25 Aug

brace yourself

Ready or not, MLB’s Players Weekend arrives today, complete with alternate uniforms, funky accessories and, for some players, nicknames on their backs. Many traditionalists will be cringing. Here’s a sampling of what Mississippians will be wearing: Billy Hamilton is “Bone,” Zack Cozart is “Coach,” Drew Pomeranz is “Big Smooth,” Tim Anderson is “B. Moss” (in honor of a childhood friend killed earlier this year), Mitch Moreland is “2-Bags,” Kendall Graveman is “Digger,” Brian Dozier is “Doz,” and Tyler Moore is “T-Mo.” Jarrod Dyson was slated to wear “Zoombiya” (from his twitter handle) but is on the disabled list, as is Bobby “Peanut” Wahl. Seth Smith, whose unofficial nickname is “Dad” (after the character on American Dad), is sticking with “Smith.” Good call. P.S. Amidst all the shouting and brawling and ejecting at Comerica Park on Thursday, JaCoby Jones, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton High, had a good day for Detroit: 2-for-4, two RBIs and a stolen base. … Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland homered twice for Boston in its loss to Cleveland and now has 17 on the season, three in the last two days. … Ex-Meridian Community College star Corey Dickerson went deep for Tampa Bay in a win against Toronto. Dickerson has 24 homers. … J.T. Ginn, a pitcher/infielder at Brandon High, made the 20-man roster for USA Baseball’s Under-18 World Cup team. The team will compete in the tournament in Thunder Bay, Canada, from Sept. 1-10. Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray was among the 40 finalists invited to the national trials. Ginn, 6 feet 2, 200 pounds, a Mississippi State commit, was 5-1 with a 1.78 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings for Brandon in 2017. He also hit .483 with 16 homers.

17 Aug

hot stuff

Red-hot Alex Jackson banged out a couple more hits, including a home run, in the Mississippi Braves’ loss to Pensacola at Trustmark Park on Wednesday night. He is 10-for-23 with two bombs and seven RBIs in his last five games. If you follow the MLB draft – and who doesn’t, right? – you may remember the name Alex Jackson. In 2014, he was a high school phenom in San Diego, a big masher considered to be one of the best hitters available, a possible No. 1 overall pick. Seattle took him with the sixth selection, and for two years he sat atop their prospect chart. For whatever reason, the Mariners soured on Jackson. After the 2016 season, when he hit .243 with 11 homers and 103 strikeouts in low-A ball, the M’s traded Jackson to Atlanta in a minor league deal. Seattle had converted the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Jackson from catcher to the outfield; the Braves moved him back behind the plate, a switch Jackson reportedly was eager to make. He started 2017 at high-A Florida, hit .270 with 14 homers and 45 RBIs in 66 games and began to revive some of the old hype. He was promoted to Double-A on July 30. After a slow start, Jackson’s recent surge has raised his average to .239 in 12 games. … Also on fire for the M-Braves is Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High star who was a first-round supplemental pick in 2015. The 20-year-old third baseman, who also started 2017 at Florida, is hitting .364 with two homers and 10 RBIs over his last 10 games and is at .276 with four homers in 29 Double-A games. … And up at Triple-A Gwinnett, Ronald Acuna, the Braves’ No. 1 prospect, is batting .341 with seven homers and is banging on the big-league door. The 19-year-old outfielder, who also started this season in A-ball, blew through Mississippi, hitting .326 with nine bombs in 57 games. P.S. Madison Central product Spencer Turnbull, pitching in the Detroit system, got roughed up in his Double-A debut on Wednesday night. He allowed six hits, five walks and six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings for Erie in the Eastern League. The 2014 second-round pick out of Alabama was 7-3 with a 3.05 ERA in high-A ball this season.

09 Aug

coming up big

The home run was big, but the single proved bigger for Bobby Bradley on Tuesday night. Bradley, the ex-Harrison Central High star, delivered a walk-off hit in the ninth inning for Akron in a 4-3 win against New Hampshire in the Double-A Eastern League. Bradley hit his 19th homer in the sixth, helping the Rubber Ducks rally from a 3-0 deficit. The lefty-hitting first baseman, 21, one of Cleveland’s highest-rated prospects, is batting .242 with 73 RBIs in his Double-A debut. Bradley has a .335 on-base percentage thanks in part to 49 walks, and he has cut down on strikeouts (95 in 364 at-bats) this year. He is slugging .456. A third-round pick by the Indians in 2014, he has blasted 83 homers in his four pro seasons. He’s getting close. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford, one of Toronto’s top prospects, was in New Hampshire’s lineup and went 1-for-4. Alford, 23, batting .308 in his first Class AA campaign, got a cup of coffee in the majors earlier this season before an injury knocked him back to the minors. He’ll likely return to the Blue Jays next month. P.S. Former Ole Miss and Mississippi Braves standout Chris Ellis notched his second straight win for Springfield, St. Louis’ Double-A club in the Texas League, on Tuesday. Ellis, who scuffled at Triple-A Memphis to start 2017, is 4-6, 3.60 ERA at Springfield. … Mississippi State product Zac Houston recently was elevated from low-A to high-A ball in the Detroit system. The 6-foot-5 right-hander, a 2016 draftee, has thrown 2 2/3 scoreless innings in his two appearances for Lakeland, where he has joined fellow Mississippians Will Allen, Jake Robson and Spencer Turnbull.

