22 Jan

positive signs

After missing almost three full years because of two elbow surgeries, Biloxi native and onetime major leaguer Jacob Lindgren put up some good numbers in the low minors in 2019. The 26-year-old left-hander has been rewarded by the Chicago White Sox with a non-roster invitation to big league spring camp. ChiSox pitchers and catchers officially report Feb. 12. Lindgren was a second-round pick out of Mississippi State by the New York Yankees in 2014 after a junior season that saw him post a 0.81 ERA and average almost two strikeouts per inning. He made his MLB debut with the Yankees in 2015, appearing in seven games. But his career was detoured by injury the next year, when he had the first of his two Tommy John surgeries. He left the Yankees after the 2016 season, signed with Atlanta but didn’t pitch in an official game in the Braves’ system in 2017 or ’18, when he had his second surgery. The White Sox signed Lindgren as a minor league free agent last January. Once cleared to pitch, he worked at three levels and finished with a 2.83 ERA, 28 strikeouts and seven walks in 28 2/3 innings over 21 games. He’ll be a longshot to make the White Sox’s 26-man club this spring, but it must feel good just to have that opportunity. P.S. Other recent non-roster spring invitees include: Cooper Johnson (Ole Miss), Detroit; Henri Lartigue (Ole Miss), Philadelphia; Chuckie Robinson (Southern Miss), Houston; and Jacob Robson (State), Detroit.

12 Nov

reward worthy

As baseball has become awash in new-age statistics, batting average has somehow been devalued. Yet even in this era of WAR, OPS+, hard-hit rate, et al., there remains something special about a batting title. Tim Anderson, the former East Central Community College standout, won one this year in the American League, adding his name to a list that includes, just from this decade, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts and Josh Hamilton. Good company. Myriad Hall of Famers own batting titles: Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Rod Carew and Wade Boggs, to name a few. There is nothing fluky about batting average. Anderson hit .335 in 2019, becoming the first Mississippian (native or college alum) to earn a batting crown since Dave Parker won the second of his two in the National League in 1978. The only others to do it: Buddy Myer (1935) and Harry Walker (1947). Anderson, a shortstop in his fourth MLB season for the Chicago White Sox, also hit 18 home runs, drove in 56 runs, stole 17 bases and scored 81 runs. For the record, he posted a 4.0 WAR. It was the kind of season that deserves to be recognized with a Cool Papa Bell Award, given here for the most outstanding performance by a Mississippian in MLB. Previous winners of the award, which honors Negro Leagues legend Bell, the first Mississippi native to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, include Corey Dickerson (twice), Mitch Moreland, Brian Dozier (twice), Desmond Jennings, Lance Lynn, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Chris Coghlan.

18 Sep

touching the bases

On this date in 2013, Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made his first big league start for Cincinnati and flashed the skills that had so many in baseball excited about his future. Hamilton, who had already stolen five bases as a pinch runner before he got his first start, went 3-for-4 with a double, two walks, two runs, an RBI and four stolen bases as the Reds beat Houston 6-5 in 13 innings at Minute Maid Park. Hamilton led off the 13th with a walk, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Jay Bruce’s two-run double. Though he now has 298 steals – most ever by a Mississippi native – Hamilton’s inability to hit consistently (.242) has dogged his career. He is currently filling a role – and filling it well — as a pinch runner/defensive replacement for Atlanta. … With a 4-for-6 effort on Tuesday, East Central Community College alumnus Tim Anderson moved into the major league lead with a .336 batting average. The Chicago White Sox shortstop hit his 17th home run in a loss to Minnesota. The last Mississippian (native or college alum) to win a batting title was Grenada native Dave Parker, who won the National League crown in 1978 with Pittsburgh. … Corey Dickerson may have played his last game for Philadelphia. The Meridian Community College alum from McComb, a free agent after this season, went on the injured list for the Phillies on Tuesday with a broken foot. He hit .293 with eight homers and 34 RBIs in 34 games for Philly. Dickerson, a .286 career hitter, also missed a lot of time early in the season with Pittsburgh because of a shoulder injury.

