08 Jul

playing pepper

Matt Wallner, recalled to the big leagues by Minnesota on Sunday, got a hit and a walk and made a sweet catch in left field in the Twins’ 3-2 win over Houston. Southern Miss alum Wallner, hitting .259 with 19 homers in Triple-A, had two hits — a double and a home run — in 25 at-bats in his April stint with the Twins. … Former Biloxi High star Colt Keith banged out two more hits for Detroit in a 5-1 win at Cincinnati and has nine knocks — three homers — in his last five games. The rookie second baseman is up to .244 on the season. … Ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier came off the injured list and hit leadoff for Kansas City on Sunday. Alas, he was 0-for-4, dropping his average to .205, though the Royals beat Colorado 10-1. … MSU product Dakota Hudson, designated for assignment by Colorado, had a rough go this season, his first with the Rockies: 2-12, 5.84 ERA. He was especially bad at Coors Field, where many pitchers suffer: 0-6, 8.26 ERA, .359 opponents batting average. He had a 3.72 road ERA. The former first-round pick (by St. Louis) is 40-32, 4.15, for his MLB career. At 29, he might still have something left. … The hit watch continues for Grae Kessinger, the former Ole Miss star recently recalled by the Astros from Triple-A. The seldom-used Kessinger is 0-for-3 since his return and 0-for-14 on the year for Houston. He was batting .283 at Sugar Land. … Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central Community College standout, cleared waivers and was formally released by Miami. There have been no reports of interest from other teams in the former batting champ, a .278 career hitter who tumbled to .214 this season.

03 Jul

rise and fall

The hard fall of Tim Anderson created a loud thud on Tuesday when the former batting champion and All-Star shortstop was designated for assignment by one of the worst teams in baseball. East Central Community College alum Anderson, a .278 career hitter, was batting .214 with no homers for Miami. Fittingly, he struck out Sunday in his final at-bat with the Marlins, giving him 68 strikeouts in 234 ABs this season. He was on a one-year, $5M contract after being cut loose by the Chicago White Sox following a poor 2023 season. Speculation is Anderson, 31, will be released; he may well get another shot somewhere. … Grae Kessinger, ex-Ole Miss star, was recalled from Triple-A by Houston and was in uniform for the Astros’ game at Toronto on Tuesday, though he did not play. Kessinger, 0-for-11 in MLB ABs this year, was batting .283 with two homers and 11 RBIs at Sugar Land. … Ex-Mississippi State star Jordan Westburg, now with Baltimore, apparently will fall short of beating out Jose Ramirez for the starting nod at third base for the American League in fan balloting for the All-Star Game. Voting ends today. … MSU product Nathaniel Lowe, who had just two homers as of June 25, has hit four in his last seven games, including two in Texas’ 7-0 victory against San Diego on Tuesday. (It was his bobblehead night.) He averaged 21 homers over the previous three years for the Rangers. … Former Ole Miss standout Anthony Servideo was sent back to Double-A Bowie from Triple-A Norfolk by Baltimore. Servideo, a third-round pick in 2020, was batting .212 in 14 games for the Tides; he was hitting .196 for Bowie when he was promoted to fill a roster need. … Cleveland sent Southern Miss product Nick Sandlin (5-0, one save, 3.49 ERA) on a rehab assignment to Triple-A Columbus. He worked a scoreless inning Tuesday. The reliever has been on the injured list since June 17. … Ole Miss alum Dylan DeLucia was promoted from rookie ball to Low-Class A Lynchburg by Cleveland. He made two appearances in the Arizona Complex League, his first outings since being drafted in 2022. He did not pitch Tuesday. … Former Magnolia Heights star Cooper Pratt, Milwaukee’s No. 4 prospect (see previous post), cracked MLB Pipeline’s new Top 100 minor league prospects list at No. 96. Pratt is in A-ball. USM alum Hurston Waldrep, who already has debuted with Atlanta this season, is No. 70, up from 72 in the previous ranking.

