Whatever happened to David Renfroe, the former South Panola quarterback/shortstop/pitcher who signed, for a very nice bonus, with Boston in 2009? Renfroe, a third-round pick, didn’t make his pro debut until 2010 — and it didn’t go so well. He batted just .190 with two homers and 13 RBIs at short-season Class A Lowell. He was rated by Baseball America as the Red Sox’s 14th-best prospect before ever playing a pro game but fell out of the organization’s top 30 after his debut season. Well, don’t look now, but Renfroe is having a resurgent sophomore campaign. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder is hitting .282 with three homers, 23 RBIs and 21 runs through 56 games at low-A Greenville. The son of former Ole Miss star and short-time major leaguer Laddie Renfroe, David may have jumped back on the fast track. He wanted to play shortstop as a pro but appears better suited to third base. How his power develops likely will be the key to his big league chances.
Ole Miss product Alex Presley, in his second at-bat for Pittsburgh tonight, hit his first big-league homer, a two-run shot off Toronto’s Jo-Jo Reyes in the third inning at the Rogers Centre.
Former Ole Miss standout Alex Presley, who was wearing it out in Triple-A, will likely be in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ lineup tonight at Toronto. Presley, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound left-handed hitter, was batting .336 with eight homers, 36 RBIs and 18 steals for Indianapolis. An injury to outfielder Jose Tabata finally inspired the Bucs to recall Presley. Former Jackson Mets skipper Clint Hurdle has the Pirates hanging around in the National League Central. … Former JaxMets manager Davey Johnson lost his Washington Nationals debut on Monday; they play again tonight at the Los Angeles Angels. … Meridian Community College alumnus Cliff Lee, 3-0 with a 0.35 ERA in his last three starts, goes for Philadelphia tonight against Boston and Josh Beckett. That should be a dandy. … Former Mississippi Braves ace Tommy Hanson, 3-0 with a 1.42 in his last three starts, faces Seattle and rookie sensation Michael Pineda tonight. Another good one. Curious to see if ex-M-Brave Jason Heyward hits leadoff for Atlanta again. Not sure about that lineup change. … Also on the mound tonight: M-Braves alumnus Jo-Jo Reyes gets the call for the Blue Jays against the Pirates, and ex-Jackson Generals ace Freddy Garcia starts for the New York Yankees against Milwaukee.
This is no knock on Jim Riggleman’s managerial abilities, but the Washington Nationals may have become a real force to be reckoned with by hiring Davey Johnson as their new skipper. Be afraid, Braves fans. The Nationals (39-38) were already playing better before Riggleman’s befuddling resignation; Atlanta, second to Philadelphia in the National League East, can hear the Nats’ footsteps. And on Monday, Johnson takes charge. He’s a proven winner in the dugout. He led the Jackson Mets to their first Texas League championship in 1981, then took over the New York Mets in 1984 and turned them into a powerhouse, posting six straight winning seasons. They won the 1986 World Series, employing many players groomed in the Mets’ system by Johnson. He was dismissed early in 1990 but went on to manage three other clubs, posting winning records at each stop. His overall record is 1148-888 (.564 winning percentage). The Nationals have loaded up on young talent. They’re coming — maybe even this season. They’ve got 12 games left with the Braves, nine with the Phillies. Davey Johnson could have a huge impact in the NL East race.
P.S. Noticed that Willie Cabrera, usually an outfielder, played second base for the Mississippi Braves on Saturday night. That’s his old high school and junior college position, a spot where he might be a better fit. Cabrera doesn’t have the power to be a corner outfielder, but he can hit, as he’s shown during his three-plus seasons in Pearl. He’s hitting .275 for the M-Braves with one homer, 23 RBIs and 28 runs in 53 games in 2011.
Sadly, we may have seen the last of Roy Oswalt in the major leagues. There are published reports today that the Philadelphia Phillies right-hander from Weir and Holmes Community College is “pondering his future” after leaving Thursday’s game early with back problems. Oswalt, who’ll turn 34 in August, already has spent time on the disabled list this season with back trouble; he has two degenerative discs. Back problems have spelled the end for many a great athlete. Some can play hurt, sure, but a pitcher really can’t. Oswalt is 4-6 with a 3.79 ERA for the Phillies this season, not what the club was expecting from one of its heralded four aces. And not what Oswalt, a fierce and prideful competitor, was expecting either. If this is indeed the end, then we’ll soon be celebrating a career that ranks with the best of any Mississippi-born hurler. Oswalt is 154-89 for his career with a 3.20 ERA. He posted two 20-win seasons during his days with Houston and led the Astros to the 2005 World Series. He was good.
