Mississippi college products Jordan Westburg, Reed Trimble and Anthony Servideo are part of what MLB Pipeline rates as the strongest farm system among major league clubs. Baltimore also has the worst record in the majors, which for the state trio could mean there is great opportunity for quick advancement. Westburg, a shortstop out of Mississippi State, was the 30th overall draft pick in 2020 and is rated the Orioles’ No. 6 prospect. He’s in Double-A. Servideo, a shortstop from Ole Miss, was picked in Round 3 in 2020 and is rated No. 27, while Southern Miss alum Trimble, a supplemental pick following Round 2 this year, checks in at No. 21. All three would appear to be at least two years away from the majors. Atlanta’s system is rated 23rd, though there are four overall top 100 prospects in the organization. Much of the Braves’ young talent already is in the big leagues. Former Smithville High right-hander Jared Johnson is No. 30 in the Braves’ chain. Milwaukee is No. 25. MSU alum Ethan Small (5), Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray, Jr. (9) and ex-UM standout Thomas Dillard (25) are ranked in the Brewers’ Top 30. P.S. MSU product J.P. France, who threw seven shutout innings (one hit, nine strikeouts) for Sugar Land last Friday, was named the Triple-A West’s pitcher of the week. France, a 2018 draftee, is 4-0 with a 2.93 ERA for Houston’s top affiliate. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Brady Feigl made his Triple-A debut Monday for Oakland’s Las Vegas club, yielding two runs with five punchouts in 4 2/3 innings. Feigl, a 2018 draftee and the A’s No. 23 prospect, was 7-7, 3.96 in Double-A. Ex-State standout Ben Bracewell, an eighth-year pro, got the save in Las Vegas’ win over Oklahoma City; he has two saves, four wins, eight holds and a 4.18 ERA for the Aviators.
Boston will be without slugging outfielder Hunter Renfroe again tonight when it takes on first-place Tampa Bay in the opener of a big, four-game American League East series. Renfroe’s father and “best friend,” Todd, died from cancer last Thursday and the Crystal Springs native has been on bereavement leave since then. He had eight hits – four homers – over a seven-game stretch Aug. 17-25 and is batting .258 with 25 homers overall. Ex-Mississippi State star Renfroe was cut loose by the Rays after last season and signed as a free agent with the Red Sox. … Jarrod Dyson made his Toronto debut on Sunday, entering the game against Detroit as a pinch runner, then staying in to play center field. The Blue Jays are team No. 7 on the former Southwest Mississippi Community College standout’s career list. … Gulfport’s Bobby Bradley returned from the injured list for Cleveland over the weekend, going 2-for-9 in a series against Boston. Bradley is at .214 with 11 homers for the season with the Indians, clinging to wild card hopes in the AL. … Southern Miss alum Nick Sandlin has been on Cleveland’s 10-day IL since Aug. 12 with no clear date for a return for the rookie right-hander. He reportedly is working out in Arizona. … Though there are no reports of an injury, MSU product Mitch Moreland did not leave the bench during the last three games of Oakland’s four-game series vs. the New York Yankees. Moreland is batting .227 with 10 homers. … Ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton continued his rehab assignment at Triple-A Charlotte, going 1-for-3 Sunday. He is 3-for-19 with one stolen base in six games for the Chicago White Sox’s top affiliate. … Dakota Hudson, who had Tommy John surgery a year ago, made a rehab start for St. Louis’ Class A Palm Beach team on Saturday. The State product worked two scoreless innings, throwing 24 pitches and hitting 94 mph. … Former State star Jonathan Holder made his second rehab appearance of 2021 on Friday, yielding a homer in one inning for the Chicago Cubs’ Triple-A Iowa club.
Toronto, which picked up Corey Dickerson in a trade in July, has added another McComb native to its roster. The Blue Jays claimed Jarrod Dyson off waivers today from Kansas City. Dyson, 37, nearing the sunset of a nice career, is a good outfielder who can still swipe a base. (The nickname Zoombiya still fits.) He was batting .221 with eight bags in 77 games (just 122 at-bats) for the Royals. He is a .244 career hitter with 264 steals since his MLB debut in 2010. The Blue Jays will be his seventh team since 2017. Dyson was a 50th-round draft pick out of Southwest Mississippi Community College by the Royals in 2006.