19 Jun

picks of the lot

For baseball fans who love lists and rankings — and that’s virtually all of us — Bleacher Report has put together an interesting list/ranking of the best players drafted at each of the top 30 slots since 1965. Two of them played their Double-A baseball in the Jackson area: Jason Heyward, rated the best 14th overall pick, and Lance Berkman, pegged as the best at No. 16. Both were impressive during their time in Double-A; if you saw them, you know. Berkman was plucked by Houston out of Rice in 1997 and played for the Jackson Generals at Smith-Wills Stadium the very next season. He hit .306 with 24 homers and 89 RBIs for the Gens en route to a big league career that warranted Hall of Fame consideration. Heyward was drafted by Atlanta out of an Atlanta area high school in 2007 and arrived in Mississippi and Trustmark Park in mid-2009. He hit .352 with seven homers in 49 games for the M-Braves. Still playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Heyward — who homered in his first MLB at-bat in 2010 — has enjoyed a decorated 15-year career in the majors. … Rafael Palmeiro, drafted 22nd overall out of Mississippi State by the Chicago Cubs in 1985, was rated the second-best pick at that spot. Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was No. 1. Will Clark, drafted second overall out of State by San Francisco in 1985, fell somewhere behind Justin Verlander and Reggie Jackson on the list of best No. 2’s. BR named Alex Rodriguez — over Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr. and Chipper Jones, among others — as the best overall No. 1 pick. Some baseball fans would beg to differ. P.S. The infield at Trustmark Park in Pearl has been re-sodded; a crew appeared to be finishing up the work today. Because of “unplayable field conditions” (not related to rain), the M-Braves had to relocate their last homestand (June 11-16) to Madison, Ala., home of the Rocket City Trash Pandas. The team’s next homestand is slated for June 25-30; they last played at the TeePee on June 2.

16 Jun

who’s hot?

Continuing to make his case for a return to the big leagues, Matt Wallner enjoyed another four-hit game — with a home run — on Saturday for Triple-A St. Paul. The ex-Southern Miss star, who also had a four-hit game on Thursday, is batting .396 in June (.458 OBP) with seven homers and 16 RBIs. He was sent down by Minnesota on April 16 following a horrid start. After his recent hot streak, the left-handed slugger is at .246 with 14 homers and 40 RBIs for St. Paul. … Grae Kessinger is also building a case for a return to The Show. The Ole Miss product went 3-for-5 for Triple-A Sugar Land on Saturday and is batting .341 since his June 5 demotion by Houston. Kessinger, a versatile infielder, rarely played (11 at-bats) while he was with the Astros, who are struggling mightily at 32-39. … Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith, making his case to stay in the big leagues with Detroit, went 4-for-6 in the Tigers’ 13-5 whipping of the Astros on Saturday. After an early June swoon, rookie Keith, 22, is 7-for-13 in his last three games, boosting his average to .235. He has three homers and 20 RBIs. “For me, it’s not about the stats or the data,” he recently said in a FanGraphs article. “It’s a comfort-level thing.” … In four games since he was promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett from Mississippi, Nacho Alvarez is making his case as a prospect to watch in Atlanta’s system. He put up a 4-for-4 game Saturday and is 9-for-18 with two homers in four games for the Stripers. With the Double-A M-Braves, the 21-year-old shortstop hit .265 with no homers in 49 games. … In Low-Class A, former Magnolia Heights star Cooper Pratt is bidding for a move up in Milwaukee’s system. Pratt had a three-hit game for Carolina on Saturday — his fourth three-knock game in his last eight — and is raking at a .429 clip in June. For the season, the second-year pro, 19, is at .310 with two homers, 24 RBIs and 15 steals. He is the Brewers’ No. 8-rated prospect.

