20 Mar

numbers game

They say you shouldn’t put much stock in spring training stats, but it’s hard not to notice that Hunter Renfroe’s numbers lag behind the other players competing for playing time in San Diego’s crowded outfield. Ex-Mississippi State star Renfroe returned to the Padres’ lineup on Tuesday after getting some time off for rest and went 1-for-4 with an RBI. That puts him at .182 with a homer and seven RBIs. Among the other outfielders on the 40-man, Jose Pirela is hitting .333 with three homers, Manuel Margot .268, Franmil Reyes .268 (two bombs), Franchy Cordero .237 and Wil Myers .206. Cordero is the only left-handed batter. Renfroe finished strong in 2018, his second full MLB tour, and wound up at .248 with 26 homers. His power – and his arm in either right field or left – should keep him in the mix for playing time this year. Still, a strong finish to the Cactus League season wouldn’t hurt. … Meanwhile, Taylorsville High alumnus Billy Hamilton is having a good spring with his new club, Kansas City. Signed in large part for the defense he’ll provide in center field, the speedy Hamilton is batting .333 (.391 on-base percentage) with six doubles, seven runs and four steals in 16 games. Hamilton’s weak bat ultimately made him expendable in Cincinnati.

18 Mar

roster rumination

Despite his fine spring numbers, former Southern Miss standout Cody Carroll was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk by Baltimore over the weekend. Carroll, who made his big league debut for the Orioles last summer, has a 2.57 ERA and three saves in seven Grapefruit League games. The right-hander likely will get another shot with the O’s sometime this season. Other Mississippi-connected 40-man roster players already optioned out include: Bobby Bradley (Cleveland), Jacob Waguespack (Philadelphia) and Justin Steele (Chicago Cubs). … Anthony Alford is expected to be sent out by Toronto, but the outfielder, having a productive spring, is poised for a recall. Pitchers Dakota Hudson (St. Louis), Cody Reed (Cincinnati), Chris Stratton (San Francisco) and Spencer Turnbull (Detroit) are still battling for roster spots and/or roles, and veteran right-hander Louis Coleman remains in Detroit’s camp as a non-roster invitee. Lefty Reed, a starter at the end of last season, was shifted to the bullpen by Cincinnati midway through camp. Hudson, slated to start today against Philadelphia, is vying for the final role in the Cardinals’ rotation after Carlos Martinez was shut down. Stratton, up and down with the Giants last year, is again a rotation candidate, and Turnbull, a rookie in 2018, has made a strong bid to crack the Tigers’ rotation. … Brandon Woodruff, yet to allow a run in three spring starts on the heels of his strong postseason, appears to have won a job in Milwaukee’s rotation. … Jarrod Dyson, sidelined early in camp by an oblique injury, made his first appearance for Arizona on Sunday; the veteran’s status for the Opening Day roster was clouded a bit when the Diamondbacks signed Adam Jones. … Bobby Wahl will start the season on the injured list for Milwaukee. Wahl tore an ACL while throwing a pitch in early March and likely will be out until September if not the entire season. The Ole Miss alum was acquired in an off-season trade with the New York Mets. … Kendall Graveman, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, will be on the IL for the Cubs for most of the season.

