Funny the things you run across while looking for other things. On this date in 2017, Carlos Moncrief, a former Hillcrest Christian star who had a proverbial cup of coffee in the major leagues, unleashed a couple of throws that had Joe Maddon gushing with a bold comparison. “That’s Bo Jackson-arm stuff right there,” the then-Chicago Cubs manager said. Moncrief, playing for San Francisco, made a one-hop heave from deep right field to home plate at AT&T (now Oracle) Park. The throw, estimated at 307 feet, just missed nailing Javy Baez, who had circled the bases for an inside-the-park homer after the ball he hit took a crazy carom. Moncrief also made a no-hop throw from right-center to third base in the same game, keeping a runner from advancing. (Yes, there is video of both.) Moncrief, who was released out of the Mexican League in 2019, was a two-way standout at Hillcrest and Chipola (Fla.) Junior College and began his pro career in 2008 as a pitcher in Cleveland’s system. He moved to the outfield, started putting up numbers and finally earned a call-up to the majors in July 2017. He got into 28 games that season, his only MLB stint. He had 38 at-bats, eight hits, five RBIs and four runs. And those two remarkable throws. Joe Maddon no doubt still remembers.
Having passed a physical on Thursday, Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made an appearance at San Francisco’s summer camp, but it appears unlikely he’ll be active for the Giants’ opener next week. “I don’t see that as a realistic expectation right now,” manager Gabe Kapler said in a San Jose Mercury News story. Hamilton, who could play a valuable role on defense and as a pinch runner, is with the Giants on a minor league deal. The veteran outfielder was placed on the injured list last week for undisclosed reasons. … The Boston Red Sox have formally signed DeSoto Central High product Blaze Jordan, their third-round draft pick. Jordan, 17, received a reported $1.75 million bonus, much higher than the slot value of $667,900 for the 89th pick. … If Freddie Freeman, currently on the COVID-19 injured list, is unable to answer the starting bell for Atlanta, ex-DeSoto Central star Austin Riley appears to be the leading candidate to man first base. Riley made six appearances (three starts) at first last season as a rookie, when he hit 18 homers in 80 games. … Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff has displayed lights-out stuff in Milwaukee’s camp. “I’ve had probably seven to eight at-bats against him,” Brewers outfielder Ben Gamel told mlb.com. “His fastball is just different. He’s got a different gear to him. And me, just playing behind him, his changeup’s filthy.” Woodruff struck out Christian Yelich three times in an intrasquad game this week. … Brent Rooker, another former State standout, saw a lot of duty behind Marwin Gonzalez at first base in Minnesota’s camp while Miguel Sano was in COVID-19 quarantine. Sano, transitioning from third to first this season, returned to camp Wednesday. Rooker, who has 54 homers in 259 minor league games, could make the 30-man active roster if Sano isn’t ready for opening day. … The Chicago White Sox reportedly are thrilled with Tim Anderson’s work at shortstop in summer camp. “Defensively, his jumps have been amazing getting off the ball,” coach Joe McEwing said of the former East Central Community College star in an mlb.com story. “We have been really focusing on keeping his head in there and staying through it and finishing his throws.” The American League batting champ led league shortstops in errors the last three years. … Ex-MSU standout Chris Stratton, vying for a role on Pittsburgh’s pitching staff, says he is well-equipped for the new three-batter minimum rule for pitchers. “I just think that I’m capable of getting multiple outs,” he told mlb.com. “If that’s at the beginning of the game, if it’s opening, if it’s starting, whatever, if it’s in the middle of the game, hopefully I can help the team as best as possible with the things that I have.”
