Goodbye, Southern League. The Mississippi Braves will play this season in the Double-A South league, specifically in the South Division of the Double-A South. Biloxi is also in the division. Under the new configuration set up by Major League Baseball, which has taken over minor league operations, there is no more Pacific Coast League. No Texas League. No Carolina League. Gwinnett, Atlanta’s Triple-A club formerly of the International League, will play in the Triple-A East Southeast Division. There is also a Double-A Northeast Southwest Division and a Low-A Southeast West Division. Could get confusing. But at least there will be minor league ball in Mississippi in 2021. Montgomery and Pensacola join the M-Braves and Shuckers in the Double-A South South. The Double-A South is essentially the old Southern League minus two teams: Jacksonville moved to Triple-A and Jackson (Tenn.) no longer has a team. As part of the revamped minor leagues, players will get salary increases, facilities will get needed upgrades and travel will be decreased. All good. Minor league schedules are not out yet, but it is expected that the Southern League – er, Double-A South – will start play in May and run through September.
Possibly addressing a need for speed, the Cleveland Indians have reportedly agreed to terms with Billy Hamilton on a minor league contract. The former Taylorsville High star, who has 305 career stolen bases and still plays a mean center field at age 30, spent the 2020 season bouncing from San Francisco to the New York Mets to the Chicago Cubs, getting just 32 at-bats and batting .125. He is a career .241 hitter over eight MLB campaigns and is primarily a role player now. Originally drafted by Cincinnati, Hamilton has been with six different clubs the past three seasons. He’ll likely need a strong spring to make the Indians’ roster. The expected starter in center is Oscar Mercado, who struggled in 2020 after a good rookie season in 2019. The team also has Bradley Zimmer and six other outfielders on its 40-man roster, plus Ben Gamel, also signed to a minor league deal. P.S. Former Mississippi State standout Jacob Lindgren is among the Chicago White Sox’s non-roster invitees to spring camp. The injury-plagued left-hander last pitched in the majors in 2015. … State product Ben Bracewell, who has pitched in Triple-A for several years, is on Oakland’s NRI list; former Bulldogs catcher Jack Kruger is going to camp (again) with the Los Angeles Angels; and lefty Ethan Small, Milwaukee’s first-round pick out of State in 2019, will be in Brewers camp.