Somewhat lost in the shuffle of All-Star week is the Triple-A All-Star Game, which is set for tonight (8 p.m., MLB Network) in El Paso, Texas. It’s worth noting here because there are two Mississippi-connected players on the International League roster: Mississippi State product Brent Rooker and ex-Mississippi Braves slugger Travis Demeritte. Rooker, a third-year pro in the Minnesota Twins system, is batting .286 with 14 homers and 47 RBIs for Rochester. One of the highest rated prospects in this game (No. 7 by mlb.com), he could get a big league call-up later this summer. Demeritte, now with Gwinnett in Atlanta’s chain, is batting .301 with 18 homers and 64 RBIs. He hit 32 homers during two otherwise lackluster seasons in Pearl. The IL’s pitching coach is Jackson native and former big leaguer Stu Cliburn, who has been in Rochester for several years. P.S. In the lone MLB game on Thursday night’s slate, Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn will shoot for the American League lead in wins when he takes the mound for Texas against visiting Houston. Lynn, in his first year with the Rangers, is 11-4, 3.91 ERA. He is an impressive 93-61 career.
If there were questions about how Nick Sandlin’s stuff would play in pro ball, the former Southern Miss star has wasted little time providing answers. A second-round draft pick by Cleveland last month, Sandlin has made seven scoreless appearances, the last four for Lake County in the Class A Midwest League. His stuff certainly played in Peoria on Wednesday night, when the 5-foot-11 right-hander struck out the side, running his K total to eight in four innings for Lake County. He has allowed two hits and no walks in that stretch. He notched a save on Saturday, closing out a win for former USM teammate Kirk McCarty. Sandlin, as a starter, went 10-0 with a 1.06 ERA and 140 punchouts in 102 1/3 innings for the Golden Eagles in 2018. He won all kinds of awards. The previous two seasons, working as a closer, he posted 20 saves and 13 wins. Yet Sandlin’s size, velocity and funky delivery reportedly were concerns for pro scouts heading into the draft. The Indians took him with the 67th pick. One MLB Network analyst, lamenting the state of the Indians’ bullpen on the night of the draft, suggested Cleveland throw Sandlin directly into the mix. That wasn’t going to happen, of course, but he might not be too far away. It’s not unheard of for college pitchers to make the big leagues in their draft year. P.S. Former Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson (now in the St. Louis system) started and got the win – despite allowing a run in his one inning – for the Pacific Coast League in Wednesday’s Triple-A All-Star Game. Ole Miss alum Bobby Wahl (Oakland) got the first out in the ninth for the PCL in its 12-7 win, and USM product Cody Carroll (New York Yankees) threw a clean inning for the International League team.
Mississippi State product Jacob Robson got a hit and stole a base in his Triple-A debut for Toledo on Thursday. The lefty-hitting outfielder, an eighth-round pick by Detroit in 2016, batted .286 with seven homers, 32 RBIs and 11 steals at Double-A Erie. Robson has hit .296 with 11 homers and 48 steals in his minor league career. He joins fellow former Bulldogs star Zac Houston and Southwest Mississippi Community College alum Kade Scivicque on the Toledo team. … Ex-Southern Miss standout Cody Carroll, a New York Yankees farmhand, and State alum Dakota Hudson, in St. Louis’ system, have been selected for the Triple-A All-Star Game, set July 11 at Columbus, Ohio. Former Mississippi Braves ace Kolby Allard also made the International League team. … MSU alum Nathaniel Lowe, who was wearing out the Class A Florida State League, is doing much the same at Double-A Montgomery, Tampa Bay’s Southern League affiliate. Lowe, a left-handed swinging first baseman, is hitting .355 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 16 games for the Biscuits. He already has won an SL player of the week award and hit a walk-off homer. A third-year pro, Lowe hit .356 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs at Port Charlotte to begin 2018. … Meridian Community College standout Milton Smith Jr., a 22nd-round pick by Miami earlier this month, is 10-for-26 with six runs and three steals in seven games for the rookie Gulf Coast League Marlins. He hit .404 with 67 runs and 37 bags in 52 games for the Eagles this season. … The recent signing by Konnor Pilkington (third round, Chicago White Sox) leaves only J.T. Ginn (first round, Los Angeles Dodgers) and J.P. France (14th round, Houston) as unsigned draftees among the Mississippians picked in the first 15 rounds. Signing deadline is July 6 for most picks.