12 Mar

heat check

Entering Monday’s Cactus League game as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning, ex-Mississippi State star Jack Kruger announced his presence with authority, smashing a three-run home run. In the ninth, he added a three-run triple, helping the Los Angeles Angels beat Texas 12-11. Kruger, a catcher and the Angels’ No. 24 prospect (MLB Pipeline), is in camp as a non-roster invitee and is batting .400. “He’s just growing as an offensive player,” Angels skipper Brad Ausmus told mlb.com. Kruger reached Double-A Mobile last summer and hit. 304. Also in that Monday game, East Mississippi Community College product LeDarius Clark went 2-for-2 with a double, two runs and an RBI for Texas. He has been in the big camp as a minor leaguer after playing in A-ball in 2018. … Elsewhere in Arizona and Florida: Richton High alum JaCoby Jones went 2-for-2 with a homer for Detroit and is batting .269 this spring. … Ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton, batting leadoff for Kansas City, went 1-for-3 with a steal and is hitting .296. … MSU product Chris Stratton, vying for a job in San Francisco’s rotation, worked four innings, yielding one run and trimming his ERA to 5.40. … Nate Lowe, another State alumnus, went 0-for-4 and saw his average drop to .094 for Tampa Bay; he is in camp as a non-roster invitee after a monster 2018 minor league campaign. … Former Southern Miss star Brian Dozier took an 0-for-3 for Washington and is at .182 for his new club. … DeSoto Central product Austin Riley, a non-roster invitee in Atlanta’s camp, went 0-for-2 and is at .233. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Braxton Lee, getting time with the New York Mets as a minor leaguer, drew a walk in his lone at-bat and is hitting .182. He was waived in the off-season by Miami, for whom he made his MLB debut last April. P.S. Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart, sidelined with a calf strain, announced that he is “100 percent” sure he’ll be ready for Opening Day with the Angels.

11 Mar

coming attraction

Cristian Pache arrived in Mississippi with modest fanfare last summer. If he starts 2019 with the Mississippi Braves, as he is expected to do, there will be much more hubbub. Pache, only 20, has been starring in Atlanta’s big league camp, batting .455 (10-for-22) with two homers and eight RBIs. He hit the bombs on Friday and Saturday in Grapefruit League action. And keep in mind that it’s his defense in center field that is considered to be his best skill. “This kid just keeps doing it,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said in an mlb.com story. “He just keeps improving. It’s been a good camp for him.” The Dominican Republic native is rated Atlanta’s No. 4 prospect and No. 37 overall by MLB Pipeline. He was named to the Arizona Fall League’s All-Prospect team last fall and is a two-time organization All-Star for the Braves. He lists at 6 feet 2, 185 pounds and reportedly has added some weight. In 29 games for the Double-A M-Braves last year, Pache hit .260 with one homer, cooling off after a hot start. He figures to be the centerpiece of the 2019 club, which begins play April 4 on the road with the home opener slated April 10 at Trustmark Park. Pache might not be in Pearl very long. As Snitker said, “If you’re at Double-A, you’re in play.” P.S. Former DeSoto Central (and M-Braves) star Austin Riley played some first base in Atlanta’s game on Sunday. Riley, the team’s No. 5 prospect as a third baseman, also has been rumored to possibly see some outfield duty at Triple-A Gwinnett this season.

10 Mar

fighting doubt

Most projections don’t have Anthony Alford making Toronto’s opening day roster. The former Mr. Baseball is doing his best to change that. Alford hit his fourth home run of the spring on Saturday, his third in two days. He is batting .286 with seven RBIs and two steals, including one he got Saturday. Though his rank on the Blue Jays’ prospect charts has tumbled, the 24-year-old outfielder still possesses tantalizing five-tool talent and, apparently, the right mindset. “I’ve always had people doubt me,” Alford told The Toronto Star early this month. “Saying, ‘Oh, he can’t make it out of here,’ because nobody makes it out of where I came from.” The Columbia native and Petal High product overcame some obstacles in his early life before sports opened doors for him. He played football at Southern Miss and Ole Miss before opting to pursue a pro baseball career. He spent most of 2018 — his fourth season since fully committing to baseball — in Triple-A. Alford has shown flashes of finding it in the minors, batting .265 with 26 homers and 92 steals over 413 games, but has managed to get only 27 MLB at-bats. It would seem that something needs to happen this year.

