10 Aug

whatever happened to …

Braxton Lee, whose serpentine career includes a minor league batting title and 17 MLB at-bats, is flourishing in the independent Atlantic League. Lee, 28, who played at Picayune High, Pearl River Community College and Ole Miss, set an Atlantic League record with a three-triple game on Tuesday for Southern Maryland, the club managed by Jackson’s Stan Cliburn. A lefty-hitting outfielder, Lee is batting .315 with three homers, 57 RBIs, 19 doubles, nine triples and 14 stolen bases. Originally drafted by Tampa Bay in 2014, he won the Southern League batting title in 2017 (playing for two different teams) and reached the big leagues with Miami in 2018. He played in the New York Mets’ system in 2019 and Cincinnati’s in 2021, getting some Triple-A time both years. He moved on to the Atlantic League after becoming a minor league free agent last fall. Cliburn’s Blue Crabs won the first-half title in their division with a 48-18 record; they’re 18-11 (second place) in the second half. P.S. Debut alert: Vaughn Grissom, making the jump from Double-A Mississippi to Atlanta today, is in the Braves’ lineup, batting ninth and playing second base at Boston. Grissom, 21, Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect, hit .363 with three homers in 22 games for the M-Braves, playing one game at second base, the others at shortstop. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Grissom has played 19 games at second in his three-year pro career. He is a .315 career hitter.

09 Aug

just stuff

There is a Mississippian on the roster of one of the two Iowa-based teams slated to play tonight in the minor league Field of Dreams Game in Dyersville, Iowa. Former Pascagoula High star Willie Joe Garry is an outfielder for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, Minnesota’s High-Class A affiliate. Garry, who recently came off the injured list, is batting .179 with 10 steals in his fourth pro season. Drafted out of ‘Goula in 2018, Garry is a .199 career hitter who stole 24 bases in 2021. (Listed on Quad Cities’ roster but on the season-long IL is ex-Mississippi State pitcher Eric Cerantola, drafted by Kansas City in 2021.) Tonight’s game will be televised by MLB Network at 6:30 CDT. … Ex-State standout Logan Tanner, the second-highest drafted Mississippi product this summer, made his pro debut on Monday with Cincinnati’s Arizona Complex League team. The Hattiesburg native, a second-round pick by the Reds, went 0-for-3. … The Mississippi Braves are at Tennessee this week for a six-game Southern League series in which they could encounter a couple of Magnolia State products. Ex-Southern Miss star Walker Powell is 2-2 with a 2.88 ERA in six games (three starts) for the Smokies, a Chicago Cubs affiliate. The 6-foot-8 Powell has nine wins over three levels in the Cubs’ system in 2022, his second pro season. Infielder Delvin Zinn, a Pontotoc native and Itawamba Community College alum, has played sparingly this season and is batting .095. He is a .237 career hitter. … The big league Cubs have announced that former M-Braves star Jason Heyward will be released after this season with a year left on his eight-year, $184 million contract. He is batting .174 with seven homers and is on the IL, probably for the remainder of this season. Heyward, 32, a key figure for the Cubs on their historic World Series winner in 2016, arrived in Mississippi as one of the top prospects in baseball in 2009. He hit .352 with seven homers and 30 RBIs in 47 Double-A games. He famously homered in his first MLB at-bat with Atlanta the next year. The Cubs also have released former M-Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, a defensive whiz who was hitting just .173. Simmons, 32, hit .293 for the M-Braves in 2012 and carries a .263 career average in the big leagues. … In Atlanta’s deflating series against the New York Mets last weekend, there were good signs from ex-M-Braves star Ronald Acuna, who went 8-for-19 with two doubles and a home run. He also won the Chevrolet Electric Play of the Week award for a home run-robbing catch in right field in Friday’s game, the only one the Braves won. Acuna is batting .267 with nine homers, 28 RBIs and 23 steals. Atlanta, playing at Boston tonight, needs more from him.

