Grapefruit and Cactus League games start Friday, and Mississippians Corey Dickerson, Lance Lynn, Seth Smith and Tyler Moore, among others, don’t yet have a team to play for. Zack Cozart, Jarrod Dyson, Alex Presley and T.J. House are suiting up for new teams. Hunter Renfroe may soon be doing that, too. Brian Dozier is finally in camp after a detour to have a kidney stone removed. Austin Riley, Cody Carroll and Dakota Hudson are in big league camp as non-roster invitees for the first time. Mickey Callaway is now a manager, and Ron Gardenhire, the old Jackson Met and ex-Minnesota skipper, is back in the saddle. So, yeah, there’s a lot of interesting stuff to keep tabs on. Start with Renfroe, the former Mississippi State standout who hit 26 homers as a rookie for San Diego last year but may now be squeezed out of a roster spot. The Padres’ signing of Eric Hosmer and shifting of Wil Myers to right field has fueled rumors that Renfroe will be traded. “We’re all chess pieces in a huge game here – that’s the way you look at it,” Renfroe told mlb.com. … Dyson, the ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star, signed a two-year, $7.5M deal with Arizona earlier this week. A good defensive outfielder, Dyson, 33, had a strong offensive season with Seattle in 2017, batting. 251 with 56 runs and 28 steals in 111 games. He has 204 career steals over eight seasons. … Ole Miss product Presley signed a minor league deal with Baltimore, which had been seeking a lefty-hitting outfielder. Presley, 32, hit .314 in 71 games last year with Detroit, the fifth different MLB club he has played for over eight seasons. … Dozier, the former Southern Miss standout, reportedly won’t play in Minnesota’s games on Friday and Saturday as he eases into the spring routine. A pending free agent after this season, he batted .271 with 34 homers last year and says he wants to remain a Twin. Stay tuned. … UM alum Bobby Wahl is in Oakland’s camp as a non-roster pitcher this year, trying to bounce back from a shoulder injury that required surgery and cost him his spot on the A’s 40-man roster. Wahl, who pitched just 7 2/3 innings as a rookie in 2017, used to throw 100 mph. Can he get there again? “The way the ball’s coming out, it feels easy,” he said last week in an mlb.com article. “So far, this is the best I’ve felt throwing a baseball in a long time.” … Tim Anderson, the former East Central CC star who had a tough year with the Chicago White Sox in 2017, said he feels refreshed this spring. “Getting away from it definitely helped me and kind of gave me some breathing room,” he told mlb.com. “I’m hungry and excited about this season coming up.” Anderson lost a close friend to a shooting and scuffled at times on the field, batting .257 with 28 errors at shortstop. … This should be a fun spring for Marcus Thames, another former East Central CC standout. Thames, recently named hitting coach of the New York Yankees, gets to work with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius, et al., an array of sluggers that some expect to threaten the MLB home run record. Once the games begin to count, there might be a little pressure there for Thames.
Sports Illustrated’s ranking of the Top 100 players in the big leagues includes Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier (41), who “lacks the exposure he deserves” in Minnesota; ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart (87), who left Cincinnati for the Los Angeles Angels; and as-yet-unsigned UM product Lance Lynn (93). Former Mississippi Braves standout Freddie Freeman is No. 22. … Ole Miss product Matt Tracy, whose one MLB appearance came three years ago, reportedly has signed a minor league contract with Toronto. Tracy, 29, was drafted by the New York Yankees in 2011 and made a two-inning appearance for the Yanks on April 11, 2015. The left-hander, who has a 4.03 career ERA in 151 minor league games, pitched in Minnesota’s system last year (7.64 ERA in Triple-A). … MUW notched its first-ever win – and then added another – by sweeping Crowley’s Ridge, 5-4 and 11-1, on Thursday at Columbus. Johndavid Birdsong, who got a walk-off hit in Game 1, is 5-for-10 with three RBIs for the Owls (2-3). … Vicksburg native Dmitri Young and former Jackson State star Marvin Freeman, both ex-big leaguers, are among the dignitaries expected in New Orleans for this weekend’s Andre Dawson Classic, formerly known as the MLB Urban Invitational. Alcorn State is in the field. … MGM Park in Biloxi, home of the Shuckers, has an interesting doubleheader slated for March 14: William Carey vs. Mississippi College followed by Mississippi State vs. Southeastern Louisiana. … Luke Wallner, brother of USM star Matt Wallner, is a freshman pitcher on Meridian Community College’s roster. The 6-foot, 195-pound right-hander pitched at Forest Lake (Minn.) High last year. … Baseball America ranks Gulfport High No. 40 in its Top 50 preseason prep poll. The Admirals were 33-6 in 2017 and finished runner-up (to Tupelo) in the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs. Outfielder Joe Gray of Hattiesburg High made BA’s All-America first team.
