05 Sep

watch for it

Riding a hot hand, Washington manager Dave Martinez has been giving more playing time to Asdrubal Cabrera at second base, relegating Southern Miss product Brian Dozier to spot duty. Cabrera had started the last three games, but for tonight’s contest at Atlanta, the opener of a huge four-game series between the top two teams in the National League East, Dozier is back in the lineup. Left-hander Max Fried (15-4), a Mississippi Braves alumnus, is slated to start for the Braves; Stephen Strasburg (16-5, 3-0 vs. the Braves in 2019) goes for Washington. Dozier has been the Nats’ regular second baseman most of the season after signing as a free agent late last year, but he last started a game on Aug. 31. (Howie Kendrick got a start on Sept. 1.) Dozier, 32, coming off a disappointing finish to his 2018 season, is batting .236 with 19 homers and 45 RBIs for Washington. He will be a free agent again after this season. Veteran switch-hitter Cabrera, signed last month after being released by Texas, is batting .324 with three homers and 23 RBIs in 20 games with the Nationals. … Watch for ex-Ole Miss star and Nats reliever Aaron Barrett (see previous posts) to make his first MLB appearance in over four years during this series.

29 Aug

boys of fall

A pair of former Southern Miss pitchers will get some bonus work in the Arizona Fall League, the select circuit that begins its season on Sept. 18. Bradley Roney, currently with the Mississippi Braves in Atlanta’s system, and Kirk McCarty, pitching for Lynchburg in the Cleveland organization, are on the AFL’s initial rosters announced Wednesday. More names will be added soon. Roney is one of four current M-Braves on the Scottsdale roster, joined by outfielder Greyson Jenista, outfielder Trey Harris and pitcher Connor Johnstone. Roney returned in May from roughly two years on the injured list. The 26-year-old right-handed reliever has a 2.70 ERA, two saves and 34 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings for Double-A Mississippi. Drafted in 2014, he reached Triple-A in 2016 before stalling out with arm injuries. McCarty, a left-handed starter, was a seventh-round pick in 2017. He has spent two stints on the IL this season at high Class A Lynchburg, where he has posted a 3-6 record with a 5.37 ERA in 12 games. He has a 4.03 career ERA. He’ll pitch for Mesa. Lefty Clayton Andrews, a Milwaukee prospect currently on Biloxi’s roster, is slated to pitch for Glendale.

27 Aug

dee-fense, dee-fense

Fans don’t shout “Dee-fense, dee-fense” at baseball games, but making plays in the field is an essential element of winning. The ability to catch and throw, skills he displayed on Monday night, has helped Jarrod Dyson carve out a 10-year big league career. In the sixth inning of Arizona’s game at San Francisco, McComb native Dyson, playing right field, made a leaping catch against the wall for the first out. (It was one of the Top Plays on MLB Network’s Quick Pitch.) Later in the inning, Dyson, shifting toward the line against left-handed pull hitter Brandon Crawford, fielded Crawford’s hit and cut down a runner at the plate, preserving the Diamondbacks’ 3-2 lead. “I played the play in my head before it happened, and it happened exactly how I played it,” the ever-quotable Dyson told The Associated Press. Arizona went on to win 6-4 in a battle of fringe wild card contenders. Dyson has eight assists this season and 165 putouts with just two errors in 96 games. For his career, during which he often has been used as a defensive replacement, Dyson has 59 assists and a .983 fielding percentage. The swift 35-year-old has played all three outfield positions in his career — and actually played all three in Monday’s game. P.S. Mississippi State product Brent Rooker started a rehab assignment on Monday with Minnesota’s Gulf Coast League team. Rooker, out with a groin injury, last played on July 13 for Triple-A Rochester, where he was batting .281 with 14 home runs. … Ex-Southern Miss star Cody Carroll (the one from Tennessee) pitched a scoreless inning Saturday on a rehab assignment with Baltimore’s GCL team. Carroll, who made his big league debut in 2018, has been out all season with a back injury.

