29 Nov

on the move

Kendall Graveman moved swiftly through the minors this past season to reach the big leagues. Now, the former Mississippi State standout is on the move again – from Toronto to Oakland. Graveman, a right-hander who turns 24 next month, was shipped to the A’s on Friday as part of the Josh Donaldson-Brett Lawrie trade. Graveman reportedly will compete for a spot in Oakland’s rotation next spring, along with ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz. Graveman was drafted in the eighth round by the Blue Jays in 2013. He developed a cutter this past season and put up a 14-6 record with a 1.83 ERA at four levels of the minor leagues. He allowed two runs in 4 2/3 innings in five MLB appearances in September. … Lefty Pomeranz, 22, a former first-rounder, went 5-4, 2.35 in 20 games (10 starts) in 2014 for the A’s, his third organization.

26 Nov

still slugging away

Though he has no major league home runs to his credit, John Lindsey has to be regarded as one of the great sluggers Mississippi has ever produced. The Hattiesburg native, at age 37, has hit two home runs in seven games this winter for Navojoa in the Mexican Pacific League. He has 328 minor league homers on his ledger, which dates back to 1995, when he was drafted out of Hattiesburg High by Colorado. He’s not slowing down: He hit 33 bombs (along with a .306 average and 99 RBIs) in the Triple-A caliber Mexican League in 2014. Lindsey, a 6-foot-2, 255-pound right-handed first baseman/DH, has played for at least 20 different teams over 20 years in pro ball, not including winter league assignments. He has played in 1,984 minor league games, with 7,044 at-bats and 1,360 RBIs. He got one hit (a single) in 13 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010, his only MLB stint. He really ought to be considered for the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. P.S. The all-time leader in minor league homers among Mississippi natives is Jack Pierce, a Laurel native who played parts of three MLB seasons in the 1970s. Pierce, who died in 2012, belted 395 minor league bombs, most of those in the Mexican League, including 54 in 1986. Pierce is in the Mexican League Hall of Fame.

25 Nov

play it again

Wendell Fairley, a former first-round draft pick out of George County High, recently signed to play in 2015 with the Southern Illinois Miners of the independent Frontier League. Fairley, who’ll be 27 in March, apparently has not played organized ball since 2012, his last season in the San Francisco system. The left-handed hitting outfielder was the Giants’ top pick in 2007 and batted .257 with eight home runs, 149 RBIs and 26 steals over five seasons. The Giants invited him to their big league spring training camp in 2010, but he never played above the Double-A level. P.S. They will be called the Biloxi Shuckers, but the new Southern League team’s plans for where they’ll play in 2015 remain unknown (see previous post). No new information was revealed at Monday’s nickname announcement ceremony. … It’s unlikely that David Goforth, a Meridian native and ex-Ole Miss standout, will play for the Shuckers, Milwaukee’s Double-A affiliate, next season. Goforth went 5-4 with 27 saves and a 3.76 ERA for the Huntsville Stars in 2014 and earned a spot on the Brewers’ 40-man roster. If he doesn’t make the big club, Goforth figures to pitch in Triple-A.

24 Nov

the big reveal

Biloxi’s Southern League team gets its name today. Shrimpers? Black Jacks? Mullet? A big announcement ceremony is planned. Speeches will be made. Cheers will be heard. Merchandise will go on sale. That’s all well and good, but it would also be nice if team officials would announce where they plan to play in 2015. We already know that the new MGM Park won’t be finished for the start of the season in April and may not be ready until August. Is the team going to play all road games until August? Is the team going to play in Huntsville, its former home, until the new park opens? Does it make sense to have a grand opening in August, with only a handful of home dates available? Inquiring minds want to know. The Mississippi Braves are scheduled to play “at Biloxi” from May 6-10 and again in August. The M-Braves host the new team, still a Milwaukee Brewers affiliate, for the first time from June 11-15.

19 Nov

fully loaded

With nine NCAA Division I early signees on the roster, you’ve got to like Hinds Community College’s chances of earning some championship hardware in 2015. The Eagles went 40-21 in 2014, won the NJCAA Region 23 title and reached the NJCAA Division II title game. The group of D-I signees includes five players bound for Louisiana Tech in 2016, among them Cleveland’s Marshall Boggs (.366 in 2014) and Clinton native Chase Lunceford (.328, 10 home runs). Madison’s Austin Sanders, who posted a 2.95 ERA, 10 saves and eight wins as a freshman, is headed to Ole Miss. Brookhaven’s Houston Case, another standout pitcher, will move on to Southern Miss. And Sam Temple’s Eagles likely will have more players sign D-I offers in April. It’ll be interesting to see where HCC ranks in the NJCAA preseason poll. No. 1, perhaps? P.S. Former Ole Miss star Alex Presley reportedly has agreed to a $1 million deal for 2015 with Houston, his 2014 club. Presley batted .244 with six homers and 19 RBIs in an injury-interrupted season. The Astros picked up the veteran outfielder last spring as a waiver claim from Minnesota.

