13 Jul

pre-draft doodles

Mississippi may never have been considered a motherlode of baseball talent, but pro scouts have been mining for nuggets here since the first MLB draft. Joe DeFabio of Delta State was the 20th overall pick in 1965, and players from the state have been drafted in the first round virtually every year since. Four with state ties are projected in various mock drafts to go in Sunday’s Round 1, which, counting supplemental picks, goes 39 deep. Jackson Prep’s Konnor Griffin and former Madison Central High star Braden Montgomery, who played at Texas A&M this season, are generally regarded as top 10 prospects. Mississippi State’s Dakota Jordan and Jurrangelo Cijnjte are also expected to go in Round 1. … The highest any player from the state has been chosen is No. 2, Will Clark taken out of MSU by San Francisco in 1985. The state also has produced two No. 3’s (Ted Nicholson of Oak Park in Laurel by the Chicago White Sox in 1969 and B.J. Wallace of State by Montreal in 1992), a No. 5 (Drew Pomeranz of Ole Miss by Cleveland in 2010) and three No. 8’s (Donny Castle of Coldwater High by Washington in 1968, Kirk Presley of Tupelo High by the New York Mets in 1993 and Paul Maholm of State by Pittsburgh in 2003). Dave Clark of Jackson State was No. 11 by Cleveland in 1983. … Last year, 14 players were drafted out of Mississippi, including No. 15 Jacob Gonzalez from Ole Miss by the White Sox. In 2022, 23 players from Mississippi schools were selected over the 20 rounds of the draft, Landon Sims of MSU going 34th overall. … Back in 2018, Baseball America conducted a survey of which state produced the most pro talent per capita and Mississippi ranked fourth, with 149 high school alums appearing on affiliated rosters from 2011-17. … In Baseball America’s 2024 Draft Preview skill rankings, Griffin — the No. 1 high school athlete — is No. 2 in power, No. 2 in defense (outfield) and No. 4 in speed among all draft-eligible prep players. Montgomery — a touted prep draft prospect when he was at Madison Central — ranks No. 3 in power and as the No. 5 athlete among the college class. Jordan is No. 5 in power. … In Lindy’s 2024 Baseball preview magazine, Lewisburg High’s Samuel Richardson, a third baseman, was rated the No. 35 draft prospect, but he appears to have slipped off the radar over the course of the season. … Quite a few of the state’s best all-around athletes have chosen football over baseball: See Senquez Golson, A.J. Brown, Jerrion Ealy, Anthony Alford (who later returned to baseball and spent some time in the big leagues). Also on that list is Steve McNair, a relative unknown baseball talent when a Seattle scout first saw him in 1991. Dan Jennings, a former William Carey player, happened upon a game at Mount Olive and was mesmerized by the home team’s shortstop. “This is my day. The baseball gods are smiling on me,” he told espn.com in a story a few years ago. The Mariners drafted McNair in the 35th round and offered $15,000 plus college tuition. He chose to play football at Alcorn State — and, yes, the rest is history. … Charlie Condon, the Golden Spikes Award winner from Georgia, is a possible No. 1 overall pick (Cleveland has the choice) — and, yes, there is a Mississippi connection. Georgia’s hitting coach, who has helped Condon blossom from an unrecruited prep player to a college star, is Will Coggin, a former Mississippi State player and assistant coach. Coggin coached Brent Rooker and Jake Mangum, among other draftees, in Starkville. … A name to watch for in the later rounds of the draft, according to an MLB Pipeline article, is Landon Hairston, an Arizona high school outfielder. He is the son of ex-big leaguer Scott Hairston, who is the son of ex-big leaguer Jerry Hairston Sr., who is the son of ex-big leaguer Sam Hairston, a Crawford native who starred in the Negro Leagues in the 1940s.

13 Jul

three stars — plus one

Adam Frazier: The former Mississippi State standout, in one of several marquee games on the MLB docket Friday, went 2-for-5 with two runs and an RBI as Kansas City beat fellow American League wild card contender Boston 6-1 at Fenway Park. Frazier led off the game with a single and scored the first run, then rapped an RBI single in the second inning and later scored to give the Royals a 4-0 lead. Frazier is batting .213 for Kansas City (52-43).
Kemp Alderman: The Ole Miss product from Decatur went 2-for-4 with a double, a home run and five RBIs to pace Low-Class A Jupiter to a win in the Florida State League. The 2023 Ferriss Trophy winner has a six-game hit streak (10-for-24) with three homers and 10 RBIs in that span for the Miami affiliate. He is at .247 on the season.
Tim Elko: The ex-Ole Miss slugger banged out three hits and scored a run in Double-A Birmingham’s 7-4 win against Mississippi at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Elko, who is 5-for-15 in the Southern League series, is batting .298 on the season with eight homers and 36 RBIs for the Chicago White Sox’s farm club.
Kellum Clark: The MSU alum from Brandon went 2-for-3 with a walk and a run for High-A Brooklyn in the South Atlantic League. After a frigid start for the Cyclones — a New York Mets affiliate — Clark has nine hits in his last four games and is batting .417 in July. He’s at .210 for the season with six RBIs and nine runs in 22 games.
P.S. Former Ocean Springs High star Garrett Crochet, in a possible tune-up for an MLB All-Star Game start, threw two perfect innings for the White Sox against Pittsburgh. The big left-hander, throwing 22 of 28 pitches for strikes, struck out four. He has a 150 K’s and a 3.02 ERA. … Atlanta moved Southern Miss alum Landon Harper from Double-A Mississippi back to High-A Rome. Harper has a 1.17 ERA in 10 games with the M-Braves. … In the HBCU Swingman Classic at Globe Life Field, Jackson State alum Robert Tate Jr. tripled and scored a run, JSU’s Lenny Montesano went 1-for-2 and Tigers ace Christian Womble allowed a run in two innings with four K’s for the victorious AL stars. Mississippi Valley State’s Dreylin Holmes was 2-for-2 with a run and JSU alum Rodney Hibler Jr. hit a sac fly for the NL squad.

12 Jul

star trekkin’

Buckle up. Lots of All-Star stuff coming in the next few days. The HBCU Swingman Classic is set for tonight (7 p.m., MLB Network) at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Jackson State had a bunch of offensive standouts this past season, and several are in the game: Joseph Eichelberger (.375 hitter), Robert Tate Jr. (.352, .458 OBP), Lenny Montesano (11 homers, 16 doubles) and Rodney Hibler Jr. (34 steals). Tigers pitchers Christian Womble and Isaiah Williams are also on the rosters, along with Mississippi Valley State’s Dreylin Holmes and Alcorn State’s Garrett Palladino. … On Saturday, there is a high school home run derby competition at Globe Life in which Jacob Parker of Purvis will compete. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound lefty hitter has slugged 24 homers the past three years at Purvis. Later Saturday (3:10 p.m., MLB Network), former Magnolia Heights star Cooper Pratt is slated to play in the All-Star Futures Game. Shortstop Pratt, a second-year pro and the state’s Gatorade player of the year in 2023, is Milwaukee’s No. 4-ranked prospect and is batting .295 with 19 bags at Low-Class A Carolina. … Sunday brings the first day of the MLB draft (4 p.m., ESPN) from Fort Worth, Texas. If Baseball America’s mock draft is accurate, four Mississippi-connected players could be chosen among the first 26 picks. Among them are three of the last four Gatorade state players of the year — Konnor Griffin, Dakota Jordan and Jordan Montgomery — plus Mississippi State switch-pitcher Jurrangelo Cijntje. Montgomery and Cijntje reportedly will attend Sunday’s event; Griffin is having a watch party at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Expect several more players from the state to be called on Monday and Tuesday as the 20-round draft continues. … MLB’s Home Run Derby is set for Monday, though, regrettably, there is no Austin Riley, Brent Rooker or Hunter Renfroe in the field. … On Tuesday, it’s the main event, the 94th All-Star Game, with Ocean Springs High product Garrett Crochet (Chicago White Sox) and ex-MSU standout Jordan Westburg (Baltimore) suiting up for the American League squad.

12 Jul

a little teamwork

The Miami Marlins’ system features several Magnolia State products, and down in the Low-Class A Florida State League on Thursday, three of them teamed up to fuel a win by Jupiter. Davis Bradshaw, a minor league vet on a rehab assignment, and 2023 draft picks Kemp Alderman and Justin Storm played starring roles for the Hammerheads in a 7-3 victory over Bradenton. In the pivotal six-run sixth inning, Bradshaw singled in the game-tying run, Alderman doubled in a pair, Bradshaw scored on a sac fly and Alderman came home on a wild pitch as Jupiter went up 7-2. Storm pitched the last two innings, blanking Bradenton on one hit. Meridian Community College alum Bradshaw, who has been in the Miami chain since 2018 and is a career .304 hitter, is batting .400 in six games with the Hammerheads on a rehab assignment from Double-A Pensacola. Ex-Ole Miss star Alderman, injured at the start of this season, has a five-game hit streak and is batting .233 with two homers and nine RBIs over 20 games. Storm, a power left-hander out of Southern Miss, trimmed his ERA to 1.30 over 17 appearances. He is 4-1 with two saves. … The big league Marlins, who recently released ex-East Central CC star Tim Anderson, still have Ole Miss product Nick Fortes at catcher. Former Mississippi State standout Tanner Allen is at Pensacola (on the IL), and Corinth High and Itawamba CC alum Kyle Crigger is at High-A Beloit. P.S. Former State star Jake Mangum — who was in Miami’s system in 2023 — banged out three hits Thursday for Triple-A Durham (Tampa Bay) and jacked his average to .317. The switch-hitter, 28, hit .347 in June and is at .368 in July, though he hasn’t homered since April. Tick, tick … Mangum is still waiting for his first MLB call-up. … Ex-George County High standout Justin Steele (2-3, 2.71) won his second straight start for the Chicago Cubs, throwing seven shutout innings against mighty Baltimore in an 8-0 romp. … MSU product Dakota Hudson cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A Albuquerque by Colorado. The veteran right-hander was expected to accept the assignment. Also on the Isotopes’ roster is ex-Ole Miss star Ryan Rolison, the oft-injured lefty who has a 3.52 ERA in five games, and minor league vet Hunter Stovall, an MSU alum and a .282 hitter this season.

11 Jul

lookee here

If Cleveland sees a need for rotation help down the stretch, the Guardians may not have to look far. At Triple-A Columbus, ex-Ole Miss star Doug Nikhazy is putting up impressive numbers. The left-hander, 24, was nothing short of sensational on Wednesday, throwing six shutout innings and allowing two hits and no walks with eight strikeouts in a 3-1 win over Indianapolis. In three starts for the Clippers, Nikhazy is 2-0 and has yet to yield a run in 17 innings. He spent some time on the injured list (oblique strain) early this season but bounced back to post a 3.17 ERA in 11 Double-A starts. He has a 3.94 in 64 career pro games. The 6-foot, 210-pound Nikhazy was an ace — and an All-America selection — at Ole Miss in 2021, going 12-2 with a 2.45 and punching out 142 batters in 92 innings. Cleveland took him in the second round that summer, and per scouting reports, he had some command issues early in his pro career. He appears to have cleaned that up, with just 24 walks and 68 strikeouts over 65 innings in 2024. Nikhazy throws four pitches, including a mid-90s fastball. He has slipped off the Guardians’ top prospect chart but no doubt has got their attention now. P.S. Southern Miss alum Matt Wallner, in four games since being recalled by Minnesota, is 6-for-11 with a double and two home runs, including one on Wednesday. The tall left-handed slugger has hit two balls at 116 mph-plus. That’s really hard.

10 Jul

all that glitters

There were several glittering performances from Mississippians in pro ball on Tuesday: Jordan Westburg, the ex-Mississippi State standout, celebrated his appointment to the American League All-Star team (as a replacement) by smacking his 15th homer in Baltimore’s loss to the Chicago Cubs. … Biloxi High alum Colt Keith went 2-for-5 — that’s 12 hits in seven games — with his eighth homer as Detroit fell to Cleveland. … Gunnar Hoglund, former Ole Miss star, threw five shutout innings and notched his Texas League-leading ninth win for Double-A Midland in Oakland’s system. … Ex-South Panola High standout Emaarion Boyd, in his lone at-bat, singled in the tying and winning runs in the ninth inning for High-Class A Jersey Shore (Philadelphia). … Kemp Alderman, 2023 Ferriss Trophy winner at Ole Miss, hit his first homer of the season for Low-A Jupiter (Miami). … Mississippi College product Blaine Crim went 3-for-4 with his 17th double for Triple-A Round Rock (Texas). … But the brightest performance of the day was delivered by ex-MSU star Justin Foscue, who went 5-for-5 — a career-best — with three RBIs for Round Rock. Itching to get another shot at the big leagues — he was 1-for-2 back in April — Foscue is batting .276 with two homers and 14 RBIs for the Express.

09 Jul

heat check

With five multi-hit games over his last nine, Nathaniel Lowe is heating up. So, too, it seems are the Texas Rangers, the defending World Series champs who floundered through much of the first three months of the 2024 season. Mississippi State alum Lowe went 3-for-4 with an RBI on Monday as the Rangers whipped the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 for their fourth straight win and sixth in the last eight. Texas is 43-48, 5.5 games out of first in the American League West, 7 games out of a wild card berth. “We’re poised to make some things happen …,” Lowe told The Associated Press. No team has repeated as champion since the New York Yankees in 2000. Lowe, batting .276 on the season, has hit at a .370 clip over his last seven games and .339 over his last 15. His power is down this season, but he has three homers in his last nine games, lifting his total to six. He averaged 21 bombs the last three years. While winning a Gold Glove at first base in 2023, Lowe was also a key cog in a Rangers offense that led the AL in runs and OPS. Still trotting out a scary lineup, the Rangers currently rank eighth in those categories. With 22 runs in their last two games and 52 in the last eight, they appear to be heating up.

08 Jul

playing pepper

Matt Wallner, recalled to the big leagues by Minnesota on Sunday, got a hit and a walk and made a sweet catch in left field in the Twins’ 3-2 win over Houston. Southern Miss alum Wallner, hitting .259 with 19 homers in Triple-A, had two hits — a double and a home run — in 25 at-bats in his April stint with the Twins. … Former Biloxi High star Colt Keith banged out two more hits for Detroit in a 5-1 win at Cincinnati and has nine knocks — three homers — in his last five games. The rookie second baseman is up to .244 on the season. … Ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier came off the injured list and hit leadoff for Kansas City on Sunday. Alas, he was 0-for-4, dropping his average to .205, though the Royals beat Colorado 10-1. … MSU product Dakota Hudson, designated for assignment by Colorado, had a rough go this season, his first with the Rockies: 2-12, 5.84 ERA. He was especially bad at Coors Field, where many pitchers suffer: 0-6, 8.26 ERA, .359 opponents batting average. He had a 3.72 road ERA. The former first-round pick (by St. Louis) is 40-32, 4.15, for his MLB career. At 29, he might still have something left. … The hit watch continues for Grae Kessinger, the former Ole Miss star recently recalled by the Astros from Triple-A. The seldom-used Kessinger is 0-for-3 since his return and 0-for-14 on the year for Houston. He was batting .283 at Sugar Land. … Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central Community College standout, cleared waivers and was formally released by Miami. There have been no reports of interest from other teams in the former batting champ, a .278 career hitter who tumbled to .214 this season.