Lance Lynn came in second in the American League Cy Young race in a poll of mlb.com experts. The former Ole Miss standout is 10-3 with a league-best 2.20 ERA for the first-place Chicago White Sox. Mississippi State product Brandon Woodruff (8-7, 2.38 for first-place Milwaukee) got one first-place vote in the National League voting but finished outside the top five overall. … Boston placed Crystal Springs native Hunter Renfroe on the bereavement list on Thursday. It isn’t clear when Renfroe – batting .258 with 25 homers and 77 RBIs – will return to the team. … After the cancellation of the current homestand because of COVID-19 protocols, the Mississippi Braves have only one homestand remaining: Sept. 7-12 against Montgomery. The M-Braves are 58-39, best record in the Double-A South, with 18 total regular season games left. They visit Biloxi next week. … Keep an eye on former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith, a fast-rising prospect (currently No. 12) in Detroit’s system. The state’s 2019 player of the year after moving to the Coast from Arizona, Keith was a fifth-round draft pick in 2020. A lefty-hitting third baseman, he has played at three levels in his pro debut season. He was batting .320 (.436 on-base percentage) in Low-A ball when the Tigers bumped him up to High-A West Michigan on Monday. … Ex-Ole Miss star Errol Robinson is now playing for Sioux City of the independent American Association. Robinson, drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016, was with Cincinnati’s Double-A Chattanooga club (and hitting .213) when he was released earlier this month. Robinson reached Triple-A with the Dodgers and started this year with the Reds’ Triple-A team. … Millsaps College recently broke ground on a 6,000 square foot facility for indoor hitting, pitching and fielding practice. Also as part of the $1.8 million project, space in the existing Hall Activities Center will be converted into a 1,000 square foot player lounge. “This project is an important step in the upgrade of our baseball facilities,” Jim Page, coach of the NCAA Division III Majors since 1989, said in a school release.
Speed is the highlight tool in Jake Mangum’s bag. It was on full display Wednesday. The former Mississippi State star, playing center field for Double-A Binghamton, made three diving catches, one charging in, one going to his left and one to his right. (Check out the video on milb.com.) He also stole a base, his 12th of the season in 70 games for the New York Mets’ Double-A club, and just to show some versatility, belted his seventh home run in a 7-5 win at New Hampshire. Mangum is hitting .296 (.341 on-base percentage) with 21 doubles, four triples, 39 RBIs and 55 runs. The Flowood native was rated one of the fastest players in 2019 draft when the Mets took him – as an MSU senior – in the fourth round. Oddly enough, he has slipped off their Top 30 prospect chart. But if he keeps producing, that hardly matters. P.S. Loyd Star High alum James Beard was generally considered the fastest player in the 2019 draft, and he was picked in the fourth round, a few spots ahead of Mangum, by the Chicago White Sox. Now playing at Low-A Kannapolis, the 20-year-old Beard has nine steals and a .193 average in 63 games. … For the record, the top base-stealer among Mississippians in the minors in 2021 is Delvin Zinn, the ex-Itawamba Community College star now in the Cubs’ system. The fifth-year pro has 43 bags – 42 at High-A South Bend, one (in four attempts) in 17 games at Double-A Tennessee.