You know these names: Wallner, Rolison, Pilkington. They’re the stars at the state’s Big 3 Division I schools, the centers of preseason attention. Here are some names from outside the spotlight, lesser-heralded players who could have significant impact this season, which begins Friday. At Southern Miss, there’s Luke Reynolds, a transfer from Mississippi State, which the Golden Eagles meet in the opener in Hattiesburg. Forest native Reynolds is expected to replace Taylor Braley at third base for USM. Reynolds batted .304 at State in 2015. He left the program in 2016 without playing in a game but still had to sit out last season. He did play summer ball, batting .306 with four homers in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. In 2014, Reynolds was the star on the Hinds Community College team that made it to the NJCAA Division II title game. He hit .376 that year. … At Ole Miss, which opens against Winthrop in Oxford, there’s Tim Rowe. The Hernando native, a senior outfielder/DH who batted .254 with three homers and 20 RBIs in 2017, has some power in his bat, something the Rebels need with top sluggers Colby Bortles and Tate Blackman having moved on to pro ball. Two years ago at Itawamba Community College, Rowe hit .418 with eight homers and 48 RBIs. … At State, there’s Ethan Small, a sophomore left-hander who missed 2017 after Tommy John surgery. Konnor Pilkington sits atop the Bulldogs’ rotation and Riley Self and Spencer Price man the back end of the bullpen. Small is one of the other pieces – and he could be poised for a breakout campaign if he can harness his nasty stuff. A two-time prep All-America pick in Tennessee, he pitched sparingly as a freshman in 2016 but is penciled in as the No. 2 starter now. P.S. Alcorn State again starts its season in the Andre Dawson Classic (formerly the MLB Urban Invitational) in New Orleans. The Braves’ first game is against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Friday. Mississippi Valley State hosts South Dakota State in Itta Bena. Jackson State opens on Feb. 20 at the University of New Orleans.
Kendall Graveman lost his arbitration case with the Oakland A’s, but the former Mississippi State standout will still be a happy camper in spring training, which formally begins this week in Arizona and Florida. Graveman, who made $545,000 in 2017, will get $2.36 million this season, not the $2.6M he had asked for. Hi ho. Graveman, 27, Oakland’s opening day starter last year, went 6-4 with a 4.19 ERA, missing considerable time with an arm injury. He is 22-24, 4.11 career. Ole Miss alum Braxton Lee, on Miami’s 40-man roster, is headed for his first big league camp, while ex-State star Dakota Hudson and Southern Miss product Cody Carroll got coveted non-roster invites from St. Louis and the New York Yankees, respectively. On the flip side, big league vets such as Lance Lynn, Seth Smith, Jarrod Dyson, Chris Coghlan and Tyler Moore remain among the throng of unsigned players.
Here’s the list of Mississippians headed for camp:
40-man roster members
Anthony Alford (Petal), Toronto; Tim Anderson (East Central CC), Chicago White Sox; Zack Cozart (Ole Miss), Los Angeles Angels; Brian Dozier (Southern Miss), Minnesota; Corey Dickerson (Meridian CC), Tampa Bay; Adam Frazier (Mississippi State), Pittsburgh; Billy Hamilton (Taylorsville), Cincinnati; JaCoby Jones (Richton), Detroit; Braxton Lee (Ole Miss), Miami; Mitch Moreland (Mississippi State), Boston; Hunter Renfroe (MSU), San Diego; Stuart Turner (Ole Miss), Cincinnati Pitchers
Kendall Graveman (MSU), Oakland; Jonathan Holder (MSU), New York Yankees; Jacob Lindgren (MSU), Atlanta; Mike Mayers (Ole Miss), St. Louis; Drew Pomeranz (Ole Miss), Boston; Cody Reed (Northwest CC), Cincinnati; Tony Sipp (Gulf Coast CC), Houston; Chris Stratton (MSU), San Francisco; Brandon Woodruff (MSU), Milwaukee
Bobby Bradley (Gulfport/Harrison Central), Cleveland; Jack Kruger (MSU), Los Angeles Angels; Austin Riley (Southaven/DeSoto Central), Atlanta; Kade Scivicque (Southwest CC), Atlanta
Cody Carroll (USM), New York Yankees; Chad Girodo (MSU), Toronto; David Goforth (Ole Miss), Washington; T.J. House (Picayune), Chicago White Sox; Dakota Hudson (MSU), St. Louis; Cody Satterwhite (Ole Miss), Washington; Bobby Wahl (Ole Miss), Oakland
Free agents: Jarrod Dyson (Southwest CC); Seth Smith (Ole Miss); Lance Lynn (Ole Miss); Chris Coghlan (Ole Miss); Desmond Jennings (Itawamba CC); Tyler Moore (MSU); Alex Presley (Ole Miss); Louis Coleman (Greenwood/Pillow Academy); Scott Copeland (USM)
You’re dating yourself if you admit to remembering when Freddy Garcia pitched at Smith-Wills Stadium. Hillary Clinton’s husband was president, “Saving Private Ryan” hit the theaters and the second Harry Potter book was published. It was 1998. Garcia, who’ll be 42 in April, is still out there pitching. On Saturday, in Guadalajara, Mexico, he started for Venezuela in its 15-4 win against the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Series. Garcia threw four shutout innings before running into trouble in the fifth, when he had to leave one out shy of qualifying for the win. The big right-hander was a standout for the ’98 Jackson Generals before Houston sent him to Seattle as part of the big Randy Johnson trade. Garcia made the big leagues in 1999 and won 156 games, plus an ERA title, over 15 seasons. He last pitched in the majors for Atlanta in 2013, including a postseason start. … There are a handful of familiar names in the Caribbean Series, including former Mississippi Braves Christian Bethancourt (three hits for the D.R. on Saturday) and Joey Meneses (with Mexico). P.S. Southern Miss product Cody Carroll, who had a brilliant showing (0.00 ERA, four saves in 11 2/3 innings) in the Arizona Fall League after reaching Double-A last season, has received a non-roster invitation to the New York Yankees’ big league spring camp. Carroll, 25, was a 22nd-round draft pick in 2015.
