John Lindsey, the legendary slugger from Hattiesburg, added to his career home run tally this month when he went deep for Navojoa in a Mexican Pacific League game. Lindsey, who turns 39 in January, has belted 377 homers as a pro: 46 in winter league play, 309 in the minor leagues and 22 more in independent ball. He did not homer in his 11-game MLB stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010. In 15 games this winter for Navojoa, the last on Dec. 17, Lindsey batted .145 with the one homer and six RBIs. He played 18 games for Tijuana in the Triple-A Mexican League last summer and last played in affiliated ball in 2013 with Detroit’s Triple-A Toledo club. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Lindsey has appeared in 2,277 pro games going back to 2005, with a .284 batting average, 1,215 runs and 1,536 RBIs.
Cody Reed is not on Cincinnati’s 40-man roster, but the Northwest Mississippi Community College alum is going to big league camp and should get a long look there. Reed, a left-handed starter from Horn Lake, was acquired by the Reds in a trade last summer and put up shiny numbers at Double-A Pensacola: 6-2, 2.17 ERA. Also on the list of non-roster invitees for this spring are Stuart Turner (Minnesota) and Scott Copeland (Toronto). Former Southern Miss standout Copeland, who went 1-1 with a 6.46 ERA in five games for the Blue Jays in 2015, re-signed with the team as a minor league free agent. Ole Miss alum Turner, a 2013 draftee, was the catcher for Double-A Chattanooga, which won the Southern League pennant last season. Ex-Rebels star Alex Presley, an MLB veteran, is going to Milwaukee’s camp on a minor-league deal (see previous post), and former Itawamba CC standout Tim Dillard, who re-signed with the Brewers as a minor leaguer, could be in the big camp, as well. Dillard, 32, had a 5.50 ERA in 27 games (six starts) at Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2015. P.S. Hinds CC is ranked 14th and Meridian CC 20th in Collegiate Baseball’s NJCAA Division II preseason poll, which has LSU-Eunice (what a shock) at No. 1. MACJC champion Hinds went 43-7 last year and was ranked No. 1 for a time; Meridian was 33-17. Hinds opens on Feb. 10 at Raymond against Bossier Parish (La.), the school that signed left-hander Sarah Hudek, daughter of former big leaguer John Hudek, back in February.
If the Collegiate Baseball poll is out, then the season can’t be far behind. Mississippi State, coming off a 24-30 season but welcoming back 16 lettermen, is ranked 11th in the NCAA Division I poll released on Monday. The D-I start date is Feb. 19, with the Bulldogs opening in Starkville against Florida Atlantic. Neither Ole Miss nor Southern Miss, who had winning seasons in 2015, made CB’s “Fabulous 40.” There are four SEC schools in the top seven, with Florida opening at No. 1. For what it’s worth, State was ranked No. 20 in CB’s 2015 preseason poll. Ole Miss was unranked but made the NCAA Tournament field, the only one of the Big 3 to do so. … The college season in Mississippi actually starts on Feb. 5 – just 45 days away! — when Tougaloo College visits Mississippi College and William Carey University travels to Florida to play Ave Maria University. For MC, the game at Frierson Field in Clinton will mark the debut of coach Jeremy Haworth.
No surprise here: Anthony Alford, the former Petal High standout, has been ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Toronto organization by Baseball America. The magazine had previously named Alford the “best player” in the Blue Jays’ system in 2015. The 21-year-old outfielder is rated the Jays’ No. 2 prospect by mlb.com. Alford may wind up among the Top 50 prospects overall for 2016, according to BA’s John Manuel, who wrote in an online chat on the magazine’s web site: “If he’s not a big league regular in 2-3 years, I’ll be very surprised.” Alford played at two levels of Class A ball in 2015, his first full season in pro ball after giving up football. He batted .293 in low A and .302 in high A over 107 games, with four homers and 27 steals combined. He is a player to be excited about. … Stone County High alum D.J. Davis, also 21 and an outfielder, is rated Toronto’s No. 10 prospect by BA. Davis batted .282 with seven homers and 21 steals at low Class A Lansing last season.
