09 Sep

playoffs? yes, playoffs

Jacob Robson, Mississippi State alum and onetime big leaguer, homered and drove in two runs to spark Kansas City to a series-clinching 4-0 win Friday night against Sioux Falls in the Wolff Cup opening round, aka the independent American Association playoffs. Robson and fellow former Bulldogs standout Gavin Collins combined for three RBIs in KC’s 9-1 win in the series opener on Wednesday. The Monarchs advance to the semifinals, where they’ll face Sioux City, which eliminated Fargo-Moorhead, in a best-of-3 series beginning Monday. Former Itawamba Community College star Delvin Zinn went 2-for-7 with a couple of RBIs for Sioux City in its opening series. Ole Miss alum Parker Caracci pitched for Sioux City in that series. Robson — who got seven at-bats with Detroit in 2021 — hit .250 with 10 homers, 31 RBIs and 23 steals for the Monarchs this season, and Collins batted .315 with 10 bombs and 41 RBIs. Former Delta State star Dalton Moats went 5-3 with a 4.61 ERA for KC but is not currently active. Zinn, who swiped 92 bases in six seasons in the Chicago Cubs’ system, got 29 bags for Sioux City this year despite hitting just .211. … Former Columbia High star Ti’Quan Forbes, after a brief foray into the Mexican League, is back with New Jersey in the independent Frontier League, which started its postseason on Thursday. Forbes’ Jackals won their playoff opener and play Game 2 in the best-of-3 division series today against Quebec. Forbes, a longtime minor leaguer, batted .298 with 17 homers, 45 RBIs and 16 bags for New Jersey. P.S. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a Milwaukee Brewers affiliate based in Grand Chute, are celebrating Bratoberfest tonight and giving away a bobblehead of Mississippian Tim Dillard shooting the team’s Bratzooka, which he did at a game last year. Ex-big leaguer Dillard, a Saltillo High and ICC alum, is now a Brewers broadcaster following an 18-year pro career that ended in 2020.

21 Jul

that’s more like it

After a sluggish start to his pro career, Tanner Allen’s numbers are starting to look more like what was expected. A fourth-round pick by Miami after a tremendous 2021 season at Mississippi State, Allen hit .183 and .201 in his first two pro seasons. After a two-hit game Thursday that included a game-deciding grand slam for High-Class A Beloit, the lefty-hitting outfielder is batting .284 with eight homers, 34 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 48 games for the Sky Carp. Things have really clicked this month; he is batting .345 with four homers in 13 July games. He hit .296 at Low-A Jupiter before a May promotion. Allen was a key figure in MSU’s 2021 national championship run, batting .383 with 11 homers and 66 RBIs. He reaped numerous individual rewards: a national player of the year award, first-team All-America honors, the SEC’s player of the year award, All-College World Series honors and the state’s Ferriss Trophy. Allen, 25, has not yet cracked Miami’s Top 30 prospects list, but his breakout season surely has put him on the radar. Perhaps a promotion to Double-A Pensacola in the Southern League is in the offing this season. P.S. Southern Miss products and 2023 MLB draftees Tanner Hall and Dustin Dickerson have signed pro contracts, as has Ole Miss alum Jack Dougherty. Hall, an All-America this year, and Dougherty inked with Minnesota and Dickerson with Kansas City. Eight of the 14 players drafted earlier this month have now signed. Ole Miss’ Kemp Alderman, second-round pick by Miami, is the highest draftee still unsigned. … Former Columbia High star Ti’Quan Forbes, who was having a standout season in the independent Frontier League, is now playing for Yucatan in the Mexican League. Forbes, who spent eight years in the affiliated minors, was batting .301 with 10 homers and 14 steals for New Jersey and had been named to the league’s All-Star game before his contract was purchased by Yucatan on July 5. Forbes is 3-for-25 in nine games in the unaffiliated LMB, which is generally considered Triple-A caliber. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Thomas Dillard hit three home runs, boosting his season tally to 27, for Lexington in a loss Thursday to Lancaster in the indy Atlantic League.

21 May

not so fast there

Reports of the Chicago White Sox’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated, to borrow a phrase. And Mississippi products have played key roles in the club’s recent revival. The ChiSox won their third straight game Sunday and have won 12 of their last 20. They are just 19-29, fourth in the American League Central, but are only 6 1/2 games back in what’s considered a weak division. Talk of a fire sale that began during a 10-game losing streak has quieted down. Ole Miss product Lance Lynn, who got off to an awful start this season, went six innings to beat Kansas City on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field and is 3-1 in May. The veteran right-hander is 3-5 with a 6.28 ERA overall. Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman has not allowed a run this month and has posted three saves in his last eight games. Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet, who missed the entire 2022 season, has come off the injured list and worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings in two appearances. The young left-hander could be a key bullpen arm, as he was in 2021. Ex-East Central Community College star Tim Anderson, the shortstop and leadoff batter, hasn’t yet found his swing. The former batting champion is batting just .252 without a homer in 29 games; he did a long stint on the IL in late April. He has been the subject of trade rumors, but the team’s turnaround may alter that narrative. (For the record, former Taylorsville High standout Billy Hamilton was briefly with the White Sox earlier this month — to serve primarily as a pinch runner and defensive replacement — but went on the IL on May 10.) P.S. In the rain-delayed grand re-opening of historic Hinchliffe Stadium (see previous post), ex-Columbia High star Ti’Quan Forbes homered for the host New Jersey Jackals in their win Sunday against Sussex County in the independent Frontier League.

