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.
Cleveland put on a pitching clinic against Kansas City over the weekend, shutting out the Royals three straight games. Starters Ryan Merritt, Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco each worked at least six innings, and an array of relievers cleaned up. The Indians opened up 9-game lead on third-place KC in the American League Central and are 6.5 up on Minnesota. The Tribe leads all of MLB with 15 shutouts and leads the AL with a 3.60 ERA. Behind the scenes, directing this show of arms, is Mickey Callaway, the ex-Ole Miss pitcher now in his fifth year as manager Terry Francona’s pitching coach. The Indians have ranked among the league ERA leaders in each of those seasons. Last year, with a staff thinned by injuries, Cleveland made it past Boston and Toronto in the playoffs and all the way to Game 7 of the World Series before falling to the Chicago Cubs. Callaway, widely considered managerial material, rates a chunk of credit in all of this. Next on the agenda for him and his staff is the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium, a power-hitting team in a hitter’s park.
Cody Carroll, a 22nd-round draft pick two years ago out of Southern Miss, is looking like quite a steal for the New York Yankees. The 6-foot-5 right-hander has reached Double-A and is having success at that level with an impressive arsenal of pitches. In 11 relief appearances for Trenton, Carroll has a 1.50 ERA. He put up a 2.25 with two saves at high Class A Tampa before earning a late May promotion. He has 60 strikeouts in 44 innings all told. Carroll has added a split-finger pitch to his upper 90s fastball and slider, according to reports. At age 24, he could be poised to move up again soon. Carroll went 4-4, 3.15 with three saves at low-A Charleston in 2016, making six starts among his 26 appearances. He has pitched solely in relief in 2017 but isn’t confining himself to that role. “I can definitely be a whatever-you-need kind of guy,” Carroll told scout.com. Carroll was a solid if not outstanding pitcher at USM. As a junior in 2015, he went 5-5, 3.08 but was overshadowed by Ferriss Trophy winner James McMahon. P.S. Mississippi State product Jonathan Holder, who was fast-tracked by the Yankees after being drafted in 2014, is back on the big league roster after a brief demotion to Triple-A. Holder has a 3.78 ERA in 32 games for New York in 2017. He first reached the majors late last season.
Bobby Bradley made some headlines with a three-homer game for Double-A Akron on Tuesday. The former Harrison Central High star also drove in seven runs, boosting his season totals to 14 homers and 48 RBIs. Bradley, who recently turned 21, is on a 12-for-36 roll that has raised his average to .254. He has struck out just four times in that stretch. Cutting down on the punchouts is a key to his advancement, various scouting reports say. First baseman Bradley, who hit 29 homers a year ago and 27 in 2015 in A-ball, is rated Cleveland’s No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline with an ETA of 2018. … The headlines weren’t as welcome for another Gulfport native, Jonathan Holder, who was sent down to Triple-A by the New York Yankees. Holder was 1-1 (0-for-2 in save chances) with a 3.78 ERA in 32 games, all in relief. Drafted in 2014 out of Mississippi State, Holder reached the majors last summer, then won a big league roster spot in spring training this year. The 24-year-old right-hander will be back. … Ole Miss product Mike Mayers, recently promoted by St. Louis, has yet to make his 2017 debut for the Cardinals. He was 5-6, 3.74 ERA as a starter at Triple-A Memphis but is expected to work in long relief in the big leagues. The right-hander pitched in four games for St. Louis in 2016. … The current list of Mississippians on the MLB disabled list: Anthony Alford, Chris Coghlan, Zack Cozart, Kendall Graveman, Alex Presley, Bobby Wahl and Brandon Woodruff.
