Don’t look now, but Austin Riley – who has been getting advice from Chipper Jones this spring – is starting to hit. The ex-DeSoto Central High star went 2-for-3 with a homer today in Atlanta’s 5-1 Grapefruit League win over Toronto. After an 0-for-8 start in Florida, the 20-year-old third baseman is now 4-for-19 with two bombs, four RBIs and four runs. Riley graciously gives some credit to Jones. “It’s been an honor to be around that type of player and pick his brain about, really, the mental side of hitting and the importance of trying to get inside the pitcher’s head,” Riley told mlb.com. Riley, a top 10 Braves prospect, is in camp as a non-roster invitee. He’ll likely play at Triple-A Gwinnett this season and could make the majors in 2019. He hit .275 with 20 homers and 74 RBIs overall last season at high Class A Florida and Double-A Mississippi. For what it’s worth, he looks the part of a third baseman: 6 feet 3, 220 pounds. And he has the arm to play there.
Saturday’s marquee matchup – if there is such a thing in spring training – was the New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox game in Ft. Myers, Fla. Southern Miss product Cody Carroll got the win and Mississippi State alum Jonathan Holder the save – they combined for three scoreless innings – for the Yankees in a 5-3 victory. Ex-State star Mitch Moreland went 1-for-3 for the BoSox. They were three of the 18 Magnolia State products who appeared in spring games on Saturday. Another worth noting: Hunter Renfroe, the former Mississippi State standout from Crystal Springs, went 2-for-4 with a homer – his second of the spring – in San Diego’s win against Oakland in Arizona. Renfroe, battling to keep a job with the Padres, had an RBI single off former Bulldogs ace Kendall Graveman, who started and yielded four runs in 1 1/3 innings. Ole Miss alum Bobby Wahl also pitched in that game for the A’s. Others who showed up in the box scores: Mike Mayers, Alex Presley, Louis Coleman, Spencer Turnbull, Corey Dickerson (see previous post), Braxton Lee, Bobby Bradley, Ti’Quan Forbes, T.J. House, Billy Hamilton, Brandon Woodruff and Jack Kruger. P.S. Sad to see that Jacob Lindgren, the former St. Stanislaus High and MSU star, has been shelved with soreness in his left elbow in Atlanta’s camp. Lindgren, a second-round pick by the Yankees in 2014, made the majors in 2015 but has barely pitched the last two seasons because of injury. He had Tommy John surgery in 2016. “We’re going to make sure with him,” Braves manager Brian Snitker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about shutting Lindgren down for a time.
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.
Once he finally got his chance in the big leagues, former Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff did not disappoint. His numbers weren’t eye-popping – 2-3, 4.81 ERA in eight games last summer – but the touted prospect displayed some mettle for a Milwaukee team that was in a playoff race. “He made eight starts last year, and all of them were what we would all consider really big starts in big moments,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said in a recent mlb.com article. “I think he handled himself well.” Woodruff is currently battling as many as five other pitchers for two jobs on the Brewers’ opening day roster. He has made two Cactus League appearances, allowing two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. The Brewers are aiming to be a contender again in 2018. P.S. Tyler Moore, the former Northwest Rankin High, Meridian Community College and MSU standout, has been in the Florida camp for MLB free agents and played in Tuesday’s exhibition game against a Japanese amateur team. First baseman/outfielder Moore, 31, hit .230 with six homers in 101 games for Miami last season. He has spent parts of five seasons in the majors. … A scoring change erased a two-run single by Petal High product Anthony Alford in Toronto’s Wednesday exhibition game (see previous post). Alford is 4-for-11 in five games this spring.
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.
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.
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)