Former Jackson Prep standout Will Warren, now in the New York Yankees’ system, got some well-deserved recognition today from Baseball America in its daily Prospect Report. Warren threw five shutout innings Sunday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, yielding just two hits and striking out a career-high 10 batters. An eighth-round draft pick out of Southeastern Louisiana in 2021, Warren, 24, has allowed just one earned run over 23 2/3 innings in September. He has struck out 29, walked nine and limited opposing hitters to a .127 average. He is rated the Yankees’ No. 10 prospect by MLB Pipeline, which gives his estimated time of arrival in The Show as 2023. That may not happen, but he is close. The 6-foot-2 right-hander started this season in Double-A and went 3-0 with a 2.45 before moving up to S/W-B. He is 6-4 with a 3.71 in 20 games for the RailRiders. Warren features a mid-90s fastball and a wipeout slider, which MLB Pipeline calls his “best weapon.”
Garrett Crochet, the former Ocean Springs High star now in the Chicago White Sox’s system, made his first appearance in a game in two months on Wednesday, when he threw a scoreless inning for Double-A Birmingham. The 11th overall pick in the 2020 draft out of Tennessee, Crochet made a fairly dazzling MLB debut a couple months later. The 6-foot-6 left-hander struck out the first two batters he faced in a 1-2-3 inning and threw six of his 13 pitches at 100 mph or better. He didn’t allow a run in six innings that season and posted a 2.82 ERA with 14 holds and 65 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings in 2021. He has struggled to stay healthy ever since. He missed all of the 2022 season after spring Tommy John surgery and began 2023 in the minors on a rehab, making his White Sox debut on May 16. No longer throwing 100, Crochet put up a 3.60 ERA in 10 games before going on the injured list with a shoulder problem, which apparently has persisted. Crochet, 24, struck out two of the three batters he faced for Birmingham on Wednesday — a positive sign. Reports are he wants to return to the White Sox before their season, which has gone off the rails, comes to an end. P.S. As the Texas Rangers have gone into freefall in the American League West, their bullpen has been heavily criticized. Don’t point at Mississippi State alum Chris Stratton. Since coming over from St. Louis at the trade deadline, Stratton has a 2.08 ERA, a win and three holds in 14 games for the Rangers. He allowed a run Wednesday — after starter Max Scherzer had been KO’d — but 11 of his 13 other appearances have been scoreless. … Rangers first baseman and ex-MSU star Nathaniel Lowe was ranked as the best defensive first sacker in the AL in a poll of managers, scouts and execs conducted by Baseball America.
Featuring an upper-90s fastball and three other pitches, Hurston Waldrep has what Baseball America called “tantalizing upside potential” in evaluating the right-hander’s MLB draft prospects. Atlanta took him with the 24th overall pick in July, and tonight the onetime Southern Miss standout is slated to make his Double-A debut for the Mississippi Braves at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Waldrep, rated the Braves’ No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, has made four previous pro starts, all in A-ball, posting a 1.20 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 15 innings. The Georgia native averaged 13.9 K’s per nine innings in three years of college ball, two at USM and last season with Florida. He went 10-3, 4.16, for the Gators and helped them reach the College World Series finals. When he toes the rubber tonight (6:05) against Rocket City, Waldrep will join a list of Mississippi connections to play for the M-Braves that includes current outfielder Brandon Parker plus Zack Bird, Brent Leach, Van Pope, Jay Powell, Austin Riley, Michael Rosamond and John Thomson. P.S. Colton Ledbetter, a 2023 draftee out of Mississippi State, went 2-for-4 with a run Friday night as Low-Class A Charleston clinched a Carolina League playoff berth by beating Myrtle Beach. Ledbetter is batting .324 in 11 games for the Tampa Bay affiliate. … In MLB, former MSU standout Nathaniel Lowe extended his hitting streak to 13 games Friday for Texas, which lost at home to Minnesota and remained a game back of Seattle and Houston in the American League West. … Hunter Renfroe went 0-for-5 in his Cincinnati debut as the Reds split a doubleheader with the Chicago Cubs. MSU product Renfroe started the opener, playing right field and batting cleanup; he entered Game 2 as a pinch hitter. … Ex-Ole Miss star Grae Kessinger was activated from the injured list by Houston and former Rebels standout James McArthur was recalled from Triple-A by Kansas City as MLB rosters expanded to 28. … Jackson Prep’s Konnor Griffin went 2-for-3 with a walk as Team USA beat Spain 6-2 in the U-18 World Cup at Taipei, Taiwan. The U.S. team is 2-0 in the tournament’s opening round.
