23 May

early returns

Two games in, it appears that Jacob Gonzalez was ready for the challenge of Double-A baseball. The former Ole Miss standout is off to a 6-for-10 start for Birmingham. On Wednesday at Biloxi, the lefty-hitting shortstop doubled, homered, drove in two runs and scored twice in the Barons’ 8-4 win at MGM Park. Gonzalez’s homer came as part of a five-run 10th inning in which his former Rebels teammate Tim Elko also went yard, his fourth of the season. Gonzalez was the 15th overall pick by the Chicago White Sox in 2023 following a decorated career in Oxford, where he won a national title. He hit just .211 with four extra-base hits in rookie ball and Low-Class A last season, but that surely was an anomaly for the ChiSox’s No. 7 prospect. The California native, who goes 6 feet 2, 200 pounds, was batting .273 with three homers and 15 RBIs at High-A Winston-Salem this year before his promotion. P.S. Spencer Schwellenbach delivered another sparkling performance for the Mississippi Braves on Wednesday, throwing seven shutout innings to beat host Chattanooga. In two Double-A outings, the 23-year-old right-hander has yet to allow a run over 13 innings, yielding five hits, two walks and striking out 17. He is Atlanta’s No. 3 prospect. … Ole Miss alum Ryan Rolison — the 22nd overall pick by Colorado in 2018 — made a rehab appearance in rookie ball on Tuesday, throwing a scoreless inning. The oft-injured left-hander, once a highly rated prospect on the cusp of making the majors, made just four appearances in 2023 and none in 2022. He is currently on the Triple-Albuquerque roster. … Demarcus Evans, the onetime big leaguer from Petal, was released by Charleston of the independent Atlantic League after four appearances (12.46 ERA). He had signed with a Mexican League club in February but never pitched there. The big right-hander, 27, didn’t pitch at all in 2023 while in the New York Yankees’ organization. He has a 2.76 career ERA in the minors, a 4.75 in the majors.

01 Jan

here and there

One month from today, the college season gets under way in the Magnolia State when William Carey University hosts Missouri Baptist and Blue Mountain Christian welcomes Lane College. Carey went 49-11 in 2023 and reached the NAIA World Series. Crusaders coach Bobby Halford will begin his 39th season at the helm with 1,300 career victories. Blue Mountain finished 26-25 last season, qualifying for the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament, where the 6-seed Toppers beat Carey before bowing out in a rematch. … Former big leaguer Bobby Bradley, the former Harrison Central High slugger, finished 2023 with a bang, getting four hits including a home run on Saturday in the Mexican Pacific League. Bradley is batting .281 with three homers and 19 RBIs for Monterrey. He hit 30 bombs for Charleston in the independent Atlantic League last summer. Bradley played in 97 MLB games for Cleveland from 2019-22. … On the topic of slugging, DeSoto Central alum Austin Riley made mlb.com’s list of the 10 longest home runs in 2023. Riley tied for ninth with a 473-footer on April 3 at St. Louis; it was the first of his 37 homers on the year for Atlanta. The longest homer of 2023 was belted by — who else? — Shohei Ohtani, a 493-footer in June. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Chad Smith recently signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets; the right-hander posted a 6.59 ERA in 10 games for Oakland in 2023.

04 Dec

keep on rakin’

A month into the Puerto Rican Winter League season, former Delta State standout Trent Giambrone is leading the circuit in home runs. Giambrone has hit three homers in 21 games for first-place Criollos de Caguas and is batting .200 with three doubles, a triple and 10 RBIs. The 29-year-old infielder, who had a cup of coffee with the Chicago Cubs in 2021, played in the independent Atlantic League this past season and hit .287 with 22 homers and 72 RBIs. Drafted by the Cubs in 2016 after a highly decorated college career at Jones County Junior College and NCAA Division II DSU, the 5-foot-8 Giambrone batted .233 with 62 homers and 72 RBIs in six minor league seasons and went 2-for-13 for the Cubs in ’21. He became a minor league free agent after the 2022 season.

