23 Nov

new angel in outfield

The Los Angeles Angels’ 2023 quest to end their eight-year playoff drought will include Hunter Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State slugger whom they acquired in a trade Tuesday with Milwaukee. Renfroe, who hit 29 homers for the Brewers last season, joins an Angels lineup that features Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, and he’ll be working with new hitting coach Marcus Thames, the former East Central Community College star. Renfroe, 30, is a .240 career hitter with 157 homers since his 2016 MLB debut and is regarded as an excellent right fielder. “He’s got the total package,” Angels GM Perry Minasian told mlb.com. “We felt like he was a really good fit for us.” The Brewers receive three young pitchers in the trade. The Angels will be Renfroe’s fifth team in five seasons. He has been on two postseason clubs: 2020 Tampa Bay and ’21 Boston. The Crystal Springs native was the 13th overall pick out of Starkville in 2013. P.S. Southern Miss product Matt Wallner, who made his big league debut in September, is pegged by mlb.com as Minnesota’s best rookie of the year candidate for 2023. The left-handed hitting outfielder batted .228 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 18 games for the Twins. He put on a power show last year, blasting 27 homers between Double-A and Triple-A and homering in the All-Star Futures Game and in his first MLB game. … USA Today ranks former Meridian Community College standout Corey Dickerson No. 87 among the 87 best available free agents this off-season. The veteran outfielder, 33, had an inconsistent year with St. Louis, hitting .267 with six homers and 36 RBIs and missing a chunk of time with injury. … Kirk McCarty, ex-USM star from Hattiesburg, was released by Cleveland after being designated for assignment earlier this month. McCarty, a left-hander, made his MLB debut with the Guardians this past season (see previous post).

15 Nov

noteworthy

Michael Harris II, who had never played a game in Double-A before this season, has become the third former Mississippi Braves star to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award. The outfielder made the jump from Pearl to Atlanta in late May and batted .297 with 19 homers, 64 RBIs, 20 steals and 75 runs in 114 MLB games. He also excelled in center field for the NL East champs. Harris joins Ronald Acuna (2018) and Craig Kimbrel (2011) as former M-Braves to win the BBWAA award. Right-hander Spencer Strider, another M-Braves alum, was one of the three finalists this year. Two other Magnolia State minor league alums have won the ROY: ex-Jackson Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry in 1983 and former Biloxi Shuckers pitcher Devin Williams in 2020. Chris Coghlan, an Ole Miss product, won the 2009 NL rookie award and is the only state native or college alum to have claimed the honor. … A bundle of Mississippians have become minor league free agents, including several who have big league experience. The list: Ti’Quan Forbes, Trent Giambrone, Jonathan Holder, Wyatt Short, Delvin Zinn, Chuckie Robinson, Zac Houston, Dalton Moats, Cody Reed, Jack Kruger and Demarcus Evans. Corey Dickerson, Billy Hamilton and Adam Frazier were 2022 major leaguers who elected free agency. … A belated congrats to Marcus Thames, the Louisville native and ex-East Central Community College standout, on being named the Los Angeles Angels’ hitting coach. He spent last season with Miami after four years with the New York Yankees. The Angels, despite the presence of Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, were one of the worst hitting teams in the majors in 2022. … On a sad note, former JaxMets outfielder Chuck Carr has died. He played at Smith-Wills Stadium in 1989-90 and spent eight years in the big leagues, stealing an NL-best 58 bases with Florida in 1993.

