It’s the type of headline that compels you to click: “The best hitter you know nothing about.” The mlb.com story is a statistical analysis of the very fine 2017 season put together by St. Louis rookie Jose Martinez, a hitter whom Mississippi Braves fans actually do know something about. Martinez played right field for the 2013 M-Braves, and he stood out – and not just because he is 6 feet 6. Martinez was one of the best hitters on that team, batting .285 with six homers and 39 RBIs. He became a minor league free agent after that year, his eighth in pro ball. The Venezuela native briefly returned to the Atlanta organization – playing in A-ball — in 2014. He finally made his MLB debut in 2016 with the Cardinals – at age 28 – then broke out last summer after a swing change, batting .309 with 14 homers and 46 RBIs in 106 games. P.S. Atlanta had eight players – including No. 1 Ronald Acuna (see previous post) — in Baseball America’s new Top 100 prospects rankings, most of any organization. … Four Mississippi products made BA’s list: Austin Riley (Braves) at 54, Anthony Alford (Toronto) at 60, Brandon Woodruff (Milwaukee) at 61 and Brent Rooker (Minnesota) at 92. … Riley, the former DeSoto Central High standout, is the No. 6 third base prospect in mlb.com’s position rankings. … Ex-Picayune High star T.J. House has signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox; the veteran left-hander got some big league time with Toronto in 2017 but spent most of the season in Triple-A.
Though it was widely assumed that Andrew McCutchen would take over in center field this season for San Francisco, it is being reported by ESPN that the Giants are interested in signing free agent Mississippian Jarrod Dyson and bumping the newly acquired McCutchen to a corner spot. Former Southwest Mississippi Community College standout Dyson is an outstanding defender who batted .251 with 28 steals for Seattle in 2017. … Having gone four years without a postseason at-bat in Cincinnati, Zack Cozart surely improved his chances of a 2018 playoff appearance by signing with the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent last month. As the Ole Miss product tells it (to mlb.com), “It’s tough to beat playing with Joey Votto, but now I’m going to the Angels and probably the best player in the world (Mike Trout) is on the team, and I played against Albert (Pujols) early on when he was on the Cardinals, so I know how good he can be.” Cozart will join fellow newcomers Shohei Ohtani and Ian Kinsler on a loaded Angels club that could challenge Houston in the American League West. … Drew Pomeranz, the former Ole Miss standout who won 17 games for Boston in 2017, avoided arbitration by agreeing to a 1-year, $8.5 million contract last week. Also signing pre-arbitration deals were former Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton ($4.6M with Cincinnati) and Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson ($5.9M with Tampa Bay). … Ex-Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman has yet to reach an agreement with Oakland; he asked for $2.6M, the team offered $2.36M. … Columbia High product Ti’Quan Forbes is among a group of Chicago White Sox hitters gathered in Arizona this week for a mini-camp. Forbes, a second-round pick by Texas in 2014, was acquired by the ChiSox in a trade last summer. A 21-year-old third baseman/shortstop, Forbes is batting .242 for his pro career but hit 11 home runs in A-ball last season. … Worth noting (and reading): mlbtraderumors.com is now publishing installments of Tim Dillard’s “The Inner Monologue of @DimTillard.” The former Itawamba Community College star and onetime big leaguer, who is still an active pitcher in Milwaukee’s minor league system, is quite the entertaining fellow, as you’ll find from reading his posts. The hidden twinkies story is classic.
The sight of Tim Anderson coming to the plate likely doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of many major league pitchers. But Detroit’s Matt Boyd, one out away from a no-hitter, might rather have faced someone other than the former East Central Community College star. Anderson, a .262 hitter on the season, entered today’s game batting .429 in September and coming off his first career four-hit game for Chicago. What’s more, the right-handed hitting Anderson was 8-for-23 (.348) against left-hander Boyd over the last two seasons. He’s now 9-for-27. In the ninth, Boyd fell behind in the count 2-0, then threw a changeup, which Anderson was looking for. He sliced it into right-center field for a double, spoiling the no-no in what was otherwise an awful day for the White Sox, who lost 12-0 at Comerica Park.
