24 Jun

northwest gloom

Adam Frazier got a big hit for Seattle on Thursday. Sorta. The ex-Mississippi State standout broke up a no-hit bid by Oakland’s Frankie Montas with two outs in the eighth inning. The hit did not factor in the outcome of the game, which Seattle won 2-1 thanks to two wild pitches in the ninth. Frazier hasn’t been much of factor in the Mariners’ season, which has been to this point a huge disappointment. Even after sweeping the hapless A’s, the M’s are 32-39 and a long, long way from playoff position. A Seattle writer recently described the situation as close to “disaster territory.” This was a team that expected to contend, and Frazier was one of the pieces Seattle brass added in the off-season with that goal in mind. Frazier was a .324 hitter and an All-Star second baseman for Pittsburgh last year. Traded to San Diego in July, Frazier’s production fell off, but Seattle considered him a key addition as it sought to build on last year’s 90-win campaign. It hasn’t worked out. A career .275 hitter, who made his MLB debut six years ago today, the 5-foot-10 lefty swinger is batting .222 with 21 RBIs and 28 runs through 70 games. He is batting .176 in his last 30 games and went 1-for-11 in the Oakland series. “I’ve never had (a slump) go this long,” Frazier told the Seattle Times. “I’ve had a bad month or so and then figured it out, but I’ve never had a bad two-and-a-half months.” There is time for a turnaround — but not much.

23 Jun

scattered about

One of the more compelling stories of the 2022 season has been the return to the big leagues of Christian Bethancourt. The former Atlanta prospect, who played for the Mississippi Braves in 2012-13, won a job with Oakland as a non-roster invitee in the spring and is batting .241 with four homers and 17 RBIs. Before this season, Bethancourt had not played in the majors since 2017. He labored in the minors, in Korea and in winter ball. When he homered on June 1, off Justin Verlander, it was his first bomb in MLB in 2,118 days. If — just for kicks — you were to put together a team of former M-Braves now playing for other organizations, Bethancourt would be a prominent member. Put him at catcher. At first base, there’s the great Freddie Freeman, who left Atlanta this spring for a bigger contract from the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is producing as expected: .302, seven homers, 42 RBIs. (He’ll make his much-anticipated return to the ATL on Friday.) Second base: Tommy LaStella, now with San Francisco. Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons, Chicago Cubs. Third base: Johan Camargo, Philadelphia. The outfield would feature Jason Heyward (Cubs), Cristian Pache (A’s) and Dylan Moore (Seattle). Willians Astudillo (Miami) would make a fine DH. There is an abundance of former M-Braves pitchers scattered around the big leagues. The best of the bunch might be left-hander Alex Wood, who has 68 career wins (5-5 in 2022) and started — albeit poorly — for the Giants today at Truist Park against his former club. Craig Kimbrel (Dodgers) is the logical choice as closer. (For what it’s worth: Williams Perez leads the Mexican League in ERA, and Joey Terdoslavich is among the league’s top home run hitters.)

01 May

according to plan

The Milwaukee Brewers were looking for thump in the middle of the lineup when they pulled a surprise trade for Hunter Renfroe last fall. The Crystal Springs native, after a slow start this season, appears to have found his home run stroke. Renfroe mashed his third homer in two games on Saturday, helping the streaking Brewers pound the Chicago Cubs 9-1. The Brewers are 13-7 with five straight wins. Renfroe is batting .310 with four homers in his last seven games. He has five homers and 10 RBIs on the year, and his 3-for-5 effort Saturday boosted his average to .253. Former Mississippi State star Renfroe crushed 31 homers for Boston in 2021, but the Red Sox dealt him to the Brewers for Jackie Bradley Jr. and two prospects after the season. Renfroe, also an outstanding right fielder, made mlb.com’s All-Underrated Team before this season. He hasn’t made an All-Star team, won a Silver Slugger or a Gold Glove. He’s due for a breakthrough there. With 133 career homers since 2016, Renfroe is closing in on the top 10 all-time among Mississippi natives. Matt Lawton is No. 11 with 138. Charlie Hayes ranks 10th with 144. P.S. Atlanta fans surely cringe when they see what Shea Langeliers is doing in Triple-A for Oakland. The young catcher has hit five homers in his last six games and has nine on the year to go with a .301 average at Las Vegas. After blasting 22 bombs for the Double-A South champion Mississippi Braves last year, Langeliers was one of the four prospects the Braves sent to the A’s for Matt Olson.

13 Mar

changing lanes

J.T. Ginn appeared to have a bright future with the New York Mets. That future, still bright, is now with Oakland. The Mets, all in on 2022, have traded former Mississippi State star Ginn and another top pitching prospect to the A’s for All-Star right-hander Chris Bassitt. The Mets gave Ginn a $2.9 million signing bonus as a second-round draft pick in 2020, not long after his sophomore year at MSU was halted by Tommy John surgery. The Brandon native made his pro debut last summer and pitched well at two levels of A-ball, flashing the form that earned him national freshman of the year honors with the Bulldogs in 2019. Ginn, 22, went 5-5 with a 3.03 ERA last year, working 92 innings with 81 strikeouts and 22 walks. He already has been slotted in as Oakland’s No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, and he might make the big leagues quicker with the A’s than he would have with the Mets.

