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.
Hunter Renfroe, who still has power in his bat and his arm, is rated the 24th-best free agent available in the new crop, per mlb.com. The Crystal Springs native and ex-Mississippi State standout has been without a team since mid-September, when he was released by Cincinnati. The Reds had gotten the 32-year-old outfielder in a deadline trade with the Los Angeles Angels. Renfroe hit .233 with 20 homers last season and has 177 career bombs since 2016. Originally drafted by San Diego, he has bounced around quite a bit in recent years despite his power numbers. … Also hitting the market Thursday were ex-State star Adam Frazier (.240, 13 homers in one year with Baltimore); fellow Bulldogs alum and World Series champ Chris Stratton (3.94 ERA with St. Louis and Texas); and former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz, who last pitched in the majors in 2021. … McComb native Corey Dickerson is also a free agent after being released by Washington in August; he is a .280 career hitter who got his 1,000th knock last season. … Ryan Rolison, a first-round pick out of Ole Miss in 2018 by Colorado, was recently removed from the Rockies’ 40-man roster and assigned to the minors. Rolison, yet to make the majors, has pitched in just four games since 2021 because of injury issues. … Ex-DeSoto Central High and current Atlanta star Austin Riley, already a Gold Glove finalist at third base, is also a Silver Slugger finalist. Five other former Mississippi Braves are up for Silver Sluggers, as is ex-MSU standout and World Series champ Nathaniel Lowe, also a Gold Glove finalist at first base. … MSU alum Eric Cerantola, now in Kansas City’s system, got his second win in the Arizona Fall League on Thursday, punching out five in two hitless innings for Surprise. Cerantola has a 3.75 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 12 AFL innings.
Corey Dickerson, the former Meridian Community College star from McComb, reportedly has found a good home for 2023, reaching agreement with Washington on a 1-year, $2.25 million contract. The rebuilding Nationals, who have a need for lefty-hitting outfielders (among other things), will be Dickerson’s fourth team in three seasons. He spent 2022 with St. Louis, batting .267 with six homers (and a 0.0 WAR) in 96 games on a 1-year, $5M deal. Dickerson, 33, who broke in with Colorado in 2013, is a .281 career hitter with 134 homers, 27 of those during his All-Star season with Tampa Bay in 2017. He joins Mississippi State alum Adam Frazier (Baltimore) and Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton (Chicago White Sox, minor league deal) as Mississippi-connected MLB free agents to sign this off-season. A handful of minor league free agents also have inked for 2023. The start of spring training is just a few weeks away. P.S. Jackson Prep junior Konnor Griffin has been named the top high school prospect in the 2024 draft by Baseball America. Griffin, an LSU commit who goes 6 feet 3, 180 pounds, batted .472 with six homers as a shortstop/outfielder and went 6-2 with a 1.64 ERA on the mound in 2022. BA’s new Top 100 list for the ’24 draft includes seven players committed to Mississippi State and four Ole Miss commits. … Belhaven University opens its season Feb. 7 against Rhodes College at Trustmark Park in Pearl, the Blazers’ new home field. BU and fellow NCAA Division III member Millsaps will play two their three Maloney Trophy games at the TeePee on Feb. 21 and March 7. The third game is March 28 at Millsaps’ Twenty Field. Belhaven’s first Collegiate Conference of the South game is March 17 at Maryville (Tenn.). (The CCS is a group of schools that recently broke away from the USA South.)