In MLB’s amateur draft, which begins tonight (6 p.m., MLB Network/ESPN) and runs through Tuesday, major league clubs will find the tool shed in Mississippi is well-stocked. In its incredibly comprehensive Draft Preview issue, Baseball America IDs six Mississippi products among the prospects with top five tools in various scouting categories. Ranked first among high school players in strike zone discipline is Cooper Pratt, the Magnolia Heights Academy star pegged by BA as the No. 63 overall prospect in the draft. Pratt, a 6-foot-4 shortstop committed to Ole Miss, hit .468 this season, won a state title and was named Gatorade player of the year. Ole Miss’ Jacob Gonzalez, expected to go in the first round as the first state product off the board, is rated No. 5 among college hitters in strike zone discipline. Shortstop Gonzalez, BA’s No. 8 overall prospect, hit .327 (.435 OBP) this season and .319 (.427) for his career in Oxford. He played on the national title team in 2022 and on two Collegiate National Teams. Two of the best defensive catchers reside in the Magnolia State: Oxford High’s Campbell Smithwick, an Ole Miss commit, is pegged second among high school prospects and the Rebels’ Calvin Harris No. 4 among college players. (Harris can swing the bat a little, too; he hit four homers in a game back in May.) Southern Miss’ Tanner Hall, a first-team All-America this season, has the fourth-best changeup among college pitchers, per BA’s ratings. Hall went 12-4 with a 2.48 ERA this season, 9-3, 2.81, in 2022 and pitched in the NCAAs both years. Ole Miss’ Kemp Alderman is ranked No. 5 in power; the Ferriss Trophy winner belted 19 homers this year and hit .376. At 6 feet 3, 250 pounds, he can mash. Worth noting: Mississippi State’s Colton Ledbetter is ranked as the 46th-best overall prospect by BA, second-highest to Gonzalez among state players. He is expected to attend today’s televised ceremony for the first two rounds. … Pittsburgh has the No. 1 pick. Milwaukee has the 18th (and the 33rd), and Atlanta goes 24th.
Now that LSU has pummeled Florida in the College World Series finale to claim the national championship, the college season is officially over. It was not a banner year for Mississippi’s four-year schools, but there were gold medal performances from the two that made the postseason. In NCAA Division I, Southern Miss won a regional on the road and came within one win of a trip to the CWS. In NAIA, William Carey University won a regular season conference title, a regional and two games in the World Series. Bravo. Take a bow coaches Scott Berry and Bobby Halford. Alas, seven state schools had losing seasons, some falling under the category of Major Disappointment (see defending national champ Ole Miss, for example). Here’s a school-by-school look at the records and relevant numbers:
USM — Record: 46-20. Number: 12, the Golden Eagles’ final ranking by Baseball America.
Carey — 49-11. 652 runs.
Mississippi State — 27-26. 7.01 ERA.
Ole Miss — 25-29. 6 SEC wins.
Jackson State — 28-25. 26 home runs.
Mississippi Valley State — 15-36. 407 strikeouts (by hitters).
Alcorn State — 8-40. 111 errors.
Delta State — 27-26. 12-11 at Ferriss Field.
Mississippi College — 16-33. .256 batting average.
Blue Mountain Christian — 26-25. 10 different starting pitchers.
Rust — 25-25. 14 GCAC wins.
Tougaloo — 11-34. 0-8 start, 1-9 finish.
Millsaps — 22-23. 238 walks (by pitchers).
Belhaven — 21-18. 4 different home-field sites.
MUW — 6-25-1. 27 road games.
P.S. Props to Seth Farni, an outfielder at St. Stanislaus High, for being named a second-team All-America by Baseball America. The Ole Miss commit, who goes 6 feet, 190 pounds, hit .370 with eight homers, 30 RBIs and 45 runs (per MaxPreps) for the MHSAA Class 3A runner-up.