The shadows cast in the New York Yankees’ bullpen are considerable. There’s Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren — they get most of the high-leverage work. But Jonathan Holder, the Mississippi State product from Gulfport, has earned his seat in that bullpen. And he figures to get more pressurized opportunities as the season progresses for a team that looks like a playoff contender. Scouting reports rave about Holder’s swing-and-miss stuff. In his second big league tour, he has posted a 3.00 ERA in 11 appearances, including a scoreless ninth inning in Tuesday’s 11-5 win over Toronto. He has fanned 10 and walked one in nine innings, yielded no homers and been credited with two holds. He didn’t get a hold on April 28, when he did some of his most impressive work. When Holder came on in the seventh, the Yankees trailed Baltimore 11-4. Holder shut the O’s water off, retiring all five batters he faced. The Yankees rallied for a stunning 14-11 win in 10, with Clippard and Chapman also hanging up scoreless frames. Holder was a record-setting closer at State and was drafted in the sixth round in 2014 by New York, which converted him to starter in the minors for two years. He went back to the pen in 2016 and sailed through three levels – with a 1.65 ERA — to arrive with the Bronx Bombers on Sept. 2. He had mixed results (5.40 ERA) then, but he made the big club out of spring training and has continued to impress. P.S. Former Petal High star Anthony Alford made Baseball America’s All-Prospect team for April. The highly regarded Blue Jays farmhand, now playing in Double-A, hit .356 with two homers, eight RBIs, 12 runs and seven steals.
It’s here. Opening Day. New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays. Tropicana Field. OK, there’s no mystique and aura – or even sunshine — at The Trop, but it’s still Opening Day. And the first game of the 2017 season (noon, ESPN) could give us a matchup of Mississippi natives. McComb’s Corey Dickerson is expected to be in the Rays’ lineup as the DH batting leadoff. Gulfport’s Jonathan Holder is working out of the Yankees’ bullpen. Dickerson, a lefty hitter, is a veteran of 413 big league games and has a .279 career average. In his first season in Tampa in 2016, the Meridian Community College alum batted .245 with 24 homers. Holder, a right-hander, pitched in eight games (5.40 ERA) for the Yankees last summer and is still classified as a rookie. Drafted out of Mississippi State in 2014, he posted a 2.50 ERA (and a bunch of strikeouts) as he rose through the Yankees’ system. He pitched in Atlanta in the soft opening of SunTrust Park on Friday night; he wasn’t sharp. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss standout Chris Coghlan signed a minor league deal with Toronto and, according to reports, will start the season with Triple-A Buffalo. He had been released by Philadelphia. … Itawamba Community College product Desmond Jennings was given his release by Cincinnati.
Chris Coghlan will get a World Series ring next month. He’s looking for a uniform to wear. The Ole Miss alum was released by Philadelphia in a bit of a surprise move on Tuesday. Trying to make the lowly Phillies as a non-roster invitee, Coghlan, 32, didn’t have a great spring (.231, five RBIs) but did offer a left-handed bat and the versatility to play several positions. Coghlan batted .250 with six homers last year, which he split between Oakland and the champion Chicago Cubs. Over an eight-year career interrupted by injuries, Coghlan batted .260 with 52 homers. He hit .321 with Florida in 2009 when he won rookie of the year honors but never came close to that figure again. … Catching up on other roster news: Former Rebels star Stuart Turner apparently will make Cincinnati’s big club as a backup catcher, and lefty Cody Reed out of Northwest Mississippi Community College is going to stick in the Reds’ bullpen. However, Greenwood native Louis Coleman, a relief pitcher, was sent to the minor league camp, as was ex-Itawamba CC star Desmond Jennings, who reportedly can choose to be a free agent. … JaCoby Jones – who, it should be noted, did play a little football at Richton High – appears to have won Detroit’s center field job after batting .333 this spring. He debuted with the Tigers last summer. Former Ole Miss standout Alex Presley, despite batting .452 in a bid to win an outfield spot, was sent down by the Tigers. … Ex-Mississippi State star Jonathan Holder, who made his MLB debut last summer, appears to have claimed a job in the New York Yankees’ bullpen. He has had a strong spring (3.00 ERA). … MSU product Chad Girodo was sent out by Toronto. The lefty had a 2.08 ERA this spring after posting a 4.35 as a rookie last season.