The Arizona Fall League has been described as an All-Star game every night, and Mississippi State product Rowdey Jordan is showing that he belongs among the highly rated prospects in the league. Jordan — who isn’t among the New York Mets’ Top 30 prospects — had a three-hit game for Glendale on Thursday night, raising his average to .275 in 11 games. The switch-hitting infielder/outfielder scored twice and picked up his sixth double, which is tied for the AFL lead. He has eight runs and three RBIs. Alabama native Jordan batted .323 with 10 homers for State’s national championship team in 2021 and was drafted, as a senior, in the 11th round by the Mets. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Jordan reached Double-A Binghamton late in 2022 and spent all of 2023 there, hitting .230 with 13 homers, 63 RBIs and 30 steals. P.S. Jordan’s teammate on the ’21 Bulldogs, College World Series star Will Bednar has had a rocky go in the AFL as he attempts to get his pro career on track. Bednar, the 14th overall pick in 2021 by San Francisco, has a 9.82 ERA in four appearances for Scottsdale. The right-hander, beset by injuries since he was drafted, has allowed four runs on three hits and seven walks in 3 2/3 innings. He does have six strikeouts. Once the Giants’ No. 4 prospect (by MLB Pipeline), Bednar is now listed 26th. He went 1-2, 4.22, in four games in rookie ball this season.
While the spotlight was trained on the MLB playoffs on Wednesday, several Mississippi products with big league aspirations put on a nice show in the Arizona Fall League. Olive Branch native Kendall Williams and ex-Mississippi State standout Rowdey Jordan teamed up to spark Glendale to a 7-1 win over Surprise, with MSU alum Eric Cerantola taking a tough loss for the Saguaros. Williams, drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of IMG Academy in Florida in 2019, worked four innings for Glendale, yielding five hits and a run with three strikeouts. He got the win. Jordan, a 2021 draftee by the New York Mets, popped out against his former State teammate Cerantola in his first at-bat but finished with two doubles and three RBIs. One of the doubles came in the Desert Dogs’ pivotal four-run fourth after Cerantola had departed the game. Cerantola, a Kansas City farmhand, allowed just one hit and one run while fanning four in his three innings. Jordan hit 13 homers and stole 30 bags for the Mets’ Double-A Binghamton club. Both Williams and Cerantola also reached the Double-A level this year and posted good numbers. … Also making an AFL appearance on Wednesday was Northeast Mississippi Community College alum Tyler Samaniego, now in the Pittsburgh system. The ex-South Alabama star threw a clean inning for Salt River.
The most interesting name among the handful of Mississippi products headed for the Arizona Fall League is Will Bednar. The Most Outstanding Player in the 2021 College World Series for champion Mississippi State, Bednar has been beset by injury issues in pro ball. San Francisco drafted the right-hander with the 14th overall pick in ’21, but he has pitched in only 20 games since. A lingering back injury limited Bednar to four appearances in rookie ball this year; he went 1-2 with a 4.22 ERA and finished the season on the injured list. He’ll face much stiffer competition in the prospect-packed AFL, which begins on Oct. 2. Others on AFL rosters: Former Southern Miss pitcher Ben Ethridge put up a 3-6 record with a 2.99 ERA in Low-Class A for Minnesota in his second pro season. … MSU product Rowdey Jordan, a member of the ’21 champs, hit .230 with 13 homers, 63 RBIs and 30 steals in Double-A for the New York Mets. … Ex-Northeast Mississippi Community College left-hander Tyler Samaniego, 15th-round draft pick by Pittsburgh out of South Alabama in 2021, was 2-1 with six saves and a 5.51 in Double-A this year. … MSU alum Eric Cerantola, a fifth-rounder in 2021, was 3-4, 3.66, at the High-A and Double-A levels for Kansas City. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of IMG Academy in Florida in 2019, went 4-6, 3.42, at the High-A and Double-A levels in 2023. … Tyler Tolve, a catcher with the Mississippi Braves this season, is among Atlanta’s AFL reps, and Wes Clarke, a slugging catcher/first baseman who played in Biloxi, is part of Milwaukee’s contingent.