The Mississippi Braves will be under the charge of a new manager in 2016, with former major leaguer Luis Salazar succeeding Aaron Holbert in that role. Salazar, a native of Venezuela, managed Atlanta’s high Class A club the last five years. Salazar, some may recall, lost his left eye when struck by a foul ball during a spring training game in 2011, his first year with the Atlanta organization. He becomes the sixth manager of the Double-A M-Braves since the franchise moved to Pearl in 2005, following Brian Snitker, Jeff Blauser, Phillip Wellman, Rocket Wheeler and Holbert. Holbert, the club’s winningest manager, did a four-year stint, same as Wellman. The team won its only Southern League title under Wellman in 2008. Salazar hit .261 over 13 seasons in the majors and has worked for many years in the minors as a manager and hitting coach. Dennis Lewallyn returns as M-Braves pitching coach and Garey Ingram as hitting coach. The team opens the 2016 season at Trustmark Park on April 7.
Alex Presley didn’t get much opportunity in the big leagues with Houston in 2015, but that might change now that he is in Milwaukee’s system. The lefty-hitting outfielder out of Ole Miss has signed a minor league deal with the Brewers and will go to spring training with the big club, ostensibly to compete for the everyday job in center field. That’s a need in Milwaukee, which traded away Carlos Gomez last summer. Presley, 30, has spent parts of six seasons in the majors but got only 12 at-bats with the Astros last season. He played well in Triple-A, batting .292 for a Fresno team that won both the Pacific Coast League and Triple-A championships. Presley is a .259 career hitter in MLB with 23 homers and 25 steals in 329 games; he has played all three outfield spots. In 104 games with Pittsburgh (his original club) in 2012, Presley hit .237 with 10 homers and nine bags. Milwaukee’s depth chart currently lists 23-year-old Domingo Santana as the starting center fielder, but the 6-foot-5, 225-pounder profiles more as a corner man. While the Brewers are likely to bring in some more center field candidates, Presley should at least have a fighting chance to make the 25-man roster.
Former Ole Miss standout Aaron Barrett made some headlines over the weekend when he blamed his elbow injury on overuse early in the 2015 season. The right-handed reliever, who’ll miss the 2016 season following September Tommy John surgery, worked in 30 of Washington’s first 60 games. “The bottom line was I was literally just throwing too much,” he told The Associated Press. He pitched in only 10 games thereafter, working 29 1/3 innings all told. After a strong start, Barrett did two stints on the disabled list and wound up with a 4.60 ERA. … Houston wanted lefty reliever Tony Sipp back in the fold for 2016, and the feeling apparently was mutual. “You can see the talent on this team. … Just want to be a part of it,” Sipp told mlb.com. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product from Pascagoula signed a 3-year, $18M deal with the Astros, for whom he posted a 1.99 ERA in 2015. He yielded one unearned run in five appearances in the postseason, Houston’s first venture there in 10 years. … Jonathan Papelbon, the Mississippi State alum, told WEEI.com (a Boston radio station) that new Red Sox closer (and former Mississippi Braves star) Craig Kimbrel is “a younger version or me.” Papelbon, now with Washington, is Boston’s all-time saves leader but, of course, is also infamous for some episodes of hotheadedness. Red Sox fans must be hoping that Papelbon was only talking about his pitching exploits when he made his comment about Kimbrel. … The Chicago White Sox reportedly discussed a trade with Cincinnati for All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier but did not want to include Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central CC star, in the deal. Shortstop Anderson, the White Sox’s top-rated prospect, hit .312 with 49 stolen bases at Double-A Birmingham this past season. Anderson had a “speed score” of 8.6 in 2015, fifth-best among mlb.com’s Top 100 prospects.
Over the last few days, the MLB transactions page has been littered with the names of former Mississippi Braves on the move: Christian Bethancourt, Yunel Escobar, Charlie Morton, Brett Oberholtzer, Ryne Harper and, of course, the big newsmaker, Jason Heyward. To recap: Atlanta, after signing free agent catcher Tyler Flowers, decided to punt (to San Diego) the enigmatic Bethancourt, a once-highly touted prospect who hit .219 in 80 MLB games and had defensive issues, as well. Bethancourt hit .277 with 12 homers in Pearl in 2013 – his second Double-A campaign — but always seemed to be hurt. … Escobar, an M-Braves standout in 2006, was traded by Washington to the Los Angeles Angels, despite hitting .314 as the Nationals third baseman in 2015. Escobar, a .281 career hitter known at one time for annoying on-field antics, has now been traded six times, starting with the deal that sent him from Atlanta to Toronto in 2010. … Morton, a standout pitcher on the M-Braves’ 2007 playoff team, was dealt by Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, going from contender to bottom-feeder. Ugh. Morton went 9-9 with a 4.81 ERA for the Pirates last season. … Oberholtzer, a lefty who won nine games for the 2011 M-Braves, was part of the package Houston sent to Philadelphia in the Ken Giles trade. Oberholtzer is a quality arm; he has a 3.94 ERA in 45 MLB games over three seasons. … Harper, a reliever – and a good one — in Pearl the past three seasons, has been shipped to Seattle by Atlanta to complete a deal for another reliever, Jose Ramirez. … And then there was Heyward, who made a splash with the M-Braves in 2009. The 26-year-old outfielder signed an 8-year, $184M deal with the Chicago Cubs, leaving St. Louis after one year. Heyward is a true 5-tool talent who may just now be peaking. He could be the piece that propels the Cubs to that much-coveted World Series crown. … So much for looking back. Here’s a look ahead: Dansby Swanson, pilfered by Atlanta from Arizona in the Shelby Miller trade, will probably wind up in Pearl sometime in 2017. The first overall pick out of Vanderbilt back in June played in short-season A-ball this season, so it figures he’s a year away from Double-A. But the Braves, who need help at the big league level, might move him up quickly. Great things are forecast for Swanson, a shortstop with power.
The Colorado Rockies reportedly are getting calls about Corey Dickerson, the ex-Meridian Community College star. The left-handed hitting outfielder, 26, is a career .299 hitter and is four years from free agency. Dickerson battled injuries in 2015, hitting .304 with 10 homers in 224 at-bats. … McComb’s Jarrod Dyson of the world champion Kansas City Royals was grand marshal of the Christmas parade in his hometown over the weekend. City officials are also considering naming a street in his honor. Dyson, a .255 hitter with 146 career steals over six MLB seasons, has never been a regular with the Royals but could get that chance in right field in 2016. … Pascagoula native Joey Butler was claimed on waivers by Cleveland (from Tampa Bay). Butler, 29, hit .276 with eight homers in 88 games for the Rays last season. He joins eight other outfielders on the Indians’ 40-man roster, with two more also having received spring training invites. … Zack Cozart expects to be back at full speed by the time spring training starts for Cincinnati. The former Ole Miss star, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in June, has been rehabbing since late August. “If I had to put a number on it, I’m 90 percent now,” Cozart told mlb.com over the weekend. Cozart, a slick-fielding shortstop, was having a strong season at the plate, hitting .258 with nine homers and 28 RBIs through 58 games. … Free agent reliever Tony Sipp, the Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast CC product, is said to be seeking a 3-year contract in the $15-18 million range. The 32-year-old left-hander, who has been linked to a number of clubs, posted a 1.99 ERA for Houston last season.
Joey Butler, the former Pascagoula High standout, has lost his roster spot with Tampa Bay, but Rays officials reportedly want to keep the outfielder/DH in the organization. Butler hit .276 with eight home runs and 30 RBIs in 88 games in 2015, getting his first extended playing time in MLB at age 29. He was designated for assignment on Thursday after the Rays acquired Hank Conger. … Will anyone take a chance on 37-year-old free agent Cliff Lee, the Meridian Community College alum who missed all of the past season with a shoulder injury? Left-hander Lee, who has 143 wins, a 3.52 career ERA and a Cy Young award on his ledger, hasn’t pitched in a big league game since July 31, 2014. Philadelphia cut him loose after last season, but he has been medically cleared to pitch again. … The next Mississippian to make The Show could well be Mississippi State alum Hunter Renfroe, who reached Triple-A in the San Diego system in 2015 and hit .333 with six bombs in 21 games. Speculation is that Renfroe, now rated the No. 3 prospect in the Padres’ system by Baseball America, will get a shot in right field in San Diego at some point in 2016. … Three former Mississippi Braves pitchers recently signed minor league contracts: Todd Redmond with Baltimore, Paul Clemens with Miami and Scott Diamond with Toronto. Mike Minor, non-tendered by Atlanta, probably will land somewhere, as well.