Forty-five years ago this month, Mississippi native Dave Parker signed a five-year, $5 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates, creating lots of buzz in the sports world by becoming the first MLB player to earn a million a year. Parker, a slugging outfielder, had been in the majors for six years at the time and was coming off an MVP campaign. Boy, have times changed. Today, the Detroit Tigers announced they have signed ex-Biloxi High star Colt Keith to a six-year, $28.6M contract with options that could push its value to $82M. Keith is 22 and has yet to play a game in the majors. The lefty-hitting infielder, rated the No. 22 prospect in the minors by MLB Pipeline, reportedly will get every opportunity to win the second base job this spring. Keith moved to Biloxi from Arizona in 2019 and was the state’s Gatorade player of the year that season. He was an Arizona State commit before the Tigers picked him in the fifth round of the curtailed 2020 draft and offered a $500,000 bonus. Keith, 6 feet 2, 211 pounds, batted .306 with 27 homers and 101 RBIs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2023. He also played in the All-Star Futures Game last summer. The Tigers are showing tremendous faith in Keith, who’ll certainly face a lot of pressure to perform when he cracks the Detroit lineup. It’s worth remembering that Parker, who helped Pittsburgh win the ’79 World Series, soon fell out of favor — to put it mildly — with Pirates fans when his production fell off and he left Pittsburgh as a free agent after the 1983 season.
While it’s anyone’s guess at this point who might become the next Mississippian to debut in the majors, mlb.com has offered up three players as top prospects to watch in 2024. Former Jackson Prep star Will Warren (New York Yankees), Biloxi High product Colt Keith (Detroit) and Southern Miss alumnus Hurston Waldrep (Atlanta) appear close to breaking through. Warren, a 2021 draftee out of Southeastern Louisiana, is the Yankees’ No. 8 prospect (by MLB Pipeline) after posting a 10-4 record with a 3.35 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2023. The right-hander throws hard and features a wipeout sweeper/slider, per reports. Keith, a 2020 draftee, is Detroit’s No. 2 prospect and could crack the Tigers’ lineup at second base this spring. He hit .306 with 27 home runs last season between Double-A and Triple-A and had a memorable 6-for-6 game with a cycle. Right-hander Waldrep was the Braves’ first-round pick (24th overall) out of Florida back in July and put up a 1.53 ERA while pitching at four minor league levels, including a brief stop with the Mississippi Braves. The Braves are not shy about promoting young arms. … Also worthy of keeping an eye on is Justin Foscue, the ex-Mississippi State standout who ranks as the No. 6 prospect in Texas’ system and made the organization’s minor league All-Star team at second base. He hit .266 with 18 homers in Triple-A and posted a .394 on-base average, walking more times than he struck out. P.S. Boston recently announced that former MSU star Jonathan Papelbon will be inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame next spring. He is Boston’s all-time saves leader (219) and won a World Series with the team in 2007. … Tampa Bay has signed Zac Houston, another State product, to a minor league deal. In the minors since 2016, the right-hander has a 3.18 career ERA in 230 games.
The line in the box score, 6-3-6-7, is an eye-opener. The details are flat-out amazing. Colt Keith, the former Biloxi High star and current Detroit prospect, not only banged out six knocks but hit for the cycle with two home runs for Double-A Erie on Tuesday night. Recently ranked as the No. 87 prospect in the minors by MLB Pipeline, Keith, 21, is in his third pro season after being drafted in the fifth round by the Tigers in 2020. A lefty-hitting third baseman, the 6-foot-2, 211-pound Keith is batting .300 with seven homers and 28 RBIs this season, .294 with 18 and 91 over 144 games for his career. Not surprisingly, he told milb.com that Tuesday’s performance was the No. 1 highlight of his career to date. As an milb.com story duly notes, no major league player has homered twice while cycling on a six-hit, seven-RBI night. He completed the cycle with a single in his fifth at-bat and also singled in his final AB. “I felt pretty invincible going up there …,” he said. Keith moved to Biloxi from Arizona in 2019 and was the state’s Gatorade player of the year that season. He was an Arizona State commit before the Tigers picked him in the curtailed 2020 draft and offered him a $500,000 bonus.
