Konnor Griffin, outfielder/pitcher at Jackson Prep, is generally regarded as the state’s top high school prospect in the 2024 MLB draft, a potential first-rounder. Samuel Richardson, third baseman at Lewisburg High, might be another first-round candidate. Lindy’s preseason magazine ranks Richardson as the No. 33 prospect in the draft, the ninth-highest ranked high school player. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound right-handed hitter, cited for his raw power in various scouting reports, batted .301 with six homers, 23 RBIs, 11 doubles and five triples for MHSAA Class 6A state champion Lewisburg in 2023. A Missouri commit, he is one of four state-connected players in Lindy’s Top 50. Griffin (No. 8), ex-Madison Central High star Braden Montgomery of Texas A&M (No. 13) and Mississippi State’s Dakota Jordan (No. 25) are the others. Those three are also highly ranked by MLB Pipeline, which doesn’t have Richardson on its latest chart of the top 100. Both Griffin and Richardson made MaxPreps’ preseason high school All-America team. Lewisburg opens its season Thursday at Center Hill. P.S. Former Mississippi Braves Christian Bethancourt and Johan Camargo (Panama), Andrelton Simmons and Hendrik Clementina (Curacao) and Jairo Ascencio (Dominican Republic) have helped their teams reach the semifinal stage of the Caribbean Series in Miami. The semis are Thursday at loanDepot Park, the title game on Friday.
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.
The star attraction in the Caribbean Series — the seven-team international event that begins today in Miami — is National League MVP Ronald Acuna Jr., who’ll play for his native Venezuela. Among the other current and former big leaguers dotting the rosters is Bobby Bradley, the ex-Harrison Central High star who’ll play for Mexico. Bradley hit .281 with three homers and 19 RBIs in a short stint with Monterrey in the Mexican Pacific League this season. The power-hitting first baseman has belted 216 homers in his nine-year pro career, including 17 in the big leagues with Cleveland. He hit 30 for Charleston in the independent Atlantic League last summer. Mexico opens round-robin play today against Curacao. Acuna, a former Mississippi Braves standout who hit .337 with 41 homers, 106 RBIs and 70 steals for Atlanta in 2023, will lead Venezuela against the Dominican Republic tonight in what ought to be a rousing affair. (ESPN-plus is carrying all the games.) On the D.R. roster is Jairo Asencio, who racked up 28 saves as the closer for the Southern League champion M-Braves in 2008, when he was known as Luis Valdez. Other notable M-Braves alumni on the rosters: Christian Bethancourt (now with the Miami Marlins) will play for Panama, Andrelton Simmons for Curacao and Jonathan Morales for Puerto Rico. P.S. On the home front today, William Carey University hosts Missouri Baptist; Blue Mountain Christian welcomes Lane College; and Southeastern Baptist (of Laurel) visits Southern-New Orleans to launch the season for the state’s four-year colleges.
You’re dating yourself if you admit to remembering when Freddy Garcia pitched at Smith-Wills Stadium. Hillary Clinton’s husband was president, “Saving Private Ryan” hit the theaters and the second Harry Potter book was published. It was 1998. Garcia, who’ll be 42 in April, is still out there pitching. On Saturday, in Guadalajara, Mexico, he started for Venezuela in its 15-4 win against the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Series. Garcia threw four shutout innings before running into trouble in the fifth, when he had to leave one out shy of qualifying for the win. The big right-hander was a standout for the ’98 Jackson Generals before Houston sent him to Seattle as part of the big Randy Johnson trade. Garcia made the big leagues in 1999 and won 156 games, plus an ERA title, over 15 seasons. He last pitched in the majors for Atlanta in 2013, including a postseason start. … There are a handful of familiar names in the Caribbean Series, including former Mississippi Braves Christian Bethancourt (three hits for the D.R. on Saturday) and Joey Meneses (with Mexico). P.S. Southern Miss product Cody Carroll, who had a brilliant showing (0.00 ERA, four saves in 11 2/3 innings) in the Arizona Fall League after reaching Double-A last season, has received a non-roster invitation to the New York Yankees’ big league spring camp. Carroll, 25, was a 22nd-round draft pick in 2015.
Freddy Garcia, who has pitched all over the planet during his 39 years on it, was in Santo Domingo, D.R., on Monday. Yes, pitching. For Team Venezuela in the opener of the Caribbean Series. The former Jackson Generals right-hander – he went 6-7 with a 3.24 ERA in 1998 – worked six innings, allowed just four hits, a walk and a run and beat Puerto Rico 2-1. “It was like magic,” he told The Associated Press. With Daryle Ward having taken a minor league coaching job with Cincinnati, Garcia is the only ex-Gens player still going. He pitched briefly in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ system in 2015 and last toiled in the majors with Atlanta in 2013. He owns 156 MLB wins and 203 wins overall in a pro career that began in 1995, when Houston signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Also of note: The big hit for Venezuela was delivered by onetime Mississippi Braves outfielder Jose Martinez, who belted a two-run triple in the second inning. The 6-foot-7 Martinez batted .285 for the 2013 M-Braves.