Exavier Pente Logan, better known as Nook, was born on this date in 1979 in Natchez. A switch-hitting center fielder, he had a nice, though brief, big league career, batting .268 with 56 steals in 321 games over four seasons. He likely was one of the fastest players ever from the state. All told, Logan stole 322 bases in pro ball. He was a third-round draft pick out of Copiah-Lincoln Community College by Detroit in 2000 and reached the majors in 2004. Twice he swiped 23 bases in a season, including his final season, 2007, with Washington, when he hit .265 with 21 RBIs and 39 runs in 118 games. In December of 2007, Logan — who played at 6 feet 2, 180 pounds and hit two career home runs — was among the players named in the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs. He later admitted to using HGH to help him recover from an injury he suffered while in the minors. He never played another game in affiliated ball after 2007, though he did spend a couple of seasons in independent leagues.
The Brandon Woodruff situation is intriguing. It was reported Monday that the former Mississippi State star, a free agent, is attracting attention from “a majority” of MLB clubs. He is a 30-year-old two-time All-Star with a career record of 46-26 and a 3.10 ERA. Of course, he may not be able to pitch in 2024 because of recent shoulder surgery. For that reason, cost-conscious Milwaukee non-tendered the big right-hander from Wheeler, who was due a raise for next season from the $10.8 million he made in 2023. When he was healthy last season, Woodruff was good: 5-1, 2.28. He figures to be quite a catch for a club that can afford to wait for his return. Injuries also have impacted the future of two other Mississippi products. Dakota Hudson and Spencer Turnbull also became free agents when their 2023 clubs did not offer a contract for next season. Ex-State star Hudson, who is 38-20, 3.84, for his MLB career, missed most of the 2021 season after suffering an arm injury late in 2020. A 16-game winner in 2019, he has struggled to recapture that form. He had some good moments in 2023 but apparently not enough for St. Louis — which needs starting pitching — to keep him around. Hudson is only 28; he also could be a nice catch. Turnbull, the former Madison Central High standout, threw a no-hitter in May of 2021 and was 4-2, 2.88, for Detroit that season when he went down with an arm injury. He hasn’t been the same since. He missed all of 2022 and was ailing most of last season, when he posted a 7.26 ERA in limited MLB time. At 31, he may still have some value as a back-end starter. So many teams need starting pitchers. To wit: Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, 36 and coming off very uneven season with the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, has signed as a free agent with the Cardinals, his original club, for one year and $11M.
At one point this past season, Justin Steele looked like a frontrunner for the National League Cy Young Award. The former George County High star missed some time with an injury, had a few wobbles down the stretch and ultimately finished fifth in the voting revealed on Wednesday. Any disappointment he might have felt surely was assuaged by the $1 million bonus he received for that rank. Steele, a 28-year-old left-hander, went 16-5 with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP over 30 starts in his third MLB campaign with the Chicago Cubs. He made the All-Star Game and threw a scoreless inning. He was one of the main reasons the Cubs stayed in the hunt in the NL wild card chase until the bitter end. For all those efforts, Steele is the 2023 winner of the Cool Papa Bell Award, given here to the top performer among Mississippians (natives or school alums) in the big leagues. Steele, a Lucedale native, was drafted in the fifth round by the Cubs in 2014, persevered through injuries and finally made The Show in 2021. Now a mainstay in the Cubs’ rotation, he gets the nod for the Bell over DeSoto Central product Austin Riley, the 2022 winner who had another big year for Atlanta.