26 Aug

that’s the ticket

Chicago White Sox scouting and development folks had to be smiling Sunday when they got the report on James Beard. Batting leadoff and playing center field for their rookie Arizona League club, the fourth-round pick out of Loyd Star High went 3-for-5 with a double, a triple, three runs and a stolen base. Beard, the first high school player picked out of Mississippi, was widely regarded as the fastest player in the 2019 draft. How much he would hit in pro ball was the great unknown, but Beard has flashed some bat skills of late. In his last four games, the 5-foot-10, 170-pounder is 7-for-20 with three RBIs. For the season, in 31 games, he is at .213 with two homers, 12 RBIs, 19 runs and nine bags (in 12 tries). Beard was compared to Taylorsville High product Billy Hamilton in pre-draft buzz, though, as MLB Pipeline’s scouting report now says: “Beard shows the potential to make much more impact at the plate than Hamilton.” Beard is rated the White Sox’s No. 21 prospect. … Joe Gray, the top prep pick from the state who signed in 2018, is rated the No. 10 prospect in Milwaukee’s system, but the ex-Hattiesburg High star is, like Beard, more of a project at this stage. Gray, also a center fielder, is batting .191 with two homers, six RBIs and three steals in 20 games at Rocky Mountain in the rookie-level Pioneer League. A second-round pick last year, the 6-1, 195-pound Gray batted .182 with two homers and six steals in the AZL last summer. His best tool might be his arm.

14 Aug

blast from past

Way back in 2014, he was a full-blown star at Columbia High and then a second-round draft pick by the Texas Rangers. On Tuesday, Ti’Quan Forbes was back on a ballfield in Mississippi, playing third base and banging out a couple of hits for the Double-A Birmingham Barons against the M-Braves at Trustmark Park in Pearl. He’s come a long way – but still has a ways to go on the big league highway. Forbes was the state’s Mr. Baseball as a rangy — and toolsy — shortstop at Columbia. He has filled out to 6 feet 3, 220 pounds and moved to third base but has yet to develop the power expected at that position. Batting .245 this year, his first in Double-A, Forbes has three home runs and a .332 slugging percentage in 103 games. He has a .251 career average and just 24 homers over six seasons, 11 of those bombs coming in A-ball in 2017. That was the year he was traded, in August, from Texas to the Chicago White Sox. His defense has been solid – 15 errors in 94 games at third this year – but the bat needs to perk up. Even though he is only 22 – he turns 23 on Aug. 26 – time may not be on his side much longer.

08 Aug

return to form

Tim Anderson’s breakout season, so rudely interrupted in late June by a lengthy trip to the injured list, has resumed unabated. The Chicago White Sox shortstop, a former first-round draft pick out of East Central Community College, has 14 hits in seven August games. He went 4-for-4 and scored three times in the ChiSox’s 8-1 win at Detroit on Wednesday. He is batting .323 with 12 homers, 39 RBIs and 15 steals on the season. Anderson was the American League player of the month for April – he batted .381 with six homers – and was at .317 when he went on the IL with a sprained ankle that caused him to miss most of July. Now in his fourth big league campaign, he is a .268 career hitter with 58 homers and 66 steals. Fans of the rebuilding White Sox can take heart in the fact that Anderson, 26, is under contract through at least 2022. P.S. DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley went on the IL Wednesday for Atlanta with a knee ligament injury. Of the 26 Mississippi-connected players to appear in MLB this season, 13 have spent time on the IL, and one has made two visits. What’s up with that? … Ex-Ole Miss star Mike Mayers cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Memphis by St. Louis. Right-hander Mayers, who did a lengthy IL stint this season, had a 7.24 ERA in 12 games for the Cardinals.

31 Jul

in other news

Though the benches-clearing melee will get most of the attention, they did play some baseball in Cincinnati on Tuesday. Corey Dickerson, the McComb native and ex-Meridian Community College star, drove in a career-best five runs and hit two homers to lead Pittsburgh to an 11-4 win that stopped a nine-game losing streak. Dickerson, who has battled injuries all season, appeared to stay on the fringes of the fracas in the ninth inning that resulted in multiple ejections. The lefty-hitting outfielder has played well when he’s been on the field (.317, four homers, 25 RBIs) but has appeared in just 43 games, most recently sidelined for three days by a groin problem. He also has been the subject of trade rumors, which he claimed have not been a distraction. “I’ve been so focused on my routine (and) the process of being healthy and trying to be the best version of me every day,” Dickerson told mlb.com. P.S. East Central CC alum Tim Anderson returned to the Chicago White Sox’s lineup from the injured list and went 0-for-3 with a ninth-inning sac fly in a game won by the New York Mets 5-2 in 11 innings. … Former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull began a rehab assignment for Detroit by throwing 3 2/3 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts for Triple-A Toledo. Turnbull is 3-9 with a 3.65 ERA for the Tigers.

