17 Nov

on the move — again

Put yet another sticker on Brent Rooker’s suitcase. Pardon the old metaphor, but the former Mississippi State star was claimed off waivers today by Oakland, which is the fourth MLB team he has been a part of since April. Rooker, a power-hitting outfielder, went to spring training with Minnesota, which traded him to San Diego, which traded him to Kansas City, which waived him earlier this week. The 35th overall pick by the Twins in 2017, after winning the SEC Triple Crown and player of the year laurels, Rooker has mashed 102 homers in his minor league career — 28 in Triple-A in 2022 — but batted just .200 with 10 homers in 81 big league games. He went 4-for-25 for the lowly Royals last summer. At present, there may be room in Oakland’s outfield for the 28-year-old Rooker; the A’s are in full rebuild mode after a 102-loss season. And, hey, if he plays well next season, the A’s could always trade him for some younger talent.

20 Sep

fab five

By some cosmic coincidence, five Mississippi natives debuted in the major leagues on this date between 1917 and 1955: Sammy Vick, Eric McNair, Culley Rikard, Don Blasingame and Fred Waters. Vick, born in Batesville, broke in with the New York Yankees in 1917 and enjoyed his best season in 1919 as the team’s primary right fielder. The next season Babe Ruth arrived in town, and Vick was displaced. They reportedly were pals before Vick was traded in 1921 and faded from the big leagues. He batted .280 over his five-year career. Meridian native McNair, nicknamed “Boob,” debuted with the Philadelphia A’s in 1929 and was a regular on some outstanding clubs. He won a World Series ring with the 1930 A’s. An infielder, he played 14 years in The Show and batted .274 with 82 home runs. Rikard, from Oxford, came up with Pittsburgh in 1941 and batted .270 over three seasons with the Pirates. Blasingame, the “Corinth Comet,” broke in with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1955 and enjoyed an outstanding 12-year career that included an All-Star Game appearance. He hit .258 and stole 105 bases. Benton native Waters, who played at Southern Miss, reached the big leagues in ’55 with Pittsburgh and went 2-2 with a 2.89 ERA in 25 games over two years. P.S. Born on Sept. 20, 1970: former Ole Miss star Chris Snopek, who played in 215 MLB games over four years in the late ’90s.

02 Sep

hit parade

Matt Wallner’s power isn’t in question. The key to the ex-Southern Miss star’s long-term success, according to the scouting report by MLB Pipeline, is improving his overall hit tool. Minnesota Twins brass have to be beaming over what they saw on Thursday night, when their No. 5 prospect put on a veritable hitting clinic at Triple-A St. Paul. Wallner hit for the cycle, banging out five hits all told, including his fifth homer for the Saints, and driving in six runs in an 18-6 victory against Omaha. “It felt pretty good,” Wallner told milb.com. “It was the first time I’ve ever been able to do something like that in my life, so it was pretty fun.” The career home run leader at USM, Wallner now has 26 homers this season, not including the jaw-dropping one he blasted in the All-Star Futures Game. The 6-foot-5, lefty-hitting outfielder batted .299 with 21 homers at Double-A Wichita before being promoted to St. Paul on July 14. He is at .245 in 37 games for the Saints. He is still striking out at a high clip — 49 in 139 at-bats — but has 27 walks, boosting his on-base percentage to .379. A Minnesota native, Wallner was the 39th overall pick in 2019 by the Twins, the team he dreamed of playing for as a kid. He is close. … Jordan Westburg, the former Mississippi State star and Baltimore’s No. 5 prospect, homered for the third straight game for Triple-A Norfolk, giving the infielder 14 for the Tides and 23 on the season. Overall, between Double-A and Triple-A, Westburg is batting .253 with 85 RBIs. The 30th overall pick in 2020, he is also close to his MLB debut. P.S. In MLB, it was quite a night for Mississippi Braves alums. Rookie Spencer Strider set a franchise record with 16 strikeouts in a dominating performance during Atlanta’s 3-0 win vs. Colorado; Austin Riley hit his 33rd homer for the Braves, and rookie Michael Harris II hit his 14th. Joey Meneses, up after 10 years in the minors, hit a walk-off homer for Washington to cap a four-hit game and is batting .354 with seven homers in 25 games. In that same game, a 7-5 Nationals win, 2021 M-Braves star Shea Langeliers hit his third homer and drove in three runs for Oakland.