The swarm of minor league free agents hitting the open market includes Demarcus Evans, the former Petal High star whose once promising career hit a pothole in 2023. Evans, who signed with the New York Yankees last year as a minor league free agent, went to spring training with the big league club but was sent to the minors and then missed the entire year with an undisclosed injury. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound right-hander, 27, has pitched in 29 MLB games, all with Texas from 2020-22, posting a 4.75 ERA while battling command issues. In the minors, he has piled up 444 strikeouts and a 2.76 ERA in 297 innings. So, he’s got some stuff. Drafted in 2015, he made it to the majors on Sept. 18, 2020. He was welcomed by Albert Pujols, who belted Evans’ second pitch over the wall in Anaheim for his 662nd career home run. If Evans is healthy, he figures to get another look. … Veteran big leaguers Billy Hamilton and Jonathan Holder are also now minor league free agents, along with fellow Mississippi products Zac Houston, Cooper Johnson, Tyreque Reed, Chuckie Robinson and Chad Smith. Taylorsville native Hamilton, 33, who appeared in three games with the Chicago White Sox this year, finished 2023 in Tampa Bay’s system. Gulfport’s Holder, 30, who last pitched in the majors in 2020, posted a 5.40 ERA in Triple-A with the Los Angeles Angels. Robinson, a Southern Miss alum with a touch of MLB experience as a catcher, hit .290 with 13 homers for Cincinnati’s Triple-A Louisville team; he has been playing in the Dominican Winter league. Ole Miss product Smith had a 6.59 ERA for Oakland this year and spent most of the season in the minors. Reed, former Itawamba Community College slugger from Houlka, missed the 2023 season in Boston’s system with an injury. In pro ball since 2017, he has a .268 average and 64 homers in 374 minor league games. Houston, a Mississippi State product, has a 3.18 career ERA in 230 minor league games and spent this season in the Yankees’ system. Ex-Ole Miss star Johnson batted .206 this season, playing in A-ball and Double-A in Texas’ organization. P.S. Ex-State star and 2021 College World Series hero Will Bednar has been pulled from the Arizona Fall League reportedly because of lingering back trouble. The San Francisco prospect allowed eight runs in 5 1/3 innings. He made only four rookie ball appearances this past season because of injury issues.
Marcus Thames’ whirlwind tour of MLB’s big markets reportedly will resume. The Louisville native reportedly has been hired as hitting coach for the Chicago White Sox. Thames, who hit 115 homers over a 10-year big league career that ended in 2011, was the hitting coach with the New York Yankees for several years, took a detour to Miami’s staff in 2022 and then spent 2023 with the Los Angeles Angels, who fired manager Phil Nevin after the season. Thames is a well-respected hitting coach, and the Angels’ offensive numbers in many categories improved under his watch. He will not get a chance to work in 2024 with fellow East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson. The White Sox recently declined an option on the veteran shortstop’s contract, making him a free agent. Anderson signed a seven-year deal ($37.5 million) after a promising rookie campaign in 2016, won a batting title and made two All-Star teams before suffering a dreadful 2023 season, batting .245 with one home run, 25 RBIs and a negative WAR. The outspoken Alabama native is also a lightning rod for controversy. P.S. Mississippi State alum Buck Showalter, dismissed by the Mets after his second year as manager, reportedly is a candidate for the Angels job, as is former Jackson Generals star Ray Montgomery. … Lance Lynn, the veteran pitcher out of Ole Miss, became a free agent after the Dodgers declined an option in his contract. Lynn had a tough year (5.73 ERA) that ended when he gave up four home runs in one inning in a playoff game against Arizona. … Kudos to ex-Mississippi State standout Nathaniel Lowe on winning a Gold Glove at first base for world champion Texas. Mauricio Dubon, who passed through Biloxi on his way to The Show, earned a Gold Glove as a utitity player for Houston. … Oakland outrighted Ole Miss product Chad Smith to Triple-A; he had a 6.59 ERA in 10 games for the A’s. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, a Dodgers prospect, pitched in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game on Sunday and yielded a 433-foot home run to Kyle Manzardo.