23 Aug

odds and ends

From the Sometimes This Game Ain’t Fair Dept.: Ole Miss product Jacob Waguespack shut out the best team in baseball for seven innings on Thursday night. He wound up with a no-decision as his team — the Toronto Blue Jays – lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 via a ninth-inning walk-off hit. Waguespack, pitching his 10th big league game, allowed one hit, one walk and one HBP in a 95-pitch outing. He was pulled — with a 2-0 lead — because of stomach cramps. The Jays’ bullpen gave up three runs in the ninth. Waguespack is 4-1 with a 3.63 ERA this season. … Former Southern Miss star Brian Dozier returned from paternity leave on Thursday and was back in the lineup for Washington. He went 0-for-3 in a win against Pittsburgh. … DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley is slated to begin a rehab assignment tonight for Class A Rome in the Atlanta system. Riley, coming back from a knee injury, has 17 homers with 45 RBIs in 66 games as a Braves rookie. … Ex-Mississippi State standout Nate Lowe is batting .375 over his last 10 games at Triple-A Durham, eagerly awaiting a recall by Tampa Bay. Lowe batted .295 with five homers during previous stints with the Rays this season. … Also hoping for a September call-up is Bobby Bradley, the former Harrison Central star now at Triple-A Columbus in Cleveland’s chain. Bradley is hitting just .138 over his last 10 games. He leads all Mississippians in the minors with 30 homers; he hit one during his 15-game big league tour. … Behind the pitching of Claudio Custodio, the Mississippi Braves beat Pensacola 3-1 on Thursday at Pearl’s Trustmark Park to conclude a 4-7 homestand. At 27-33 in the second half, the M-Braves have an elimination number of 1 in the Southern League South. They have 10 games left, including an Aug. 29-Sept. 2 homestand that will end the season. … Former M-Braves star Mallex Smith, now with Seattle, will wear WATER on the back of his jersey for Players Weekend (which starts today). Why? “Because I flow anywhere.”

20 Aug

just stuff

St. Louis right-hander Dakota Hudson, the ex-Mississippi State star, told reporters after Monday’s game that he wasn’t surprised when he was pulled in the seventh inning with a lead because he knew his pitch count was running high. The surprise, Hudson said, came when he got into the Cardinals’ clubhouse and learned that he had not allowed a hit to the Milwaukee Brewers. Alas, the no-hitter was broken up in the eighth, but St. Louis won 3-0 to take sole possession of first place in the National League Central. The hyper-focused Hudson went 6 2/3, walking four and fanning seven, to improve to 12-3, 3.63 ERA. He had thrown 111 pitches when he departed. “He had more than done his job,” manager Mike Shildt told mlb.com. Hudson’s last no-hitter was in high school in Tennessee. … No Mississippian, native or college alum, has thrown a solo no-no in the big leagues. Roy Oswalt worked the first inning of a six-man no-hitter for Houston in 2003, and Jonathan Papelbon finished off a four-man no-no for Philadelphia in 2014. … A day after belting two homers in a big win for Washington, Fulton native and Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier went on paternity leave to return home for the birth of his first child. … Curious to see what kind of impact Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton will have with Atlanta. The Braves, who have three outfielders on the injured list, claimed the light-hitting but fast-running center fielder on waivers Monday. His likely roles are pinch runner and late-inning defensive replacement. Hamilton has 295 career MLB steals, most ever by a Mississippian, and swiped an all-time pro record 155 in the minors in 2012. … Former Mississippi Braves standout Travis Demeritte, traded to Detroit in the Shane Greene deal, has quietly gotten off to a nice start: .292, two homers, 10 runs, three doubles, two triples and three steals in 18 games for the Tigers. He is one of eight M-Braves products to debut in the majors in 2019. … DeSoto Central High’s Blaze Jordan is ranked the No. 11 high school prospect for the 2020 draft by mlb.com’s Jim Callis. An MSU commit, Jordan hit .440 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs in 37 games for the MHSAA Class 6A state champs last season.

19 Aug

join the crowd

Brian Dozier did not contribute to Washington’s 18-hit, 14-run barrage in a 14-inning loss to Milwaukee on Saturday night, going 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter. Maybe he felt a little left out. On Sunday, the ex-Southern Miss star started at second base and made quite an impact. Dozier went 3-for-4 with two of the Nationals’ eight home runs plus a season-high four RBIs in a 16-8 victory against the Brewers, the Nats’ sixth win in the last seven games. Dozier said in a TV interview that he felt energized by the way his teammates were swinging the bats; they had 19 hits all told on Sunday. “You kind of want to join the crowd,” he said. A free agent signee in the off-season, Dozier has struggled at times this year. His .236 average is about 10 points below his career mark coming into 2019. He had only two homers this month before Sunday’s outburst. He now has 19 on the year, one shy of reaching 20 for the sixth straight season. He has 191 career homers; only four Mississippi natives have topped 200 career bombs in the big leagues. And he went over 1,000 career hits earlier this year. As the Nationals chase a playoff berth – they’re 5.5 games out in the National League East and lead the wild card race – they can probably count on Dozier, now an eight-year veteran, to step up in some big moments. P.S. The Brewers, also in the NL playoff hunt, surely are missing Brandon Woodruff, their All-Star starter out of Wheeler High and Mississippi State. Woodruff (11-3, 3.75 ERA) has been out since July 22 with an oblique injury. He reportedly has resumed throwing and could return next month.

