The current configuration of the Atlanta Braves’ infield should look very familiar to Mississippi Braves fans. On June 30, 2016, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson and Johan Camargo – each one a natural shortstop — were in the same lineup for the first time. Albies had returned that day from a stint in Triple-A Gwinnett to play second base with Swanson at short and Camargo at third. It was a good mix. They combined to go 8-for-13 with two RBIs and two runs as the M-Braves won at Jackson (Tenn.) 6-5. On July 4 of that year, the infield trio hit 1-2-3 in the order in their first game together at Trustmark Park. Albies, who is tearing up the National League (.286, 14 homers, 34 RBIs) for the first-place Braves, was the M-Braves’ opening day shortstop in 2016 and hit .321 with four homers and 21 steals in 82 games in Pearl. The more-heralded Swanson, the No. 1 overall pick by Arizona in 2015, joined the M-Braves in late April of 2016 when Albies was promoted to Gwinnett. Swanson played 84 games, all at short, and batted .261 with four homers and 45 RBIs. He finished that year in the big leagues. Camargo was a jack-of-all-trades in 2016: 29 games at third, 32 at short and 64 at second. The switch-hitter batted .267 with four homers and 43 RBIs, spending the whole season in Pearl. That 2016 team made the Southern League playoffs. This has the makings of a special summer in Atlanta, and June 30, 2016, might have been one of the sparks that started this flame. P.S. Ole Miss product Alex Presley, in his 13th pro season, has signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox and is on the Triple-A Charlotte roster. Presley was granted his release by Baltimore last week. The lefty-hitting outfielder is a career .263 hitter in the big leagues and has batted .289 in the minors.
Game 1 of a four-game International League series in Lawrenceville, Ga., on Monday featured the Triple-A debut of former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley, who went 1-for-5 for Atlanta affiliate Gwinnett. Game 2 could see the Class AAA debut of ex-George County High and Southern Miss standout Mason Robbins, now with Charlotte. Robbins, 25 and in his fifth pro season, was promoted by the Chicago White Sox on Monday. The left-handed hitting outfielder started this season on the disabled list but after being activated hit .350 with a homer and three RBIs in five games for Double-A Birmingham. He batted .265 with three homers in 125 games for the Barons in 2017. “I want to get more out of my swing than what I had last year,” Robbins told the Biloxi Sun-Herald in February, meaning he needs to show more power. In 2016 in high-A ball, he hit five homers with 33 doubles and seven triples while batting .314 and making the Carolina League’s postseason All-Star team. If Robbins starts tonight, he’ll face Gwinnett’s Kolby Allard, the former Mississippi Braves lefty who rates as one of Atlanta’s top prospects.
Lance Lynn did not downplay the significance of his outing for Minnesota on Saturday. “It feels like a monkey is off my back, honestly,” the ex-Ole Miss star told mlb.com. Lynn, signed as a free agent this spring to bolster the rotation of team expecting to contend, earned his first win as a Twin in an 8-4 victory over the White Sox at Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field. He pitched out of some trouble early to go six innings, allowing eight hits and two runs with seven strikeouts. He is 1-3 with a 7.28 ERA this year. His career mark, in six years with St. Louis, is 73-50, 3.49. … Former East Central Community College star Tim Anderson hit two homers for the ChiSox — neither of them off Lynn — to give him six for the season, most of any Mississippian in the majors. … Mitch Moreland, the Mississippi State product from Amory, hit his fifth homer for Boston in an 8-5 win at Texas. Moreland is batting .338 with 16 RBIs for the first-place Red Sox. Also in that game, Mississippi Braves alum Craig Kimbrel notched his 300th save, becoming the sixth former Jackson area Double-A player to hit that milestone. joining Billy Wagner, Jeff Reardon, Randy Myers, Todd Jones and Rick Aguilera on that list. Ex-MSU star Jonathan Papelbon also had 300-plus. Kimbrel reached the plateau in fewer games than any pitcher in history. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford is getting his second chance in The Show, having been recalled Saturday by Toronto. Alford, one of the Blue Jays’ highest rated prospects, was injured in spring training, one of several setbacks he has suffered in his career. He is batting just .154 in 10 games at Triple-A Buffalo. He went 1-for-8 in four big league games in 2017. Alford’s career minor league average is .269 with 21 homers and 76 steals in 317 games.
Nathaniel Lowe, a former Mississippi State standout, had a day in the Florida State League on Friday. Lowe went 4-for-5 with two home runs and six RBIs for Port Charlotte, Tampa Bay’s high Class A club. The left-handed hitting first baseman, a 13th-round pick out of State in 2016, is actually having quite a season, leading the FSL in hitting at .390 and hits with 32. He has four homers and 21 RBIs. “As long as I play like I know how to play, then everything is going to be all right,” Lowe told milb.com. He hit .348 with five homers and 49 RBIs in his one season in Starkville. Among Lowe’s teammates this season is his younger brother Josh, who was a first-round pick by the Rays out of high school in 2016 and is considered the better prospect. Maybe there’s some sibling rivalry at work there. … The minor league hot list includes former Northwest Rankin High star Daniel Sweet, who is batting .356 in the FSL for Daytona, a Cincinnati affiliate. Sweet, a switch-hitting outfielder, was a 29th-round pick out of Dallas Baptist in 2016. … Ole Miss product Tate Blackman is among the top hitters in the low-A South Atlantic League, batting .359 with three homers for Kannapolis in the Chicago White Sox system. Second baseman Blackman was a 13th-round pick last June.
Stuart Turner, the former Ole Miss standout, is catching at Triple-A Louisville in the Cincinnati system. He is 3-for-13 in four games. Turner spent 2017 in the big leagues after the Reds took him as a Rule 5 pick from Minnesota’s minor league system. He hit .134 with two homers in 37 games. He was designated for assignment by the Reds late in spring training, passed through waivers and was outrighted to Louisville. … Louis Coleman, the Greenwood native and ex-Pillow Academy star, is pitching at Triple-A Toledo in the Detroit organization. He has a 3.38 ERA and two saves in four appearances. The 32-year-old right-hander has a 3.15 ERA in 213 MLB games, the last with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016. … T.J. House, the Picayune High product, is pitching at Triple-A Charlotte in the Chicago White Sox’s system. The left-hander is 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in two starts. House has a 4.44 ERA in 29 big league games with Cleveland and Toronto. The White Sox signed him as a minor league free agent in the off-season.
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.