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.”
Three Mississippi products reached the 20-home run plateau in the big leagues in 2018, and there’s more Magnolia State power on the way. Four Mississippi prep or college alumni are rated by MLB Pipeline as the No. 1 power prospect in their big league organization. DeSoto Central High grad Austin Riley, Harrison Central product Bobby Bradley and ex-Mississippi State stars Brent Rooker and Nathaniel Lowe, each on the cusp of making the majors, made the list. MLB Pipeline’s writers note that the choices were made based on “usable” power, not just “raw” power. Atlanta prospect Riley hit 19 home runs in 2018, six for the Double-A Mississippi Braves before moving to Triple-A, and slugged .522. He could be the Braves’ third baseman by next spring. Bradley belted 27 homers between Double-A and Triple-A in Cleveland’s system and has 114 round-trippers in five pro seasons. Rooker hit 22 home runs in Double-A for Minnesota after blasting 18 in his pro debut in 2017. Lowe, a Tampa Bay prospect, hit 27 homers and slugged .568 over three levels of the minors, finishing in Triple-A in an amazing breakout season. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see all four of them in The Show at some point in 2019. P.S. In the 2018 All-Mississippi Home Run Derby in MLB, Hunter Renfroe, the former State star from Crystal Springs, led the way with 26 homers. Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier hit 21 and East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson whacked 20.
The high of his first career double, which drove home three runs, did not last for Chris Stratton. The Mississippi State alum, whose primary job is pitcher, gave all the runs back and more in the bottom of the same inning and took a loss as San Francisco fell to San Diego 8-4 on Wednesday night. It’s been a season of highs and lows – including two trips to the minors — for Stratton, now 10-10 with a 4.88 ERA. In his previous start, he threw a two-hit shutout against Colorado. The start before that he yielded four runs in five innings vs. Milwaukee. “That’s baseball. You have to battle with what you have that day,” the Tupelo native told mlb.com. … Ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier got a lift from his first RBI since Sept. 4, helping the Los Angeles Dodgers beat Colorado and tighten their grip on first place in the National League West. The scuffling Dozier is batting .218, .189 for the Dodgers. … Former State standout Adam Frazier hit his ninth homer and Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson went 2-for-3 with a run as Pittsburgh beat Kansas City 2-1. Dickerson is on an 8-for-20 roll, lifting his average to .294, 12th in the NL. … Wednesday was a blend of high and low for Spencer Turnbull, the ex-Madison Central High star who made his first big league start for Detroit. After a clean first inning, he gave up four runs in the second inning and six all told in four innings of work against Minnesota, which won 8-2. “I’m sure I’ll get better from it,” Turnbull said in an mlb.com story. He was 24-21, 3.59 ERA in 90 starts in the minors. P.S. The 2016 Mississippi Braves’ roster included the likes of Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, Dansby Swanson, Sean Newcomb, A.J. Minter and Mallex Smith. It’s easy to forget that Willians Astudillo was also on that club – and batted .267 with four homers and 30 RBIs as one of the primary catchers. Astudillo is now getting a lot of attention in the big leagues with Minnesota. Nicknamed “El Tortuga” (The Turtle), the 5-foot-9, 225-pound Astudillo is hitting .317 with three homers and 14 RBIs for the Twins. He has hustled his way into several popular highlights.
Brian Dozier made a splashy debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 1, homering in his first game after being acquired in a trade with Minnesota. Then the former Southern Miss star went deep again in his second game. Through eight games with his new club Dozier was batting .307 with three homers. Alas, the hot start has given way to a bitter cold snap. After taking an 0-for-3 in a loss to Colorado on Saturday – before being lifted for a pinch hitter — Dozier is in an 0-for-21 slump. Over his last 15 games, he is 6-for-51. In 33 games with the Dodgers, Dozier is batting just .191 with four homers and 16 RBIs. The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday that Dozier has been dealing since April with a knee injury that has affected his swing. He said he has declined to take any time on the disabled list, which would be a first in his career. “That’s not me,” he told the Times. “I’m still trying to find ways to be productive.” Dozier is a gamer. The Dodgers are in the thick of a battle royale in the National League West. They trail first-place Colorado by a 1.5 games heading into today’s rubber game of a three-game set. The Rockies are starting left-hander Tyler Anderson, meaning the right-handed Dozier will probably start. Don’t bet against him finding ways to be productive, if not today then surely down the stretch. The Dodgers may yet get a Dozier bump.