Justin Steele’s spring debut was pushed back a few days because he was feeling some fatigue in his left arm. The former George County High star appeared to have plenty of zip in that wing on Friday night, when he threw two perfect innings as the front man in the Chicago Cubs’ seven-man no-hitter against San Diego. In a Cactus League game televised on MLB Network, Steele breezed — 18 pitches — through a Padres lineup that included Trent Grisham, Jake Cronenworth, Manny Machado and Nelson Cruz. After doing an in-game interview from the dugout, the 27-year-old lefty threw 25 more pitches in the bullpen. “Their lineup is going to be really good,” Steele said of the Padres in an mlb.com story. “It’s good to get out there and compete again.” In his second MLB season in 2022, Steele went 4-7 with a 3.18 ERA in 24 starts for a sub-.500 Cubs team. He reportedly worked long hours in the off-season adding a change-up (which he didn’t have to roll out Friday) to his arsenal. Steele slots in as perhaps the No. 3 starter for a Chicago team that spent some big money in the off-season to make a postseason push. “He’s one of the guys we’re gonna rely heavily on,” Cubs manager David Ross told mlb.com. P.S. Ex-Biloxi High standout Colt Keith, Detroit’s No. 4-rated prospect (per MLB Pipeline), hit his first career spring homer on Friday in a Grapefruit League contest against Philadelphia. Keith, a non-roster invitee in Tigers camp, hit .301 with nine homers in High-Class A last season, his second as a pro.
Four Mississippi products, each having battled injuries this season, are on the preliminary rosters for the Arizona Fall League, the select circuit for minor league prospects. Mississippi State alums Will Bednar and J.T. Ginn, ex-Southern Miss star Reed Trimble and former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith are slotted to play in the six-team AFL, which starts its season on Oct. 3. Bednar, the MVP of the 2021 College World Series and the 14th overall pick in the ’21 draft by San Francisco, is 1-3 with a 4.19 ERA in 12 games at the Low-Class A level. Ginn, a second-round pick in 2020, has made 10 starts this year in Double-A in Oakland’s system, posting a 1-4, 6.11 ledger. Ginn was traded by the New York Mets to the A’s for Chris Bassitt during spring training. Trimble, an outfielder and 2021 draftee, is hitting .291 in Low-A ball for Baltimore. Keith, drafted in 2020 by Detroit, hit .301 with nine homers in an abbreviated season at High-A. He was Mississippi’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2019. Among Atlanta’s AFL contingent are current Mississippi Braves Justyn-Henry Malloy and Allan Winans. They’ll be with the Scottsdale team, along with Trimble and Bednar. Ginn will go to Mesa and Keith to Salt River. The rosters could change before or during the season. A bevy of Top 100 overall prospects are scheduled to participate, including four of MLB Pipeline’s Top 20.
Colt Keith, the former Biloxi High star, hasn’t switched on the power yet in High-A ball, but his disciplined, “old-school” approach is producing nice results. Keith, who looks like a masher at 6 feet 3, 235 pounds, is batting .298 for West Michigan in the Detroit system. He has a .359 on-base percentage and has struck out just 19 times in 84 at-bats. One of the younger players in the Midwest League at 20, Keith has one home run, seven doubles, two triples and 14 RBIs. Drafted in the fifth round in 2020, Keith hit .286 with two homers at three levels last season in his pro debut. It figures that the power will come. For his part, Keith told motowntigers.com back in the spring that his approach is based on his disdain for striking out. “It’s a great mindset to have, staying with a short swing and putting the ball in play,” he said. Keith is primarily a third baseman but has also seen some time at second. MLB Pipeline rates him the No. 13 prospect in Detroit’s system, highlighting his athleticism and “quick, efficient left-handed swing.” Keith moved to Biloxi from Arizona in 2019 and was the state’s Gatorade player of the year that season. He was an Arizona State commit before the Tigers picked him in the curtailed 2020 draft and offered him a $500,000 bonus. P.S. Former Ole Miss and Mississippi Braves pitcher Chris Ellis, who made two appearances with Baltimore this season, will have shoulder surgery and miss the remainder of the campaign.
DeSoto Central High, the only Mississippi school appearing in the Collegiate Baseball and MaxPreps national rankings, starts its postseason journey against visiting Warren Central on Thursday in the second round of the MHSAA Class 6A North playoffs. The Jaguars are 26-2, ranked No. 2 by Collegiate Baseball and 11th by MaxPreps. Sophomore third baseman Blaze Jordan leads the Jags’ attack with a .448 average, eight homers and 38 RBIs. The Mississippi State commit was the MaxPreps national player of the week for April 8-14, when he went 8-for-9 with three homers and nine RBIs (eight in one game). Junior outfielder Kyle Booker is batting .417 with 34 runs, and senior Colby Crocker (6-1, 1.09 ERA) leads a strong pitching staff. Warren Central, which beat Tupelo in the first round, is 20-9-1. … DeSoto Central may be on a collision course for the state championship with Biloxi (25-3), which is actually rated above the Jaguars in MaxPreps’ computer poll. Biloxi starts 6A South postseason play at home against Petal on Thursday. Senior catcher Nick Skaggs leads the Indians, batting .374 with four homers and 37 RBIs. … The 6A championship series is slated to start May 15 at Pearl’s Trustmark Park.