17 May

shuckers v. m-braves

A trio of former Biloxi Shuckers pitchers did a number on the Atlanta Braves on Monday night. The number was 16, as in 16 punchouts in Milwaukee’s 1-0 win at American Family Field. Former Mississippi Braves Ian Anderson and Spencer Strider pitched well in defeat. The series between National League rivals, who met in a memorable postseason series in 2021, continues today with Shuckers and M-Braves alums matched up as starters in each of the remaining two games. Coincidentally, the Double-A teams meet in a six-game series starting tonight at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Both clubs are under .500 in the Southern League South, though the Shuckers (16-17) come in on a three-game win streak. The M-Braves (14-19) have dropped their last two and are just 6-9 at home. Whether there is a feeling of rivalry between the teams — or their fans — is debatable. (Remember Jackson-Shreveport from the old Texas League days?) But Biloxi took five of six when the teams met in early April at MGM Park, and it’s a safe bet M-Braves players remember that. Both clubs feature highly regarded prospects that are likely to clash in the big leagues someday in the near future. The M-Braves trot out Michael Harris II, Jesse Franklin V, Freddy Tarnok and tonight’s starting pitcher, Jared Shuster. Four of Milwaukee’s top 11 prospects (per MLB Pipeline) populate Biloxi’s roster, with a fifth on the injured list. No. 1 Sal Frelick is batting .231 with seven steals, and No. 2 Joey Wiemer is at .309 with nine homers and 27 RBIs. Former Ole Miss star Thomas Dillard is a catcher/first baseman for the Shuckers, hitting .200 with three homers and 16 RBIs. In the clubs’ all-time series, which began when Biloxi entered the SL in 2015, the Shuckers lead 77-68. But Mississippi owns two league pennants, including last year’s, and Biloxi has yet to claim one.

15 May

have a day

On Tim Anderson Bobblehead Night at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, it was only fitting that the former East Central Community College standout would play a leading role in the White Sox’s walk-off 3-2 win against the New York Yankees. With the score knotted at 2-2 Saturday, Anderson got a one-out single in the ninth inning off Aroldis Chapman. Yankees broadcasters credited Anderson with distracting Chapman into walking the next batter and then falling behind 3-0 to Luis Robert. On a 3-1 pitch, Robert poked a single into right field and Anderson scored the winning run from second base just ahead of a throw by Aaron Judge. The bobblehead commemorated Anderson’s walk-off homer vs. the Yankees in the Field of Dreams Game last summer. The dynamic Anderson went 3-for-5 Saturday, boosting his average to .339, second in the American League. He was just the brightest star on a day filled with shining moments from Mississippians in the majors. To wit: In the ChiSox-Yankees game, Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman pitched two scoreless innings (the sixth and seventh) for Chicago, registered his eighth hold and trimmed his ERA to 1.56 in 15 games. … In Atlanta, a scuffling Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High star, went 3-for-4 and delivered the game-deciding run in the eighth inning of a crazy 6-5 victory over San Diego. … In St. Louis, MSU product Dakota Hudson blanked San Francisco over five innings, picking up the win — he is 3-2, 3.06 — as the Cardinals stopped the Giants’ six-game win streak 4-0. McComb native Corey Dickerson went 1-for-4 for the Cards. … Former Southern Miss standout Nick Sandlin picked up a win for Cleveland, working 1 1/3 scoreless innings (in the eighth and ninth) in the Guardians’ 3-2, 10-inning win against Minnesota. Sandlin is 3-1 with a 3.65 ERA in 12 games in middle relief. … Chris Stratton, the MSU product from Tupelo, struck out two batters in the eighth inning and got his fourth hold for Pittsburgh in a 3-1 win against Cincinnati. … Hunter Renfroe, the former State star from Crystal Springs, belted his ninth home run in Milwaukee’s 9-3 loss to Miami. He is tied for the National League lead in homers. … Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers, who has found his form in recent outings, worked a scoreless ninth inning for the Los Angeles Angels in their 9-1 win vs. Oakland in Game 2 of a twinbill.

12 May

here and there

Beyond the score — Ole Miss 4, Southern Miss 1 — three numbers jump out of the box from Wednesday night’s game in Hattiesburg: 1 — hits allowed by the Rebels’ bullpen over the last four innings of the game, backing up a strong start by Drew McDaniel; 15 — strikeouts by Golden Eagles batters, most in a game this season; 6,346 — the attendance, a record, at Taylor Park. (Can any other state match Mississippi’s passion for college baseball?) … Congratulations to Millsaps’ Jim Page, named coach of the year in the Southern Athletic Association. The Majors, 10-24 in 2021, went 24-21 and reached the league championship series. Page also won his 800th game in purple-and-white this season. … Christian Yelich hit for the cycle for Milwaukee on Wednesday, his third cycle since 2018. The last Mississippian to accomplish this neat feat was Fred Lewis, a Stone County High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product who did it on May 13 — Mother’s Day — in 2007 for San Francisco. … Orlando Arcia’s first career walk-off home run boosted Atlanta past Boston on Wednesday night. Biloxi Shuckers fans will remember Arcia as one of the stars of the inaugural team back in 2015. He was Milwaukee’s No. 1 prospect at the time and was one of the first Shuckers alums to make the majors. … Left-hander Joey Wentz became the latest former Mississippi Braves standout to make the big leagues; he started and took a loss for Detroit. Wentz joins Bryce Elder and William Woods as M-Braves alums to debut in 2022; the list is approaching 160 all told. … Former Mississippi State standout — and Shuckers alum — Ethan Small, the International League’s pitcher of the month for April when he had an 0.77 ERA in four starts, makes his second May start tonight for Triple-A Nashville. The left-hander, Milwaukee’s No. 7 prospect, took a loss in his first May outing and is 2-1, 1.98 with 37 K’s in 27 1/3 innings. His MLB debut can’t be far off. … Harrison Central High alum Bobby Bradley, reassigned to the minors by Cleveland earlier this month, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his first game with Triple-A Columbus. … Blaze Jordan, the ex-DeSoto Central star, is heating up at Low-Class A Salem in Boston’s system. A nine-game hit streak (13-for-34) has lifted the young slugger’s average to .235; he hit his second homer of the year Wednesday night.

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.

15 Apr

tagging up

Brandon Woodruff, described as “angry (and) effective” by an mlb.com writer, got his groove back for Milwaukee on Thursday. The ex-Mississippi State standout threw five shutout innings to beat St. Louis. It was a nice bounce-back effort from the big right-hander, who was whipped by the Chicago Cubs (and George County High alum Justin Steele) in his first start of 2022 last week. One week into the new MLB season, Woodruff’s former State teammate, Hunter Renfroe, new to the Brewers’ roster this year, is scuffling along with a .160 average. Former Bulldogs star Adam Frazier, who also changed teams in the off-season (San Diego to Seattle), is hitting just .133. Corey Dickerson, the ex-Meridian Community College standout, is batting .125 for his new club, St. Louis. He wasn’t in the lineup Thursday against Woodruff. On the flip side, East Central CC product Tim Anderson is off to a sizzling start for the Chicago White Sox, batting .471 with a homer, four RBIs and three runs. He missed the first two games of the campaign while serving a suspension from 2021. His ChiSox teammate Kendall Graveman, an MSU alum new to Chicago this season, has not allowed an earned run in 4 2/3 innings. Nathaniel Lowe, another Bulldogs alum, is hitting .348 for Texas with six RBIs. And while defending World Series champion Atlanta is wobbling along at 3-5, ex-DeSoto Central star Austin Riley has been steady at .286 with two homers and five RBIs. P.S. MSU alum Brent Rooker, traded from Minnesota to San Diego just before the season opened, already has hit two homers for Triple-A El Paso in the Padres’ system. … Former Columbia High standout Ti’Quan Forbes recently signed a minor league deal with Arizona; he was previously in the White Sox’s system.

25 Mar

present arms

Pitchers took center stage on Thursday in MLB spring training. Former Mississippi State and Wheeler High standout Brandon Woodruff, fresh off agreeing to a $6.8 million contract for 2022, made his Cactus League debut and promptly got knocked around by Arizona. The right-hander, an emergent ace for the Brewers, yielded six hits, a walk and four runs in three innings. “I don’t like to stink,” he said in a published report following the game, while noting that he was working on a new slider. … George County High product Justin Steele started for the Chicago Cubs against the Los Angeles Angels. The first batter he faced was Shohei Ohtani. “I was really looking forward to that, like last night I was thinking about that,” he told NBC Sports Chicago. Left-hander Steele walked Ohtani, walked one more batter in the frame but allowed nothing else in his two innings of work. After making his MLB debut last year, Steele is vying for a job in the rotation in 2022. … Ex-State star Jonathan Holder, in Cubs camp as a non-roster invitee, pitched one inning and gave up a game-winning homer to Taylor Ward. Holder had a 4.38 ERA over five seasons with the New York Yankees but missed virtually all of 2021 with a shoulder problem. … Ole Miss alum James McArthur, a newcomer to Philadelphia’s 40-man roster, worked against Pittsburgh and gave up three hits and a run in 2/3 inning in his second spring outing. … MSU product J.P. France, a non-roster pitcher in Houston’s camp, pitched a scoreless inning against Washington. P.S. Former Ole Miss standout Chris Ellis, recently re-signed as a minor leaguer by Baltimore, has yet to make his spring debut but is looking forward to that opportunity. The right-hander told baltimorebaseball.com he aims to “take care of business and earn my spot back.” He went 1-0 with a 2.15 ERA in seven games last season. … Madison Central High product Spencer Turnbull apparently is headed to salary arbitration with Detroit. The right-hander reportedly asked for $2.1 million for this season, and the team offered $1.325M. The arbitrator will chose one of the two figures. Turnbull threw a no-hitter last season before having Tommy John surgery that could force him to miss all of 2022. He is 11-25, 4.25 over four years with the Tigers.

04 Mar

local flavor

Heads up, Biloxi Shuckers fans. A home-grown player appears headed that way next month. Joe Gray Jr., the ex-Hattiesburg High star, said in an mlb.com article that Double-A Biloxi is where he’s aiming to launch his 2022 season and build on the big year he had in A-ball. “That’s going to mean a lot,” Gray said of not just reaching the game’s pivotal level in his fourth pro season but playing close to home. Beset by illness and injuries in his first two seasons and shelved by the pandemic in 2020, Milwaukee’s second-round pick from 2018 broke out in 2021, batting .252 with 20 homers, 90 RBIs and 23 steals at two levels of A-ball. He also got an Arizona Fall League assignment. “So long as I’m on the field, stuff is going to happen,” Gray told mlb.com in a very interesting interview that covers his childhood on a farm in Carson (outside of Hattiesburg), why he chose baseball over football and his difficult bout with pneumonia in 2018. Minor league roster decisions are a long way off, but there is a strong chance the 21-year-old Gray, the Brewers’ No. 9 prospect, will be in center field when the Shuckers open April 8 at Pensacola. The team’s first game at MGM Park is set for April 12 against the Mississippi Braves. P.S. Madison Central alum Spencer Turnbull is throwing again and is optimistic he’ll pitch for Detroit sometime in 2022, according to a Detroit News report. Turnbull had Tommy John surgery last summer. The right-hander, 29, went 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA and tossed a no-hitter on May 18 last year. … Former Loyd Star standout James Beard was named the best defensive prospect in the Chicago White Sox system by MLB Pipeline. The speedy Beard, a center fielder, was a fourth-round pick in 2019. His bat is still a work in progress; he hit .192 with five homers and nine steals at Low-A Kannapolis in 2021. Mississippi State and Jackson Prep alum Jake Mangum (see previous post) was pegged as the top defensive prospect in the New York Mets organization.

02 Dec

in other news

The lockdown in Major League Baseball was foreseeable. The Hunter Renfroe trade … not so much. In what reviewingthebrew.com called a “stunning” deal, Milwaukee acquired Renfroe, the former Copiah Academy and Mississippi State star, from Boston for Jackie Bradley Jr. and a couple of prospects. The trade was consummated Wednesday night just before the labor agreement expired. The Brewers reportedly were seeking to add power to their lineup, and they’ll get that from Renfroe, who has 128 career home runs. He had a big year in his one season with Boston, batting .259 with 31 homers, 96 RBIs and 16 outfield assists. He was both a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove finalist. And yet, Milwaukee will be his fourth team in four years. He signed with Boston as a free agent last off-season (one year, $3.1 million) and is arbitration-eligible entering 2022. The Brewers’ current roster features Renfroe’s former MSU teammate Brandon Woodruff, a staff ace, and their minor league prospect chart includes former Bulldogs ace Ethan Small, catcher/first baseman Thomas Dillard out of Ole Miss and outfielder Joe Gray, Jr., a Hattiesburg native. P.S. Left in limbo by the lockdown are Mississippi-connected free agents Corey Dickerson, Mitch Moreland, Billy Hamilton and Jarrod Dyson. … Ex-Richton High star JaCoby Jones has signed a minor league deal with Kansas City. He hit .170 for Detroit last year and ended the season in the minors. A former third-round pick out of LSU by Pittsburgh, Jones hit .212 with 32 homers over parts of six seasons with the Tigers, showing flashes of talent between a variety of injuries.

30 Nov

rivalry renewed

Ryan Rolison and Ethan Small currently are polishing their pitching skills — and renewing their college rivalry — in the Dominican Winter League after finishing last season in Triple-A. When next we see these highly rated prospects in the States, they might just be rivals in the major leagues. Rolison, a left-hander out of Ole Miss, recently was added to Colorado’s 40-man roster; he’ll go to spring training vying for a rotation spot. Small, a lefty out of Mississippi State, likely will go to Milwaukee’s spring camp as a non-roster invitee with a real shot at making the club. Both have pitched exceedingly well in the DWR. Rolison, who had an injury-riddled 2021 minor league campaign, is 1-1 with a 3.15 ERA in five starts for Licey with 24 strikeouts in 20 innings. Small had a 1.98 ERA between Double-A Biloxi and Triple-A Nashville and has carried that stuff into the winter season, going 2-1, 1.80 over five starts for Escogido.

23 Nov

touching the bases

Obscured by bigger names making the MLB Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, Jonathan Papelbon certainly rates some attention. The former Mississippi State standout — who turns 41 today — pitched 12 years in the big leagues and stands 10th on the all-time saves list with 368. The glowering right-hander posted a 2.44 career ERA, made six All-Star teams and won a World Series ring with the 2007 Boston Red Sox, saving each of the last three games in the sweep against Colorado. That’s pretty impressive stuff. Four of the top seven on the career saves list are in the Hall, though one who ranks above Papelbon — Jackson Generals alum Billy Wagner — has yet to make the cut while being on the ballot since 2016. … Another ex-Gens star, outfielder/DH Bobby Abreu, is also back on the ballot for 2022 election. Abreu batted .291 career with 288 homers, 400 steals and eight 100-RBI seasons. Still, he is considered a long-shot candidate. … While several Mississippi-connected major leaguers are free agents looking for 2022 jobs, there are a bunch of minor leaguers doing the same. Baseball America’s list includes one-time big leaguers Jacob Waguespack (Ole Miss), Aaron Barrett (UM), Cody Carroll (Southern Miss) and Braxton Lee (UM). Former Mr. Baseball Ti’Quan Forbes (Columbia High), Ben Bracewell (MSU), Conor Fisk (USM) and Bradley Roney (USM) are also in the market. … Former Itawamba Community College standout Tim Dillard appeared on MLB Tonight on Monday and on MLB Network’s Hot Stove today. Dillard pitched in 624 pro games — almost 1,600 innings — from 2003-20 and spent parts of four seasons in the big leagues with Milwaukee. The engaging Dillard, who relishes weirdness (@dimtillard), is now a broadcaster with the Brewers. Among the things he discussed on air were following his dad, Ole Miss alum and ex-big leaguer Steve, around minor league clubhouses; converting from an over-the-top pitcher to sidearmer; converting from player to broadcaster; sleeping on friends’ sofas; and growing a scraggly beard.