06 Jun

yeah, but …

The good news for Grae Kessinger is, he’ll get off the bench. The bad news, delivered on Tuesday, is that he’s no longer in the big leagues. The former Ole Miss star from Oxford was optioned to Triple-A Sugar Land by the Houston Astros and was in the Space Cowboys’ lineup on Wednesday. Kessinger, 26, made the Astros’ opening day roster as a backup infielder but had only 11 at-bats (and no hits) all season. He missed about 10 days while on the injured list in early May. A second-round pick by Houston in 2019, Kessinger debuted in the big leagues on June 7 of last year. He got his first hit four days later and first (and only) homer on July 4. All told, he hit .200 in 40 at-bats for the Astros in 2023. Kessinger scuffled his first couple of years in pro ball but hit .283 for Sugar Land last year before his promotion. The grandson of former MLB All-Star — and Ole Miss coach — Don Kessinger, Grae was an All-America shortstop at UM who hit .312 with 15 homers over his last two years in Oxford. He “celebrated” his return to Triple-A by ripping a single in his first at-bat on Wednesday at Salt Lake. … Kessinger’s demotion drops the number of active Mississippians (native or school alum) in the big leagues to 17. P.S. Mississippi State alum Justin Foscue began a rehab assignment in the Arizona Complex League on Wednesday. Foscue made his MLB debut for Texas on April 5, went 1-for-2 in two pinch at-bats and then landed on the IL on April 8 with an oblique strain.

14 May

kudos, here and there

Mike Grzanich, a former Jackson Generals pitcher, was named the MACCC’s softball coach of the year today after leading Hinds Community College to a 32-16 finish in 2024. By some cosmic coincidence, it was on May 14, 1998, that Grzanich, a hard-throwing right-hander, made his one and only MLB appearance, allowing two runs in an inning of work for Houston against Pittsburgh. Grzanich posted 17 wins and 30 saves over three seasons with the Double-A Generals, winning a Texas League title in 1996. He was the pitching coach for Hinds CC for three years before taking the softball reins in 2009. … Hurston Waldrep, former Southern Miss and current Mississippi Braves pitcher, has been ranked No. 75 among MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 minor league prospects, the only state college alum to make the chart. A first-round pick by Atlanta out of Florida last summer, Waldrep is slated to start tonight for the M-Braves against Biloxi at Trustmark Park in Pearl. He is 1-3 with a 3.90 ERA in six starts this year. … Ex-Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson notched his first win of the season on Monday with Colorado, which beat San Diego at Petco Park for its fifth straight victory. He allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings. Hudson, a free agent pickup this past off-season, is 1-6 with a 6.13 ERA in six starts. He was 38-20 with a sub-4.00 during his time with St. Louis. … Current MSU pitcher Nate Dohm is slated to return to the mound for just the second time since early March when the Bulldogs meet North Alabama tonight in Starkville. He was expected to be a key piece for State this season, but arm issues have limited the right-hander to five appearances (1.48 ERA). A healthy comeback could be a big boost during the postseason.

17 Mar

time to shine

Though he has slipped off the Cleveland Guardians’ list of Top 30 prospects, ex-Ole Miss star Doug Nikhazy made the team’s Spring Breakout roster and got the starting nod in Saturday’s game. The 24-year-old left-hander pitched well, earning the win after throwing three innings against Cincinnati’s prospects. He gave up three hits, one earned run and struck out six as the minor league Guardians took a 6-2 victory. Nikhazy was a second-round pick by Cleveland in 2021 after a sterling junior year at Ole Miss, when he posted a 12-2 record with a 2.45 ERA. He made his pro debut in 2022 at High-Class A and spent 2023 at Double-A Akron. He was 4-8, 4.94, for the Rubber Ducks, struck out 128 batters in 102 innings but walked 73. He was the organization’s No. 30 prospect (by MLB Pipeline) entering the 2023 season. P.S. Mississippi State product Jake Mangum went 1-for-2 with a walk on Saturday and is now batting .417 (.517 OBP) as a non-roster outfielder in Tampa Bay’s big league camp. Minor league veteran Mangum, 28, has a homer and three doubles in 24 at-bats. … Former MSU standout J.P. France made his spring debut for Houston and threw 2 1/3 innings, yielding a home run but punching out four New York Mets. He had been dealing with a shoulder issue. “Everything felt good,” he said in a postgame TV interview. France was 11-6, 3.83, as a rookie for the Astros in 2023.