San Francisco has placed Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High star, on the injured list for what was described only as “medical purposes.” Hamilton is in the Giants’ camp on a minor league deal but was expected to make the active roster before the season begins. Reports were unclear on when he might be able to come off the IL. The 29-year-old outfielder is a .242 career hitter with 299 steals over seven big league seasons. … Milwaukee has added former Mississippi State star Ethan Small and Ole Miss alum Thomas Dillard, both 2019 draft picks, to its 60-man pool of eligible players for summer camp. Small, a left-hander picked in the first round, is the Brewers’ No. 2 prospect; he made seven appearances in the low minors last summer. Dillard, a catcher and a fifth-rounder, batted .249 with seven homers in his first pro season. … Adam Moncure is among the hottest hitters in the Cotton States League, batting .400 (.581 on-base) with two homers and a league-best 12 RBIs in nine games for the Black Prairie Mudcats. Moncure, from Clinton, hit .341 as a freshman at Meridian Community College in 2020. Blue Mountain native Sam McMillin, a left-hander at Union University, is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 19 innings for the CSL’s DeSoto Xplorers. … Luther Woullard, a former Jones (Junior) College star from d’Iberville, is playing for the Macon Bacon of the Coastal Plain League, a high-level college summer circuit. As a senior at New Orleans in 2020, Woullard batted .381 with 14 RBIs before the season was halted. He’ll have a year of eligibility left at UNO. Woullard was an All-MACJC outfielder who put up big numbers on some outstanding Jones teams in 2017-18. … Aiden Moffett of Taylorsville High has committed to LSU, per the Laurel Leader-Call. Though he was not highly recruited during his abbreviated sophomore year, Moffett has turned heads with his summer team. Playing for the Louisiana Knights, a travel team based in Mandeville, right-hander Moffett reportedly received offers from Southern Miss, Texas A&M and LSU over the course of just one weekend. … Former Mississippi Braves manager Brian Snitker, who’ll be deploying a DH in every game as Atlanta’s skipper this season, told espn.com that he once asked Bobby Cox about managing with the DH. “Get a bag of balls and sit on it, watch the game,” Cox told him.
While the Pittsburgh Pirates were sinking to the bottom of the National League Central last season, Chris Stratton may have kept his career afloat with his work out of the Bucs’ bullpen. The former Mississippi State star from Tupelo was traded twice in a two-month span in 2019, by San Francisco to the Los Angeles Angels during spring training and from the Angels to Pittsburgh in May. His numbers for the Angels weren’t good: an 8.59 ERA working primarily as a starter. He went straight to the bullpen in Pittsburgh and delivered a 3.66 ERA over 28 appearances with only a couple of truly bad outings. The 29-year-old right-hander would appear to have a good shot at winning a bullpen job in spring training. A Pirates-centric website, rumbunter.com, named Stratton a breakout candidate for 2020. A first-round pick by the Giants in 2012, Stratton’s stuff is reputed to be top drawer; the spin rates on his curveball and fastball are among the best in the game, according to rumbunter. But his career hasn’t taken off; he is 16-17, 4.88 in 83 MLB games dating to 2016. This might be the year. P.S. Billy Hamilton, the speedy center fielder from Taylorsville, is called “a perfect fit for Oracle Park,” by nbcsports.com/bayarea. First of all, Hamilton, signed to a minor league deal by San Francisco on Friday, will have to make the big league roster this spring. Hamilton doesn’t hit much but, at 29, is still a factor with his legs, glove and arm. The Giants are shrinking the outfield in Oracle Park — from 399 in center to 391 and from 421 to 415 in the right-center field alley — but speed in center field is still a priority. The team currently lists rising star Mike Yastrzemski as the starter there and also has speedy Steven Duggar as an option.
Zack Cozart’s future grew a little foggy on Monday when the former Ole Miss star was designated for assignment by San Francisco, which had acquired the veteran infielder in a trade in mid-December. Cozart, a 2017 All-Star in Cincinnati, is coming off two injury-wracked seasons with the Los Angeles Angels that saw him bat .190 with five homers in 96 games. The Giants took on Cozart’s $13 million salary as part of a deal that netted them highly regarded shortstop prospect Will Wilson. It seems likely that Cozart, 34, will be released. Perhaps he’ll get a minor league deal somewhere. Perhaps. He was a second-round pick by the Reds in 2007 out of UM and has played nine years in the majors, mostly as a shortstop, batting .247 with 87 homers. P.S. Something to keep an eye on: Mississippi State product Dakota Hudson, who went 16-7 with a 3.35 ERA as a rookie for St. Louis in 2019, has been rumored to be part of the Nolan Arenado trade talks between the Cardinals and Colorado.