01 Sep

good, bad and ugly

Yes, it was a Clint Eastwood/spaghetti Western kinda day for Mississippians in the majors. To wit:
Good: Brandon Woodruff threw six strong innings for Milwaukee in a 6-2 win Tuesday night at San Francisco in a matchup of first-place teams. Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State star from Wheeler, allowed five hits, three walks and one run with eight strikeouts in running his record to 9-7. He has 15 starts this season in which he has gone at least six innings and allowed one run or fewer. The win was the Brewers’ second straight against the Giants, who lead all National League clubs with an 84-48 mark. “Coming in here and winning the first two is huge against essentially the best team in baseball,” Woodruff said in an Associated Press article.
Bad: Ole Miss product Lance Lynn and former State star Mitch Moreland, both playing for postseason contenders, landed on the 10-day injured list. Lynn, who has 10 wins for the Chicago White Sox, has a knee problem but is expected to miss just one start for the first-place club. Moreland, who has struggled (.227) much of the season for Oakland, has a wrist injury (tendinitis) that had sidelined him since Aug. 26. He could be down for a while.
Ugly: Ex-State standout Kendall Graveman, facing the player he was traded for last month, gave up a grand slam that sunk Houston in a 4-0 loss to American League West rival Seattle. Capping an eight-pitch at-bat, Abraham Toro turned around a 98-mph sinker in the pivotal bottom of the eighth inning. “It’s crazy how this game, things work out and things line up …,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told mlb.com. Graveman (5-1), who retired just one of the five batters he faced, had allowed only five earned runs in 41 previous appearances (44 innings) with Seattle and then Houston. His ERA jumped to 1.79.

31 Aug

opportunity knocks

Mississippi college products Jordan Westburg, Reed Trimble and Anthony Servideo are part of what MLB Pipeline rates as the strongest farm system among major league clubs. Baltimore also has the worst record in the majors, which for the state trio could mean there is great opportunity for quick advancement. Westburg, a shortstop out of Mississippi State, was the 30th overall draft pick in 2020 and is rated the Orioles’ No. 6 prospect. He’s in Double-A. Servideo, a shortstop from Ole Miss, was picked in Round 3 in 2020 and is rated No. 27, while Southern Miss alum Trimble, a supplemental pick following Round 2 this year, checks in at No. 21. All three would appear to be at least two years away from the majors. Atlanta’s system is rated 23rd, though there are four overall top 100 prospects in the organization. Much of the Braves’ young talent already is in the big leagues. Former Smithville High right-hander Jared Johnson is No. 30 in the Braves’ chain. Milwaukee is No. 25. MSU alum Ethan Small (5), Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray, Jr. (9) and ex-UM standout Thomas Dillard (25) are ranked in the Brewers’ Top 30. P.S. MSU product J.P. France, who threw seven shutout innings (one hit, nine strikeouts) for Sugar Land last Friday, was named the Triple-A West’s pitcher of the week. France, a 2018 draftee, is 4-0 with a 2.93 ERA for Houston’s top affiliate. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Brady Feigl made his Triple-A debut Monday for Oakland’s Las Vegas club, yielding two runs with five punchouts in 4 2/3 innings. Feigl, a 2018 draftee and the A’s No. 23 prospect, was 7-7, 3.96 in Double-A. Ex-State standout Ben Bracewell, an eighth-year pro, got the save in Las Vegas’ win over Oklahoma City; he has two saves, four wins, eight holds and a 4.18 ERA for the Aviators.

30 Aug

big league chew

Boston will be without slugging outfielder Hunter Renfroe again tonight when it takes on first-place Tampa Bay in the opener of a big, four-game American League East series. Renfroe’s father and “best friend,” Todd, died from cancer last Thursday and the Crystal Springs native has been on bereavement leave since then. He had eight hits – four homers – over a seven-game stretch Aug. 17-25 and is batting .258 with 25 homers overall. Ex-Mississippi State star Renfroe was cut loose by the Rays after last season and signed as a free agent with the Red Sox. … Jarrod Dyson made his Toronto debut on Sunday, entering the game against Detroit as a pinch runner, then staying in to play center field. The Blue Jays are team No. 7 on the former Southwest Mississippi Community College standout’s career list. … Gulfport’s Bobby Bradley returned from the injured list for Cleveland over the weekend, going 2-for-9 in a series against Boston. Bradley is at .214 with 11 homers for the season with the Indians, clinging to wild card hopes in the AL. … Southern Miss alum Nick Sandlin has been on Cleveland’s 10-day IL since Aug. 12 with no clear date for a return for the rookie right-hander. He reportedly is working out in Arizona. … Though there are no reports of an injury, MSU product Mitch Moreland did not leave the bench during the last three games of Oakland’s four-game series vs. the New York Yankees. Moreland is batting .227 with 10 homers. … Ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton continued his rehab assignment at Triple-A Charlotte, going 1-for-3 Sunday. He is 3-for-19 with one stolen base in six games for the Chicago White Sox’s top affiliate. … Dakota Hudson, who had Tommy John surgery a year ago, made a rehab start for St. Louis’ Class A Palm Beach team on Saturday. The State product worked two scoreless innings, throwing 24 pitches and hitting 94 mph. … Former State star Jonathan Holder made his second rehab appearance of 2021 on Friday, yielding a homer in one inning for the Chicago Cubs’ Triple-A Iowa club.