08 Mar

ready to rumble

Tim Anderson, the former East Central Community College star, is playing like a man on a mission in the Cactus League this spring. He went 2-for-3 on Thursday and is now 11-for-22 with a homer, six RBIs and five runs for the Chicago White Sox. When the White Sox were courting Manny Machado, there was speculation that Anderson would lose his shortstop job to the touted free agent. The outspoken Anderson, the team’s starter at short since 2016, wasn’t about to just step aside. “He knew what he could do, and he was going … to show everybody that he was going to hold on to that particular position,” ChiSox manager Rick Renteria recently told the Northwest (Chicago) Herald. Machado signed with San Diego. The White Sox will be just fine at shortstop, as Anderson himself would tell you. “(T)he sky’s the limit. I’m excited where I’m at and the direction I’m headed,” he told the Northwest Herald. He hit .240 with 20 homers and 26 steals last season. … Mississippi State product Adam Frazier and Meridian CC alum Corey Dickerson, top-of-the-order hitters in Pittsburgh’s lineup, also have hit the ground running this spring. Frazier homered Thursday and is 2-for-5 in his two games, while Dickerson is 5-for-9 in three games after a 2-for-3 day in the Grapefruit League. P.S. After finishing last season on the disabled list, there’s a chance ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart will start this season on what is now being called the injured list. Vying this spring to start at either third base or second for the Los Angeles Angels, Cozart has been diagnosed with a Grade 1 left calf strain and reportedly will be out for a few weeks. The season starts March 28. Cozart, 33, was scratched from the Angels’ lineup with tightness in his calf last Sunday and is receiving treatment. He played just 58 games in 2018 – after signing as a free agent — because of a left shoulder injury that required surgery. Early in camp, he was rarin’ to go. “I was actually shocked, in a good way, how good I felt so early,” he told the Orange County Register just after reporting. “It’s doing great.” The calf injury is quite a blow.

05 Mar

spring flings

There was an under-the-radar Mississippi baseball aficionados moment late in the St. Louis-Detroit Grapefruit League game on Monday: The Tigers’ Kade Scivicque, a former Southwest Mississippi Community College star, took ex-Ole Miss standout Mike Mayers deep in the eighth inning. (Detroit won the game 9-5, but no one really cares about that.) It was the first hit in four at-bats of the spring for Scivicque, in Detroit’s camp as a non-roster invitee. An All-SEC catcher at LSU, he was drafted in the fourth round by the Tigers in 2015, traded to Atlanta (spending some time with the Mississippi Braves), released and re-signed by Detroit (twice). He’s a .268 career hitter in the minors, having reached Triple-A. Mayers, a third-round pick by St. Louis in 2013, has a 6.75 ERA in three spring appearances. He spent most of 2018 in the big leagues, posting a 4.70 ERA with two wins, a save and six holds in 50 games, and figures to land a bullpen job again this season. … Delta State product Trent Giambrone, in the Chicago Cubs’ camp as a non-roster player, went 0-for-1 with a walk and two runs on Monday; he is 7-for-16 this spring with a .471 on-base average, two homers, three RBIs and four runs. … Former Harrison Central High standout Bobby Bradley, in Cleveland’s camp as a 40-man roster member for the first time, went 0-for-1 as a sub and has gotten just three at-bats this spring. He’ll likely be back in Triple-A. … Ex-Ole Miss star Aaron Barrett, making a valiant comeback attempt with Washington, worked a scoreless inning, cutting his ERA to 12.00 in three appearances. Barrett has endured myriad injuries (see previous posts) since his last MLB game in 2015. … Itawamba CC alum Tim Dillard, 35 and in his 18th pro season, suffered a blown save for Texas and saw his ERA climb to 23.14 in three outings. Dillard, son of ex-big leaguer Steve, last pitched in the majors in 2012 with Milwaukee, which drafted him in 2002.