29 Oct

carry on

Different season, different league, same old Thomas Dillard. The former Ole Miss slugger, who led the independent Atlantic League in homers this summer, has hit three bombs in 11 games in the Mexican Pacific League, Mexico’s winter league. Dillard, a switch-hitting first baseman, belted 39 homers for Lexington in his first year of indy ball and batted .258 with 100 RBIs. Now playing for Culiacan, Dillard is hitting .308 with nine RBIs. As a senior at Oxford High in 2016, Dillard led the nation with 16 homers and went on to hit 31 in three years at UM, including 14 as a junior in 2019. He spent three seasons in Milwaukee’s system, belted 12 homers for Double-A Biloxi in 2022 but was released after the season. Playing for Barry Lyons’ Counter Clocks in the Atlantic League — a Triple-A caliber loop — and now in the MPL, Dillard is showing that he still has plenty of thunder in his bat. P.S. Blaine Crim, the ex-Mississippi College star who played in Triple-A for Texas this season, mashed a home run in his first game in the Dominican Winter League but has just one hit since. He is 2-for-20 for Escogido. Crim hit 22 homers for Round Rock this summer and has 83 homers in his four-year minor league career. Southern Miss alum Chuckie Robinson, who had a good year (.290, 13 homers) in Triple-A for Cincinnati, is hitting .278 with three doubles for Cibao in the DWL. Also in the league is Ole Miss product David Parkinson, who got a win with three scoreless innings of work in his only appearance to date for Escogido. Parkinson, on a bit of a roller coaster since being drafted by Philadelphia in 2017, spent most of the 2023 season in Double-A, going 9-5 for Reading.

18 Sep

testing, testing …

The Chicago White Sox kept testing Tim Elko this season. The ex-Ole Miss slugger passed each one. Elko hit a grand slam in Double-A Birmingham’s season finale on Sunday, giving him 28 home runs over three levels in his second pro season. He batted .295 overall and drove in 106 runs. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound first baseman, a 10th-round draftee in 2022, started the season at Low-Class A Kannapolis, where he hit .297 with 17 bombs in 66 games. Promoted to High-A Winston-Salem, he batted .319 with five homers in 31 games before moving up to Birmingham in the challenging Southern League, where hit .269 with six homers in 34 games. Elko, of course, hit a lot of big homers at Ole Miss: 46 over five seasons, including 24 for the 2022 national champions. P.S. Other big knocks from Mississippians on Sunday: In the big leagues, Mississippi State product Adam Frazier lashed a two-out, two-strike double down the left-field line in the ninth inning, driving in the tying run for Baltimore at Camden Yards. The Orioles beat Tampa Bay 5-4 in 11 innings to clinch an American League playoff berth. … In the Low-A Carolina League, ex-State standout Colton Ledbetter, a 2023 draftee, hit a two-run homer and picked up another RBI to power Charleston (a Tampa Bay affiliate) to 4-2 win over Down East in Game 1 of the league championship series. … In the independent Atlantic League, Southern Maryland sent out a message congratulating Ole Miss alum Braxton Lee on his 1,000th career hit, coming in the Blue Crabs’ season finale. Picayune native Lee, who batted .297 for the Blue Crabs, won a Southern League batting title in 2017 and has three MLB hits from 2018 on his ledger. The 1,000 hits includes 76 he got in one year at Ole Miss; the total doesn’t include Lee’s hits at Pearl River Community College.

14 Sep

homer happy

It seemed like a good omen for Atlanta, which hits tons of home runs and scores bunches of runs in the first inning, when Austin Riley blasted a 447-foot, two-run homer in the opening inning Wednesday night to put the Braves on top of Philadelphia. And a good omen it was. With Spencer Strider and a couple of relievers taking it home, the Braves clinched the National League East by beating the Phillies 4-1 at Citizens Bank Park, celebrating their sixth straight division crown on the field of one of their main rivals. DeSoto Central High alum Riley’s homer was his 35th, three off his career-high set in 2022. That bomb was one of a handful of noteworthy homers by Mississippians in pro ball. Former Mississippi State star Nathaniel Lowe hit his 16th, a three-run shot in the fourth inning, as Texas won its fifth straight game, 10-0 at Toronto, and remained one game back of Houston in the wild American League West. For the Rangers, that win may have helped assuage the pain they felt in learning that ace Max Scherzer is done for the year. Ex-Southern Miss standout Matt Wallner’s 12th homer of the season got Minnesota on the board in the third inning against visiting Tampa Bay, but the Twins ultimately fell 5-4. Wallner has homered roughly once every 14 at-bats for the Twins this year. The Twins lead the AL Central by 7.5 games over Cleveland but have lost three of four and have yet to clinch. In the minors, Biloxi High product Colt Keith continued his breakout path, belting his 11th home run for Triple-A Toledo and 25th overall in 2023. Keith, 22, a third-year pro in Detroit’s system, is batting .309 (.932 OPS) with 95 RBIs. In the independent Atlantic League, ex-Ole Miss standout Thomas Dillard extended his league-leading homer total with his 37th for Lexington. Dillard hit 37 homers in three years in affiliated ball in Milwaukee’s system and 31 in three seasons at UM. The Greenwood native is batting .254 with 97 RBIs for Barry Lyons’ Counter Clocks, who are out of playoff contention in the APBL. P.S. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made his debut for Triple-A Durham on Wednesday as a defensive replacement in center field. Hamilton, 33, who has 931 professional stolen bases, was signed by Tampa Bay on Aug. 30 after being released by the Chicago White Sox. There is speculation the Rays, a playoff contender in the AL, will bring him up as a speed specialist for the stretch run.