08 Aug

staggered

While the Atlanta Braves — and all those Mississippi Braves alumni on their roster — were getting steamrolled in New York by Buck Showalter’s Mets, the current M-Braves were getting trucked in Pearl by the rival Biloxi Shuckers. The Double-A M-Braves dropped Sunday’s series finale 6-5 at Trustmark Park, their fifth loss in the six games against Biloxi. They fell from 17-10 and first place in the Southern League South at the start of the homestand to 18-15 and second behind Montgomery. Biloxi bolted to 17-16, third place. There was an ominous sign early in Sunday’s game. With the bases full and two outs in the top of the first inning, a pop fly into left field off the bat of Biloxi’s Thomas Dillard was lost in the sun by Justyn-Henry Malloy. Two runs scored. A wild pitch made it 3-0. The M-Braves later lost another ball in the sun and had some adventurous catches in the outfield, as well. Down 6-1 in the seventh, the home club battled back but wound up with their second one-run loss in the series. They also lost two two-run games. Dillard, the former Ole Miss star, had a big series for the Shuckers, going 7-for-23 with two walks, a homer, five RBIs and four runs. He had three hits Sunday and is batting .229 (.365 on-base percentage) with nine homers and 60 RBIs on the season, his first full year in Double-A. Immediately after the game, the wounded M-Braves boarded a bus for a seven-hour trip to Kodak, Tennessee. That’s a lot of time to sit and think about what just hit them.

07 Aug

one door closes …

It was a hard fall for Bobby Bradley. Cleveland’s opening day first baseman, the Gulfport native was anchored to the bench by late April, outrighted to the minors in May and then released from Triple-A Columbus on Saturday. He was hitting .174 with seven homers and 30 RBIs — plus 74 strikeouts in 167 at-bats — for the Clippers. Guardians officials decided “maybe a change of scenery would be good for the kid,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona told cleveland.com. Bradley, just 26, figures to catch on somewhere. A lefty hitter with big power — 163 minor league homers since 2014 — he has some value. Drafted in the third round out of Harrison Central High, he rose fairly steadily in the Cleveland system. He debuted in the big leagues in 2019 and was Cleveland’s regular first baseman the latter half of 2021. But he hit just .208 with 16 homers last year and struck out way too much. P.S. Mike Mayers, veteran reliever out of Ole Miss, was brought back from the minors by the Los Angeles Angels and threw 3 1/3 shutout innings Saturday in the team’s loss to Seattle in Game 1 of a doubleheader. It was his first MLB appearance since May 25. He had a 5.40 ERA when he was designated for assignment. … Hayden Dunhurst, catcher for national champion Ole Miss this year, is 2-for-3 with a double, an RBI and three walks in his first two pro games. The sixth-round pick is playing for Kansas City’s Arizona Complex League team. … Former Madison Central (and current Stanford) star Braden Montgomery has been a key player for Yarmouth-Dennis in the Cape Cod League. Montgomery hit .250 with four homers and 19 RBIs and posted a 2.25 ERA in three pitching appearances in the regular season. He got the win in relief for the Y-D Red Sox in their CCBL playoff opener.

06 Aug

southern style

Two of the most prominent sluggers in Mississippi college baseball history played a little version of home run derby in the eighth inning of an International League game Friday night at Omaha’s Werner Field. Matt Wallner, Southern Miss’ career homer leader, went deep for St. Paul, a two-run shot in the top half, and Brent Rooker, who led the SEC in homers in 2017 while winning the Triple Crown at Mississippi State, belted a three-run bomb for the host Storm Chasers in the bottom half. (St. Paul won the slugfest 15-6.) For Wallner, Minnesota’s No. 7 prospect, it was his first Triple-A home run in his 14th game at that level. He hit 21 in Double-A before his promotion. The left-handed hitting outfielder went 2-for-5 on Friday to lift his average to .179. He hit .299 in Double-A. Rooker’s homer was his second in his second game for Omaha following his trade to Kansas City from San Diego. He belted 19 at Triple-A El Paso, where he batted .272 for the Padres affiliate. The right-handed hitting outfielder, a former top prospect, has 95 minor league homers and 10 MLB bombs (all with Minnesota) in 67 big league games. He was the 35th overall pick by the Twins in the 2017 draft and was traded to the Padres just before this season began. P.S. Former George County High standout Justin Steele matched a career-high with 10 strikeouts for the Chicago Cubs on Friday. The lefty was pulled with two outs in the fifth inning after throwing 93 pitches against Miami. The Cubs won 2-1. … MSU product Dakota Hudson, in his second start for St. Louis since coming off the injured list, threw four-plus innings (78 pitches) against the New York Yankees, allowing three runs in a game the Cardinals would win 4-3.