04 Mar

catching up

When the first NJCAA Division II poll comes out on Tuesday, look for Jones County Junior College to jump in there somewhere. The Bobcats, unranked in the preseason poll, are 10-0 and beat top-ranked LSU-Eunice over the weekend. O’Neil Burgos is batting .385 with 10 RBIs and 12 runs for the Bobcats, and Lane Thomas is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA. JCJC is the lone unbeaten team in the MACJC ranks; Holmes is 9-1 and Itawamba 8-1. … Mississippi State, now 10-1, moved to No. 8 from ninth in today’s Baseball America NCAA D-I poll, with Ole Miss (8-2) rising from 13th to 12th. State moved from 12th to seventh in the new NCBWA poll, while UM stayed at No. 10. … Going the other way is Southern Miss, which lost twice to Gonzaga over the weekend – a big lead in Game 3 was washed out — to fall to 4-5. … Mississippi Valley State scored three runs in the eighth and another in the 10th – on a passed ball — to win at Alabama State 12-11 on Saturday for its first win of the season. … Blue Mountain’s Eli Jackson, a sophomore from New Albany, threw a one-hit (nine-inning) shutout at Martin Methodist on Friday, fanning 11 in the 1-0 victory, BMC’s SSAC opener. The teams split a Saturday twinbill. … Mississippi College endured a rough weekend, losing three at West Florida to fall to 10-7, 3-3 Gulf South, and William Carey got swept away at NAIA No. 4 Faulkner to drop to 4-10, 0-3 SSAC. … In MLB, former Ole Miss star Chris Ellis’ bid to stick with Kansas City as a Rule 5 pick took another hit on Sunday when he yielded eight hits (two homers) and seven runs in two innings against Cleveland in Cactus League play. Ellis, also a former Mississippi Braves hurler, has a 20.25 ERA this spring. He was drafted out of St. Louis’ organization by Texas and then traded to the Royals. … UM alum Drew Pomeranz, now pitching for San Francisco, got knocked around (four runs in three innings) on Saturday by San Diego but did manage to retire Manny Machado on a pop-up in his first at-bat with the Padres. … Starkville native Julio Borbon, a onetime big leaguer who played college ball at Tennessee, announced his retirement over the weekend.

01 Mar

it’s all good

Bryce Harper’s flirtation with San Francisco had put Giants pitcher Chris Stratton on alert. The former Mississippi State standout wears No. 34, which is Harper’s number. As you might’ve heard, Harper spurned the Giants and chose to sign with Philadelphia on Thursday. “Not gonna lie, I’m a little disappointed because maybe I could have gotten a Rolex or something like that,” Stratton told mlb.com. Now that he knows he’s keeping his number, Stratton will continue to work on keeping a job in the Giants’ rotation. He pitched well on Thursday, throwing three scoreless innings against Milwaukee in his second Cactus League outing. Stratton, 28, had an up-and-down 2018 campaign, going 10-10 with a 5.09 ERA and spending some time in the minors. The former first-round pick is 15-14, 4.63 over three MLB seasons. His competition in Giants camp includes Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz, a free agent signee who has made one spring appearance to date. … Several other former Mississippi college pitchers did positive work on Thursday: Ex-State star Jonathan Holder retired all four batters he faced and notched a win for the New York Yankees against Pittsburgh. Brandon Woodruff, another former Bulldogs standout, made his first appearance for Milwaukee and pitched a shutout inning against Cincinnati despite issuing three walks. Southern Miss product Conor Fisk, in Toronto’s camp as a minor leaguer, pitched a scoreless inning vs. Philadelphia, his third appearance without yielding a run.

28 Feb

two for the show

In their one season together at Mississippi State, Brent Rooker and Nate Lowe showed flashes of the tool – power — that has propelled them to the doorstep of the major leagues. In 2016, Rooker hit 11 home runs for the Bulldogs, and Lowe belted five. Lowe was drafted by Tampa Bay that summer and exploded as a prospect in 2018, rising from A-ball to Triple-A while hitting 27 homers all told. Rooker was drafted by Minnesota in 2017 – after hitting 23 homers for State and winning the SEC Triple Crown – and made it to Double-A last year. He hit 22 bombs for Chattanooga. By some cosmic coincidence, Rooker and Lowe hit their first homers in Grapefruit League play on Wednesday. Rooker went yard against Philadelphia in Clearwater, Fla., a two-run, seventh-inning shot that carried the Twins to a 4-2 win. Lowe, a lefty hitter, blasted a tape-measure homer against Boston in Port Charlotte. Neither is on their club’s 40-man roster, but both appear on the brink of breaking through, especially Lowe. “He might be ready now,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said in an mlb.com article after Wednesday’s game. “He’s definitely making a good impression.”