The Baltimore Orioles, a young team seemingly on the rise in the rugged American League East, have added a versatile veteran to their roster for 2023, signing former Mississippi State standout Adam Frazier. Frazier, 31 and a seven-year big leaguer, reportedly has agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract as a free agent. A left-handed hitter, he batted .238 with three homers, 42 RBIs and 11 steals in a down year with Seattle in 2022. While primarily working at second base, he played five different positions and may be headed for a utility role with his new club. The O’s currently list Ramon Urias as their starting second baseman. Frazier, 5 feet 10, 181 pounds, is a .273 career hitter who has popped as many as 10 homers in a season. He was an All-Star with Pittsburgh in 2021. Baltimore went 83-79 in 2022 — a huge turnaround from the year before — and finished fourth in the AL East behind three playoff teams. P.S. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn has pledged to play for the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic next March. The veteran right-hander, 35, went 8-7 for the Chicago White Sox in 2022. Teammate Tim Anderson, an East Central Community College alum, also is expected to play for the U.S. … Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez and ex-Southern Miss pitcher Hurston Waldrep, now at Florida, are ranked Nos. 5 and 10, respectively, on MLB Pipeline’s new list of the Top 100 MLB draft prospects for 2023. Magnolia Heights shortstop Cooper Pratt is No. 31, USM pitcher Tanner Hall, the 2022 Ferriss Trophy winner, is No. 89 and Oxford High catcher Campbell Smithwick No. 92.
The market for free agent Mississippians — and there are a bunch of them — has not been very active. Jonathan Holder signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Angels and Chuckie Robinson re-upped as a minor league signee with Cincinnati. Anthony Alford, who started last season in Pittsburgh and ended it in Korea, re-signed with his KBO team, the KT Wiz. There has been scant news on possible destinations for major league free agents Corey Dickerson, Adam Frazier and Billy Hamilton. Frazier, in particular, should be attractive. He’s a lefty hitter who can play multiple positions. An All-Star in 2021, the Mississippi State alum scuffled at his last two stops — San Diego and Seattle — but at age 31 he can certainly rebound. McComb native Dickerson is 33 and a career .281 hitter; he’ll land somewhere. Taylorsville’s Hamilton, 32 and limited to pinch-running and defensive-sub duties of late, might have run out of opportunities. Minor league free agents with state ties include Ti’Quan Forbes, Trent Giambrone, Wyatt Short, Delvin Zinn, Zac Houston, Dalton Moats, Cody Reed, Jack Kruger and Demarcus Evans. Also out there are Mike Mayers, Bobby Bradley and Chris Ellis, each of whom spent time in the majors in 2022. Spring training isn’t that far away.
Rafael Palmeiro, one of seven players in MLB history with 500 homers and 3,000 hits, made the cut for the Contemporary Era Hall of Fame ballot. The former Mississippi State star is among eight finalists chosen by special committee. Also on the list are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens; like Palmeiro, their careers were tainted by PED allegations. The BBWAA will vote on these candidates on Dec. 4. Will Clark, Dave Parker and Frank White were among candidates who did not make the eight-man ballot… Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith, Mississippi’s Gatorade player of the year in 2019, went 1-for-3 with a double and RBI in Saturday’s Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game. Keith is a highly rated Detroit prospect. … MSU alum Jake Mangum made the New York Mets’ Organization All-Star team, as selected by milb.com. Mangum, an outfielder, hit .306 with four homers, 35 RBIs and 14 steals in 2022, spending most of the year in Triple-A. … Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson, ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton and MSU product Adam Frazier have elected free agency.
A strong 2021 season has paid off for Kendall Graveman, the ex-Mississippi State star who reportedly has agreed to a 3-year, $24 million contract with the Chicago White Sox. Graveman put up a 1.77 ERA over 53 games last year split between Seattle and Houston. He allowed just two runs in 11 postseason innings for the Astros, who reached the World Series. Graveman, 31, converted from starter to reliever with the Mariners in 2020 after missing the 2019 season with Tommy John surgery. Drafted in the eighth round out of Starkville in 2013 by Toronto, he is a seven-year MLB vet. He’ll join a White Sox team that won the American League Central in 2021 and features Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn and Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet on its pitching staff along with All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson, a former East Central Community College standout. USA Today Sports Weekly rates Graveman 29th among the available free agents this off-season. Also in the top 106 are Mississippians Corey Dickerson (64) and Mitch Moreland (104).
