On the day when the Atlanta Braves clinched a National League playoff berth with a victory at Truist Park, there was also a clinching at Trustmark Park, home of the Braves’ Double-A club. But it wasn’t the Mississippi Braves who celebrated on Sunday — it was the visiting Tennessee Smokies, who rallied late to beat the M-Braves 6-4 and clinch the second-half title in the Southern League North. One of the key players for the Smokies — a Chicago Cubs affiliate — is former Southern Miss star Walker Powell, who is 11-6 with a 3.57 ERA. The league leader in wins and WHIP (1.07), he pitched brilliantly in a no-decision against the M-Braves last week. The M-Braves finished their 2023 home schedule before an announced crowd of 2,113 with a 32-36 record. They are 26-37 (last in the SL South) in the second half and 59-72 overall with a series left at Pensacola. … There will be a clinching this week at MGM Park in Biloxi, where the Shuckers and the Montgomery Biscuits, two of the hottest teams in the minors, will play a six-game series that’ll decide the second-half title in the SL South. The Biscuits (Tampa Bay) have won 10 straight games and lead the Shuckers (Milwaukee), who’ve won nine of 10, by 1.5 games. … Among other clinchings in the minors on Sunday, Binghamton (New York Mets) claimed a second-half division title in the Double-A Eastern League with a 10-0 win at Hartford. Ex-Mississippi State standout Rowdey Jordan went 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs for the Rumble Ponies. The third-year pro is hitting .227 with 13 homers, 58 RBIs and 28 stolen bases. P.S. Kudos to Atlanta manager Brian Snitker, the skipper of the original M-Braves club in 2005, who has had the big Braves in the postseason six straight years, winning the World Series in 2021. Six former M-Braves played in Sunday’s 5-2 win over Pittsburgh.
In just his first professional season, Will Warren has made it to the pivotal Double-A level. A key factor in the former Jackson Prep star’s rise is a pitch he discovered and refined in minor league spring training with the New York Yankees. It has been labeled the “unicorn slider,” a bolting breaking ball that compliments Warren’s low-90s fastball. “I’ve never seen a pitch like it,” catcher Josh Breaux, Warren’s teammate with the Somerset Patriots, told nj.com. Warren, 23, a 6-foot-2 right-hander, takes a 2-2 record and 3.92 ERA into his fifth Double-A start tonight against Hartford at Somerset’s TD Bank Ballpark. Warren told nj.com that his quick rise in the Yankees’ system is “unreal.” Warren went 7-0, 1.39 ERA, at Jackson Prep as a senior and signed with Southeastern Louisiana, a good but off-the-radar NCAA Division I program. He spent four years with the Lions, posting a 3.90 ERA in 53 games. The Yankees liked something they saw and drafted him in the eighth round last summer. He made his pro debut this season with High-Class A Hudson Valley, going 2-3, 3.60, in eight starts before earning the promotion to Somerset of the Eastern League late last month. All told, he has 56 strikeouts and 17 walks in 55 2/3 innings. Warren still has work to do, of course, but he is rated the Yankees’ No. 27 prospect by MLB Pipeline, which notes that his slider could become a “high-leverage weapon” in the big leagues.
It’s much too early in the season to be alarmed, but Bobby Bradley – the highly regarded Cleveland prospect from Gulfport – is off to a noticeably rough start in his second Double-A campaign. The 21-year-old first baseman is batting .103 with two home runs and 20 strikeouts in 58 at-bats for Akron. Bradley reported for spring training – he went to big league camp, where he batted .312 – having dropped about 25 pounds from last year. He lists at 6 feet 1, 225. “I am focused on what I started to focus on at the end of last year, which is staying with a consistent approach, becoming a better defender and becoming a better base runner,” he told the Akron Beacon Journal earlier this month. It’s the power in his bat that has made Bradley the No. 3 prospect in the Indians’ system, according to the ratings of MLB Pipeline, Baseball America and Perfect Game. He hit 23 homers (with a .251 average) for Akron last year and has 89 bombs (with a .255 average) in five pro seasons since Cleveland picked him in the third round out of Harrison Central High in 2014. Surely he’ll start to hit as the weather improves in the Eastern League.
A streak has been snapped in Bobby Bradley’s career. For the first time in four seasons in pro ball, the Gulfport native did not make Baseball America’s list of the Top 20 prospects in his league. Bradley, at age 21, batted .251 with 23 homers and 89 RBIs for Akron in the Double-A Eastern League. Not a bad year at all, but apparently there are questions, at least in the minds of some EL managers, about his plate discipline. As BA’s Josh Norris wrote in an online chat on Thursday: “There was a little bit of love for him, but nothing overwhelming. The power is there, but managers saw him as more of a mistake-type hitter than someone who belonged in the Top 20 in the league. There are holes in his swing, and he has work to do defensively as well.” Bradley, a lefty-hitting first baseman who was starring at Harrison Central a little more than three years ago, might use this “snub” as motivation as he heads into the Arizona Fall League, which starts next month. He’ll play for Glendale. Bradley is a career .261 hitter (.352 on-base percentage) with 87 homers. It’s worth noting, of course, that he is still rated No. 5 by BA on Cleveland’s prospect list and is No. 3 on MLB Pipeline’s list. He made the top 10 in the Arizona League, Midwest League and Carolina League on his way up the ladder, and he was the high-A Carolina League MVP in 2016. … Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal, did make the EL Top 20, checking in at No. 9. Alford, who had a cup of coffee with Toronto in May, hit .302 with five homers, 24 RBIs and 18 steals in 245 at-bats for New Hampshire. The outfielder spent time on the disabled list with a wrist injury suffered shortly after he made his big league debut. … Former Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson, a St. Louis prospect, was No. 10 on the Texas League chart.