12 Jul

minor matters

In his first game since the Chicago Cubs decided to return him to a starting role, Justin Steele threw the first 3 2/3 innings Sunday of a seven-inning no-hitter for Triple-A Iowa. Left-hander Steele, a George County High alum, struck out five and walked two in the 1-0 win against St. Paul. Former Delta State star Trent Giambrone drove in the game’s only run with a walk-off sac fly. Former Mississippi State star Brent Rooker went 0-for-3 for St. Paul, a Minnesota farm team. Steele, a starter most of his lengthy minor league career, made his long-awaited MLB debut this season and had a 2.03 ERA in 11 games for the Cubs before landing on the injured list. … MSU product Ethan Small gave up three hits and two runs but got the last two outs in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday. Small is now at Triple-A Nashville in Milwaukee’s system. … Ole Miss alum Thomas Dillard belted his 10th homer for High-A Wisconsin in the Brewers’ chain. Former Hattiesburg High star Joe Gray, Jr., was recently promoted to Wisconsin after batting .289 with 12 homers in Low-A ball. Gray is at .158 in six games at the new level. … Ex-Bulldogs standout Justin Foscue, recently back from the IL, put up a 3-for-4 that included his third homer for High-A Hickory in Texas’ system. Foscue, a 2020 draftee, is batting .237. … Ole Miss product Parker Caracci notched his sixth save for High-A Vancouver in the Toronto organization. The Jackson Prep alum has a 2-2 record and 1.50 ERA in 22 games in his second pro season. Toronto picked ex-UM star Gunnar Hoglund in the first round (19th overall) of Sunday’s MLB draft; his pro career will be delayed to 2022 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. … MSU’s Will Bednar, taken with the 14th overall pick by San Francisco, likely would start his pro career in the Arizona Complex League or at Low-A San Jose.

09 Jul

star struck

Taylorsville High’s Aiden Moffett is the lone Mississippian on the roster for tonight’s High School All-American Game, which will unofficially launch MLB’s All-Star Game festivities in Denver. The high school game, featuring players from the class of 2022, will be livestreamed on mlb.com at 6 p.m. CDT. Moffett, 6 feet 2, 185, is listed as a right-handed pitcher on the roster and has signed as a pitcher with LSU. He was 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA for the state Class 2A champion Tartars in 2021. He was also a .300 hitter. … The All-Star Futures Game is Sunday — former Mississippi Braves star Drew Waters is slated to play — followed by the first round of the MLB draft. Ole Miss’ Gunnar Hoglund and Doug Nikhazy, Mississippi State’s Will Bednar and Madison Central High’s Braden Montgomery are potential first-rounders. All are ranked in the top 66 by mlb.com. (Atlanta picks 24th, Milwaukee 15th.) The draft continues on Monday and Tuesday, when the Home Run Derby and MLB All-Star Game are scheduled at Coors Field. … Montgomery, the state’s Gatorade player of the year, is the lone prep player ranked among the top 250 in the mlb.com draft chart, but there are always surprise picks. A few to watch out for: Terry pitcher Darious Anderson, Jackson Prep/Oxford shortstop Kelly Crumpton, Tupelo left-hander Hunter Elliott, Madison Central third baseman Hunter Hines and Lewisburg pitcher Brady Tygart. … Worth noting: Jerrion Ealy, the ex-Jackson Prep star and current Ole Miss running back, is eligible for the draft again. An outfielder, he was the top high school player in the state in 2019 but was firmly committed to UM. Arizona took a flyer on him in the 31st round.