One month from today, Blue Mountain College, an NAIA member, will get the ball rolling. The Toppers will be the first Mississippi college team to hit the field for a game in 2018, opening at LSU-Shreveport on Jan. 26. The major college season begins on Feb. 16, and for Mississippi State and Southern Miss, it won’t be a soft opening. The old rivals will meet that day in the first game of a three-game series in Hattiesburg. Taylor Park is where State ended USM’s 2017 season in a wild regional final that won’t soon be forgotten. What better way to start 2018? … State was the last of the Big 3 to close the book on fall ball, playing its Fall World Series on Nov. 17-19 at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson. Though he’s certainly not expected to fill Brent Rooker’s shoes, junior shortstop Hunter Stovall was named the MVP. He went 5-for-8 with two runs and a steal in the three-game set. Stovall batted .288 for the Bulldogs in 2017 and played well in the Cape Cod League over the summer. … Ole Miss finished its fall campaign in late October with the Pizza Bowl, a game notable mainly for the fact the two squads combined for 20 runs over 11 innings. A precursor perhaps for 2018, which will start on Feb. 16 with a home game against Winthrop? The Rebels surely hope so. They were last in the SEC in hitting and 12th in runs in 2017. A Thomas Dillard grand slam in the 11th was the big blow in the Pizza Bowl. Cooper Johnson had a four-hit game, and Wil Golsan doubled, tripled and homered. … Alcorn State again starts its season in the MLB Urban Invitational in New Orleans. The Braves’ first game is against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Feb. 16. … Jackson State will open at the University of New Orleans on Feb. 20, then return home for a marquee game against Mississippi State at Braddy Field. Champing at the bit for the Tigers is Lamar Briggs, who had a standout summer for the DC Grays in the Cal Ripken League, batting .400 with two homers, 24 RBIs, 22 runs and eight steals in 38 games. He made first team all-league. … William Carey and Tougaloo, also NAIA schools; NCAA Division III Millsaps; and Division II Delta State open on Ground Hog Day, Feb. 2. Carey is at home against Ave Maria University, Tougaloo on the road vs. Talladega, Millsaps at Huntingdon, and Delta State at Lynn. … D-II Mississippi College will host Lindenwood for a doubleheader on Feb. 3. … MUW launches its inaugural season on Feb. 9 at the University of Dallas. D-III Belhaven starts the season at Centenary on Feb. 9.
This was a close call. Drew Pomeranz went 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA last season and was a key player in Boston’s drive to a division title. But Brian Dozier, who also had sparkling numbers, was arguably THE key player in unheralded Minnesota’s drive to a wild card berth. On that basis, the former Southern Miss star is a repeat winner of the Cool Papa Bell Award, given here for the best performance by a Mississippian in the majors. Dozier, who also won the 2016 award, batted a career-high .271 (.359 on-base) with 34 homers, 93 RBIs, 106 runs and 16 steals in his fifth full season with the Twins. He was a regular on the highlight shows for his defense at second base. What’s more, he led off the American League wild card game against New York with a home run, though the Twins couldn’t hold the lead. No disrespect to Pomeranz — or for that matter Zack Cozart, Corey Dickerson, Jarrod Dyson, Lance Lynn and Adam Frazier, each of whom had a very good season – but Dozier was simply a cut above. … The award honors Negro Leagues legend Cool Papa Bell, the first Mississippi native to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Previous honorees include Mitch Moreland, Corey Dickerson, Desmond Jennings, Lance Lynn, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Chris Coghlan.