05 Aug

eye on …

Justin Foscue looks ready to take the next step on the minor league ladder. The ex-Mississippi State standout rapped two doubles and a homer and drove in three runs for Double-A Frisco on Thursday night. With 10 hits, including three home runs, in his last 12 games, the 23-year-old infielder is batting .281 with seven homers and 48 RBIs in his first full Double-A campaign. He is rated Texas’ No. 4 prospect in the new MLB Pipeline rankings. He has played mostly second base this season but also has seen some time at third. Foscue was drafted 14th overall in the 2020 draft that followed the pandemic-shortened college season; only two Bulldogs position players have been picked higher: Will Clark (No. 2 in 1985) and Hunter Renfroe (No. 13, 2013). Foscue is batting .279 overall with 24 bombs in his two pro seasons. It’ll be interesting to see who gets to the big leagues first, Foscue or his former State keystone mate Jordan Westburg, Baltimore’s No. 5 prospect now in Triple-A. P.S. Brent Rooker, traded from San Diego to Kansas City, hit his first home run for Triple-A Omaha on Thursday. The former State star has 20 homers on the season. … MSU product and veteran big leaguer Jonathan Holder has been assigned to Triple-A Iowa in the Chicago Cubs’ system after a brief rehab assignment in rookie ball. He has been on the injured list all season.

04 Aug

look who’s no. 1

The flurry of recent trades that involved a ton of minor league prospects made for a major reshuffling of the organizational Top 30 charts by MLB Pipeline. Mississippi Braves shortstop Vaughn Grissom jumped up to the No. 1 spot in Atlanta’s list. He is raking at a .362 clip in 17 Double-A games. Nine other current M-Braves, including some on the injured list, are in the Top 30. No. 10 is Darius Vines, a right-handed starter slated to go tonight against Biloxi at Trustmark Park. Former Smithville High star Jared Johnson is No. 23 on the Braves’ list. The right-hander is on the IL (Tommy John surgery) at Low-Class A Augusta. … There are 18 other Mississippi products in the various Top 30s. (The lists will be redone again at some point to filter in the 2022 draft picks.) Former Mississippi State stars Will Bednar (No. 4, San Francisco) and Justin Foscue (No. 4, Texas) are the highest-rated. Others of note: MSU product Jordan Westburg is Baltimore’s fifth-rated prospect; ex-DeSoto Central High standout Blaze Jordan is Boston’s No. 6; Ole Miss alum Ryan Rolison is Colorado’s No. 7; Southern Miss product Matt Wallner is Minnesota’s No. 7; and former MSU star J.T. Ginn is Oakland’s No. 8. Wallner, who homered in last month’s All-Star Futures Game, has reached Triple-A. MSU product Ethan Small, Milwaukee’s No. 10, has made two big league pitching appearances this season. P.S. Lance Lynn, the veteran right-hander from Ole Miss, delivered a shot in the arm for the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. In what broadcaster Steve Stone described as a “wonderful” performance, Lynn threw six innings of one-run ball to beat Kansas City 4-1. It might have been the best of his 10 starts since coming off the injured list. Pitching around a rain delay, he allowed four hits and struck out eight. Lynn is 2-4 with a 5.87 ERA, not the numbers Chicago was hoping for from him. But Wednesday’s outing surely was encouraging. … Ex-UM star Thomas Dillard hit his ninth homer of the season, helping Biloxi complete a twinbill sweep of the M-Braves at the TeePee. … Mississippi College alum Blaine Crim, at Double-A Frisco in the Texas system, went 4-for-5 and hit a pair of homers. He is batting .277 with 15 bombs and 57 RBIs.