For any fan of the game, this is a pretty cool confluence of events: Former Mississippi State star Brent Rooker comes to Trustmark Park in Pearl, where, assuming he is in tonight’s lineup for Chattanooga, he’ll likely face Ian Anderson, the No. 3 prospect in Atlanta’s system who is expected to make his Double-A debut for the Mississippi Braves. Rooker, in his second pro season after a decorated career at State, is batting .271 with 21 home runs and 71 RBIs. He is rated the No. 7 prospect in Minnesota’s system, primarily based on his power potential. He hit 18 homers at two levels in the lower minors in 2017. Anderson, 20, a slender right-hander, was the third overall pick in the 2016 draft out of a New York high school. He was 2-6 with a 2.52 ERA at Class A Florida with 118 strikeouts in 100 innings and a .198 batting average against. In his last six games, he posted a 0.77 ERA. Hence, the promotion. Rooker is hitting just .200 with one homer over his last 10 games. He went 4-for-17 with five strikeouts in a series against the M-Braves in Chattanooga Aug. 2-6. The M-Braves’ rotation has been a revolving door much of the season, caused mainly by top prospects moving up. (See: Touki Toussaint, Bryse Wilson, Kyle Wright.) And yet the current group can be quite formidable. Left-hander Ricardo Sanchez, Wednesday’s probable starter, has been on the prospect radar for several years and is currently the Braves’ No. 27. Enderson Franco (5-7, 3.89), slated for Thursday, was the Southern League pitcher of the week for July 30-Aug. 5. And recent addition Kyle Muller, expected to start Friday, is the Braves’ No. 11 prospect. He has won both of his Double-A starts. P.S. Toussaint, who got the win for Atlanta in his MLB debut on Monday, is the 12th M-Braves alum to make the big leagues this year. The others: Jesse Biddle, Ronald Acuna, Mike Soroka, Dustin Peterson, Evan Phillips (now with Baltimore), Wes Parsons, Willians Astudillo (Minnesota), Michael Reed (previously up with Milwaukee), Kolby Allard, Adam McCreery and Chad Sobotka.
It’ll take a little getting used to. Brian Dozier is not a Minnesota Twin anymore. The former Southern Miss star has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. And as much as Dozier professed his love for the Twins organization over the years, this move gives him a realistic chance at making it to the World Series this fall. Dozier, who had been in the Minnesota system for all 10 of his pro seasons, isn’t having a huge year by his standards — .224, 16 homers – but he’s a definite upgrade at second base for the Dodgers. And if he isn’t happy there, hey, he’ll be a free agent at season’s end. … In a (much) less-heralded deal, former Ole Miss pitcher Jacob Waguespack, who was in Triple-A with Philadelphia, was dealt to Toronto for Aaron Loup. Waguespack is 4-6 with a 4.68 ERA this season between Double-A and Triple-A.
Last week was a good week in Brent Rooker’s world. The ex-Mississippi State standout, now playing at Double-A Chattanooga, went 13-for-26 with seven walks, three home runs and seven RBIs. Today, he was named Southern League Player of the Week and made MLB Pipeline’s minor league Team of the Week at first base. Rated the No. 7 prospect in Minnesota’s system – up from 8th – by MLB Pipeline last week, the second-year pro is batting .277 with 20 homers, an SL-best 67 RBIs and 56 runs in 100 games. Though he has fanned 121 times, he is slugging .522. MSU fans might want to circle the date Aug. 14 – and keep their fingers crossed. That’s when Chattanooga arrives at Trustmark Park to play the Mississippi Braves in a five-game series.