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.
The most intriguing name on the list of Mississippians headed for free agency this off-season belongs to one who is still playing. Kendall Graveman, the ex-Mississippi State star now pitching for Houston in the World Series, will hit the market after the series concludes. Having found great success since switching from starter to reliever in 2020, the 30-year-old right-hander ought to attract many suitors. He put up a 1.77 ERA in 53 games split between Seattle and the Astros this season and has a 1.64 in 11 postseason innings, including the final two of the Game 5 victory in Atlanta. He was on a 1-year, $1.25 million deal this season; he’ll command a lot more this off-season. Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson also should be an attractive free agent. The left-handed hitting outfielder batted .271 with six homers and 29 RBIs in an injury-shortened season split between Miami and Toronto. He played well down the stretch for the Blue Jays as they chased a playoff berth. The 2022 season will be McComb native Dickerson’s 10th in MLB; he made $17.5M over 2020-21. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of interest Mitch Moreland, Jarrod Dyson, Billy Hamilton and JaCoby Jones draw on the market. Amory native and MSU alum Moreland, 36, a 12-year vet with a good track record, hit just .227 with 10 homers in 81 games for Oakland and finished the season on the injured list with a wrist issue. Dyson, from McComb and Southwest Mississippi CC, is 37 and also a 12-year vet. He batted .207 with 10 stolen bases in 2021 between Kansas City and Toronto. He was used mainly as a defensive replacement and pinch runner. Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High standout, filled a similar role for the Chicago White Sox, batting .220 with nine steals, 23 runs and 11 RBIs. He also spent time on the IL. Jones, a former Mr. Baseball at Richton High, finished 2021 in the minors, having lost his roster spot with Detroit. The oft-injured 29-year-old outfielder hit .170 in 36 big league games in his sixth MLB campaign. A minor league deal with a spring invite might be the best he can hope for.
Though Mitch Moreland, arguably the most highly regarded Mississippian to hit the free agent market this year, remains unsigned as 2020 draws to a close, it hasn’t been a quiet off-season for state-connected players. A flurry of activity has seen Lance Lynn, Hunter Renfroe, Jonathan Holder and Nate Lowe change uniforms, Kendall Graveman quickly re-sign with his 2020 club and several minor leaguers find 2021 teams. To recap: Ole Miss product Lynn was traded from Texas to the Chicago White Sox. … Ex-Mississippi State star Renfroe signed a free agent deal with Boston. … MSU alum Holder signed as a free agent with the Cubs. … MSU alum Lowe was traded from Tampa Bay to Texas. … Graveman, another MSU product, returned to Seattle’s fold a day after the Mariners declined his option. … While we eagerly await Moreland’s signing, don’t forget that also left on the MLB market are Jarrod Dyson and Billy Hamilton (and for that matter, Brian Dozier and Zack Cozart). … On the minor league front: State college alums Tyreque Reed (Boston), Chuckie Robinson (Cincinnati) and Errol Robinson (Reds) moved to new systems in the Rule 5 draft. Ole Miss product Aaron Barrett, who battled back from myriad injuries to make five MLB appearances the last two years, re-signed a minors deal with Philadelphia. More recently, Itawamba Community College alum Tim Dillard re-signed with Texas and ex-UM standout Chris Ellis signed with Tampa Bay. Veteran right-hander Dillard, 37, has made 584 professional appearances dating to 2003 but hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012. Ellis, a former Mississippi Braves star, has found some success in the Dominican Winter League with a 2.35 ERA over five appearances this season. Pitching for Gigantes del Cibao, right-hander Ellis is 1-0 with 24 strikeouts in 23 innings. He made one MLB appearance (with Kansas City as a Rule 5 pick) in 2019, then finished the season with St. Louis’ Triple-A Memphis club. He was released by the Cardinals this summer.