20 May

historic connection

Ti’Quan Forbes, the former Mr. Baseball from Columbia High and a longtime minor leaguer, will be part of an historic event tonight in Paterson, N.J. Hinchliffe Stadium, one of only two Negro Leagues home ballparks still standing, will host a professional baseball game for the first time since 1950 when the New Jersey Jackals — Forbes’ current team — play the Sussex County Miners in an independent Frontier League contest. A ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday attracted celebrities, politicians and baseball dignitaries Willie Randolph, Joe Maddon, Harold Reynolds and Tony Clark. Hinchliffe, which had fallen into serious disrepair, has undergone an extensive renovation project that, per reports, has restored the look it had in the 1930s and ’40s, when it hosted Negro Leagues games and major league exhibitions featuring some of the sport’s biggest names. Among the black stars who played there back in the day are Mississippi natives Cool Papa Bell, Howard Easterling and Rufus Lewis. Lewis, from Hattiesburg, played for the Newark Eagles, who used Hinchliffe as a secondary home field in the mid-’40s. Two New York-based teams also played home games at the park, and it hosted a variety of other sporting events and concerts. … Forbes is in his first season with the Jackals, who have moved into Hinchliffe from Little Falls, N.J. A second-round draft pick by Texas in 2014, Forbes played in the minors for eight years, peaking at the Double-A level. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound third baseman has a .253 career average with 39 homers and 44 steals.

25 May

whatever happened to …

LeDarious Clark, the former Southeast Lauderdale High and East Mississippi Community College star, is on the roster of the independent Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League. Clark was released by Texas last spring after five years in the Rangers’ system. A 12th-round pick out of West Florida in 2015, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound outfielder reached Double-A in 2019 but batted just .200 in 38 games for Frisco. Clark, 27, hit .238 with 48 homers and 99 steals in his minor league career. “We have gotten good reports on Clark,” Lancaster manager Russ Peeples said in a release announcing Clark’s signing. “Those reports say that he has a lot of tools but that he has not put it together consistently as of yet. We are hoping he can come here and do just that.” The Barnstormers open their season on Thursday. P.S. Braxton Lee, a onetime big leaguer from Picayune, signed with Southern Maryland of the Atlantic League. The Blue Crabs are managed by Jackson native and ex-big leaguer Stan Cliburn. Lee, drafted by Tampa Bay out of Ole Miss in 2014, appeared in eight games (.176) with Miami in 2018. He was in the New York Mets’ system in 2019. … Former Hattiesburg High star – and onetime big leaguer – Robert Carson is back in the Atlantic League with the Lexington Legends. The 32-year-old left-hander has pitched in the league every season since 2015 and was 15-8 for York in 2018 and ’19. … Elijah MacNamee, the Mississippi State product, is on the roster of the independent Evansville Otters of the Frontier League. MacNamee, an outfielder who played at State from 2017-19, signed with Evansville in 2019 and hit .309 for the club that season. The league did not operate in 2020. MSU product Denver McQuary, from Maben, and Southern Miss/MSU alum Tyler Spring, from Wiggins, are also on the Otters’ roster. The ’21 season starts Thursday. … Former Starkville High and Meridian CC standout Milton Smith, previously in the Miami Marlins’ system, is with the Frontier League’s New York Boulders, who also signed ex-Mississippi Valley State star Zach Penprase, now 36. (Little-known fact: Penprase led the nation in stolen bases with 60 at Valley in 2006.) … Belhaven University product Tanner Cable will pitch for Gateway in the Frontier League.

24 Jul

new frontier

Passed over in draft after draft by MLB clubs, Tre Hobbs will launch his pro career in the independent Frontier League. The former Delta State star reportedly has signed with the Southern Illinois Miners, who are based in Marion, Ill. Don’t be surprised by any success Hobbs might have. The 5-foot-10 left-hander from Greenville won 22 games over two seasons at Delta State, posting 15 complete games and tossing four shutouts. He was a consensus All-America pick in 2016, when he went 13-2 with a 3.18 ERA. He wasn’t as dominant this year but still won nine games with a 4.18 and 90 strikeouts in 92 innings, helping the Statesmen reach the NCAA Division II World Series. He threw a brilliant three-hitter in a CWS elimination game. … The Frontier League, which has been around since 1993, claims a large number of alumni who have signed with affiliated teams and made the big leagues, including former Ole Miss pitcher Matt Duff and ex-Mississippi Braves hurler Brandon Cunniff.

25 Nov

play it again

Wendell Fairley, a former first-round draft pick out of George County High, recently signed to play in 2015 with the Southern Illinois Miners of the independent Frontier League. Fairley, who’ll be 27 in March, apparently has not played organized ball since 2012, his last season in the San Francisco system. The left-handed hitting outfielder was the Giants’ top pick in 2007 and batted .257 with eight home runs, 149 RBIs and 26 steals over five seasons. The Giants invited him to their big league spring training camp in 2010, but he never played above the Double-A level. P.S. They will be called the Biloxi Shuckers, but the new Southern League team’s plans for where they’ll play in 2015 remain unknown (see previous post). No new information was revealed at Monday’s nickname announcement ceremony. … It’s unlikely that David Goforth, a Meridian native and ex-Ole Miss standout, will play for the Shuckers, Milwaukee’s Double-A affiliate, next season. Goforth went 5-4 with 27 saves and a 3.76 ERA for the Huntsville Stars in 2014 and earned a spot on the Brewers’ 40-man roster. If he doesn’t make the big club, Goforth figures to pitch in Triple-A.