Three Magnolia State college products pitched for Cleveland this season in its surprising run to the American League Central crown. And there are more Mississippi-groomed hurlers in the Guardians’ pipeline, one of whom is garnering attention in the high-profile Arizona Fall League. Hunter Stanley, a former Southern Miss standout, threw a dominant four innings for Peoria on Thursday night, notching his first AFL victory and trimming his ERA to 2.63 over four starts. Right-hander Stanley, described in scouting reports as a “command over stuff” pitcher, yielded no runs, one hit and no walks while fanning eight. He has 19 punchouts in 13 2/3 innings against the top prospects who populate the AFL lineups. Stanley was 13-6 with a 2.60 in his three seasons at USM and was All-C-USA and a second-team All-America pick after his junior year in 2021. He posted 127 K’s and 19 walks in 102 innings that year. Drafted in the 11th round by Cleveland, Stanley was not assigned to a team that summer. He debuted this season at High-Class A Lake County, where he was 2-1, 1.84, before being shut down with an injury in early May. He is making up for that lost time in the AFL. … Also in Cleveland’s minor league system is ex-Ole Miss star Doug Nikhazy, a left-hander drafted in the second round in ’21. He also debuted this season, went 4-4, 3.19, at Lake County and reached Double-A Akron, where his numbers were less impressive. He is the Guardians’ No. 26 prospect, according to MLP Pipeline. Cleveland took College World Series hero Dylan DeLucia out of Ole Miss in the sixth round of the ’22 draft; the right-hander has yet to make his pro debut. … Nick Sandlin (USM), Kirk McCarty (USM) and Konnor Pilkington (Mississippi State) pitched for the Guardians this season. P.S. Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith ranks among the AFL batting leaders with a .359 average in 13 games for Salt River. The lefty-hitting third baseman, a 2020 draftee, is Detroit’s No. 6 prospect.
A long layoff this year has done nothing to chill Colt Keith’s bat. The former Biloxi High star is hitting .353 with two doubles and three RBIs in six games for Salt River in the Arizona Fall League. Third baseman Keith, Detroit’s No. 6-rated prospect, was shut down in June because of a shoulder injury; he was batting .301 with nine homers and 31 RBIs at the time for High-Class A West Michigan in his second pro season. He reported to the AFL after many weeks of rehab and hasn’t missed a beat. “Strength staff and medical staff took really good care of me and I’m better than ever right now,” the 21-year-old Keith said in a story on the AFL website. The 6-foot-3 left-handed hitter has also bulked up quite a bit from his listed 211 pounds and has developed more power as a result. Also in the AFL: Ex-Southern Miss standout Hunter Stanley, a 2021 draftee by Cleveland, has a 1.35 ERA over 6 2/3 innings for Peoria; the right-hander tossed 3 2/3 shutout innings in a Thursday game. Stanley went 2-1, 1.84, at the High-A level this season in his pro debut. … Reed Trimble, another USM product and ’21 draftee by Baltimore, is batting .250 with four walks and three runs for Scottsdale. Trimble, coming back from shoulder surgery last fall, played 31 games in A-ball this season, batting .291. … Former Mississippi State star Will Bednar, a San Francisco prospect pitching for Scottsdale, allowed two runs in two innings Thursday and saw his ERA jump to 16.20 in two AFL outings. He also missed a chunk of time with injuries this season. … Ex-Bulldogs ace J.T. Ginn, now in Oakland’s system, has thrown two scoreless innings for Mesa. … Justyn-Henry Malloy, who made a big splash for the Double-A Mississippi Braves in 2022, is raking at a .370 clip for Scottsdale with four doubles and three RBIs in 29 at-bats. Malloy played at three levels in Atlanta’s system this past season. P.S. Fun facts: Dylan Moore, who had a big hit for Seattle in a losing cause vs. Houston on Thursday, is one of 12 former M-Braves shortstops to reach the majors. Dansby Swanson is the most notable of that group, Vaughn Grissom the most recent. … Houston infielder/outfielder Mauricio Dubon, who played for the Biloxi Shuckers in 2017 on his path to the big leagues, is the only native of Honduras to play in MLB.
Four Mississippi products, each having battled injuries this season, are on the preliminary rosters for the Arizona Fall League, the select circuit for minor league prospects. Mississippi State alums Will Bednar and J.T. Ginn, ex-Southern Miss star Reed Trimble and former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith are slotted to play in the six-team AFL, which starts its season on Oct. 3. Bednar, the MVP of the 2021 College World Series and the 14th overall pick in the ’21 draft by San Francisco, is 1-3 with a 4.19 ERA in 12 games at the Low-Class A level. Ginn, a second-round pick in 2020, has made 10 starts this year in Double-A in Oakland’s system, posting a 1-4, 6.11 ledger. Ginn was traded by the New York Mets to the A’s for Chris Bassitt during spring training. Trimble, an outfielder and 2021 draftee, is hitting .291 in Low-A ball for Baltimore. Keith, drafted in 2020 by Detroit, hit .301 with nine homers in an abbreviated season at High-A. He was Mississippi’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2019. Among Atlanta’s AFL contingent are current Mississippi Braves Justyn-Henry Malloy and Allan Winans. They’ll be with the Scottsdale team, along with Trimble and Bednar. Ginn will go to Mesa and Keith to Salt River. The rosters could change before or during the season. A bevy of Top 100 overall prospects are scheduled to participate, including four of MLB Pipeline’s Top 20.