27 Jul

moving forward

Injuries have dogged former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull for the past two seasons and caused his prospect status to dip. When he’s healthy – as he apparently was on Wednesday – Turnbull looks like a future big leaguer. The 24-year-old right-hander, pitching for Class A Lakeland in the Detroit system, allowed just one hit and one run in seven innings of work to improve to 5-3 with a 3.67 ERA in 12 starts. It was his third start for the Flying Tigers since he returned from a stint on the disabled list with elbow tendinitis. Turnbull missed a chunk of 2016 with a shoulder problem. “(Y)ou always face adversity in this game,” he told milb.com, “so you just have to take it and move forward as quickly as you can. I’m just happy to be back.” A second-round pick out of Alabama in 2014, Turnbull (17-10, 3.43 career) is currently rated the Tigers’ No. 25 prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was No. 12 last year. In Wednesday’s game, he retired Mississippi State product Brent Rooker twice; Rooker, a first-round supplemental pick by Minnesota in June, is batting .194 for Fort Myers. Turnbull’s Lakeland teammate Jake Robson, another ex-Bulldogs star, had two hits and boosted his average to .333. P.S. Jackson State alum Bryce Brown, a 15th-round pick in June by Tampa Bay, leads the rookie Appalachian League with 12 stolen bases in 28 games. He stole 27 bases this past season at JSU while batting .374. … Houlka native Tyreque Reed is riding a five-game hit streak and batting .351, which amazingly ranks just seventh in the rookie Arizona League. Reed, a .500 hitter at Itawamba Community College this season, was an eighth-round pick by Texas.

20 Jul

whatever happened to …

JaCoby Jones, the former Richton High star, is, for the foreseeable future, stuck at Triple-A Toledo in the Detroit organization. After the Tigers traded J.D. Martinez on Tuesday and needed another outfielder, Jim Adduci got the call, not Jones, the Tigers’ ninth-rated prospect. Detroit manager Brad Ausmus told the Detroit Free Press there “was no thought” given to bringing Jones back up. “We want JaCoby to play every day down there at Triple-A, get at-bats on a regular basis,” Ausmus said. Jones is hitting .239 with eight homers and 30 RBIs for the Mud Hens. The 25-year-old fifth-year pro began the season as Detroit’s center fielder and was the first Mississippian to homer in the big leagues in 2017. That was on April 4. That remains his only homer in 22 MLB games this year. He was batting just .150 in late April when he was struck in the mouth by a pitch and went on the disabled list. A rehab assignment at Toledo became a regular assignment; he was recalled briefly in late May, going back down on June 6. Jones, 6 feet 2, 205 pounds, has shown power (55 homers) and speed (64 steals) in his minor league career, which began in the Pittsburgh system. He also has versatility, capable of playing shortstop and third base. But the Tigers seem to feel he needs more – and better – at-bats at Toledo to rate another shot at The Show.

06 Jul

on the spot

Chris Stratton, the ex-Mississippi State star from Tupelo, got knocked around early in his first big league start today but soldiered on for 6 2/3 innings in San Francisco’s 6-2 loss at Detroit. Stratton, making his third appearance this year and 10th of his career, was a late fill-in for Johnny Cueto, reportedly learning about an hour before the game that he was getting the ball at Comerica Park. He was touched for six hits and five runs in the first three innings; Ole Miss product Alex Presley had two hits and two RBIs for the Tigers. Stratton allowed just three baserunners thereafter. Though he was saddled with the loss for the last-place Giants (34-53), he likely earned some points with his 106-pitch effort. A first-round pick in 2012, when he was the SEC pitcher of the year for the Bulldogs, Stratton has had his ups and downs in the minors, posting a 37-34 record with a 4.11 ERA. He was 3-5, 5.71 in 12 starts at Triple-A Sacramento this season before coming up on Saturday for his second big league stint of this year.

17 May

down on the farm

JaCoby Jones, trying to work his way back to The Show, is hitting .250 with a homer, six RBIs and 11 runs in 16 games at Triple-A Toledo in the Detroit system. Former Richton High star Jones, who started the season in the big leagues, was batting just .150 when he was hit in the mouth by a pitch on April 22 and landed on the 10-day disabled list. The Tigers sent the 25-year-old rookie outfielder on a rehab assignment to Toledo, then optioned him to the Mud Hens’ roster on May 7. Jones is one of a batch of players with Mississippi connections toiling in the Tigers’ farm system. Also at Toledo is Ole Miss alum Alex Presley, the veteran big leaguer who re-signed a minor league deal with Detroit in the off-season. Presley, an outfielder, is hitting .206 with a homer and eight RBIs in 33 games. At high Class A Lakeland, there’s ex-Madison Central standout Spencer Turnbull, a 2014 draftee out of Alabama. Turnbull had perhaps his best outing of 2017 on Tuesday, throwing seven shutout innings to move his record to 3-2 and drop his ERA to 4.32. Former Ole Miss star Will Allen, also a 2014 draft pick, is the first baseman at Lakeland. He is batting .226 with five homers (matching his entire 2016 total) and 14 RBIs. At low-A West Michigan we find Jacob Robson, an eighth-round pick out of Mississippi State last summer whose star appears to be rising quickly. Robson, a lefty-hitting outfielder, is batting .338 with 13 RBIs and 25 runs in 37 games for the Whitecaps.