Hunter Renfroe, who still has power in his bat and his arm, is rated the 24th-best free agent available in the new crop, per mlb.com. The Crystal Springs native and ex-Mississippi State standout has been without a team since mid-September, when he was released by Cincinnati. The Reds had gotten the 32-year-old outfielder in a deadline trade with the Los Angeles Angels. Renfroe hit .233 with 20 homers last season and has 177 career bombs since 2016. Originally drafted by San Diego, he has bounced around quite a bit in recent years despite his power numbers. … Also hitting the market Thursday were ex-State star Adam Frazier (.240, 13 homers in one year with Baltimore); fellow Bulldogs alum and World Series champ Chris Stratton (3.94 ERA with St. Louis and Texas); and former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz, who last pitched in the majors in 2021. … McComb native Corey Dickerson is also a free agent after being released by Washington in August; he is a .280 career hitter who got his 1,000th knock last season. … Ryan Rolison, a first-round pick out of Ole Miss in 2018 by Colorado, was recently removed from the Rockies’ 40-man roster and assigned to the minors. Rolison, yet to make the majors, has pitched in just four games since 2021 because of injury issues. … Ex-DeSoto Central High and current Atlanta star Austin Riley, already a Gold Glove finalist at third base, is also a Silver Slugger finalist. Five other former Mississippi Braves are up for Silver Sluggers, as is ex-MSU standout and World Series champ Nathaniel Lowe, also a Gold Glove finalist at first base. … MSU alum Eric Cerantola, now in Kansas City’s system, got his second win in the Arizona Fall League on Thursday, punching out five in two hitless innings for Surprise. Cerantola has a 3.75 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 12 AFL innings.
The list of Mississippi State alumni to win World Series rings grew to seven Wednesday night with the addition of Nathaniel Lowe and Chris Stratton of the Texas Rangers. The others, who won one World Series title each, are: Hughie Critz, New York Giants, 1933; Del Unser, Philadelphia Phillies, 1980; Jay Powell, Florida Marlins, 1997; Jonathan Papelbon, Boston Red Sox, 2007; and Mitch Moreland, Red Sox, 2018. Critz, a Starkville native, went 3-for-22 in his lone Series appearance. Unser was 3-for-6 with a pair of RBIs and a pair of runs for the Phils. Powell, from Collinsville, pitched a scoreless 11th inning — his fourth appearance in the seven games — and got the win when the Marlins walked off Cleveland in the ’97 Series. Papelbon saved three of the Red Sox’s four wins in their 2007 sweep of Colorado and punched out ex-Ole Miss star Seth Smith for the final out of the clincher. Amory native Moreland had just one hit in the ’18 Series but it was a three-run homer. Moreland was on the 2010 and ’11 Texas teams that lost in the Fall Classic, the franchise’s only appearances before this year’s amazing title run, which culminated with a 5-0 victory at Arizona in Game 5. The Rangers went 11-0 on the road in winning four postseason series. Lowe, a fifth-year big leaguer, had a hit and scored a run in the four-run ninth inning Wednesday. He hit .212 with three homers in the postseason and was 3-for-17 with three walks in the Series. Tupelo native Stratton, an eight-year MLB vet acquired by Texas at the trade deadline, pitched in four postseason games and made two Series appearances, yielding two runs in 1 1/3 innings. … Incidentally, Lowe is the fifth ex-State star to play first base for the Rangers since they moved to Arlington in 1972. He followed Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro, Jon Shave and Moreland; all but Shave were regular first sackers for the club.
Different season, different league, same old Thomas Dillard. The former Ole Miss slugger, who led the independent Atlantic League in homers this summer, has hit three bombs in 11 games in the Mexican Pacific League, Mexico’s winter league. Dillard, a switch-hitting first baseman, belted 39 homers for Lexington in his first year of indy ball and batted .258 with 100 RBIs. Now playing for Culiacan, Dillard is hitting .308 with nine RBIs. As a senior at Oxford High in 2016, Dillard led the nation with 16 homers and went on to hit 31 in three years at UM, including 14 as a junior in 2019. He spent three seasons in Milwaukee’s system, belted 12 homers for Double-A Biloxi in 2022 but was released after the season. Playing for Barry Lyons’ Counter Clocks in the Atlantic League — a Triple-A caliber loop — and now in the MPL, Dillard is showing that he still has plenty of thunder in his bat. P.S. Blaine Crim, the ex-Mississippi College star who played in Triple-A for Texas this season, mashed a home run in his first game in the Dominican Winter League but has just one hit since. He is 2-for-20 for Escogido. Crim hit 22 homers for Round Rock this summer and has 83 homers in his four-year minor league career. Southern Miss alum Chuckie Robinson, who had a good year (.290, 13 homers) in Triple-A for Cincinnati, is hitting .278 with three doubles for Cibao in the DWL. Also in the league is Ole Miss product David Parkinson, who got a win with three scoreless innings of work in his only appearance to date for Escogido. Parkinson, on a bit of a roller coaster since being drafted by Philadelphia in 2017, spent most of the 2023 season in Double-A, going 9-5 for Reading.