A wrist injury cost Matt Wallner some valuable time this season. The former Southern Miss star will get to make up some of the missed at-bats in the Arizona Fall League, which starts Oct. 13. Wallner, Minnesota’s 14th-rated prospect by mlb.com, is one of five Mississippi products bound for the AFL, a sort of select league for top minor leaguers. Grae Kessinger, Justin Foscue, James McArthur and Joe Gray Jr. also merited AFL assignments from their respective organizations, as did Shea Langeliers and several other Mississippi Braves alumni. Wallner, a lefty-hitting outfielder, hit .265 with 15 homers and 47 RBIs in 66 games in High-A ball in the Twins’ system; he’ll play for Scottsdale. Ole Miss alum Kessinger, an infielder, batted .209 with nine homers, 26 RBIs and 12 steals in Double-A for Houston. The Astros’ No. 23 prospect will play for Glendale. Ex-Mississippi State standout Foscue, another infielder, batted .275 with 17 homers and 51 RBIs in three levels of Texas’ system. The 2020 draftee is rated the Rangers’ No. 4 prospect; he’s bound for Surprise. McArthur, a right-hander out of Ole Miss, went 2-6 with a 4.48 ERA for Philadelphia’s Double-A club. A 2018 draftee, he’ll pitch for Peoria. Gray, an outfielder from Hattiesburg High, hit .252 with 20 homers, 90 RBIs and 23 steals in A-ball in a long-awaited breakout season in Milwaukee’s chain. The Brewers’ No. 9 prospect is assigned to Salt River. … Langeliers, Atlanta’s No. 2 prospect, hit 22 homers and was a stalwart behind the plate for the Double-A South champion M-Braves. He’s on Peoria’s roster.
Mississippi native Norm Bass is one of the select few – roughly 70 – who have played both major league baseball and pro football. Born in Laurel in 1939 and raised in California, Bass spent parts of three seasons (1961-63) in the majors as a pitcher with the Kansas City A’s and then played defensive back in the AFL in 1964 with the Denver Broncos. But Bass did not stop there. Arthritis curtailed his ability to perform in baseball and football, so he turned to table tennis and became a prominent player on the international scene. He medaled in the 2000 Paralympics and is in the Table Tennis Hall of Fame. Bass, whose brother Dick was also a pro football player and Mississippi native, posted a 13-17 record with a 5.32 ERA in 65 MLB games. (He allowed one of Roger Maris’ 61 home runs in 1961.) In a wonderful profile on Bass in an online publication called Sports Stories, the writer says, “No athlete I can think of has had a career like Norm Bass.” A film about his life reportedly was in the works in 2020.
Kirk McCarty’s work is complete in the Arizona Fall League, and it was a job well done. The ex-Southern Miss standout, in his third year in Cleveland’s system, finished 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA over 24 innings for Mesa in the prospect-filled AFL. The little left-hander struck out 19 and walked just six. In his final start on Monday, McCarty threw five shutout innings, reportedly displaying command of four pitches. “It’s good to build a lot of confidence back up going into the off-season,” he told mlb.com. “It’s absolutely vital to end on a good note.” McCarty got a late start on his 2019 season because of a minor injury and wound up 3-7 with a 5.66 ERA in 13 starts for high Class A Lynchburg. A seventh-round pick in 2017, the Oak Grove High product – a state champion as a senior in baseball and football (as a quarterback) – is 10-20 with a 4.12 ERA in his pro career. There are 12 pitchers – including USM product Nick Sandlin – currently listed among the Indians’ Top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline and McCarty is not among them. At age 24, he needs to build on his AFL success with a strong 2020 season to stay on Cleveland’s radar.
October isn’t only for playoffs. There’s also the Arizona Fall League, a de facto select circuit for minor league players. It’s a feather in the cap to get an invite. The preliminary rosters for the AFL, which starts Oct. 9, include several Mississippi-connected players: Ole Miss product Errol Robinson, a shortstop in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ system; ex-Delta State star Trent Giambrone, a second baseman in the Chicago Cubs’ system; Petal High alum Demarcus Evans, a pitcher in the Texas chain; former Mississippi State standout Brent Rooker, a first baseman/outfielder in Minnesota’s organization; Mississippi Braves outfielder Cristian Pache and shortstop Ray-Patrick Didder; and Biloxi Shuckers infielder Keston Hiura. The most intriguing member of this bunch might be the 21-year-old Evans, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound right-hander who has dominated in low-A ball this summer. Working as a closer at Hickory in the South Atlantic League, Evans has struck 101 batters in 55 innings with just 27 walks. He is 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA and nine saves. He’ll face much better competition in the AFL, so it’ll be extremely interesting to see how he fares. He is on the Surprise roster. … Robinson, Giambroni and Rooker are all in Double-A. Giambroni, a 25th-round draft pick in 2016, has had an emergent season, batting .254 with 17 homers and 26 steals. Rooker has hit 22 bombs in his second pro season, while Robinson, a third-year pro, has 10 homers and 18 steals. Pache, a top Atlanta prospect, Didder and Hiura will be together on the Peoria club. P.S. Arizona has sent Jarrod Dyson on a rehab assignment, meaning the McComb native may be close to returning from his long stint on the disabled list.