16 Jan

a lost season

Tough news out of Houston today. The shoulder discomfort that kept ex-Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman out of the postseason with the Astros last fall has been diagnosed as a shoulder injury requiring surgery. A veteran of nine big league campaigns, the 33-year-old Graveman will miss the 2024 season, the Astros announced. Right-hander Graveman has a 3.95 ERA in 280 career games; he put up a 2.42 in 23 games for Houston last year after being acquired from the Chicago White Sox at the trade deadline. He missed the 2019 season following elbow surgery but converted from starter to reliever and excelled over the next four years, registering 56 holds and 24 saves for three different clubs. He is slated to be a free agent after the ’24 season. P.S. Ole Miss product Jacob Waguespack has signed a minor league contract with Tampa Bay. The 30-year-old right-hander spent the last two years in Japan, winning a championship in 2022. Undrafted out of Ole Miss in 2015, he reached the big leagues in 2019 with Toronto and has appeared in 27 MLB games. … Samuel Richardson of Lewisburg High and Kevin Roberts Jr. of Jackson Prep took part in the DREAM Series camp sponsored by MLB and USA Baseball in Tucson over the MLK Jr. Day weekend.

01 Dec

familiar territory

After a three-year hiatus, Dave Clark will be back on a major league staff in 2024. The ex-Jackson State star from Tupelo will be the first base coach for Houston and its new manager, Joe Espada. It’s a homecoming of sorts for Clark, who played a year for the Astros, coached five years with the club and even managed the team for 13 games in 2009. Clark last coached in MLB with Detroit from 2014-20; he spent last year as a manager in the Pioneer League, an independent developmental league. A renowned slugger at Shannon High and JSU — where he was a SWAC MVP — Clark was the 11th overall pick in the 1983 draft by Cleveland. Playing parts of 13 seasons with six teams in the majors, the lefty-hitting outfielder batted .264 with 62 home runs and 284 RBIs, finishing up with Houston in 1998. Expectations in Space City have changed considerably since Clark’s previous time there, 2009-13, when the team never had a winning season. The Astros lost to Texas in the American League Championship Series this past season under former skipper Dusty Baker and have made the postseason seven years in a row, winning two World Series in that span. … There are three players with Mississippi ties on the Astros’ current 40-man roster: former Mississippi State pitchers Kendall Graveman and J.P. France and ex-Ole Miss shortstop Grae Kessinger.

24 Oct

return engagement

The Texas Rangers ended a somewhat grueling 12-year wait to get back to the World Series, beating Houston 11-4 Monday night in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. There was a Mississippi State product on that 2011 Texas team, which lost in seven games to St. Louis after leading 3-2; Mitch Moreland went 1-for-10 in the Series. Coincidentally, two former Bulldogs stars are on the current Rangers roster: first baseman Nathaniel Lowe and reliever Chris Stratton. Lowe went 7-for-27 in the ALCS with two homers, including a two-run blast in the sixth inning of Game 7. Stratton pitched in Games 3 and 4, giving up a couple of runs in his first outing, working 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his second. This Rangers team bashed its way through the regular season, leading the league in runs, home runs, batting average, slugging and on-base percentage. And they bashed their way to victory at Minute Maid Park on Monday: 15 hits, four walks, four homers, two by the polarizing Adolis Garcia. On the receiving end of some of that bashing was MSU alum J.P. France, the 28-year-old rookie who had pitched so well for Houston during the season (11-6, 3.83 ERA) and in his Game 2 appearance (2 1/3 scoreless). The fourth pitcher called on by Dusty Baker, France came on in the fourth with the Astros down just 4-2. It was 8-2 when he was finally pulled with two outs. The game essentially got away from Houston as France was left twisting in the wind. Six of the eight batters he faced reached, and he threw only 13 strikes among his 28 pitches. Texas, which will face the winner of tonight’s Arizona-Philadelphia Game 7 in the World Series, has never won a championship, though manager Bruce Bochy can claim three.