11 Aug

prospecting

Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith, who has reached Triple-A at age 21 in his third pro season, is ranked No. 26 in MLB Pipeline’s newly released Top 100 minor league prospects. Keith is the lone Mississippi product in the overall rankings. The former Gatorade player of the year is Detroit’s No. 2 prospect and is currently hitting .270 with three homers and 19 RBIs at Toledo while playing mainly third base. There are 19 other state college or prep alums in the team Top 30 rankings. Six players from this year’s draft class were slotted in, including Southern Miss alum Hurston Waldrep, who is Atlanta’s No. 2. Ole Miss product Jacob Gonzalez is the Chicago White Sox’s No. 4, fellow former Rebels star Kemp Alderman is Miami’s No. 9 and former Mississippi State star Colton Ledbetter is Tampa Bay’s No. 9. Ledbetter, a left-handed hitting outfielder, is 7-for-17 with a homer in his first five pro games. Cooper Pratt, the state’s 2023 player of the year at Magnolia Heights Academy, is Milwaukee’s No. 10, and ex-USM star Tanner Hall is Minnesota’s No. 15. Of particular note, Justin Foscue, the 14th overall pick out of MSU in 2020, is ranked as Texas’ No. 6 and is having a good year at Triple-A Round Rock, batting .262 with 11 homers, 49 RBIs and 65 runs in 86 games. With third baseman Josh Jung currently out with a broken thumb, the Rangers might give Foscue a call in the near future. … The Double-A Mississippi Braves’ roster includes four of Atlanta’s Top 30: lefty Luis De Avila (No. 13), shortstop Cal Conley (No. 21), outfielder Jesse Franklin V (No. 22) and righty Tyler Owens (No. 27). Former M-Braves right-hander AJ Smith-Shawver, now at Triple-A Gwinnett, is the lone Atlanta prospect in the Top 100 at No. 58. He has already debuted in MLB. P.S. Ex-USM star Nick Sandlin threw four pitches Thursday, got a ground ball to escape a base-loaded situation in the sixth inning and earned his seventh hold in Cleveland’s 4-3 win against Toronto. Sandlin has a 3.45 ERA for the second-place Guardians. … Former Ole Miss standout Thomas Dillard and ex-Harrison Central High star Bobby Bradley traded homers in the independent Atlantic League on Thursday. Dillard’s 31st was not enough for Lexington, which fell 8-6 to Bradley (23 bombs) and Charleston.

09 Jul

whatever happened to …

Trent Giambrone, the former Delta State standout, is having a standout season as the shortstop and leadoff batter for the York Revolution of the independent Atlantic League. Giambrone, 29, is batting .280 with 13 homers and 48 RBIs in what is his eighth professional season. He put up a 2-for-4 on Saturday, driving in a pair of runs for the Revolution in a 10-7 win against Lexington. Giambrone, listed at 5 feet 8, 175 pounds, defied the odds as a 25th-round draft pick by reaching the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs in 2021. He is one of nine DSU alums to play in the majors. He got a pinch single in his first at-bat and was 2-for-13 overall as a September call-up. He went back to the minors in 2022 and became a free agent at season’s end, signing with York this spring. Giambrone batted .351 over two years at DSU but didn’t replicate that success in the minors (.231 career). However, he appears to have found a happy place in the Atlantic League, a good quality loop where several Mississippians are currently playing. P.S. Ole Miss product Thomas Dillard, playing for Lexington on Saturday, went 3-for-4 with two doubles and his league-best 22nd home run (see previous post). … Tim Elko, another ex-Rebels star, put up a 3-for-4 with a triple and four RBIs for High-Class A Winston-Salem in the White Sox’s organization. In 10 games at this level, Elko — a ’22 draftee — is batting .308 with a homer and eight RBIs. Half of his 12 hits are extra-base knocks. … Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith, Detroit’s No. 1 prospect (per mlb.com), went 1-for-1 with a walk in Saturday’s All-Star Futures Game in Seattle. Keith is batting .335 with 16 homers and 57 RBIs between Double-A and Triple-A this season. … The Tigers’ previous no-hitter before Saturday’s combo job was thrown by Madison Central High product Spencer Turnbull on May 18, 2021, at Seattle. Turnbull, who missed all of the 2022 season following Tommy John surgery, is back on the injured list now (neck injury) but is throwing off a mound. He is 1-4 with a 7.26 ERA in seven starts this year.