On this date in 1990, former Mississippi State standout Bobby Thigpen became the first pitcher in baseball history to reach the 50-save mark. Pitching for the Chicago White Sox, Thigpen closed out a 7-4 win over Boston. He had already set the MLB record for saves in a season with his 47th on Sept. 3. Thigpen finished the 1990 season with 57 saves, a mark that stood for 18 years. Francisco Rodriguez broke it in 2008 en route to 62. Thigpen’s mark is still second on the all-time list. Only 16 pitchers have reached 50 saves in a season. Thigpen, who retired in 1994 with 201 career saves, coached in the White Sox’s system for many years and as recently as last season was the big league team’s bullpen coach.
It’s becoming clear what kind of hitter Tim Anderson is. In a word: streaky. The East Central Community College product, now the Chicago White Sox’s shortstop, went 2-for-4 on Tuesday to boost his September average to .405. Anderson batted .204 in April but rebounded to hit .319 in May. He hit a summer swoon in June and July, batting .206. He started hot in August, hitting safely in 14 of his first 16 games that month before cooling off. But he has cranked it back up in September. He has three three-hit games this month and is up to .252 for the year with 16 homers, 60 RBIs and nine steals. He hit .283 as a rookie. White Sox fans best get used to this streakiness: Anderson, drafted 17th overall out of ECCC in 2013, is signed for five more years. P.S. Some magic numbers from Tuesday: Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier hit his 30th homer, marking the second time he has reached that figure. He was a double shy of a cycle in Minnesota’s 16-0 drubbing of San Diego. … Ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart reached the 20-homer plateau for the first time, taking former Rebels teammate Lance Lynn deep. But Lynn, now 11-7, won the day as St. Louis whipped Cincinnati 13-4. … Former Mississippi Braves standout Ozzie Albies stretched his hitting streak to 10 games as Atlanta zapped Washington 8-0. Albies, the rookie second baseman, went 3-for-5 with his third homer and is hitting .293 with 18 RBIs in 39 games.
The must-see prospects on the Birmingham Barons’ roster include outfielder Eloy Jimenez, catcher Zack Collins and pitchers Alec Hansen and Spencer Adams. As the Barons visit the Mississippi Braves for a regular season-ending series, a fair number of fans in the seats will have an eye on Birmingham’s No. 20, Mason Robbins, the right fielder. A former Mr. Baseball at George County High and All-C-USA pick at Southern Miss just a few short years ago, Robbins comes to Trustmark Park swinging a hot bat. Though he is not among the Chicago White Sox’s top-rated prospects, Robbins, 24, is a .286 hitter over four pro seasons, including a .314 mark in A-ball in 2016. In his Double-A debut this year, Robbins has been up-and-down, but he is batting .300 over his last 40 at-bats and is currently at .270 with three homers, 36 RBIs and 47 runs in 120 games. The main knock on the 6-foot, 220-pound lefty hitter continues to be his lack of power as a corner outfielder: 18 homers in pro ball. But if keeps making contact (only 46 strikeouts all year), the power may yet come. Not that Robbins seems to be stressing over it. “Any time you get to wake up every morning and play baseball, it’s a fun opportunity,” he recently told Biloxi’s WLOX. P.S. Jacob Lindgren has begun throwing live batting practice, the Biloxi Sun-Herald reports. The Biloxi native and former Mississippi State standout, now in the Atlanta system, had Tommy John surgery last August. Drafted in the second round by the New York Yankees in 2014, lefty Lindgren blew through their system to reach the big leagues in 2015. He missed most of 2016 with the arm injury. The Yankees did not offer him a contract after last season, and he signed with the Braves. He has a career minor league ERA of 1.83 with 85 strikeouts in 54 innings.
Former Columbia High star Ti’Quan Forbes changed organizations as part of an under-the-radar second-deadline trade on Thursday. Forbes, 21, a second-round pick by Texas in 2014 who is still in A-ball, went to the Chicago White Sox for major league pitcher Miguel Gonzalez. “Forbes seems like an intriguing enough return for a two-hours-’til-deadline August deal, as he has some pedigree and skills,” msn.com reported. And, a fresh start might do him some good, though the 2017 minor league season is almost over. Forbes was a shortstop at Columbia when he earned Mr. Baseball honors but now plays mostly third base. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Forbes is batting .227 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 51 games for high-A Down East. He batted .242 with eight homers at low-A Hickory before being promoted. He had hit just four homers prior to this season and is at .246 for his pro career.