Though he is not heading to the MLB All-Star Game, Brian Dozier put on a star-worthy performance in his final game before the break. The Southern Miss product smacked a walk-off grand slam Sunday to give Minnesota a wild 11-7 win over Tampa Bay. He had five RBIs all told and scored a run by drawing a balk. The victory wrapped up a 9-2 homestand for the Twins, who are scrapping to stay in playoff contention. “I love it,” Dozier said in a postgame TV interview. The subject of trade speculation, Dozier hit .321 with three homers and 10 RBIs over the last seven games of the first half. He leads all Mississippians in the majors with 16 homers and 48 RBIs. East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox has 13 homers, and ex-Mississippi State standout Mitch Moreland – who is headed to the All-Star Game – has 11 for Boston. Moreland is second to Dozier among Mississippians with 46 RBIs and second to Meridian CC alum Corey Dickerson of Pittsburgh in batting average, .278 to .306. Dickerson, a 2017 All-Star with Tampa Bay, went 2-for-5 with his seventh homer on Sunday. … Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, with Cincinnati, has 22 steals, one more than Anderson. … The break may have come at a bad time for State product Hunter Renfroe, who homered on Saturday and Sunday for San Diego to boost his season total to seven. He hit 26 in 2017, when he played more regularly. P.S. Dakota Hudson threw a clean inning and fellow MSU alum Nate Lowe went 1-for-2 with an RBI in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game in Washington, D.C. … Down on the farm, Gulfport’s Bobby Bradley rated a headline on milb.com after hitting his 18th homer and diving into the stands to catch a pop fly for Double-A Akron. Bradley, a top Cleveland prospect at first base, is on an 11-game hit streak that has raised his average to .213. His homer total ranks second in the Eastern League.
Will it be the Dodgers? Red Sox? How ’bout the Brewers? There are many teams rumored to be interested in trading for Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss star currently playing second base for Minnesota. And why not? He’s a Gold Glover-caliber defender with power and, from all indications, a great clubhouse presence. He’s also a free agent after this season. While the conventional wisdom is that the Twins’ season has gone off the rails, Dozier, not surprisingly, begs to differ. “Everyone keeps talking about trade deadlines and trades and selling and all this; this game can turn in a minute,” he told the St. Paul Pioneer-Press on Tuesday. “And I have a feeling it’s turning now.” Alas, despite Dozier’s 14th homer, the Twins’ five-game win streak ended Tuesday night with a 9-4 loss at home to Kansas City, which had lost 10 straight. The Twins are 40-49, 8 1/2 games behind first-place Cleveland in the American League Central. Yes, they made an improbable rally last year to earn a wild card berth. Doing that again, considering the other contenders, would seem even more improbable. It’s much more likely they’ll trade Dozier for prospects. The Dodgers, if they don’t get Manny Machado, would seem to be a very nice fit.
Billy Hamilton’s name popped up all over the box score from Friday’s game between Cincinnati and the Chicago Cubs. The former Taylorsville High star went 3-for-3 with a walk, scored a run, was caught stealing and picked off. Hamilton is batting .222 (.304 on-base percentage) with 45 runs in 84 games for the resurgent Reds; he has 16 steals and has been caught four times. He has averaged 58 steals the past four years. … Richton High alum JaCoby Jones hit his seventh home run of the season for Detroit, taking Texas’ ageless Bartolo Colon deep in the Tigers’ 3-1 win. Jones, in his third MLB season, now has 10 career homers. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn, subject of trade rumors, threw six strong innings for Minnesota in a 6-2 win against Baltimore and moved his record to 6-7. He has a 5.21 ERA. … Northwest Mississippi Community College product Cody Reed, recalled from the minors by Cincinnati on Wednesday, was sent down on Thursday without making an appearance. … Southwest Mississippi CC alum Jarrod Dyson went on the 10-day disabled list with what was called a “lower core” injury. Reports seemed to indicate that the veteran outfielder could be out long-term. He is batting .189 with 16 bags in his first year with Arizona. … Former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland (back spasms) was held out of Boston’s game on Friday but is expected to play today. He is batting .288 with 11 homers. … Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz, on the DL for Boston since the end of May, is slated for a second rehab start tonight at Triple-A Pawtucket. Pomeranz’s first rehab start did not go well: four homers and two walks allowed in 2 2/3 innings of work. … Down on the farm, ex-DeSoto Central standout Austin Riley, on the DL at Triple-A Gwinnett in Atlanta’s system since early June, has played two rehab games in the Gulf Coast League. The third base prospect is 2-for-6 with two RBIs. He was hitting .284 with four homers and 18 RBIs when he went down with a knee injury at Gwinnett.