06 Jul

it’s a thing

Mississippi certainly seems to have a knack for producing power hitters. It’s a thing, as they say. Check the Atlantic League batting leaders today and you’ll find ex-Ole Miss star Thomas Dillard on top in the home run category. Playing for Barry Lyons’ Lexington Counter Clocks in the independent league, Dillard mashed his 21st homer on Wednesday in a 9-4 win against Staten Island. The lefty-hitting first baseman has moved two homers ahead of former Harrison Central High star Bobby Bradley, who led the league about a month ago. Power has been Dillard’s calling card for much of his career. He led the nation in homers as a senior catcher at Oxford High with 16, earning All-America honors and state player of the year recognition from USA Today. At Ole Miss, he belted 14 homers and hit .310 as a junior and was drafted in the fifth round by Milwaukee in 2019. He played three seasons in the Brewers’ system, hitting .241 with 37 homers — 12 at Double-A Biloxi in 2022 — but striking out 356 times in 986 at-bats. Milwaukee released him last December. Lyons was happy to add him to the roster this spring for his first Lexington team. Dillard, only 25, still strikes out a fair bit but has posted a .269 average (.412 on-base percentage) and 53 RBIs for the 30-31 Counter Clocks. P.S. Madison Central product Braden Montgomery did his Shohei Ohtani act on Wednesday for Team USA, hitting a two-run homer and striking out the side in an inning of work against Chinese Taipei. Montgomery is 3-for-15 with two homers and four RBIs for the Collegiate National Team, which begins a five-game series against Japan on Friday.

29 Jun

names of note

Colt Keith: The former Biloxi High standout homered in his first Triple-A at-bat on Wednesday and finished 3-for-4 for Toledo, Detroit’s top affiliate. He had 14 homers in Double-A.
Jordan Westburg: The Mississippi State alum went 2-for-5 with an RBI double for Baltimore and is batting .417 with at least one hit in each of his first three MLB games.
Adam Frazier: The State product hit a game-tying homer — his ninth — with Westburg aboard in the eighth inning for the Orioles, who fell 11-7 in 10 to Cincinnati.
Hunter Renfroe: The former State star belted his 13th homer for the Los Angeles Angels, his first since June 13. He is tied with Brent Rooker for second-most bombs in the majors among Mississippians, one back of Austin Riley.
Nick Sandlin: The Southern Miss product pitched a clean 1 1/3 innings in relief for Cleveland and got the win vs. Kansas City as the Guardians moved into first place in the American League Central. Sandlin is 4-3 with a 3.14 ERA.
James McArthur: The ex-Ole Miss standout made his MLB debut for the Royals — and it didn’t go well: seven earned runs in one inning of work, a 63.00 ERA.
Thomas Dillard: The Ole Miss alum hit his 16th homer for Lexington in the independent Atlantic League and is fourth in the loop in homers.
Bobby Bradley: The Gulfport native hit his 17th homer for Charleston in the Atlantic League and is tied for second in that category.
Hunter Hines: The MSU star went 0-for-5 for Yarmouth-Dennis in the Cape Cod League but picked up his 22nd RBI, which leads the collegiate summer league. He also leads the loop in homers with six.
Braden Montgomery: The Madison Central alum, now at Stanford, went 2-for-5 in the final Stars vs. Stripes Series game and finished 5-for-17 with three RBIs in four games at the Collegiate National Team training camp.
Mason Nichols: The Ole Miss standout threw a scoreless inning in the Stars vs. Stripes game and finished with a 3.00 ERA and four strikeouts in three appearances in the training camp.
Tanner Hall: The Southern Miss ace was named a first-team All-America by Baseball America, the latest in a series of honors for the MLB draft prospect.
Braden Shewmake: The former Mississippi Braves shortstop hit for the cycle for Triple-A Gwinnett, a first for the Atlanta affiliate. Shewmake, who made a brief big league appearance this season, is batting .232 with eight homers.
P.S. From the Always a Mississippi Connection Dept.: Ex-MSU star Brent Rooker went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts for Oakland in Domingo German’s perfect game for the New York Yankees. In the last perfect game, on Aug. 15, 2012, ex-Itawamba Community College star Desmond Jennings struck out as a ninth-inning pinch hitter for Tampa Bay in Felix Hernandez’s perfecto for Seattle.