30 Jun

starting line

Dakota Hudson, whose name just keeps popping up on All-America teams, has yet to pop up in a pro box score. The first Mississippian picked in the 2016 draft (34th overall), the right-hander out of Mississippi State has signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and is on their Gulf Coast League roster. So is Walker Robbins, the Cardinals’ fifth-round pick out of George County High. Robbins is off to a 2-for-12 start. Ole Miss alum J.B. Woodman, picked in the second round by Toronto, is hitting .138 in eight games at the short-season Class A level. Playing in that same league (Northwest), ex-Delta State star Trent Giambrone (Chicago Cubs, 25th round) homered on Wednesday; he is 3-for-8 as a pro. Also in the great Northwest is Southern Miss alum Jake Winston (Arizona, 17th round), who got a win on Wednesday and has a 3.00 ERA in five appearances. UM product Errol Robinson (Los Angeles Dodgers, sixth round) is off to a .212 start (with four RBIs and four runs) in rookie ball. Ex-USM standout Chuckie Robinson (Houston, 21st round) is 3-for-15 on a short-season A club, while fellow former Golden Eagle Tim Lynch (New York Yankees, ninth round) — the noted former baseball autograph hound – is 4-for-15 in rookie ball.

30 Jun

stuff happens

Things have not gone according to plan for Jarrod Dyson. He was supposed to play every day in 2016 as Kansas City’s right fielder. The former Southwest Mississippi Community College star, entering his seventh MLB season, deserved that shot. Everybody said so. Then Dyson got hurt (strained oblique), on his first at-bat of spring training. The Royals’ season was well underway when he returned. He got his start the latter part of April and hit .303 for the month. But then he began to slump. By mid-May he was at .215, and Paulo Orlando was hitting. Even when left fielder Alex Gordon went down with injuries, Dyson’s playing time wasn’t regular as rookie Brett Eibner stepped in. Now center fielder Lorenzo Cain is hurt. Dyson started in center on Wednesday – his 38th start — and went 2-for-4 with two walks in the 3-2, 12-inning win over St. Louis. He still sees a fair amount of playing time in his old role: pinch runner/defensive replacement/pinch hitter. And maybe that suits both him and the defending world champion Royals (41-36), who have rebounded from their sluggish start. Dyson, in 127 at-bats, is hitting .260 with 16 runs, 12 steals and seven assists in 51 games. P.S. Billy Hamilton’s season has run a little off-kilter, as well. On Wednesday, the former Taylorsville High standout was struck in the face by a deflected ball in the outfield and had to leave Cincinnati’s game. Reports seemed to indicate he is fine, though it would not be a surprise if he missed today’s game. Hamilton, batting .255, was on the concussion disabled list from June 10-16 and also missed three days while on the bereavement list. He had a shoulder injury at the end of 2015 that impacted his spring training work.

29 Jun

fast company

Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva are iconic figures in Minnesota Twins history. Killebrew is in the Hall of Fame, and Oliva ought to be. Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss star from Tupelo, took the legends down a peg on Tuesday. Dozier hit a pair of home runs in the Twins’ win against the Chicago White Sox, extending his streak of games with an extra base hit to nine. That’s a Twins record, surpassing the mark long held by Killebrew (from 1970) and Oliva (1969) that Dozier had equaled on Sunday. Dozier has a 10-game hit streak during which he has batted .439 with five homers. For the year, he is at .259 with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs. P.S. Ole Miss alum Alex Presley, batting .198 this season, has been designated for assignment by Milwaukee. The lefty-hitting outfielder’s playing time has been dwindling, and he was in a 2-for-22 skid. Presley, 30, in his 11th pro season, is a .253 career hitter in the big leagues.

28 Jun


Mississippi State product Hunter Renfroe, Dansby Swanson of the Mississippi Braves and recently promoted Biloxi Shuckers standout Josh Hader have been named to the All-Star Futures Game, set for July 10 at Petco Park in San Diego. MLB Network will televise the game (at 6 p.m. CDT) as part of All-Star Weekend. … Fan voting for the July 12 MLB All-Star Game ends on Thursday; the teams will be announced next Tuesday (on ESPN). Ole Miss alumni Zack Cozart (Cincinnati) and Drew Pomeranz (San Diego) have outside chances at being selected to the National League squad, though both face very strong competition at their spots, shortstop and starting pitcher. Former M-Braves Julio Teheran, Freddie Freeman and Arodys Vizcaino are also regarded as viable candidates. … Former Jackson State coach Bob Braddy formally enters the National College Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday when the organization holds its Night of Champions in Lubbock, Texas. Braddy, one of the nicest people you could hope to meet, won a SWAC record 824 games at JSU and claimed 12 conference titles in 24 years with the Tigers. He steered more than 50 players into pro baseball, several reaching the big leagues, including Dave Clark, Oil Can Boyd, Wes Chamberlain and Marvin Freeman. JSU’s field is named in Braddy’s honor. He is still involved in youth baseball in Jackson. … In Omaha on Sunday, Ole Miss’ Colby Bortles and State’s Brent Rooker will take part in the TD Ameritrade College Home Run Derby. The event will be aired on ESPN2 at 7:30 p.m.

