The first – and so far, only – Mississippian to make a big league debut this season is Braxton Lee, the Ole Miss alum from Picayune who played his first game back on March 30 for Miami. Next man up might be Zac Houston, the ex-Mississippi State star who has reached Triple-A in Detroit’s system in just his third pro season. Houston, 6 feet 5, 250 pounds, has posted a 1.59 ERA in nine relief appearances with one save and 18 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings for Toledo. He began 2018 at Double-A Erie and earned the promotion after putting up a 2.60 ERA in 13 games there. Houston dominated in the Arizona Fall League last year, allowing no earned runs with 18 punchouts in 11 1/3 innings. Rated the Tigers’ No. 14 prospect by Perfect Game, the former 11th-round draft pick has fanned 183 batters in 116 1/3 career innings, an average of 14.2 per nine. He appears to be ready for a shot with the Tigers, though they’d have to clear a 40-man roster spot for him. P.S. If Houston isn’t the next to make it, it could be Cody Carroll, the former Southern Miss star from Tennessee (not to be confused with the Cody Carroll from Florida who is currently at USM). Tennessee Cody Carroll is having a fine season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the New York Yankees’ system. He has a 2.76 ERA, three wins and seven saves for SWB. Featuring an upper 90s fastball, he has punched out 44 hitters in 32 2/3 innings. Drafted in 2015, the 6-foot-5 Carroll has a 2.74 career ERA with 20 saves. The depth of the Yankees’ big league bullpen might make it tough for Carroll to get a promotion this summer, but stuff happens. And he’s surely opened some eyes.
Numbers generally don’t lie in baseball. And Zac Houston’s numbers are telling us this: He’s got strikeout stuff. Houston, the former Mississippi State star from Poplarville, fanned the side in an Arizona Fall League game on Monday, giving him four punchouts in two innings of scoreless relief for Mesa. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound right-hander, an 11th-round pick by Detroit in 2016, reached high-A ball this season. He had an 0.77 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings for Lakeland. Over 87 2/3 innings as a pro, Houston has 140 strikeouts, or 14.4 per nine innings. That’s strikeout stuff. He throws an upper 90s fastball and a quality slider. His walk totals are a bit high (4.6 per nine) but probably not a major concern at this point. Houston turns 23 next month. Baseball America ranked him as the Tigers’ No. 23 prospect entering 2017; MLB Pipeline doesn’t currently have him in the top 30. That should change.