30 Jun

triple-a troopers

Getting to the big leagues is hard. Staying, they say, is harder. And getting back to the big leagues after losing your roster spot might be a different level of hard. That’s the plight faced by a handful of Mississippians currently playing in Triple-A with no clear path to another MLB chance. Anthony Alford, Cody Carroll, Chris Ellis, JaCoby Jones and Jacob Waguespack are veteran pros no longer holding a 40-man MLB roster spot in their respective organizations. Alford, 26, from Petal, was designated for assignment by Pittsburgh on April 21, hitting .083 at the time. He has perked up at Indianapolis, batting .292 with six homers in 35 games. But his MLB track record (.150 in 62 games over five years) isn’t good. Former Southern Miss star Carroll, 28, pitched in 15 games for Baltimore in 2018 and got into three games last summer but was waived in September. Assigned to Norfolk this year, he has a 5.56 ERA in 13 appearances. Ellis, 28, a former Ole Miss (and Mississippi Braves) standout, has one MLB game (one inning, actually) on his resume. That was with Kansas City (as a Rule 5 draft pick) in 2019. He was DFA’d after that game and returned to St. Louis, which released him in May 2020. Tampa Bay signed Ellis in the off-season; he is 0-1 with a 6.45 ERA in eight games at Durham. Jones, 29, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton, seemingly had established himself as an outfielder with Detroit. But after struggling to start this season, he was demoted and then DFA’d on June 6. He is batting .222 in 25 games for Toledo. Waguespack, 27, an Ole Miss alum, was up with Toronto last summer (8.15 ERA) but was DFA’d in March. He is 3-2, 3.43 at Buffalo. What are the odds any of these players gets another shot in the big leagues? Well, as they say, as long as you’re wearing a uniform, you’ve got a chance. P.S. Former Mississippi State ace Ethan Small and Mississippi Braves product Drew Waters have been selected for the All-Star Futures Game in Denver on July 11. Small, recently promoted from Double-A Biloxi to Triple-A Nashville, is Milwaukee’s top-rated pitching prospect. Waters, 2019 Southern League MVP, is playing at Triple-A Gwinnett; the switch-hitting outfielder is Atlanta’s No. 2 prospect.

16 Jul

grand finale

Though he is not heading to the MLB All-Star Game, Brian Dozier put on a star-worthy performance in his final game before the break. The Southern Miss product smacked a walk-off grand slam Sunday to give Minnesota a wild 11-7 win over Tampa Bay. He had five RBIs all told and scored a run by drawing a balk. The victory wrapped up a 9-2 homestand for the Twins, who are scrapping to stay in playoff contention. “I love it,” Dozier said in a postgame TV interview. The subject of trade speculation, Dozier hit .321 with three homers and 10 RBIs over the last seven games of the first half. He leads all Mississippians in the majors with 16 homers and 48 RBIs. East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox has 13 homers, and ex-Mississippi State standout Mitch Moreland – who is headed to the All-Star Game – has 11 for Boston. Moreland is second to Dozier among Mississippians with 46 RBIs and second to Meridian CC alum Corey Dickerson of Pittsburgh in batting average, .278 to .306. Dickerson, a 2017 All-Star with Tampa Bay, went 2-for-5 with his seventh homer on Sunday. … Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, with Cincinnati, has 22 steals, one more than Anderson. … The break may have come at a bad time for State product Hunter Renfroe, who homered on Saturday and Sunday for San Diego to boost his season total to seven. He hit 26 in 2017, when he played more regularly. P.S. Dakota Hudson threw a clean inning and fellow MSU alum Nate Lowe went 1-for-2 with an RBI in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game in Washington, D.C. … Down on the farm, Gulfport’s Bobby Bradley rated a headline on milb.com after hitting his 18th homer and diving into the stands to catch a pop fly for Double-A Akron. Bradley, a top Cleveland prospect at first base, is on an 11-game hit streak that has raised his average to .213. His homer total ranks second in the Eastern League.

15 Jul

bright futures

There is a maroon tint to the U.S. roster for today’s All-Star Futures Game. Former Mississippi State teammates Dakota Hudson and Nathaniel Lowe were chosen for this showcase event, slated for 3 p.m. (on MLB Network) at Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C. Also on the rosters are Mississippi Braves alums Kyle Wright and Touki Toussaint (who’ll suit up for the World team), the Biloxi Shuckers’ Keston Hiura and Ke’Bryan Hayes, son of ex-big leaguer and Hattiesburg native Charlie Hayes. It’s certainly not a big surprise to see Hudson in this game. He was a first-round pick by St. Louis in 2016, immediately jumped onto their prospect lists and has soared through the system. He is 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA at Triple-A Memphis this year, perhaps on the brink of a call-up from the Cardinals. It’s fair to say Lowe has exceeded expectations. The big left-handed hitting first baseman was a 13th-round pick in 2016 by Tampa Bay. After a modest start to his pro career, he has taken off in 2018. He was killing it at Class A Port Charlotte and, after earning a June promotion to Double-A, has continued to do so for Montgomery. His numbers at the two levels: .349, 18 homers, 73 RBIs. Hard to ignore.