Has any team in the state had a better year than William Carey University? Short answer: No. While some of the traditionally strong programs in the Magnolia State have had some struggles, Carey thrived in the Southern States Athletic Conference. Bobby Halford’s Crusaders are 44-9, won the SSAC regular season title with a 22-2 mark, climbed to No. 8 in the final NAIA coaches poll and earned a regional host role in the NAIA Tournament. The Crusaders swept the SSAC individual honors, with Halford — in his 38th season — winning coach of the year, R.J. Stinson player of the year and Andrew Shirah pitcher of the year. Three other Crusaders were named first-team all-conference. Carey fell short of winning the SSAC Tournament but has a chance to make amends in the five-team NAIA Opening Round tournament it will host at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg starting Monday. The Crusaders will open Monday night against the winner of the Union (Ky.)–Houston-Victoria game earlier in the day. Hats off to Halford, a former Carey player and assistant who has had just one losing season in his long tenure as head coach. He is approaching 1,300 career wins — and has something else to shoot for. He took his 2017 team to the NAIA World Series in Idaho, where they finished third, the school’s best finish since winning the 1969 national championship. P.S. Will Warren, the former Jackson Prep (and Southeastern Louisiana) standout, got some recognition in Baseball America’s daily prospect report. A top pitching prospect in the New York Yankees’ organization, Warren threw six scoreless innings for Double-A Somerset on Thursday to run his record to 3-0 and trim his ERA to 2.45. “Warren may be one of the more underrated pitching prospects in the game,” BA reports.
For what it’s worth in mid-April, Baseball America projects Southern Miss as an NCAA Tournament team and the No. 15 national seed, hosting a regional in Hattiesburg. Still a long way to go until the NCAA Baseball Selection Show on May 29, but the 25th-ranked Golden Eagles are trending in the right direction at 22-13 overall and 10-5 (tied for second) in the Sun Belt Conference. USM takes on first-place Coastal Carolina (11-4) in a three-game series this weekend at Myrtle Beach, S.C. USM swept James Madison last weekend, powered in part by SBC player of the week Slade Wilks, who homered twice, including a grand slam, and tied a school-record with eight RBIs in Sunday’s series finale. Wilks, out of Columbia Academy, is batting .333 with 14 homers and 39 RBIs. … In the mighty SEC, both Mississippi State and Ole Miss have a lot of work to do to impress the NCAA selection committee. State (22-15, 5-10) is tied for fifth with Auburn in the West Division and visits the Tigers this weekend. After last week’s gut-wrenching series loss at Starkville, Ole Miss (21-16, 3-12 and seventh in the West) gets to host No. 1 LSU this weekend. … It has been a tough year for Mississippi’s SWAC schools. Jackson State is 19-16 overall but just 4-11 in the league, fourth in the East and battling for a league tournament berth. Mississippi Valley State is 2-13 and 10-27, Alcorn State 2-12, 5-26. … It has also been a tough year for the state’s Division II schools. Delta State is 21-21 and 11-12 (ninth) in the Gulf South Conference. Mississippi College is 15-27 and 9-15 (11th). The top eight teams make the GSC Tournament. … In NAIA, William Carey University sits atop the Southern States Athletic Conference standings with a 14-4 record after sweeping Mobile last weekend. The nationally ranked Crusaders (32-9 overall) visit scuffling Blue Mountain Christian this weekend. The Toppers are 6-15 in the SSAC, 23-21 overall. … Rust College is tied for first in the NAIA Gulf Coast Athletic Conference with an 11-4 mark. Tougaloo is fifth in the six-team loop at 5-9. The league tournament is set for Jackson’s Smith-Wills Stadium April 27-30. … NCAA Division III Belhaven is second in the Collegiate Conference of the South standings at 10-4. The Blazers (18-15 overall) have one conference series remaining before the league tournament that starts May 3. … D-III Millsaps, on a six-game losing streak, is sixth in the Southern Athletic Association at 7-11 (16-21 overall) with one league series remaining. The postseason starts April 28 with four best-of-3 series, followed by a double-elimination tournament. The Majors reached the SAA championship series last year as the No. 6 seed under a different format. … MUW, a D-III independent, is 4-22. No record is available for Southeastern Baptist, an NCCAA school in Laurel.
Well, that was awful. Mississippi’s six NCAA Division I teams went 2-16 over the weekend. Two and sixteen. Kudos to Southern Miss and Jackson State for winning a game each and preventing a complete wipeout. Ole Miss may have suffered the hardest fall. The Rebels were beaten by a collective 27-4 at Vanderbilt. They managed just 13 hits the entire weekend. Remarkably, Ole Miss (14-6) fell only nine spots in the new Baseball America poll, from No. 6 to 15. And there’s no rest for the weary in the SEC: Florida, ranked No. 2, comes to Oxford next weekend. Mississippi State (13-8) went 0-3 at Kentucky; Southern Miss (12-7) went 1-2 at Texas State in its Sun Belt debut; and Jackson State (13-5), which had been playing really well, went 1-2 at home against Alabama A&M to start SWAC play. Meanwhile, the struggles continued for Mississippi Valley State (6-13), swept by Florida A&M, and Alcorn State (1-14), swept by Prairie View A&M. Note: Props to William Carey University (20-6), which went on the road and took three straight SSAC games from Brewton-Parker, and Delta State (12-13), which won two of three GSC games at home against Union.