Mississippi Braves right-hander Arodys Vizcaino is on the international roster for the July 10 All-Star Futures Game, as is former M-Braves pitcher Julio Teheran (now at Triple-A Gwinnett). The prospect-packed Futures Game will be played in Phoenix as part of the MLB All-Star festivities. Vizcaino, Atlanta’s No. 7 prospect entering this season, is 4-3 with a 2.86 ERA at two stops this season; the Dominican is 2-1 with a 3.51 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings for the M-Braves. M-Braves manager Rocket Wheeler has not announced his rotation for the upcoming Mobile series beyond tonight’s game (Kenshin Kawakami).
The Mississippi Braves have sent so many players to the big leagues in their six-plus seasons in Pearl — Randall Delgado was No. 53 — that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the club hasn’t won a whole lot. The M-Braves have claimed two half-season titles out of 13 possible. They won a first half in 2007 and a second half in 2008, when they won the Southern League pennant. That was the Braves’ first Double-A championship since 1997 and just third overall since 1966. One could infer from this that the Braves don’t care about winning in the minor leagues. But that isn’t really true. Yes, the prime objective in the minors is developing players’ skills for the majors, finding out who can hack it and who can’t. But at the same time, they want to develop players who can do the things it takes to win. Winning is the only objective in the big leagues. No organization wants minor league players who pile up impressive stats but can’t do the little things that also win games. The old Greenville Braves produced six playoff teams in a seven-year stretch from 1988-94. It’s no coincidence that the long-suffering big league team started to win consistently in 1991 with many of those players on the field. The 2011 M-Braves, who finished 25-45 (ugh!) in the first half, have a lot of talent but apparently aren’t getting the little things done often enough. They lost 20 one-run games, primarily due to an offensive attack that doesn’t produce enough to blow open games. They start the second half tonight at Trustmark Park with much the same cast that began the season in Pearl. With young prospects filling the rotation and several more scattered throughout the everyday lineup, it’s time they showed, collectively, that they’re acclimated to Double-A ball now and have learned how to win. It matters.
Seth Smith or Mitch Moreland. If you had to pick one of these two players for your club, whom would you take? It would be hard to go wrong either way as both are having outstanding seasons for contending teams. Smith, from Jackson by way of Ole Miss, is the more established big leaguer, now in his fifth year with the Colorado Rockies. A dangerous pinch hitter who is playing more regularly in right field this season, Smith is hitting .316 (top 10 in the National League) with eight homers. Two of those came Tuesday, the second of which was a game-winner. Moreland, from Amory by way of Mississippi State, also grabbed some spotlight Tuesday, hitting a walk-off, upper-deck bomb for the Texas Rangers. It was the first career walk-off for the second-year first baseman and his 10th homer of the season. He’s hitting .294 for 2011 and .279 for his career. Smith is a .280 career hitter. Both are lefties who have their problems with left-handed pitching, but both have the kind of power that you love in the late innings of a close game. Both went to the World Series as rookies, Smith in 2007, Moreland last fall. That’s a neat feat. Here’s betting that at least one of them will get back there soon.
P.S. Julio Lugo, who joined the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, was a force for the Jackson Generals when he played for them in 1999. For those who’ve forgotten, Lugo, a slender shortstop, hit .319 with 10 homers, 25 doubles, five triples and 25 stolen bases for the Gens. That’s a great combo of power and speed. He’s had a pretty good big league career, as well, batting .270 overall. He can help the Braves filling in at any of the infield spots and even the outfield. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him get some starts at second base.
It came a day after Father’s Day, but yet another son of a former Jackson area Double-A manager had a big day. In his first pro game, in his first at-bat, Troy Snitker homered for the Gulf Coast League Braves on Monday. The son of former Mississippi Braves manager Brian Snitker went 3-for-5 in the rookie league game. Troy, a catcher, was the Braves’ 19th-round pick earlier this month out of North Georgia College.
Here’s some fun facts with a Mississippi twist from Father’s Day in the big leagues. Nick Swisher hit a game-changing home run for the New York Yankees on Sunday, helping take down the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Wrigley is where Nick’s dad, Steve, a former Jackson Mets manager, spent much of his big league career. Drew Butera got the game-winning hit for Minnesota against San Diego. Drew’s dad, Sal, a former Jackson Generals manager, also played for the Twins. There is another son of a former Jackson manager in the majors — Tim Dillard, son of Steve, who skippered the independent Diamond Kats in 2000. Tim’s Milwaukee club played at Boston, where Steve began his big league career. Tim didn’t pitch Sunday as the Brewers lost to the Red Sox, which may have spared Steve any mixed emotions.