18 Nov

catching up

With five hits in his last three outings, Anthony Alford appears to be finding his stroke in the Australian Baseball League. The former Mr. Baseball from Petal High is 5-for-12 with a home run, six runs and two RBIs in his last three games for Canberra. For the young ABL season, Alford is at .219. Drafted by Toronto in the third round in 2012, Alford has just 94 minor-league at-bats to date as he had been focused on football, which he has now given up. … Mississippians Hunter Renfroe and Tim Anderson got kudos from mlb.com’s Jim Callis for their work in the Arizona Fall League, which wrapped up last week. Mississippi State product Renfroe, a San Diego prospect, batted .284 with a league-best six homers and 20 RBIs. He also led the AFL in extra base hits, total bases and slugging. Anderson, a Chicago White Sox prospect from East Central Community College, hit .301 with six steals. “(F)ew shortstops can match his tools,” Callis wrote. … Tyrell Jenkins, the 6-foot-4 right-hander acquired by Atlanta from St. Louis in the Jason Heyward deal, posted a 2.22 ERA in the AFL. Jenkins, 22, is a candidate for the Mississippi Braves’ roster in 2015, which will be his sixth pro season. He pitched in high-A ball this past season. … Former M-Braves star Jeff Francoeur will get another shot (how many is that?) at making a big league club next spring, this time with Philadelphia. Francouer had a big year (.289, 15 homers, 69 RBIs) in Triple-A with San Diego in 2014, though he didn’t hit at all in his MLB trial. … Ex-MSU standout Tyler Moore is batting .299 with six homers, 17 RBIs and 19 runs in 22 games in the Dominican Winter League as he attempts to improve his stock in the Washington organization. … Mississippi Gulf Coast CC alumnus Roy Corcoran, 34, is pitching in the Mexican Pacific League. The onetime major leaguer is 2-3 with a 3.66 ERA for Hermosillo. Corcoran, who originally signed with the Montreal Expos in 2001, pitched in independent ball the last two years. His last MLB season was 2009; he has a career 4.17 ERA in 82 games. … Belhaven University is ranked No. 14 in the NAIA preseason poll. The Blazers open the 2015 campaign on Jan. 30 at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson. William Carey also opens that day in Hattiesburg.

12 Nov

sad news

Former Jackson State standout Kelvin Moore, who played three big league seasons, has died, various media outlets reported today. Moore, an Alabama native, was a sixth-round draft pick by Oakland in 1978. The left-handed hitting first baseman made the majors in 1981 and played in the A’s American League Championship Series loss to the New York Yankees that season. He batted .223 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 76 MLB games all told. He played in the minors until 1985, including a stint with El Paso (Milwaukee system) in the Texas League in 1984. Moore was 57.

12 Nov

the power to shine

Among the words of wisdom attributed to Buck Showalter is this tidy catchphrase: “You have to be brilliant at the basics.” As it applies to baseball, that’s an absolute. And most of Showalter’s teams have been brilliant at the basics, including his 2014 Baltimore club, which won the American League East in a runaway and earned the former Mississippi State star his third manager of the year award. Showalter never played in the major leagues, but he was a better player than some might realize. At State in 1977, he set a single-season batting average record when he hit .459. The New York Yankees thought enough of Showalter’s skills to draft him in the fifth round. He hit .294 as a minor leaguer, but the Yankees had other plans for him. He became a minor league manager in their system in 1985 and by 1990 was on the big-league coaching staff. He took the reins as manager in 1992. Over 16 seasons, his MLB managerial record is 1,259-1,161, a solid .520 winning percentage, and he has now won three manager of the year awards (in 10-year increments, oddly enough). He hasn’t had much postseason success: 9-13 overall in four appearances. Showalter, 58, might need a World Series crown to garner Hall of Fame consideration, and the Orioles might have the talent to deliver one in the next couple of years. If that does happen, brilliance at the basics will be the underlying reason.

11 Nov

transaction watch

Atlanta has been active on the minor league free agent market, snapping up, among others, Jackson native Donnie Veal, ex-Delta State star Eli Whiteside and three players who spent time with the Mississippi Braves this past season: Seth Loman, Emerson Landoni and Cedric Hunter. Veal, a left-hander, and Whiteside, a catcher, have done big-league time, including brief stints in 2014 with the Chicago White Sox and Cubs, respectively. Hunter, who was with the San Diego Padres to open the 2011 season, had a huge year for the Double-A M-Braves. The outfielder batted .295 with 14 home runs, 72 RBIs and 12 steals in 120 games. He might be a darkhorse candidate for the MLB roster in the spring, especially if the Braves trade Justin Upton or Jason Heyward. … Also re-signing with his 2014 organization is Itawamba Community College product Tim Dillard, a veteran big leaguer who pitched in the Milwaukee system last season. … Former M-Braves standout Antoan Richardson was removed from the New York Yankees’ 40-man roster and became a free agent.

11 Nov

one of these years

Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, who once appeared to be a lock for the National League Rookie of the Year award, came up short in the end. Hamilton, Cincinnati’s center fielder, lost out to New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, who got 26 of the 30 first-place votes from media members. No Mississippi native has won the rookie award in either league since it was first instituted in 1947 to honor Jackie Robinson. (Ex-Ole Miss star Chris Coghlan, who is from Florida, won the NL award in 2009.) Hamilton, who faded in the latter part of the season, hit .250 with 56 steals and 72 runs in 152 games. P.S. On the list of minor league free agents with Mississippi ties is Matt Tolbert, the former Ole Miss standout from McComb. Tolbert, who broke into pro ball in 2004 and has 247 MLB games on his ledger, batted .172 in 21 games in Double-A with Philadelphia this season. He might be done. Also out there are Alcorn State alumnus Corey Wimberly (in Minnesota’s system in 2014), UM product Cody Overbeck (San Diego), Jackson native Donnie Veal (Chicago White Sox) and former Ole Miss star Justin Henry (Boston).