28 Sep

put a ring on it

The 2022 season already had been a good one for Justin Foscue. It got better on Tuesday night when the former Mississippi State standout and his Frisco teammates won the Texas League championship by beating Wichita in the decisive third game of the series. Foscue, rated the No. 5 prospect in the Texas Rangers’ system, batted .288 with 15 homers and 81 RBIs in his second pro season. The second baseman was a first-round pick out of State in 2020. Mississippi College product Blaine Crim also played a big part in Frisco’s success this year, hitting .295 with 24 bombs and 91 RBIs, but he was promoted to Triple-A Round Rock earlier this month. … The Southern League pennant will be decided tonight between Pensacola and Tennessee at Kodak, Tenn. Former McLaurin High star Davis Bradshaw is an outfielder for the Blue Wahoos, a Miami affiliate; he batted .286 in 27 games after a well-earned promotion from A-ball. The host Smokies, a Chicago Cubs affiliate, have Pontotoc native and Itawamba Community College alum Delvin Zinn on their roster; the shortstop batted just .137 in limited at-bats this year but did steal 12 bases. … The Eastern League crown will go to either Erie or Somerset; they play their Game 3 tonight at Bridgewater Township, N.J. Former Jackson Prep standout Will Warren has been a solid starter (7-6, 4.02 ERA) for Somerset, a New York Yankees’ farm club. … The Triple-A Championship final four is set for Las Vegas: Durham and Nashville will play Saturday for the International League title with the winner to meet the Pacific Coast League champ, either El Paso or Reno, in Sunday’s finale. Delta State alum Dalton Moats (3.60 ERA) is a reliever for Durham (Tampa Bay), and ex-MSU standout Ethan Small (7-6, 4.50) pitches for Nashville (Milwaukee). P.S. In the big leagues, Mississippi college products Corey Dickerson, Dakota Hudson and Chris Stratton celebrated a National League Central title with the St. Louis Cardinals, who eliminated Milwaukee from that race with a 6-2 win on Tuesday. … Ex-Southern Miss standout Matt Wallner, a Minnesota native now with the Twins, hit his first Target Field home run on Tuesday; it came on the last pitch thrown by Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn. Wallner’s Twins beat Lynn and the Chicago White Sox 4-0. … The White Sox, essentially out of playoff contention, announced that former East Central Community College star Tim Anderson, their All-Star shortstop, is done for the season with a hand injury. He hit .301 in 79 games. … Ole Miss product Mike Mayers has been designated for assignment (for the second time in 2022) by the Los Angeles Angels. The 30-year-old right-hander had a 5.68 ERA this season.

13 Sep

cheers

It wasn’t all cupcakes and balloons for Konnor Pilkington on his 25th birthday, though the night did have a happy ending. The Mississippi State product from Pascagoula got the start for Cleveland against the Los Angels on Monday — in a game featured on MLB Network’s Clubhouse Edition — and he no-hit the Angels for 3 1/3 innings. But the big lefty, working with a lead, yielded two-run home runs to Matt Duffy and Mike Trout in consecutive innings that tied the score. Pilkington departed after the fifth and watched from the dugout as the Guardians rallied to win 5-4 in a tense game in which both managers were ejected. Cleveland increased its lead in the American League Central to 3 games. Pilkington, a rookie, has been called up eight different times from Triple-A Columbus yet has managed a fairly steady performance in his big league opportunities. Over 14 games, 10 starts, he has a 4.30 ERA and a 1-2 record. At Columbus, he is 2-4, 5.66. A third-round pick out of State by the Chicago White Sox in 2018, Pilkington was traded to Cleveland last summer. He and former Southern Miss pitchers Nick Sandlin and Kirk McCarty, also a rookie, have been contributors for what appears to be a playoff-bound club. P.S. The Dodgers became the first team to clinch a postseason berth by beating Arizona 6-0 on Monday. Former Mississippi Braves standout Freddie Freeman, in his first year in L.A., has been a driving force in the star-studded lineup. Not to be overlooked is the performance of another M-Braves alum, right-hander Evan Phillips. Phillips, who passed through Pearl in 2016-17, notched his 18th hold on Monday and trimmed his ERA to 1.33 in 55 appearances. He has six wins and two saves for the National League West behemoth.