06 Jul

whirlwind

Whirlwind is a great word. Sounds like what it means: energetic, dizzying, a little bit chaotic. There may be no better word to describe the last few weeks for Mississippi State. Walk-off wins. Trip to Omaha. Disheartening finish. Top 10 rankings. Jake Mangum’s coming back. Gary Henderson’s not. Chris Lemonis is coming in. Konnor Pilkington and Jacob Billingsley are going pro. J.T. Ginn isn’t. When the Ginn news dropped late Thursday, it was truly a wow moment. Ginn, the state’s player of the year from Brandon and the 30th overall pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers, turned down big bucks – slot value of $2 million-plus – to follow a dream of playing for the Bulldogs. The centerpiece of a recruiting class that includes a slew of the state’s top players, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Ginn can both pitch and hit. He could have a major impact in 2019. And there’s also the possibility that signee Carter Stewart, the big right-hander from Florida drafted in the first round by Atlanta, will be coming to Starkville. Stewart was the eighth overall pick but hasn’t signed, reportedly because of concerns about a wrist problem. Signing deadline is today. Stay tuned. There’s already much anticipation for fall ball in Starkville. Most of the position players responsible for State’s amazing postseason run – including Mangum, the team leader and best hitter – are back. Lemonis and Ginn are in. The whirlwind goes on. P.S. Former State standouts Dakota Hudson (now in St. Louis’ system) and Nathaniel Lowe (Tampa Bay) have been named to the U.S. roster for the July 15 All-Star Futures Game. Also on the U.S. team are current Mississippi Braves pitcher Kyle Wright, Biloxi Shuckers infielder Keston Hiura (Milwaukee) and Ke’Bryan Hayes (Pittsburgh), son of Hattiesburg native and ex-big leaguer Charlie Hayes.

07 Jul

movers and shakers

Ronald Acuna, who has been raking for the Mississippi Braves, jumped 52 spots to No. 10 on Baseball America’s new Midseason Top 100 Prospects chart. Acuna, a 19-year-old outfielder, is batting .314 with seven homers, 26 RBIs and 18 steals through 53 Double-A games. The M-Braves return to Trustmark on Sunday, but Acuna will be in Miami for the All-Star Futures Game. Also going to Miami is Mike Soroka, one of the three M-Braves starting pitchers in the new Top 100 released today on BA’s website. Soroka is No. 33, just behind Kolby Allard (23) and ahead of Luiz Gohara (76). Former Mississippi State star Brandon Woodruff of Wheeler jumped from 74 to 43. Slated to make his big league debut for Milwaukee on June 13, Woodruff injured a hamstring in warmups and went on the disabled list. He’ll be back with the Brewers soon. Petal High alum Anthony Alford is No. 38 on the list, down from 34 in the previous chart. He is also on the DL, having suffered a wrist injury in May, a day after getting his first MLB hit for Toronto. He was batting .325 in Double-A. Bobby Bradley, the ex-Harrison Central High standout, moved into the Top 100 at 93. The lefty-hitting first baseman is batting .270 with 15 homers and 58 RBIs for Cleveland’s Double-A club. P.S. Former Pillow Academy star and veteran big leaguer Louis Coleman has posted a 2.57 ERA in six games for Triple-A Reno in the Arizona organization. Coleman reportedly opted out of his minor league contract with Cincinnati last month and then signed with the Diamondbacks. He had a 2.21 ERA in 25 games at Triple-A Louisville.

30 Jun

stuff

Ole Miss product Zack Cozart, eligible to come off the disabled list (thigh strain) on Wednesday for Cincinnati, could be activated today, according to reports. The Reds host the Chicago Cubs this weekend at Great American Ballpark. Cozart is batting .320 with nine homers and 33 RBIs and led the voting for National League All-Star shortstop at last look. The rosters will be announced on Sunday on ESPN. … McComb native and Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson was leading the vote for American League DH in the most recently released results. He is batting .330 with 17 homers and 39 RBIs for Tampa Bay. … Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton, the ex-Taylorsville High standout, was passed by Trea Turner for the MLB stolen base lead on Thursday, but with Turner now on the disabled list (broken wrist), Hamilton is the leading active thief with 33 bags. Turner has 35, Miami’s Dee Gordon 29. … Former Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe hit his first home run in 13 days on Thursday, helping San Diego beat Atlanta. Renfroe has 16 homers – a record for a Padres rookie before the All-Star break – though he is batting just .225. … Former Mississippi Braves standout Freddie Freeman is expected to make a rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday. He could return to the Braves – at third base – next week. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out. M-Braves alum Johan Camargo has played fairly well at third for Atlanta and is batting .293 with 12 RBIs and 10 runs in 31 games all told. … Current M-Braves Mike Soroka and Ronald Acuna have been chosen for the World team in the All-Star Futures Game, set for July 9 in Miami. Former Biloxi Shuckers shortstop Mauricio Dubon, now in Triple-A, is also on the World roster. … Jake Mangum is off to a sizzling start in the Cape Cod League. The MSU star out of Jackson Prep is batting .359 with hits in nine of the 10 games he has played for Hyannis. Mangum had two hits in each of his first five games in the summer league. He was drafted in the 30th round by the New York Yankees as an eligible sophomore but is expected to return to Starkville for the 2018 season. … Brandon’s John “J.T.” Ginn and Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray have been participating in the Tournament of Stars this week in Cary, N.C. They are among the 80 prep players invited to the USA Baseball complex to compete for spots on the Under-18 National Team.