18 Aug

whatever happened to …

Jack Kruger, who caught half an inning in May in his first and so far only big league appearance, is playing for Triple-A Round Rock in the Texas organization. The ex-Mississippi State star was called up on May 6 by the Los Angeles Angels, got in the game that night, then was designated for assignment the next day. Kruger, who was in his sixth year in the Angels’ system, was claimed by the Rangers, who promptly DFA’d him and sent him to Round Rock. He is batting .198 with two homers in 25 games. A career .261 hitter in the minors, Kruger batted .305 at Double-A Mobile in the Southern League in 2018 and was a mid-season All-Star there in 2019. P.S. In other news: Chris Ellis’ long-awaited return to the big leagues was short-lived. After posting his first career win on Tuesday, Ellis was designated for assignment today, which means the Ole Miss product could be claimed by another team or returned to Triple-A Durham. … Drew Pomeranz was to have season-ending surgery today to repair a flexor tendon tear in his left arm. Done for 2021, the Ole Miss alum is signed through ’23 with San Diego. Pomeranz was a key piece in the Padres’ bullpen with a 1.75 ERA. … Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High standout, could be close to returning to the Chicago White Sox’s active roster, per comments from manager Tony LaRussa. Outfielder Hamilton (oblique) has been on the 10-day injured list since July 31. … If anyone was wondering, Mitch Moreland’s career ERA is 0.00 in three mop-up appearances spread over eight years. The Mississippi State alum, Oakland’s DH/first baseman, worked an inning of the A’s loss to the White Sox on Tuesday. Moreland pitched at Amory High and a limited amount at MSU.

15 Aug

warming trend

When you’ve been in the deep freeze, a 6-for-9 spurt over two games qualifies as a hot streak. Former Mississippi State star Brent Rooker homered Saturday for the second straight game for Minnesota and raised his average to .198. He has six homers on the season in 28 MLB games. Rooker entered Friday’s game in a 1-for-24 slump that had dropped his average to .157. The guy can hit. He batted .344 in his State career and was the SEC’s Triple Crown winner in 2017, prompting the Twins to take him 35th overall in the draft. In the minors, he has hit .262 with 73 homers in 320 games. But this season has been a rocky one. He was batting .103 for the Twins in April when he was sent down. He had 19 homers but just a .239 average at Triple-A St. Paul when he was recalled in July. Rooker put up a five-game hit streak at one stage that month before tailing off again. In addition to his two hits on Saturday, Rooker made a sweet diving catch in left field. “It’s something that I’ve continued to work on,” he said of his defense in an mlb.com story. “I think I’ve done a good job at this point … .” He needs to keep it going — in both phases. P.S. Mitch Moreland, another ex-Bulldogs star, also appears to be heating up. The Oakland DH (see previous post) is 5-for-13 in his last three games with three homers, a triple and a double. Moreland has 10 bombs and is up to .236 for the season.

13 Aug

gotta have a plan

When Mitch Moreland signed with Oakland as a free agent this past off-season, it was with the understanding that he’d be primarily a designated hitter in 2021. It was a role the ex-Mississippi State standout had never filled before in a big league career that began in 2010 and has been spent mostly in the American League. “It’s definitely going to be different,” he said in a published interview before the season, “so I’m kind of looking forward to (spring) camp to figure out how to transition into that a little bit better. Get a game plan together for that job. I can’t answer it yet.” It’s August, and the game plan is still a work in progress. Moreland, 35, is hitting just .230 with nine homers and 27 RBIs over 71 games — 54 of those as a DH, six as a first baseman. Maybe something clicked on Thursday, when Moreland blasted two homers in a 17-0 win over Cleveland. The homers were his first since July 16. He is batting .200 since the All-Star break. The lefty-hitting Moreland, who has always hit right-handers well, isn’t even starting every game against them. He has a career .251 average and 185 homers, the kind of power the A’s were seeking when they signed him. Oakland, which has won seven in a row and 11 of 13, is a serious playoff contender. Perhaps Moreland, who has been a productive postseason hitter (.259, four homers, 19 RBIs in 52 games), can figure something out down the stretch. There’s still time to be a contributor in meaningful games ahead. P.S. MSU alum Jacob Robson made his big league debut Thursday for Detroit, going 0-for-2 in a win over Baltimore. Robson, a lefty-hitting outfielder, was batting .275 at Triple-A Toledo after hitting .424 in 18 games at Double-A Erie to start 2021. He joins Justin Steele, Nick Sandlin and Jack Kruger as Mississippians who debuted in the majors this year.