Corey Dickerson, the former Meridian Community College star from McComb, reportedly has found a good home for 2023, reaching agreement with Washington on a 1-year, $2.25 million contract. The rebuilding Nationals, who have a need for lefty-hitting outfielders (among other things), will be Dickerson’s fourth team in three seasons. He spent 2022 with St. Louis, batting .267 with six homers (and a 0.0 WAR) in 96 games on a 1-year, $5M deal. Dickerson, 33, who broke in with Colorado in 2013, is a .281 career hitter with 134 homers, 27 of those during his All-Star season with Tampa Bay in 2017. He joins Mississippi State alum Adam Frazier (Baltimore) and Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton (Chicago White Sox, minor league deal) as Mississippi-connected MLB free agents to sign this off-season. A handful of minor league free agents also have inked for 2023. The start of spring training is just a few weeks away. P.S. Jackson Prep junior Konnor Griffin has been named the top high school prospect in the 2024 draft by Baseball America. Griffin, an LSU commit who goes 6 feet 3, 180 pounds, batted .472 with six homers as a shortstop/outfielder and went 6-2 with a 1.64 ERA on the mound in 2022. BA’s new Top 100 list for the ’24 draft includes seven players committed to Mississippi State and four Ole Miss commits. … Belhaven University opens its season Feb. 7 against Rhodes College at Trustmark Park in Pearl, the Blazers’ new home field. BU and fellow NCAA Division III member Millsaps will play two their three Maloney Trophy games at the TeePee on Feb. 21 and March 7. The third game is March 28 at Millsaps’ Twenty Field. Belhaven’s first Collegiate Conference of the South game is March 17 at Maryville (Tenn.). (The CCS is a group of schools that recently broke away from the USA South.)
There are always surprises in the MLB draft, which begins today (6 p.m., MLB Network/ESPN). It would be a bit of a surprise if a player from Mississippi is picked in the first round. A sampling of mock drafts (Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, The Sporting News) turns up just one instance of a state player pegged in the top 30: Baseball America has Mississippi State pitcher Landon Sims going 28th to Houston. Sims, the closer on the national title team in 2021, had Tommy John surgery this spring, creating questions about his status as a first-rounder. BA rated Sims No. 22 among draft prospects. MLB Pipeline placed Sims No. 44 among its Top 250 draft prospects, three spots behind Bulldogs catcher Logan Tanner. Bradley Loftin, a lefty pitcher at DeSoto Central High, is No. 77; Northeast Mississippi Community College righty Colby Holcombe No. 134; Ole Miss catcher Hayden Dunhurst No. 155; MSU outfielder Brad Cumbest No. 173; Jackson Academy outfielder Dakota Jordan No. 177; Madison Central catcher Ross Highfill No. 197; and South Panola outfielder Emaarion Boyd No. 245. Baseball America ranks Tanner No. 68, Dunhurst No. 139 and Holcombe No. 154. No state high school players made BA’s Top 200, though the magazine did rank four state schools in its final Top 50 for 2022: No. 2 Sumrall, No. 5 Northwest Rankin, No. 21 Jackson Prep and No. 33 Madison-Ridgeland Academy. Day 1 of the draft includes the first two rounds plus supplemental picks, a total of 80. The 20-round draft runs through Monday and Tuesday. P.S. Twelve players from state schools were drafted in 2021, including two first-rounders (MSU’s Will Bednar, No. 14, and UM’s Gunnar Hoglund, No. 19). Hoglund, like Sims this year, was coming off arm surgery. … Two Jackson State players made the list of HBCU draft prospects compiled by blackcollegenines.com. Right-hander Nik Gallatas and infielder Ty Hill are joined on that list by Grambling State right-hander Shemar Page, a former Pearl River CC star from Laurel, and Southern U. outfielder O’Neill Burgos, a Brookhaven Academy and Jones College alum. Page, also a hitter at Grambling, was the SWAC pitcher of the year. … A recent mlb.com feature focused on the small number of top three overall draft picks who failed to reach the major leagues. On that list are former MSU pitcher B.J. Wallace, No. 3 by Montreal in 1992, and Oak Park High third baseman Ted Nicholson, No. 3 by the Chicago White Sox in 1969. Wallace had injury issues, while Nicholson’s career may have been short-circuited by military duty.