15 Aug

making tracks

The Milwaukee Brewers are taking the slow and steady approach with Ethan Small, their first-round pick in June from Mississippi State (and the first Mississippian chosen at 28th overall). The left-hander, who worked 107 innings for the Bulldogs on their road to the College World Series, has made just four pro appearances, the last on Aug. 9 for Class A Wisconsin. He is slated to start again Friday. He has yet to allow a run over nine innings and has punched out 13. Already rated the Brewers’ No. 5 prospect (MLB Pipeline), Small is projected to make the majors by 2021, which sounds like a fast track but isn’t out of the ordinary for advanced college players. Take Dakota Hudson, for instance. The ex-MSU right-hander was the top pick out of the state in 2016 – 34th overall – and debuted with St. Louis last year. Hudson threw six shutout innings to beat Kansas City on Wednesday, improving to 11-6 with a 3.82 ERA as one of the Cardinals’ steadiest starters. The first pick from the state in 2018 was Ryan Rolison, taken 22nd overall out of Ole Miss by Colorado. Lefty Rolison, the Rockies’ No. 2 prospect, has reached high Class A Lancaster, where he is 4-5, 5.02, possibly on track to reach The Show next season. The state’s top pick in 2017 was Brent Rooker, the SEC Triple Crown winner at State who went 35th overall to Minnesota. Rooker’s rise has been stalled by injuries this year. Currently on the IL at Triple-A Rochester, he is batting .281 with 14 homers. Austin Riley was the first Mississippian picked in 2015 – 41st overall out of DeSoto Central High by Atlanta. The third baseman/outfielder made a smashing MLB debut this spring – at age 22 – but is currently out with a knee injury. (He is expected to start a rehab assignment soon.) MSU alum Hunter Renfroe – the first Mississippian picked in 2013 – and ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz – the first in 2010 – are currently in the big leagues. Renfroe, who debuted in 2016, is with San Diego, and the well-traveled Pomeranz, who was up by 2011, is with Milwaukee. The other three top picks from this decade, all high school players, did not fare so well. Blake Anderson (36th overall in 2014 out of West Lauderdale High) hasn’t played since 2017 and isn’t currently listed on a roster in Miami’s system. D.J. Davis (17th overall out of Stone County in 2012) was released by Toronto last summer, having never climbed above A-ball. Connor Barron (third round out of Sumrall in 2011 by Florida/Miami) opted to attend Southern Miss, where he had an up-and-down career and never got drafted again.

13 Aug

m-braves new world

In a span of six days starting July 31, the Mississippi Braves’ prospect-packed roster was gouged. Pitcher Joey Wentz, Atlanta’s No. 9 prospect (MLB Pipeline), was traded on deadline day. On Aug. 4, No. 7 Kyle Muller, also a pitcher, went on the injured list. On Aug. 5 — the final day of the last homestand — No. 1 Cristian Pache, No. 2 Drew Waters, No. 3 Ian Anderson and No. 13 Tucker Davidson (two outfielders and two more starting pitchers) were promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett. Boom. As the M-Braves begin a 10-game homestand tonight, you might be wondering, what’s left? Well, Atlanta does have one of the strongest farm systems, and there are several intriguing top 20 prospects on the current club. Start with Trey Harris, a former SEC (Missouri) outfielder promoted from A-ball last month. The No. 18 prospect, he is batting .310 in 20 games after blowing through low-A Rome (.366, eight homers) and high-A Florida (.303, four homers). William Contreras, No. 8, the younger brother of big leaguer Willson, is regarded as a strong defensive catcher and is batting .237 in 44 Double-A games. No. 11 Greyson Jenista is a 6-foot-4, 210-pound outfielder out of Wichita State who has four homers and 20 RBIs in 55 games. Another potential power bat belongs to C.J. Alexander, No. 19, a 6-5, 215 third baseman who has two homers in 20 games as he comes back from an injury earlier in the year. And Jassell De La Cruz, No. 14, is a hard-throwing right-hander with a 3-7, 4.41 ledger over 13 games. Bradley Roney isn’t on the top prospect charts, but the former Southern Miss star has been pitching like one: one earned run allowed in his last nine appearances, 3.26 ERA in 15 games all told. The team is in a period of adjustment – they went 1-4 on their recent road trip – but has enough pieces to put together a nice run over the next 10 days at Trustmark Park.
P.S. Biloxi High’s Colten Keith was invited to the USA Baseball 18-and-Under National Team Trials and Training starting today in California. The final 20-man 18U National Team will be named on Saturday and will compete in the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup in Gijang City, South Korea, from Aug. 30-Sept. 8. Keith hit .527 with eight homers for Biloxi as a junior in 2019 after transferring from Arizona; he was Mississippi’s Gatorade Player of the Year. … Oxford’s Tyrus Williams competed in the 15U National Team Trials held in July at the National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. Two Mississippians took part in this summer’s 14U National Team Development Program in Cary: Keondre Fields of Nesbit and Keilon Parnell of Pascagoula.