03 Aug

around the horn

The San Diego Padres, as you might have heard, made some big moves the past couple days. They also made some smaller ones of local interest: Former Mississippi State star Brent Rooker, playing in Triple-A, was traded to Kansas City for catcher Cam Gallagher. Outfielder Rooker, acquired from Minnesota just before the season, got only seven at-bats with the Padres. He was hitting .272 with 19 homers at El Paso; he has been assigned to Triple-A Omaha by the Royals. The Padres also sent ex-Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz on a rehab assignment to the Arizona Complex League. The veteran lefty, 33, has been on the injured list since Aug. 11, 2021, with an arm injury that required surgery. He posted a 1.75 ERA in 27 games last season. … MSU product Adam Frazier continued to provide spark to Seattle’s offense, going 2-for-3 with two walks, two runs and an RBI on Tuesday in the Mariners’ 8-6 win vs. the New York Yankees. Frazier is batting .345 in his last 15 games for an M’s club battling for a playoff spot. … MSU alum Chris Stratton, looking sharp in a St. Louis uniform, worked a scoreless ninth inning in his Cardinals debut, a 6-0 win against the Chicago Cubs. Stratton was acquired from Pittsburgh on Monday. … Davis Bradshaw, the ex-Meridian Community College and McLaurin High standout, has been promoted to Double-A Pensacola in the Miami system. He was batting .310 in A-ball this season and is a .301 career hitter in four pro seasons. … Former Mississippi Braves star Joey Meneses (2016-17), called up by Washington to replace Josh Bell at first base, homered in his MLB debut on Tuesday as the Nationals beat the New York Mets 5-1 in Jacob deGrom’s return to The Show. Meneses, a Mexico native, is a .281 hitter in a long minor league career. … A footnote, duly recognized in MLB Network’s touching tribute, on the brilliant career of Vin Scully: Mississippi native Red Barber, a legendary radio broadcaster in his own right, gave Scully his start with the Dodgers in Brooklyn in 1950 and mentored him in the early days of his career. Scully became the Dodgers’ primary voice when Barber left the team after the 1953 season, and he kept the job through 2016. So sad that he is gone.

02 Aug

coming down

For the first time in 16 days, the Mississippi Braves will take the field tonight at Trustmark Park in Pearl with a team that’ll look a little different. Most notably, staff ace Jared Shuster has moved up to Triple-A Gwinnett and veteran outfielder Trey Harris has been traded. What hasn’t changed is the M-Braves’ position in the Southern League South second-half standings. They are still in first place at 17-10, 5 games north of the last-place Biloxi Shuckers, who visit for a six-game series that begins tonight. Vaughn Grissom, Atlanta’s No. 4 prospect, is still around and still hitting a ton. In 15 games for the Double-A M-Braves, shortstop Grissom is batting .387 with two homers, 10 RBIs and six stolen bases. Outfielder Justyn-Henry Malloy, who came up from A-ball at the same time as Grissom, is batting .268 with two homers and 10 RBIs. And slugger Drew Lugbauer is still around, as well, leading the club with 21 homers. That trio forms a pretty stout middle of the order. The team’s player of the week for last week was outfielder Justin Dean, who hit .304 with seven RBIs. He leads the team with 16 steals. The reigning pitcher of the week is Darius Vines, a rated prospect who is 6-4 with a 4.14 ERA after going 3-0, 1.17, in July. He is scheduled to start Thursday night. P.S. On Wednesday, the Hattiesburg Black Sox, champions of the Mississippi Baseball Congress State Tournament (a.k.a. the semi-pro tourney), will play an Indiana team in the opener of the 16-team NABF World Series at Battle Creek, Mich. The Black Sox’s roster includes Marcus Ragan (MVP of the state tournament) and Hinds Community College’s Vantrel Reed (tourney batting champ) plus four other all-tournament selections: ex-Mississippi College star Casey Echols, ex-Delta State standout Layne Todder, Hinds CC and Purdue alum Pablo Lanzarote and Northwest Rankin High’s Brady Thomas.

02 Aug

whole new ballgame

Welcome to the playoff race, Chris Stratton. Former Mississippi State ace Stratton was traded Monday — along with Jose Quintana — from last-place Pittsburgh to second-place St. Louis, which is feverishly chasing Milwaukee in the National League Central. Stratton, a 31-year-old right-handed reliever, has had a sluggish season with the lowly Pirates — posting a 5.09 ERA in 40 games — but might draw some energy from moving to a contending club. He had a strong 2021, putting up a 3.63 ERA with seven wins and eight saves for another bad Bucs team. He said in a recent story on triblive.com that his issues this season are with the “sequencing” of his pitches, something he believes can be fixed by “just trying to be more thoughtful and a little more unpredictable.” Stratton, from Tupelo, was the SEC pitcher of the year at State in 2012 and was drafted 20th overall by San Francisco that summer. He has a 4.61 career ERA in 218 games, 42 of those starts. He moved to the bullpen in 2019 with the Los Angeles Angels, who traded him to the Pirates early that season. Stratton joins a Cardinals club that includes ex-MSU star Dakota Hudson in its rotation. Division rival Milwaukee also features a pair of former Bulldogs: starter Brandon Woodruff and outfielder Hunter Renfroe. This ought to be fun. … The MLB trade deadline is today.