31 Aug

international news

There was a bit of an “old home week” vibe Tuesday night at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio, where the host Clippers and the Iowa Cubs hooked up in a Triple-A International League game. Pitchers from each of Mississippi’s Big 3 Division I schools went to the mound: Former Ole Miss standout Wyatt Short started and posted a win for the I-Cubs; Mississippi State product Konnor Pilkington started and took the loss for Columbus; and ex-Southern Miss standout Kirk McCarty also worked for the Clippers, a Cleveland affiliate. (For the record, Delta State alum Trent Giambrone, an infielder, watched from the Iowa bench.) Short, a closer at UM and a reliever for most of his minor league career, made his third start and pitched a strong five innings in the I-Cubs’ 4-0 victory. The 5-foot-8 left-hander from Southaven is now 4-1 with a 3.67 ERA at Iowa in his sixth pro season. Wyatt has yet to get a big league call, unlike Pilkington and McCarty, both of whom have been up this year. Pilkington, a lefty from Pascagoula, yielded four hits, four walks and three runs with nine strikeouts in four innings, falling to 2-4, 5.66, with Columbus. He is 1-2, 4.17, in 12 MLB games this season. Hattiesburg native McCarty, a left-hander who has two big league wins for the Guardians, allowed one run in four innings Tuesday, trimming his ERA at Columbus to 3.58. … In an International League game at St. Paul, Minn., ex-USM star Matt Wallner and Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton combined for four runs, four walks, two hits and a stolen base as Minnesota’s Triple-A club beat Omaha 10-6. The stolen base was the first for the veteran Hamilton in his second game with the Saints — and No. 402 in his minor league career. P.S. Several other former Ole Miss pitchers are in the news. Doug Nikhazy was promoted to Double-A Akron in the Cleveland system; he is slated to start Saturday. Taylor Broadway was traded to Boston from the Chicago White Sox to complete an earlier deal; the 2021 Rebels closer was pitching at Double-A Birmingham. Veteran big leaguer Mike Mayers, starting Tuesday for the Los Angeles Angels against the visiting New York Yankees, gave up three homers, including Aaron Judge’s No. 51, and took an L. Lance Lynn, 3-5, 5.00, for the White Sox but coming off one of his best starts, gets the ball tonight against Kansas City as the fading ChiSox try to stay in the playoff hunt.

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.

12 Jul

new kid in town

The Mississippi Braves said good-bye to one of their top performers on Monday when third baseman C.J. Alexander was included in the package Atlanta traded to Kansas City for a draft pick. Today, the M-Braves welcome a notable new player and a more highly regarded prospect, Vaughn Grissom. Grissom, rated No. 4 on the Braves’ prospect chart by MLB Pipeline, is in the lineup, batting second and playing shortstop, for tonight’s game against Rocket City at Trustmark Park. Grissom, 21, 6 feet 3, 210 pounds, was batting .312 with 11 homers, 55 RBIs and 20 steals at High-Class A Rome. Grissom was drafted in the 11th round in 2019 out of a Florida high school. He is batting .310 over his three pro seasons. The scouting report is high on his hitting skills, though there may be a question as to what position he is best-suited to play. … The M-Braves are off to an 8-4 start in the second half of the Double-A Southern League season. They’ll start lefty Jared Shuster (5-7, 3.13), the Braves’ seventh-ranked prospect, tonight against the Trash Pandas, a Los Angeles Angels affiliate. The M-Braves went 2-4 at Rocket City (Madison, Ala.) in June. The Trash Pandas’ roster includes Preston Palmeiro, son of former Mississippi State star Rafael, and Torii Hunter, Jr., son of the ex-big leaguer.