07 Jul

star gazing

Garrett Crochet, the Ocean Springs High product who leads the American League in strikeouts, was justly rewarded with a spot on the American League All-Star team. Crochet is 6-6 with a 3.08 ERA and 146K’s for the Chicago White Sox. The rosters were announced Sunday on ESPN; there will be changes before the game is played on July 16 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Also making the AL team was former Biloxi Shuckers pitcher Corbin Burnes, now with Baltimore. He is 9-3, 2.32. Former Mississippi Braves star Freddie Freeman, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, made the National League roster as a reserve. Ex-M-Braves catcher William Contreras, now with Milwaukee, previously was voted in as a starter by fans. … The full list of Home Run Derby (July 15) participants has yet to be revealed. It would be a treat to see Nathaniel Lowe of the hometown Texas Rangers, Brent Rooker, Hunter Renfroe or Austin Riley in the derby. Each of those Mississippi products has light-tower power. … Magnolia Heights High product Cooper Pratt is slated to participate in the July 13 All-Star Futures Game for minor league prospects at Globe Life. He is No. 4 on Milwaukee’s chart. … The All-Star festivities get started on July 12 with the HBCU Swingman Classic. The Magnolia State will be well-represented with six Jackson State players and one each from Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State on the rosters. This is the second annual all-star game for players from NCAA Division I historically black schools. JSU’s Joseph Eichelberger, Robert Tate Jr., Lenny Montesano, Rodney Hibler Jr., Christian Womble and Isaiah Williams are joined on the rosters by Valley’s Dreylin Holmes and Alcorn’s Garrett Palladino. Former big leaguers Ken Griffey Sr. and Lloyd McClendon will manage the two teams. … Of note: The only other time the Texas Rangers hosted the All-Star Game was 1995, when former Mississippi State standout Buck Showalter managed the AL team in a 3-2 loss at The Ballpark in Arlington. He was manager of the New York Yankees, who had the best record in the AL when the 1994 season was halted by a players strike.

07 Jul

that’s one to flush

Lance Lynn’s first pitch — a fastball, of course — was crushed out of Nationals Park, a home run by C.J. Abrams that portended the worst start of the veteran right-hander’s long MLB career. Former Ole Miss star Lynn allowed nine hits (three homers), four walks and 11 runs (10 earned) in 2 2/3 innings Saturday in St. Louis’ 14-6 loss at Washington. His record dropped to 4-4 and his ERA ballooned to 4.48 over 18 starts. Lynn had been brilliant in winning his previous two starts, allowing just one run in 12 2/3. But on Saturday, on a 97-degree day, the Nationals jumped all over his normally reliable four-seamer. The Cardinals surely knew there would be days like this when they signed the 37-year-old Lynn, who is approaching 2,000 career MLB innings, as a free agent in the off-season. A fiery innings-eater most of his career, Lynn is averaging just 5.0 innings per start in 2024. His fastball velocity is not what it once was. He gave up an MLB-worst 44 homers in 2023 but had yielded just 10 before Saturday’s disaster, which may raise concerns. For his part, Lynn didn’t seem too worried postgame. “I wouldn’t be playing this long if I didn’t flush (bad outings),” he told mlb.com. … Minnesota reportedly is recalling ex-Southern Miss slugger Matt Wallner from Triple-A St. Paul, where he is batting .259 with 19 homers and 53 RBIs since an April demotion. P.S. The final Biloxi-Mississippi Southern League game produced a memorable pitchers duel, won by the visiting Shuckers 2-1 at Trustmark Park. Ex-USM star Landon Harper ran his scoreless streak to 20 innings for the M-Braves, going four innings as the starter Saturday. For the Shuckers, Milwaukee prospect Jacob Misiorowski yielded one run in 6 1/3 innings and struck out 10. Remember that name. … Mississippi State alum J.T. Ginn notched his first Triple-A victory Saturday, allowing two runs over six innings for Las Vegas (Oakland system). Ginn is 1-3, 7.03, in nine games for the Aviators. He was 4-1, 4.15, in Double-A this season.