18 Jul

starting point

Ex-Ole Miss star Jacob Gonzalez, the first player drafted out of the state this year, has signed with the Chicago White Sox and will soon begin the journey toward the big leagues. There is no roadmap, no timetable, no guarantee that he’ll even make it that far. That’s how it works. Only the fittest survive. Over the last 10 years, going back to 2014, the experiences of the top picks from the state each year have been quite varied. Blake Anderson, a catcher at West Lauderdale High, was a surprise pick at 36th overall in 2014 by the Marlins. The Southern Miss signee never made it out of A-ball, even after a conversion to pitcher. Four of the five top picks between 2015 and ’19 have reached The Show, and two of them — Austin Riley and Brent Rooker — were All-Stars this year. Riley, drafted 41st overall out of DeSoto Central by Atlanta in 2015, rose rather smoothly in the Braves’ system, made a splash as a rookie in 2019, took a brief step back to the minors but has been a fixture at third base — a legit star — since 2020. Rooker’s path was much more winding. The 35th overall selection out of Mississippi State by Minnesota in 2017, he is now with Oakland — his fourth organization. He has put up some nice stats this season but still is not playing everyday. Dakota Hudson was the 34th overall pick out of MSU by St. Louis in 2016. He reached the big leagues in 2018, won 16 games in 2019, had arm surgery in 2020 and has been inconsistent ever since. He is currently with the Cardinals after starting the year in Triple-A and picked up a win with 3 1/3 shutout innings in relief on Saturday. Ethan Small, 28th overall pick out of MSU by Milwaukee in 2019, has made three wobbly MLB appearances over the last two seasons and appears stuck in Triple-A. Ex-Ole Miss star Ryan Rolison was the 22nd overall selection by Colorado in 2018. The left-hander (12-13, 4.56 ERA, in his minor league career) has been beset by injuries and is currently on the 60-day injured list at Triple-A. The first pick in 2020 was MSU’s Justin Foscue, 14th overall by Texas. The infielder is in Triple-A, playing well, and is the Rangers’ No. 6 prospect. He’ll get there soon. The first pick in 2021 was MSU College World Series star Will Bednar, taken 14th by San Francisco. Stalled by injuries, he has made just 20 appearances in the minors and currently is on the IL. Ex-Bulldogs standout Landon Sims was coming off Tommy John surgery when he was drafted 34th overall last July by Arizona. He has pitched in six games this season, all in the rookie Arizona Complex League, where he might soon cross paths with UM alum Gonzalez, both at the starting point of an uncertain journey. P.S. Other 2023 draftees from Mississippi schools who have signed include Colton Ledbetter with Tampa Bay, Calvin Harris with the White Sox and Justin Storm with Miami. Atlanta has signed first-rounder Hurston Waldrep, a USM alum who pitched at Florida in 2023. … MSU’s Hunter Hines has been selected to the Cape Cod League All-Star Game, to be played Saturday in Norwich, Conn. Hines leads the CCBL in homers (nine) and RBIs (34) and is batting .274 for Yarmouth-Dennis.

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