29 Aug

around the horn

Chad Bradford was back in uniform (sorta) on Sunday as the Oakland A’s celebrated their 2002 team — Billy Beane’s “Moneyball” gang that won a then-record 20 straight games — before the club played the New York Yankees at Oakland Coliseum. Former Southern Miss and Hinds Community College star Bradford was a key member of that A’s team, posting a 3.11 ERA, four wins and two saves over 75 games. The submarine-style right-hander had a 3.26 ERA in 561 MLB games. … In a pregame ceremony at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, Hattiesburg native Charlie Hayes threw a ceremonial first pitch to son Ke’Bryan Hayes before the Phillies played the Pittsburgh Pirates. The elder Hayes spent three of his 14 big league seasons with the Phils. Ke’Bryan Hayes, the Pirates’ third baseman, went 1-for-4 with an RBI in a 5-0 win. The duo reportedly will do another first-pitch thing at Yankee Stadium next month. Charlie Hayes won a ring with the 1996 New York Yankees. … Garrett Mitchell became the 56th Biloxi Shuckers alumnus to make the majors when the outfielder debuted for Milwaukee on Sunday, going 1-for-4 with two RBIs in a 9-7 win vs. the visiting Chicago Cubs. Mitchell, a former first-round pick from UCLA, played parts of the last two seasons with the Shuckers, who arrived on the Coast in 2015. … Dylan Moore, who played for both the Shuckers and the Mississippi Braves, hit a big three-run homer for Seattle on Sunday in a 4-0 win against Cleveland in a battle of playoff contenders. … M-Braves alum Drew Waters, who debuted with Kansas City last week, had two hits, two walks, two runs and two RBIs for the Royals in a 15-6 romp over San Diego. … Ex-M-Braves star Michael Harris II, who made the jump from Mississippi in May, went 4-for-4 for Atlanta in its 6-3 loss at St. Louis. It was the second four-hit game for the rookie of the year candidate, who is batting .298 with 13 homers, 45 RBIs and 15 steals. … George County High product Justin Steele, 4-7 with a 3.18 ERA for the Cubs this year, won’t make the trip to Toronto this week because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. … Former USM star Matt Wallner belted his fourth homer for Triple-A St. Paul — and 25th bomb overall in 2022 — as the Minnesota affiliate beat Iowa in the International League. Ex-Mississippi State star Jonathan Holder gave up four runs in an inning of work and took the loss for the I-Cubs; the onetime big leaguer has a 10.29 ERA in seven appearances. … Jackson Prep alum Will Warren improved to 7-4, with a 3.38 ERA, as the Yankees’ Double-A Somerset club beat New Hampshire in the Eastern League. Warren, drafted out of Southeastern Louisiana last year, went 2-3 in A-ball this season, his first pro duty.

23 Jul

a little rivalry

There’s a rivalry within the rivalry set for Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field tonight, a garnish to the main dish. When Cleveland takes on the White Sox in Game 2 of doubleheader between the American League Central foes, Mississippi State alum Konnor Pilkington will oppose Ole Miss product Lance Lynn as the starting pitchers. Talk about your studies in contrast. Pilkington is a rookie, 24, a left-hander making his 12th major league appearance with the Guardians. The White Sox’s Lynn is 33, a right-hander who has been in pro ball since 2008 and has pitched in 295 big league games, making two All-Star Game appearances and winning a World Series ring. Pilkington, who has been up-and-down from Triple-A all season with Cleveland, has a 4.02 career minor league ERA and has pitched relatively well for the Guardians: 1-2, 4.24. He went five innings against Chicago his last time out, on July 12, and allowed three earned runs in a loss. Lynn had knee surgery in the spring and has struggled at times since coming back. He is 1-3, 7.50, in seven starts. He has allowed 19 runs in his last three starts, eight in four innings in a loss against Cleveland on July 11. Normally a beast on the bump, Lynn is averaging just a shade over five innings per start. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Gunnar Hoglund, the 19th overall pick in the 2021 draft by Toronto, made his pro debut today with Oakland’s Arizona Complex League club. Hoglund, who had Tommy John surgery last year, worked two innings, allowing a hit and an unearned run with five strikeouts. The A’s acquired Hoglund from the Blue Jays in the Matt Chapman trade this spring.

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.