28 Jun

good times roll

Hunter Renfroe’s good year keeps getting better. The Mississippi State product from Crystal Springs produced a four-hit game that included a grand slam on Monday night, powering Triple-A El Paso to a 13-3 win against Reno. Renfroe, 24, a right fielder, leads all of Triple-A in home runs with 18 and is second in RBIs with 67. Renfroe now has 65 homers in roughly three seasons in the minors. He has hit .351 over his last 10 games to boost his average to .324. “He’s learning with every at-bat now, which is good for him,” El Paso manager Morgan Burkhart told milb.com. San Diego brass must be seriously considering a promotion. Some in the San Diego media have been calling for it for some time. P.S. In the big leagues, Desmond Jennings, the former Itawamba Community College star, is showing some signs of coming around for Tampa Bay. Jennings homered for the second straight day on Monday, helping the Rays snap their 11-game losing streak with a 13-7 victory over Boston. Jennings, getting more playing time of late for the injury-plagued Rays, has hit .261 over his last seven games to move his long-suffering average to .200 with seven homers and 18 RBIs. … Taylorsville High alum Billy Hamilton, slumping since his return from a concussion, had a productive night for Cincinnati in a loss to the Chicago Cubs (and the amazing Kris Bryant). Hamilton had a hit, two walks, a sac bunt, two steals and two runs. He is batting .258 with 19 bags and 32 runs in 62 games. His defense in center field is about as good as it gets.

26 Jun

lightning strikes

If he could bottle it, he surely would. Former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz had quite the day for San Diego on Saturday. Seven shutout innings on the mound at Cincinnati. Two hits, including his second career home run, at the plate. Pomeranz, who goes 6 feet 6, 240 pounds, is reputed to be a batting-practice masher. “I’m 5 o’clock lightning, for sure,” he told The Sports Xchange. It’s the potential lightning in his left arm that rates the attention, however. Pomeranz is having the best season of his career, and the trade rumors are circling overhead. He is 7-7 with a 2.76 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 88 innings for the Padres, who are going nowhere this year. There are a number of clubs, Baltimore and Miami among them, said to be interested in acquiring Pomeranz. The fifth overall pick by Cleveland in 2010, Pomeranz already has been dealt three times: from the Indians to Colorado, then to Oakland, then to San Diego. He is only 21-31, 3.77 career, having split time as a starter and reliever while teasing with his potential. He appears finally to have caught on to something in 2016. Maybe he can bottle it.

25 Jun

random numbers

1 – Big league hits for Adam Frazier, the former Mississippi State standout who got his first knock in his first at-bat for Pittsburgh on Friday night.
1 – Professional hits for Walker Robbins, the ex-George County High star who singled in his first game with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.
4 – Hits in eight at-bats for Joey Meneses in his first two games with the Mississippi Braves. The native of Mexico was hitting .342 at Class A Carolina.
1,000 – Career wins in MLB for Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle, the former Jackson Mets manager who won 73 games with the Double-A club back in 1990.
3,315 – Attendance on Friday at Biloxi’s MGM Park, where former Jackson Mets star Darryl Strawberry threw out the first pitch. He was in town for a speaking engagement.
12 – Combined runs scored by Montgomery and Biloxi in the first inning of the Southern League game, won by the Biscuits 10-9.
13 – Home runs by Corey Dickerson, the Meridian Community College product who went deep for Tampa Bay on Friday. He leads all Mississippians in the majors in homers; Zack Cozart and Mitch Moreland have 11 each.
3 – Home runs allowed in two MLB starts by Cody Reed, the Northwest Mississippi CC alum now with Cincinnati.
15 – Strikeouts by Cody Reed in his 12 innings in the big leagues.
3.56 – ERA of Cleveland’s pitching staff, which leads the American League. Former Ole Miss standout Mickey Callaway is the pitching coach for the Indians, who have won seven straight and lead the AL Central.

24 Jun

a helping hand?

The Pittsburgh Pirates, who are in a free fall, have called up ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier. The versatile Frazier, batting .333 at Triple-A Indianapolis, isn’t likely to be a difference-maker but could provide a lift to a club that has lost eight of nine and 20 of its last 26. Frazier has played mostly left field this season but also has seen time in center and at second base and shortstop, where he played at State. Pittsburgh drafted him in the sixth round in 2013. Frazier is a .299 career hitter in the minors. At 5 feet, 11 inches and 175 pounds, he doesn’t hit for power but has some speed (17 steals, four triples this year). The Pirates, managed by former Jackson Mets skipper Clint Hurdle, are 34-39, 14 games back of the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central. They host the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight at PNC Park. P.S. Eight Mississippi players were selected to the 2016 Louisville Slugger High School All-America teams, four of them from Class 5A power Oxford. Jason Barber – the two-time Gatorade player of the year – Houston Roth and Thomas Dillard were first-team picks from the Chargers, and Grae Kessinger was a second-teamer. Also on the (rather large) first team, as picked by Collegiate Baseball magazine, were Magnolia Heights products Riley Self and Dustin Skelton. Oak Grove’s Drew Boyd and Houston’s sophomore sensation Luke Hancock made the second team. … Dillard, who hit a remarkable 16 home runs this season, was pegged by Baseball America as a second-team All-America.

23 Jun

second chances

To win a second-half title in the Southern League South, the Mississippi Braves need to:

a. Score more runs;
b. Hit more home runs;
c. Win more home games.

Any of the three would help, but obviously it’s not that simple. The M-Braves went 34-35 in the first half, ending up third, 6 1⁄2 games behind champion Pensacola. Pitching never seems to be a problem at Trustmark Park, a notorious pitcher’s yard. The M-Braves’ staff ERA of 3.13 is second in the league. They’ve allowed the fewest homers and are tied for the most strikeouts. Having lost ace Chris Ellis, the former Ole Miss star, to promotion, keeping up those numbers might be tougher in the second half. But there are still plenty of prospect-type arms around. Scoring, not preventing it, has been the issue for Luis Salazar’s team. They’re 25-6 when they score four runs or more. But they average just 3.6 runs per game, tied for last with Biloxi. They’re last in on-base percentage, last in steals and seventh (of 10) in homers. They’re 21-6 when they hit a homer — they just don’t hit many, especially at the TeePee. Dustin Peterson and Jacob Schrader have 14 of the club’s 37 bombs. Where would the boost in offense come from? It would help if top prospect Dansby Swanson would get hot again; he’s down to .242. A little more all-around production from Johan Camargo, Carlos Franco, Levi Hyams or Dian Toscano might go a long way, too. And then there’s the new guys, just added to the roster today: catcher Joe Odom and first baseman Joey Meneses up from Class A Carolina, outfielder Connor Lien off the disabled list where he spent most of the first half. Lien was a Carolina League All-Star in 2015. Odom was batting .292 with eight homers and 29 RBIs for the Mudcats this year, and Meneses was at .342 with five homers and 31 RBIs. Here’s a big thing: The team was 16-19 at home in the first half; that’s gotta change if they hope to contend. By contrast, Pensacola went 25-11 at home.

23 Jun

heat check

Brian Dozier appears to be over his slump. The former Southern Miss standout, whose average had dipped below .200 in late May, has hit .375 over his last 15 games with two homers, six RBIs and 12 runs. The Minnesota Twins second baseman is at. 244 for the season with eight homers and 28 RBIs, a little off his All-Star production from 2015 but trending in the right direction. … A number of other Mississippians are producing some hot stuff with the bat: At Triple-A El Paso, ex-Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe hit his 17th homer on Wednesday and has three in his last six games. He is batting .314 for San Diego’s top farm team. … MSU alum Adam Frazier, at Triple-A Indianapolis (Pittsburgh), is batting .393 in June with 14 runs and 10 RBIs. He is at .333 for the year. … At Double-A Arkansas (Los Angeles Angels), Ole Miss product Alex Yarbrough is batting .357 over his last 10 games, boosting his average to .272. He is bidding to get back to Triple-A, where he began the season. … Southwest Mississippi Community College alum Kade Scivicque has hit .359 over his last 10 games for Class A Lakeland in Detroit’s system. The second-year pro, a catcher, is batting .276. … Miciah Heard, a Blue Mountain College player from Thaxton, is off to an 11-for-22 start in the Cotton States League, the New Albany-based college summer circuit. Heard, a .314 hitter for BMC, has 13 steals, nine runs and five RBIs in six games for the Tallahatchie Rascals. … Not exactly hot but glad to be back on the field is Anthony Alford, the former Petal High star. Alford, who suffered a concussion on June 10, played Wednesday for Class A Dunedin, going 0-for-3. The highly regarded Toronto prospect is batting .200 in an injury-wracked campaign.