13 Aug

cub futures

Wyatt Short, the former Ole Miss standout from Southaven, has been promoted to Triple-A Iowa in the Chicago Cubs’ system and pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his debut on Sunday. Short, a 5-foot-8 left-hander, posted a 1.63 ERA and nine saves at Double-A Tennessee, where he was a Southern League All-Star this summer. He has a career 2.37 ERA with 16 wins and 38 saves in 136 relief appearances. Short was a 13th-round pick by the Cubs in 2016 and is one of six Mississippi products now in that organization. Ex-Mississippi State star and veteran big league pitcher Kendall Graveman signed as a free agent in the off-season but is on the injured list recovering from Tommy John surgery in July 2018. George County High alum Justin Steele is also on the Cubs’ 40-man roster, but the injury-hampered top 20 prospect, a 2014 draft pick, is on the IL at Double-A Tennessee. With Short at Iowa is Delta State product Trent Giambrone, the Cubs’ No. 28 prospect (per MLB Pipeline); the versatile Giambrone, a 2016 draftee, is batting .242 with 23 home runs. Playing the infield at Class A Myrtle Beach are former Southern Miss star Luke Reynolds and Itawamba Community College product Delvin Zinn. Zinn, a 2016 draftee, is hitting .233 with 12 RBIs and eight steals in 35 games since he moved up from low-A ball in early July. Reynolds, C-USA player of the year in 2018 and a 10th-round pick that year, was demoted from Myrtle Beach to low-A South Bend when Zinn moved up. He returned to the Carolina League on Aug. 2 and is 10-for-33 with a homer and five RBIs since.

09 Aug

minor matters

Nobody doubts that Jake Mangum can put the bat on the ball. After a sluggish start to his pro career, the ex-Mississippi State and Jackson Prep standout is batting .345 over his last 10 games, boosting his average to .252 for short season Class A Brooklyn in the New York Mets’ chain. A fourth-round pick in June, Mangum is rated the No. 24 prospect (by MLB Pipeline) in the Mets’ system. He’s shown off his plus speed, with 11 stolen bases. He has made just one error in 31 games in the outfield, playing mostly center. The question about Mangum is power, which seems to be of utmost importance in today’s game. So far, Mangum hasn’t shown much: five extra-base hits and no homers in 113 at-bats. … Former George County High two-way star Walker Robbins’ switch from hitter to pitcher in the St. Louis system has gone well. The 6-foot-3 left-hander has a 3.95 ERA and two saves in 11 games at rookie-level Johnson City. A fifth-round pick in 2016, he batted .170 over three seasons before going on a pitching program this past off-season. “Hitting’s fun and playing every day is great, but striking somebody out is an adrenaline rush. All eyes are pretty much on you when you’re on the mound. It’s fun.” Robbins told the Johnson City (Tenn.) Press. … Tyreque Reed, the Itawamba Community College product from Houlka, took one step forward and then one step back this season and appears to have regained his footing. Reed began 2019 at high Class A Down East in the Texas system but batted just .216 with four homers in 32 games. He returned to low-A Hickory, where he is hitting .268 with 11 homers in 42 games. Reed batted .267 with 18 bombs at Hickory in 2018, his second pro season. This is a guy who hit .504 with 15 homers at ICC in 2017. … Ex-State star Jacob Lindgren is making progress in his bounce-back season from two Tommy John surgeries. The onetime big leaguer has allowed one run in nine innings at high-A Winston-Salem (Chicago White Sox) and has punched out 13, including four in two innings Thursday. (Ole Miss product Tate Blackman hit a home run for the Dash in that game.) … Southern Miss alum Bradley Roney, also coming back from injury, has an 0.69 ERA in his last 10 appearances for the Double-A Mississippi Braves. He has 27 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings. … MSU product Nate Lowe was bumped back to Triple-A Durham — despite a .294 average and five homers over 30 MLB games – when Tampa Bay acquired Jesus Aguilar. MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis predicts that the lefty-hitting Lowe will soon get another call-up, which would be his fourth of 2019. The Rays are an American League wild card contender.