26 Jun

newsworthy

Ethan Small made the headlines Tuesday, signing with Milwaukee for $1.8 million during a special appearance at Miller Park for the first-round draft pick. Meanwhile, far from the limelight, another ex-Mississippi State left-hander has been generating a little positive news of his own. Jacob Lindgren – remember him? – worked a scoreless inning Monday for the Arizona League White Sox. It was the third appearance in eight days in the rookie league for Lindgren, 26, who had last pitched in an official game in April 2016. Lindgren is trying to come back from two Tommy John surgeries, the most recent in March 2018. The Biloxi native was a second-round pick by the New York Yankees in 2014 after a brilliant season at State (0.81 ERA, 100 strikeouts in 55 innings) and reached the big leagues in 2015. He’s had arm problems virtually ever since. Atlanta signed him after the 2016 season, but he was never able to pitch in a game for the Braves. He became a free agent last November and signed with Chicago in January. Lindgren is technically on the Triple-A Charlotte roster, though it could be a while before he actually joins that club. P.S. On the AZL team with Lindgren is Brookhaven native James Beard, a fourth-round pick this year by the White Sox who is batting .235 in four pro games. … East Central Community College product Tim Anderson, the White Sox’s big league shortstop, is to be reevaluated today after suffering a sprained ankle in Tuesday’s game at Boston. Could be a tough blow for Anderson, who is having a career year (.317, 11 homers, 15 steals) and was the American League’s player of the month in April.

14 Jun

big league chew

With a clutch home run against the New York Yankees on Thursday, Tim Anderson achieved a notable double-double (homers and steals) for the third straight season with the Chicago White Sox. The former first-round pick out of East Central Community College belted homer No. 10, a three-run shot, in the fifth inning, tying the score at 4-4 at Guaranteed Rate Field. The ChiSox went on to win 5-4. “Those moments are the moments you want to be in. Not being afraid to fail,” Anderson, never at a loss for words, told mlb.com. He is batting .317 with 10 homers, 32 RBIs and 15 steals. He had a 20-20 double-double last year. Anderson was fourth in the latest All-Star voting results for American League shortstop, a tough crowd that includes Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Andrelton Simmons, Gleyber Torres, Xander Bogaerts and Jorge Polanco (who led the voting). … Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels became on Thursday the first Japan native to hit for the cycle in the big leagues. How many Mississippi natives have pulled off this rare feat? Five. Gulfport’s Gee Walker (opening day 1937), Moss Point’s Sam Leslie, Ellisville’s Harry Craft, Greenville’s Frank White (who did it twice) and Hattiesburg’s Fred Lewis. … Richton’s JaCoby Jones, whose hot hitting (.344 in his last 30 games) had earned him the leadoff spot in Detroit’s lineup, left Thursday’s game with an elbow contusion after an HBP. He’ll be reevaluated today, reports said. … Mississippi State product Chris Stratton reportedly will make a second rehab appearance before returning to Pittsburgh’s roster. He went on the injured list May 25 with side discomfort. He threw two innings for Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday. The veteran right-hander from Tupelo has a 5.40 ERA in four games with the Pirates after posting an 8.59 in seven appearances with the Angels before being traded.

10 Jun

where are they now?

Nick Sandlin has made a rapid ascent in the Cleveland organization. A second-round pick and the fourth player drafted out of Mississippi in 2018, the ex-Southern Miss ace was promoted to Triple-A last week and has made two relief appearances for the Columbus Clippers. He allowed two runs in his debut but worked a clean inning on Saturday. The 22-year-old right-hander posted a 1.56 ERA in 15 games at Double-A Akron this year. He climbed through four levels of the minors last summer, finishing with a 3.00 ERA and five saves. He has 67 strikeouts in 43 2/3 pro innings. Rated the No. 17 prospect in the Indians’ system by MLB Pipeline, Sandlin could make the big league team this season. … The first Mississippian chosen in 2018, Ole Miss alum Ryan Rolison, is now with Colorado’s advanced Class A Lancaster club. The lefty, the Rockies’ No. 3 prospect, is 2-2 with a 2.96 ERA in nine starts and has made the California League All-Star Game. … Forecast by many as a first-round draft pick in 2018, Mississippi State’s Konnor Pilkington slipped to the third round, where he was plucked by the Chicago White Sox. The East Central High alum, who moved from low-A Kannapolis to high-A Winston Salem in mid-May, is 1-1, 6.16 in four starts at the new level. He had a 1.62 ERA at the low-A level. … Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray, the top high school pick from the state last year who signed a pro contract (first-rounder J.T. Ginn of Brandon went to State), is already rated the No. 7 prospect in Milwaukee’s system though he has yet to play above the rookie level. The 2018 second-rounder hit .182 with two homers in 24 games in the Arizona League, playing through a bout of pneumonia. He’ll likely go to the Pioneer League this summer. “He has the tools, no doubt about it,” Rafael Neda, Gray’s manager last year, told Baseball America this spring. “He’s a really athletic kid with a high ceiling. We’ve started to see that.”