississippi product to homer in spring training went to Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central Community College star who went deep for the Chicago White Sox on Friday against the Dodgers. … Itawamba CC alum Tim Dillard, on assignment from minor league camp, pitched a scoreless inning for Milwaukee on Friday. The veteran right-hander has been in pro ball since 2002.