10 Jul

highs and lows

The names of Mississippians popped up many times in Baseball America’s Midseason Organization Reports, some in good places, some in less-desirable spots. Hunter Renfroe, the former Mississippi State standout set to play in tonight’s All-Star Futures Game, and Bobby Bradley, the ex-Harrison Central High star, were named the “Best Player” in their organization, San Diego and Cleveland, respectively. JaCoby Jones, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton, was touted as making the “Biggest Leap Forward” this season in the Detroit organization, and MSU product Brandon Woodruff received the same designation in the Milwaukee system. He is currently pitching for the Biloxi Shuckers. There is also a category for “Biggest Disappointment.” Former Murrah High star Zack Bird (Atlanta), State product Jacob Lindgren (New York Yankees) and Anthony Alford (Toronto), another former Mr. Baseball from Petal, fell into that category. Injuries have played a part in the decline of each of those players, most notably Alford. Rated by some the best prospect in the Blue Jays’ system entering 2016, he suffered a knee injury on opening day at Class A Dunedin and a concussion in mid-June. Alford, a right-handed hitting outfielder, is in a 5-for-37 skid that has dropped his average to .183, with two homers, 18 RBIs and 22 runs in 48 games. It’s a good bet Alford will have found his stride by season’s end. … The best player in the Braves’ system is no surprise: Dansby Swanson, who is also slated for the All-Star Futures Game in San Diego. He is one of three current Mississippi Braves rated among the top 32 prospects in BA’s midseason update. Swanson is No. 7, Ozzie Albies No. 17 and Sean Newcomb No. 32. Milwaukee’s best player is left-hander Josh Hader, who started this season in Biloxi. He is also in San Diego for the Futures game. P.S. Line of the day for a Mississippian in the majors on Saturday belongs to Kendall Graveman: 8IP, 5H, 2R, 0BB, 3Ks. The ex-State star won his fourth straight game for Oakland, 3-2 vs. Houston, and is now 5-6 with a 4.37 ERA.

08 Jul

hot topics

Heading into Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game in San Diego, Hunter Renfroe has the look of a future big league All-Star. The Mississippi State alum from Crystal Springs hit his 21st home run of the season on Thursday for Triple-A El Paso in the Padres’ system. Over his last 10 games, the outfielder is hitting .457 with four homers and 13 RBIs. He’s at .335 for the year. Surely he’ll be playing big league games in Petco Park in the near future. … Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, bidding to be a late pick for the MLB All-Star Game, allowed two hits over seven shutout innings for the Padres on Thursday to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers. Pomeranz is 8-7 with a 2.47 ERA for a last-place club. … About the only thing that could cool off Seth Smith was a day off. Seattle rested the UM product on Thursday (against Kansas City lefty Danny Duffy). Over his last seven games, Smith batted .385 with five homers and 14 RBIs. … Mason Robbins is making a case for promotion in the Chicago White Sox’s system. The former Southern Miss standout from Leakesville had a three-hit game on Thursday for Class A Winston-Salem, boosting his average over his last 10 games to .390 and his season number to .306. The lefty-hitting outfielder, in his third pro season, has two homers, 21 doubles, 33 RBIs and 26 runs in 69 games. … In the Cape Cod Baseball League, Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker and Jake Mangum rank in the top five in batting. Rooker leads the summer circuit with a .386 average for Brewster, while Mangum is fifth at .344 for Bourne.