With a pair of Mississippians — Mississippi State alumni Nathaniel Lowe and Chris Stratton — on the Texas roster for the 2023 World Series, here’s a quick review of some Series anniversaries and Magnolia State products who were involved. … Ten short years ago, in the 2013 World Series, former Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn made the second — and final — Series appearance of his still active career. Lynn got a ring as a rookie with St. Louis in 2011 but in 2013, the Cardinals lost to Boston in six games. Lynn had a 4.76 ERA in two games. He has appeared in five postseasons since — and pitched for six different teams all told — but hasn’t gotten back to the Fall Classic. … Thirty years ago, in the Series widely remembered for Joe Carter’s walk-off homer for Toronto, there were a couple of Mississippi college products on the losing side. Ex-Jackson State star Wes Chamberlain and Mississippi State’s Bobby Thigpen played for Philadelphia in the ’93 Series, though neither had much of an impact as the Phillies fell in six games. That was the only World Series appearance for either Chamberlain or Thigpen. … This year marks the 80th anniversary of a classic Negro Leagues World Series between Homestead and Birmingham. The Homestead Grays, who won the Series 4-3 (there was also a tie), featured a pair of Mississippi natives: Starkville’s Cool Papa Bell, the Hall of Famer who, at age 40, batted .308 in the Series, and Mt. Olive’s Howard Easterling, a five-time All-Star in the Negro Leagues who batted .327 and drove in seven runs in the ’43 Series. Homestead’s lineup also included Hall of Famers Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard. … In the 1933 World Series, a pair of Mississippi natives squared off as the New York Giants beat the Washington Senators in five games. Starkville’s Hughie Critz was the second baseman and 2-hole hitter for the Giants; he went just 3-for-22 with a couple of runs but did get to celebrate a championship in his only Fall Classic appearance in a 12-year career. Myer, from Ellisville, was one of the few Senators hitters who had a good Series; the second baseman and leadoff batter was 6-for-20 with two RBIs and two runs. In the only game Washington won — Game 3 — he went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. That ’33 Series was his second and final appearance in a Fall Classic; he was also on the losing side in 1925. P.S. Columbus native Red Barber, named this week as a member of the 2024 class of Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame inductees, did national radio broadcasts of nine World Series and TV broadcasts of two Fall Classics between 1937 and 1952, according to information on Wikipedia. The late Barber, also in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, has been called baseball’s “play-by-play pioneer.”
Twenty-two years ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks did something amazing. They scored twice in the bottom of the ninth inning against Mariano Rivera and beat the mighty New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series. On Tuesday night, the D’backs did something amazing again. They beat mighty Philadelphia — at Citizens Bank Park, for the second straight night — to win Game 7 of the National League Championship Series and reach the second Fall Classic in their 26-year history. The franchise was just four years old when the ’01 team, which included former Ole Miss star David Dellucci, won the championship. That club had been largely constructed by Mississippi State alum Buck Showalter, who was fired as manager after the 2000 season reportedly because of a dispute with ownership. Originally drafted by Baltimore, Dellucci was plucked by Arizona (and Showalter) in the expansion draft in the fall of 1997. He hit .260 with a league-best 12 triples in 1998 and was still a reserve outfielder on the 2001 club. He played in two World Series games, including a pinch-running appearance in the fateful ninth inning of Game 7; he was erased on a fielder’s choice for the first out. Interestingly enough, Dellucci also played for Texas, which will face the D’backs in the Fall Classic that begins Friday in Arlington. Showalter was manager of the Rangers when Dellucci was with the team (2004-05).