25 Feb

springing into it

Here are a few Mississippians to keep an eye on in MLB spring training:
Bobby Bradley likely will get every opportunity to earn the first base job for Cleveland. A lefty-hitting first baseman, the former Harrison Central High standout has 147 minor league homers and put up 33 in Triple-A in 2019, the last year he actually played a real game. He got 45 at-bats with the Indians in 2019 but wasn’t invited to the team’s alternate camp last summer. He’s 24. His prospect clock is running out. It’s time to break through.
Anthony Alford is due some good luck. The former Mr. Baseball (and Football) from Petal was handed the center field job in Pittsburgh last summer after being claimed on waivers from Toronto. In his fifth game, he broke his elbow crashing into an outfield wall. Alford was dogged by injuries during his years with the Blue Jays and has only 83 MLB at-bats on his ledger dating to 2017. He is penciled in as the Pirates’ center fielder for 2021. Fingers are crossed.
After four humdrum seasons with St. Louis, Mike Mayers thrust himself into the Los Angeles Angels’ bullpen plans for 2021 with a spectacular September. The ex-Ole Miss star posted a 0.98 ERA, two wins, two saves and a .113 batting average against in 14 appearances. He was named the American League’s reliever of the month. The right-hander, who has a 5.69 career ERA, will try to keep the good times rolling this spring – and beyond.
Nate Lowe has gone from the best team in the American League in 2020 to the worst, but it might be a good career move. Texas traded with Tampa Bay for the former Mississippi State standout with the express intention of making him their regular first baseman. In 219 at-bats spread over two seasons with the Rays, the lefty-hitting Lowe batted .251 with 11 homers. The Rangers are in the midst of a rebuild, and Lowe could be a key building block.
The 2021 season will be the eighth in pro ball for Justin Steele, the former George County High star drafted by the Chicago Cubs way back in 2014. The left-hander, now 25, has battled injuries over the years and appeared in just 80 minor league games. He pitched in the old Southern League in 2019 and spent 2020 in the Cubs’ alternate camp. He has a 3.62 career ERA. The Cubs reportedly like his stuff. He might contend for a rotation spot this spring.
P.S. Former Petal High standout Demarcus Evans is rehabbing a right lat strain and reportedly will not be ready to open the season with Texas. He is following a throwing program in camp. Evans, a 6-foot-5 right-hander, made his MLB debut last season, working four innings and allowing one run, a homer by Albert Pujols. … Mississippi State alum Dakota Hudson is in St. Louis’ camp as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. It’s possible though unlikely that he’ll pitch for the Cardinals in 2021. “Mentally, I’m waiting on September,” he told mlb.com. “I’m just trying to stay on pace to where that’s an opportunity to compete at the end of the year. Be available is the ultimate goal.” He has 19 wins in 40 starts over the last two seasons. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, who went to prep school in Florida, is in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ camp as a non-roster invitee. The 6-6 right-hander was a second-round pick by Toronto in 2019 and was traded last summer in the Ross Stripling deal.