10 Jun

on the rise

Baltimore has put Jordan Westburg, the former Mississippi State standout, on a fast track in the minors, and he is keeping up the pace. The No. 30 overall pick in the 2020 MLB draft, Westburg is 5-for-9 in two games at Triple-A Norfolk. He hit his first homer at the new level on Thursday night. Westburg, who has played shortstop and third base this season, batted .247 with nine homers and 32 RBIs at Double-A Bowie before the Orioles moved him up. He hit .285 with 15 homers and 79 RBIs at three levels in 2021, his first pro season. MLB Pipeline ranks Westburg as the Orioles’ No. 6 prospect. … Ex-State star Justin Foscue, who was drafted 14th overall in 2020 by Texas, hit a tape-measure homer for Double-A Frisco on Thursday, the ball leaving the stadium and landing in a parking lot beyond left field (per video on milb.com). Foscue, a second baseman, is batting .300 with four homers and 22 RBIs in 30 games for Frisco; he has had two stints on the injured list. He is rated the Rangers’ No. 5 prospect. P.S. Ole Miss product Mike Mayers, designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels late last month, has made one appearance at Triple-A Salt Lake. It didn’t go well for the veteran big leaguer: four runs in 1 2/3 innings. … Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High star, is a free agent (again), having opted out of a minor league deal with Seattle on June 1. Hamilton was hitting .186 (with four stolen bases) at Triple-A Tacoma.

27 May

bark in the park

There will be a Dog-fight, of sorts, in St. Louis tonight when the Cardinals send Dakota Hudson to the bump to face Milwaukee and Brandon Woodruff. The big right-handers were teammates at Mississippi State in 2014. Neither had much of an impact on that Bulldogs club — combining for two wins — but are now key pieces of the rotation for their respective MLB teams, keen rivals in the National League Central. Woodruff, from Wheeler, is 5-2 with a 4.76 ERA for the Brewers, who lead the division at 29-16. He is coming off his best start of 2022. Hudson is 3-2, 3.60 for the Cardinals, second at 24-20, and is coming off a shaky start. Woodruff was an 11th-round pick out of Starkville in 2014 and has blossomed in pro ball, making two All-Star teams and putting up a 33-23 overall record in Milwaukee. Hudson went 34th overall in 2016 and rose quickly, making his MLB debut in 2018. He missed most of last season after Tommy John surgery and is 27-12 overall. P.S. Konnor Pilkington, another former MSU star, went 3 1/3 innings on Thursday in his second big league start for Cleveland. The rookie lefty gave up three runs in a game the Guardians eventually won 4-3. … George County High product Justin Steele was charged with seven of the 20 runs Cincinnati scored against the Chicago Cubs in a 20-5 win and fell to 1-5, 5.40. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Mike Mayers, who has a 5.40 ERA as a middle reliever, has been designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels. He was an effective pitcher for the club in 2020 and ’21.

26 Aug

pitching in

Talk about your daunting tasks. Ole Miss product Chris Ellis got the ball Wednesday for his first start for his new team, the Baltimore Orioles, who happened to have lost 19 straight games. The opposing pitcher was none other than the modern-day Babe Ruth, Shohei Ohtani, who was also batting leadoff for the visiting Los Angeles Angels. So, of course, the Orioles won 10-6 in a Camden Yards slugfest. Ellis, in just his third MLB appearance, held his own. In three-plus innings, he allowed three runs. He struck out Ohtani both times he faced him. Ohtani was lifted after five innings, having allowed a career-high three homers and four runs. The O’s rallied against the L.A. bullpen. The atmosphere in the winner’s clubhouse was described as “electric.” … The honor of best pitching performance of the night by a Mississippian has to go to Brandon Woodruff. The ex-Mississippi State standout threw six shutout innings, fanning 10 and walking none, in Milwaukee’s 4-1 win vs. Cincinnati. Woodruff, now 8-7, had not won since June 29, despite pitching relatively well for the first-place Brewers. “I would say that Woodruff right there, that’s about as good of stuff as you’re going to have,” Reds manager David Bell told mlb.com. … Worthy of a shout-out also is State alum Kendall Graveman, who worked a clean inning and notched a win for Houston in its 6-5, 10-inning defeat of Kansas City. In 40 games between Seattle and Houston, Graveman is 5-0 with four holds, 10 saves (in 12 opps) and a 1.02 ERA. P.S. Jonathan Holder, out all season with a shoulder issue, may be close to making his Chicago Cubs debut. The 28-year-old reliever out of MSU made a rehab appearance at Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday.