03 May

down the road

A couple of former Mississippi high school stars crossed paths — and showed out — in the Low-Class A Carolina League on Thursday night. Cooper Pratt is on the faster track, but there is still time for Brennon McNair to get rolling. Magnolia Heights product Pratt, Milwaukee’s No. 9 prospect, went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, two runs and two steals as the Carolina Mudcats blasted Columbia 16-2 at Five County Stadium in Zebulon, N.C. Having recently come off the injured list, Pratt, 19, is hitting .250 with 11 RBIs in 14 games. The 6-foot-4 shortstop was a sixth-round pick in 2023 — he got a big bonus to pass on his Ole Miss commitment — and batted .356 in rookie ball last summer. Pratt has impressive bloodlines. His dad played college ball and his mom played softball. Brother Ozzie is Southern Miss’ starting shortstop. Brewers manager Pat Murphy, who has raved about Cooper Pratt’s potential, coached one of his uncles at Arizona State. … McNair, a former Magee High star, went 2-for-3 Thursday with his first home run of the season for Columbia, a Kansas City affiliate. McNair was an 11th-round pick by the Royals in 2021 — the only prep player drafted from the Magnolia State that year — and passed on a South Alabama offer to sign. In addition to batting .527 with 11 homers as a shortstop at Magee his senior year, he was valedictorian and class president. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound McNair, who has played multiple positions in pro ball, has had some injury issues. He is hitting .244 in 14 games this season, .219 with 11 homers and 32 bags for his career. He is only 21, but this could be a pivotal year for him. P.S. Brandon Parker — former West Harrison High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star — put up his second straight two-hit game Thursday for the Mississippi Braves, helping USM alum Hurston Waldrep notch his first Double-A win. Waldrep went 5 2/3 innings, allowing no earned runs, in a 6-1 win against Pensacola at Trustmark Park. Parker, who homered Wednesday, has raised his average to .204.

04 Apr

just stuff

Brock Wilken, Wake Forest’s all-time home run leader and now Milwaukee’s No. 7 prospect, smacked a two-run homer to power the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers to a 7-0 win Wednesday night in an exhibition game against Pearl River Community College at MGM Park. The Shuckers open the Southern League season Friday at home against Montgomery. … Former Shuckers star Jackson Chourio hit his first big league homer for the Brewers in a loss, the team’s first, against Minnesota. The highly touted Chourio is off to a .350 start in his rookie campaign. … The Norfolk Tides, Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate, banged out 29 hits in a 26-11 win against Charlotte in game highlighted by Heston Kjerstad’s 10-RBI effort and Kyle Stowers’ three homers. Ole Miss alum Errol Robinson, a minor league vet in his first year in the Orioles’ system, contributed a little: one hit and two runs. He is batting .316. … Hunter Renfroe, ex-Mississippi State star, got his first hit of 2024 — he is now 1-for-19 — and picked up an assist on a sensational throw from right field, but his Kansas City club lost to Baltimore. … East Central CC alum Tim Anderson went 0-for-2 and ex-Ole Miss standout Nick Fortes 0-for-3 as Miami fell to 0-7 with a 10-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Anderson, a free agent signee, is batting .231 with one RBI, no homers and no steals. Fortes is batting .083. … MSU product Brent Rooker went 0-for-4 in Oakland’s loss to Baltimore and is at .100 on the season for the 1-6 A’s. … Former State standout Justin Foscue, recalled from the minors on Tuesday by Texas, has yet to make his MLB debut. The Rangers are off today, host Houston this weekend.

18 Mar

quite a talent pool

Fans of the Biloxi Shuckers may look back someday on their 2023 team as the best collection of talent they ever saw at MGM Park. Much of that talent was on display Sunday in Arizona when Milwaukee’s Spring Breakout team played Kansas City. Seven ’23 Shuckers were in the opening lineup — and six of them rank among the top 25 prospects in the Brewers’ loaded system, rated No. 3 in all of MLB. Milwaukee’s top prospect (per MLB Pipeline) is outfielder Jackson Chourio, who got an $82 million contract before ever playing a big league game. He’ll do that this season, possibly on opening day. He belted 22 homers and stole 43 bases for the Double-A Biloxi club last year. The leadoff batter on Sunday was first baseman Tyler Black, the Brewers’ No. 4 prospect, who hit 14 homers and stole 47 bases for the Shuckers. He tripled and scored in the Spring Breakout game. Jeferson Quero, a catcher who ranks No. 3 in the Brewers’ system, hit 16 homers for Biloxi last year. He DH’d and hit cleanup Sunday, followed by catcher Wes Clarke (No. 25), who belted 26 bombs for the ’23 Shuckers. Also in Sunday’s lineup, batting third, was third baseman Brock Wilken (No. 7) and shortstop Eric Brown Jr., both of whom got some Double-A time last year. The starting pitcher was Jacob Misiorowski, Milwaukee’s No. 2, who made five starts for the Shuckers a year ago and threw 2 2/3 hitless innings with five strikeouts on Sunday. Expect to see many of these players in Milwaukee soon. Note: Former Magnolia Heights High star Cooper Pratt, a 2023 draft pick already pegged as Milwaukee’s No. 10 prospect, got in Sunday’s game at shortstop. He’ll be in Biloxi soon enough, possibly in 2025.

07 Mar

breakout breakdown

Highly rated prospects Justin Foscue, Jacob Gonzalez, Will Warren and Kemp Alderman are among the 19 Mississippians on the preliminary rosters for next week’s Spring Breakout series, a new event that will feature a ton of the top talent in the minor leagues. Each of MLB’s 30 teams will play a game — two teams will play two — beginning on March 14 in Arizona and Florida. Atlanta’s team will feature a bunch of former and future Mississippi Braves, as well as ex-Smithville High star Jared Johnson, a right-hander who pitched in A-ball in 2023. The Braves will play on March 16 against Boston, which lists DeSoto Central High product Blaze Jordan and ex-Southern Miss standout Dalton Rogers. Milwaukee’s team includes 2023 Biloxi Shuckers star Jackson Chourio — the No. 2 overall prospect in the minors — and Cooper Pratt, Mississippi’s prep player of the year in 2023 at Magnolia Heights. The Brewers play on March 17 against Kansas City; ex-MSU standout Eric Cerantola is on the Royals’ roster. Former MSU star Foscue is Texas’ No. 5 prospect, and he may make the Rangers’ opening day roster. Gonzalez, a first-round pick out of Ole Miss last summer and the Chicago White Sox’s No. 5 prospect, is joined on the ChiSox roster by former Rebels teammate Tim Elko. Jackson Prep product Will Warren, the New York Yankees’ eighth-ranked prospect, pitched in Triple-A in 2023 and is close to his MLB breakthrough. Alderman won the Ferriss Trophy last year at Ole Miss and is rated No. 8 on Miami’s chart. Among the other notable Mississippi products on the rosters are South Panola High alum Emaarion Boyd, Philadelphia’s No. 17 who swiped 56 bases in A-ball last season, and Colton Ledbetter (Tampa Bay’s No. 16), a second-round pick out of State in 2023 who batted .274 over two levels last season.

20 Feb

eye on …

Frierson Field, Clinton. William Carey University and Mississippi College, both off to good starts, renew their rivalry today. For the NCAA Division II Choctaws (7-3), Wesley Sides is on a jaw-dropping tear, batting .552 with six homers and 15 RBIs. MC has two other hitters, Cole Drake and J.T. Vance, with four homers each. And Caleb Reese, who has three bombs, is sitting on 35 career homers, tied for second on the school’s all-time list. (Richey Hines is No. 1 on that chart with 57. Yes, 57.) MC’s staff ERA is a tad troubling: 5.89. NAIA Carey (7-3) has been sparked offensively by Braydon Coffey at .462 and R.J. Stinson at .382. The Crusaders have just three homers as a team but do sport a 3.74 ERA. Closer John Snyder has five saves. … MC leads the series 6-2, per Carey’s website. Carey leads 14-9, per MC’s. P.S. Former Mississippi State star Brandon Woodruff, who is unlikely to pitch this season after shoulder surgery, has re-signed with Milwaukee, a two-year deal. The former All-Star is 46-26 with a 3.10 ERA for his career.

02 Feb

spotlight on …

Kendall Williams, an Olive Branch native and Los Angeles Dodgers minor leaguer, made an appearance on MLB Network’s Hot Stove show today and spoke some words of wisdom about his chances of someday cracking the loaded Dodgers’ pitching staff. “If I do my job, there’ll be a job for me,” said the 23-year-old right-hander, who also talked about his rise to Triple-A in 2023 and about meeting Shohei Ohtani recently at Dodger Stadium. The 6-foot-6 Williams posted a 4-7 record and 3.73 ERA over four levels in 2023 and made the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game. He’s not on the 40-man roster and didn’t receive a non-roster invite to spring training, but he figures to get a look there at some point. Williams transferred from Olive Branch to IMG Academy in Florida during his sophomore year and was drafted in the second round in 2019 by Toronto, which traded him to LA the next fall. … Among the Mississippians to receive non-roster invites thus far are ex-Southern Miss standout Hurston Waldrep (Atlanta), Mississippi State alum Konnor Pilkington (Arizona), ex-Bulldogs standout Jonathan Holder (Texas), Ole Miss product Chad Smith (New York Mets) and UM alum Jacob Waguespack and ex-MSU stars Jake Mangum and Zac Houston (all with Tampa Bay). P.S. Ethan Small, a former first-round draft pick out of MSU, was designated for assignment by Milwaukee after the Brewers acquired two prospects from Baltimore in the Corbin Burnes trade. Left-hander Small likely will wind up with a new team. Also DFA’d on Thursday was Columbus native Michael Rucker by the Chicago Cubs, who signed free agent Hector Neris. Rucker, 2-1 with a 4.91 ERA in 35 MLB games in 2023, grew up in Washington and was drafted out of BYU. … William Carey University, ranked No. 4 in NAIA, lost its opener on Thursday, 5-3 to visiting Missouri Baptist, a 44-win team last year. Andrew Shirah, 10-1 for the Crusaders in 2023, yielded four hits, three walks and four runs in his three innings and took the loss. Preseason All-America pick R.J. Stinson went 1-for-5. … Belhaven University has scheduled an alumni game for Saturday (noon) at Trustmark Park in Pearl, the NCAA Division III Blazers’ home field for 2024. Andrew Gipson has taken the reins as BU coach. … Gulfport’s Bobby Bradley went 0-for-4 in Mexico’s 6-5 loss to Curacao on Thursday in the Caribbean Series in Miami. Mexico plays again tonight vs. Puerto Rico. Former Mississippi Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. did not appear in Venezuela’s 3-1 victory over the Dominican Republic on Thursday. Acuna played for the Venezuelan Winter League champion Tiburones de La Guaira this season and was listed on the preliminary roster for the CS.

06 Dec

changing course

Having stalled in the low minors in Milwaukee’s system, ex-Hattiesburg High star Joe Gray Jr. will get a fresh start in 2024 with Kansas City. The 23-year-old outfielder was the first pick in the minor league phase of today’s Rule 5 draft. A second-round pick in MLB’s amateur draft in 2018 and a top 10 prospect with the Brewers as recently as 2022, Gray has batted .218 with 51 home runs and 66 steals in five pro seasons, only briefly reaching Double-A. Promoted to Biloxi in May of this past season, Gray went 2-for-37 with 17 strikeouts and one walk in 10 games before being sent back to A-ball. Gray is listed on Kansas City’s Triple-A Omaha roster but is likely to be tested at Double-A Northwest Arkansas in the Texas League next season. … Former Southern Miss star Dustin Dickerson and Magee High product Brennon McNair played in A-ball in the Kansas City chain in 2023. P.S. Former Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout Tony Sipp is among the ex-major leaguers already committed to play in The East-West Classic: A Tribute to the Negro Leagues All-Star Game in Cooperstown, N.Y., next May 25. Scott and Jerry Hairston Jr., grandsons of Crawford native and former Negro Leagues star Sam Hairston, also are on the initial rosters. The National Baseball Hall of Fame will open “The Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball” exhibit on Memorial Day weekend.

21 Nov

market report

The Brandon Woodruff situation is intriguing. It was reported Monday that the former Mississippi State star, a free agent, is attracting attention from “a majority” of MLB clubs. He is a 30-year-old two-time All-Star with a career record of 46-26 and a 3.10 ERA. Of course, he may not be able to pitch in 2024 because of recent shoulder surgery. For that reason, cost-conscious Milwaukee non-tendered the big right-hander from Wheeler, who was due a raise for next season from the $10.8 million he made in 2023. When he was healthy last season, Woodruff was good: 5-1, 2.28. He figures to be quite a catch for a club that can afford to wait for his return. Injuries also have impacted the future of two other Mississippi products. Dakota Hudson and Spencer Turnbull also became free agents when their 2023 clubs did not offer a contract for next season. Ex-State star Hudson, who is 38-20, 3.84, for his MLB career, missed most of the 2021 season after suffering an arm injury late in 2020. A 16-game winner in 2019, he has struggled to recapture that form. He had some good moments in 2023 but apparently not enough for St. Louis — which needs starting pitching — to keep him around. Hudson is only 28; he also could be a nice catch. Turnbull, the former Madison Central High standout, threw a no-hitter in May of 2021 and was 4-2, 2.88, for Detroit that season when he went down with an arm injury. He hasn’t been the same since. He missed all of 2022 and was ailing most of last season, when he posted a 7.26 ERA in limited MLB time. At 31, he may still have some value as a back-end starter. So many teams need starting pitchers. To wit: Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, 36 and coming off very uneven season with the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, has signed as a free agent with the Cardinals, his original club, for one year and $11M.

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.

15 Oct

a touch of history

If history — and coincidence — serve as a guide, a Mississippian will have an impact in tonight’s American League Championship Series opener. Houston, with Mississippi State alum J.P. France and ex-Ole Miss standout Grae Kessinger on its roster, hosts Texas, with former State stars Nathaniel Lowe and Chris Stratton on board, in Game 1 at Minute Maid Park. Way back on Oct. 15, 1946, in Game 7 of the World Series, Pascagoula native Harry “The Hat” Walker famously drove in Enos Slaughter with the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning, propelling St. Louis to a 4-3 win against Boston at Sportsman’s Park. The hit was Walker’s seventh and produced his sixth RBI of the Series. Shaw native and MSU alum Boo Ferriss started that game for the Red Sox and pitched well into the fifth inning. On Oct. 15, 2013, ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn pitched 5 1/3 innings and got the win as St. Louis beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 and went up 3-1 in the National League Championship Series. It was Lynn’s second win in the NLCS, which the Cardinals won in six. On Oct. 15, 2019, former MSU standout Dakota Hudson, starting for St. Louis, had the dubious honor of allowing all seven runs in Washington’s 7-4 win that finished off a four-game sweep in the NLCS. Hudson retired only one of the eight batters he faced, yielding five hits and a walk. Three of the runs he was charged with were unearned because of an error. Just for the record, on Oct. 15, 2011, the Rangers beat Detroit 15-5 to clinch a second straight trip to the World Series. Amory native and State product Mitch Moreland was on that club, though he did not play in the Game 6 clincher. P.S. Former MSU pitcher Kendall Graveman did not make the Astros’ ALCS roster because of a shoulder problem. … Milwaukee has announced that MSU product Brandon Woodruff will have shoulder surgery and miss most if not all of the 2024 season. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Mike Mayers, an MLB vet who finished 2023 in the Chicago White Sox’s system, has become a minor league free agent. … Ex-MSU pitcher Chris Young was fired as the Cubs’ bullpen coach.