Talk about your daunting tasks. Ole Miss product Chris Ellis got the ball Wednesday for his first start for his new team, the Baltimore Orioles, who happened to have lost 19 straight games. The opposing pitcher was none other than the modern-day Babe Ruth, Shohei Ohtani, who was also batting leadoff for the visiting Los Angeles Angels. So, of course, the Orioles won 10-6 in a Camden Yards slugfest. Ellis, in just his third MLB appearance, held his own. In three-plus innings, he allowed three runs. He struck out Ohtani both times he faced him. Ohtani was lifted after five innings, having allowed a career-high three homers and four runs. The O’s rallied against the L.A. bullpen. The atmosphere in the winner’s clubhouse was described as “electric.” … The honor of best pitching performance of the night by a Mississippian has to go to Brandon Woodruff. The ex-Mississippi State standout threw six shutout innings, fanning 10 and walking none, in Milwaukee’s 4-1 win vs. Cincinnati. Woodruff, now 8-7, had not won since June 29, despite pitching relatively well for the first-place Brewers. “I would say that Woodruff right there, that’s about as good of stuff as you’re going to have,” Reds manager David Bell told mlb.com. … Worthy of a shout-out also is State alum Kendall Graveman, who worked a clean inning and notched a win for Houston in its 6-5, 10-inning defeat of Kansas City. In 40 games between Seattle and Houston, Graveman is 5-0 with four holds, 10 saves (in 12 opps) and a 1.02 ERA. P.S. Jonathan Holder, out all season with a shoulder issue, may be close to making his Chicago Cubs debut. The 28-year-old reliever out of MSU made a rehab appearance at Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday.
Brandon Woodruff, 2021 All-Star, ranks fifth in the majors in ERA, third in WHIP, 13th in punchouts. The 6-foot-4, 243-pound, red-bearded right-hander from Wheeler can be an intimidating presence on the mound for Milwaukee. But lately, he hasn’t been himself. Woodruff is 0-3 in his last seven starts. On June 29, he was 7-4 with a 1.87 ERA. Today, as the Mississippi State product prepares to face division rival Cincinnati, he is 7-7, 2.48. In his most recent outing, he gave up six runs in five innings against St. Louis. He lasted just three innings in a laborious start before that. Both of those games were on the road. Woodruff draws Cincinnati at American Family Field in Milwaukee, where he is 3-1, 2.26. After a loss on Tuesday, the Reds are 8.5 games back of the first-place Brewers in the National League Central but are very much in the wild card hunt. It’ll be interesting to see how Woodruff performs. It’ll be interesting also to see if he gets support from the Brewers’ hitters. That’s been an issue in many of his 10 no-decisions. Key matchup for Woodruff: Joey Votto, who is batting .318 with two home runs against him.
It’s a long way from the quaint little ballfield at Copiah Academy to the glorious green cathedral that is Fenway Park — and not just in miles. But you can go the distance. Hunter Renfroe is living, home run-bashing proof of that. The Crystal Springs native and ex-Mississippi State star crushed two homers over the Green Monster on Tuesday, powering the Boston Red Sox to a big 11-9 win over Minnesota. With an MLB-leading 10 homers in August, Renfroe now has 25 on the season, matching his career-best. He is having a resurgent season, batting .256 with 77 RBIs in his first year with the Red Sox, who are feverishly chasing an American League playoff berth. “Yeah, this is what I expect myself to do every year and even better most of the time,” Renfroe, a .234 career hitter with 122 homers in 546 games, said in an mlb.com article. Renfroe was not the only Mississippi-produced star who shined brightly on a Tuesday filled with compelling matchups. To wit: DeSoto Central alum Austin Riley, who leads the all-Mississippi home run derby with 27, went 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run for Atlanta in a tough loss to the New York Yankees in an interleague meeting of first-place teams. Former Brookhaven Academy and Meridian Community College star Corey Dickerson went yard for Toronto, which suffered a hurtful loss to the Chicago White Sox. Dickerson has three homers and nine RBIs in 18 games since joining the Blue Jays. Mitch Moreland, ex-Amory High and MSU star, had two hits and an RBI for Oakland in a loss to Seattle in a game between postseason contenders. Former State standout Nate Lowe put up a career-best five hits, including his 13th homer, as Texas beat Cleveland. Lowe had not homered since July 1. And Petal High product Anthony Alford, fresh off the injured list, hit his first home run of the year for Pittsburgh. Alford, playing well in Triple-A when the Pirates brought him back up for another trial, is batting .163 in 17 big league games in 2021. Said Alford in an mlb.com story: “I’ve just got to find a way to persevere.” These days, don’t we all. P.S. Southern Miss alumnus Cody Carroll has signed a minor league contract with Miami and was assigned to the Marlins’ Florida Complex League team. The 28-year-old onetime major league pitcher was released by Baltimore from its Triple-A team earlier this month.