Voting ends Friday for the Triple-A All-Star Game, and if fans have been paying attention, ex-Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson should be leading the pack for Pacific Coast League starting pitcher. Hudson, with the Memphis Redbirds in St. Louis’ system, leads the PCL in wins and ERA. The 23-year-old right hander, the Cardinals’ No. 3 prospect, has won six of his last seven starts to move to 9-2 with a 2.13 ERA. Hudson doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts but, according to scouting reports, generates a lot of weak contact and ground balls with a heavy sinker. Drafted in the first round in 2016, he was the Texas League pitcher of the year in 2017 and got a non-roster invite to 2018 big league camp, where he posted a 1.86 ERA in four games. The Triple-A All-Star Game (see the ballot on milb.com) is slated for Columbus, Ohio, on July 11. Considering all the injuries the Cardinals have had in their rotation, Hudson might be in St. Louis well before then. P.S. There was a Mississippi Big 3 summit of sorts at Minnesota on Wednesday, when Mississippi State’s Mitch Moreland, Ole Miss’ Lance Lynn and Southern Miss’ Brian Dozier all took the field. Dozier, who’s been slumping (.135 his last 15 games), went 2-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI in the Twins’ 4-1 victory over Boston. Despite fighting command issues, Lynn went five innings for the win, improving to 5-5, 4.64 ERA as he pitched around three hits and five walks. Moreland got one of those hits and drew one of the walks and scored an unearned run on a throwing error. … Pittsburgh put Corey Dickerson, the former Meridian Community College standout, on the family emergency medical leave list and recalled MSU product Adam Frazier from Triple-A. … Houston produced back-to-back-to-back home runs on Wednesday, the first time the Astros have pulled that off in over 10 years. As you might have guessed, former Jackson Generals star Lance Berkman was involved in that previous trifecta.
Jackson native and ex-big leaguer Stan Cliburn will manage in the independent Atlantic League’s All-Star Game on July 13 in Lancaster, Pa. Cliburn’s Southern Maryland team won the Freedom Division title in 2015, which earned him the managerial honor even though he now skippers the New Britain Bees, who play in the Liberty Division. (So, yes, he’ll be managing against some of his own players.) … Jones County Junior College alum Mason Irby will play on the NJCAA National Team in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. Irby, a Southern Miss signee from Meridian, batted .387 with eight homers and 76 RBIs for the NJCAA Division II national champion Bobcats. He is a first-team NJCAA All-America pick and an ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove recipient as an outfielder. The NBC World Series will be held July 29-Aug. 13 at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. … Hunter Renfroe, the former Mississippi State slugger, has been chosen for the Triple-A All-Star Game, set for July 13 in Charlotte, N.C. The San Diego Padres prospect, who leads all of Triple-A with 18 home runs, already is slated to appear in the All-Star Futures Game on July 10 in San Diego. … Also on the Pacific Coast League team for the Triple-A Game are former Biloxi Shuckers star Orlando Arcia and ex-Mississippi Braves Gorkys Hernandez and James Hoyt. Onetime Jackson Mets shortstop Wally Backman is the PCL manager. Stu Cliburn, Stan’s brother and another Forest Hill High alum, is the pitching coach for the International League team; he is with Rochester in the Minnesota system. … Something about summer ball seems to suit Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker. Playing for Brewster in the Cape Cod League, Rooker is batting .391 with eight RBIs through 11 games. Rooker, who was drafted last month but apparently will return to the Bulldogs, was MVP of the New England Collegiate Baseball League last summer, when he batted .360 with 11 bombs. He’ll be in Omaha on Sunday for the College Home Run Derby, along with Ole Miss’ Colby Bortles. … Also in the Cape, Southern Miss’ Kirk McCarty is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA for Orleans. … The North Delta Dealers have had the best hand in the Cotton States League to date, winning nine of their first 10 games in the New Albany college summer loop. East Mississippi Community College’s Garrett Ainsworth is 1-0 with a save in 7 1/3 innings, while John David Kubiszyn (Auburn) is batting .462 with three homers for the Dealers.
Brian Dozier tuned up for Monday night’s Home Run Derby with a pair of bombs at Coors Field today. The former Southern Miss standout hit homers No. 17 and 18 in Minnesota’s 13-5 win over Colorado. … Both Mississippi State alum Hunter Renfroe and current Mississippi Braves star Jose Peraza got hits in today’s All-Star Futures Game, which kicked off the MLB All-Star festivities at Target Field in Minnesota. … Former M-Braves ace Julio Teheran, who pitched and beat the Cubs in Chicago today, won’t be participating in the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday and has been replaced on the National League roster. … It’s unclear whether former M-Braves star Phil Gosselin, who was summoned to the big leagues today when Dan Uggla was suspended by Atlanta for one game, will play in the Triple-A All-Star Game slated for Wednesday at Durham, N.C. Gosselin is hitting .345 with five homers and 30 RBIs for Gwinnett. Juan Jaime, a former M-Braves pitcher who has been up and down twice with the big club this year, is also on the International League roster for the Triple-A showcase.