Box scores are a wonderful thing. You stumble onto one and suddenly you’re digging up treasure. Take Aug. 24, 1930. New York Giants-Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. This was the last game of Tupelo native Andy Reese’s relatively brief big league career. An outstanding minor league player and manager for many years, Reese is in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. He played in 331 big league games for the Giants, batting .281. In his final game, he drew a walk as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning with the Giants down 2-1. The Cubs pitcher was Guy Bush, the Mississippi Mudcat from Aberdeen. The play-by-play from baseball-reference.com reveals that after a bunt by Starkville native Hughie Critz, Reese tried to score from second on a base hit but was cut down at the plate. He was tagged by Gabby Hartnett, called out by umpire Beans Reardon. If you know baseball history, you know those names. Hartnett hit the famous “Homer in the Gloamin’” in 1938. Reardon umped for 24 years and was behind the plate in 1935 when Babe Ruth hit his last homer, coincidentally against Bush. Hall of Famers Mel Ott and Bill Terry played for the Giants on Aug. 24, 1930, and fellow HOFer Hack Wilson was in the Cubs’ lineup. After the Giants tied the score at 2-2 in the ninth, the Cubs won it in the bottom half on a steal of home. Bush got the win while allowing 11 hits and three walks. The game took just an hour and 50 minutes. It was Andy Reese’s last game – but it was a lot more than that.
Not so long ago, New York Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames, the former East Central Community College star, was on a hot seat, as was manager Aaron Boone. For the better part of three months, the club struggled to score, foundering with runners in scoring position, frequently striking out or hitting into double plays. Well, that seems like ancient history now. The Yankees, finally fit and fortified with new additions to the lineup, are sizzling hot as they head into Truist Park in Atlanta, where the eyes of the baseball world will be on a two-game series between the hottest teams in the game. Both have won nine straight. The Yankees have climbed to 72-52, second in the American League East. The Braves are 68-56, first in the National League East. … Atlanta’s Mississippi connection, third baseman Austin Riley, the DeSoto Central High product, is batting .342 during the win streak, with four homers, six RBIs and nine runs. … Ex-Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman, now with Houston, faced his former team, Seattle, for the first time on Sunday. He gave up a run in his one inning but maintained the lead, which the Astros later squandered en route to a 6-3, extra-inning loss. Graveman has allowed two runs in nine innings for the Astros; he had a 0.82 ERA in 30 appearances for the Mariners. Graveman was upset when Seattle traded him in late July. … In his third game at Low-A Salem, former DeSoto Central star Blaze Jordan hit his second homer, this one a grand slam. The first-year pro is 3-for-11 for Salem after hitting .362 with four homers for Boston’s Florida Complex League team. … Just in time for the start of fall classes, Alcorn State has hired a new coach. Reggie Williams, a former major league outfielder, was named last Friday to fill the post previously held by Brett Richardson. He was not retained after a 7-20 season. Williams is a Southern University alum who played in the big leagues in the 1980s. He previously worked as an instructor and coach in the Cincinnati and Milwaukee organizations and was also an educator in the Memphis school system. Three of the state’s HBCUs will have new coaches in 2022. Stanley Stubbs moves from Rust College to Mississippi Valley State, and John Bates was promoted from Stubbs’ staff to replace him as Bearcats coach. … Three Mississippians were on the West roster for Sunday’s Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego: outfielder Emaarion “Mari” Boyd of South Panola, outfielder Dakota Jordan of Jackson Academy and catcher Ross Highfill of Madison Central. All are 2022 seniors. The West was no-hit by the East in a 9-1 defeat at Petco Park.