After two injury-wracked seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, former Ole Miss star Zack Cozart will get a fresh start next spring with San Francisco. It’s unclear exactly how healthy Cozart is after two shoulder surgeries or how the third baseman/shortstop fits into the Giants’ infield plans. The Angels, reportedly looking to clear salary, traded Cozart, slated to make about $13 million in 2020, and a highly regarded prospect (shortstop Will Wilson) to the Giants, who currently have Evan Longoria at third and Brandon Crawford at short. Former Biloxi Shuckers star Mauricio Dubon is also in the infield mix there. Cozart, 34, was an All-Star in Cincinnati in 2017, when he batted .297 with 24 homers. He signed a three-year, $38 million free agent deal with the Angels prior to the 2018 season but has played just 96 games in two years, hitting .190 with five homers. … Cozart is the fifth Mississippian in the majors to land with a new team this off-season: UM alum Mike Mayers was a waiver claim by the Angels, Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman signed with Seattle, ex-Rebels standout Drew Pomeranz signed with San Diego and State alum Hunter Renfroe went to Tampa Bay in a trade.
A list that includes Willie Mays, Christy Mathewson, Mel Ott, Juan Marichal and Barry Bonds is pretty darn special. Will Clark, the former Mississippi State standout, is joining it. During an on-field ceremony Sunday honoring their 1989 World Series team, the San Francisco Giants announced that Clark’s No. 22 will be retired at another ceremony next year. Clark, nicknamed “The Thrill,” was taken aback by the exuberant reaction of his old teammates, who were hearing the news for the first time: “(T)hat right there just killed me.” After his star-spangled career in Starkville, Clark was the No. 2 overall pick – the highest any Mississippi product has been taken – in the 1985 draft by the Giants and reached the big leagues the next year. He played the first eight of his 15 MLB seasons for the Giants and was a driving force for the ’89 club that also included his former State teammate Jeff Brantley and Jackson Mets alum Kevin Mitchell. In the National League Championship Series against Chicago, Clark put on an unforgettable performance: 13-for-20, two homers and eight RBIs in five games. That World Series trip (a loss to Oakland) ended a 27-year drought for the storied franchise. Clark finished his career with a .303 average and 284 home runs. He and Bonds are the only two Giants to have their number retired who aren’t in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
You’d be unlikely to hear the clanging of cowbells or screams of “Hotty Toddy” at Oracle Park in San Francisco tonight, but there will be a hint of the Mississippi State-Ole Miss rivalry in the air. Former State star Dakota Hudson is scheduled to start for St. Louis against ex-UM star Drew Pomeranz in a matchup of former first-round draft picks. That fact aside, the two pitchers are a study in contrast. Hudson, 24, is a right-hander in his first full MLB season and has been one of the Cardinals’ most consistent arms. He is 6-4 with a 3.40 ERA in 17 games, though he is coming off one of his worst outings of the year, last Saturday against San Diego. Pomeranz, 30, is a left-handed veteran of nine big league campaigns. Though he is 2-8, 6.25 ERA, he threw five shutout innings vs. Arizona his last time out, one of his better outings in what has been a rough season. He signed as a free agent with the Giants, his sixth big league team, after winning a ring with Boston in 2018. Hudson’s Cardinals are in the thick of a mad National League Central race, while Pomeranz’s Giants are buried in last place in the NL West. P.S. Detroit has put former Richton High standout JaCoby Jones (back) on the injured list, where he joins a host of other Mississippians: Spencer Turnbull, Tim Anderson, Mike Mayers, Mitch Moreland, Zack Cozart and Bobby Wahl. Pomeranz, Corey Dickerson, Tony Sipp, Chris Stratton and Jacob Waguespack all have spent time on the IL but are active now. … Tampa Bay has recalled MSU product Nate Lowe (see previous post) from Triple-A.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, who exploited Atlanta’s bullpen for a comeback win on Thursday night, have been one of the top five pleasant surprises of this season, according to mlb.com. One of the pleasantly surprising individual performances for the D’backs has come from Jarrod Dyson. The 34-year-old McComb native, playing more regularly than anticipated, is batting .291 (.400 on-base percentage) with three homers, eight RBIs, 16 runs and seven steals in 28 games for a 16-12 club. Leading off and playing center field on Thursday, he was on base twice, stole two bags and threw a runner – Ozzie Albies – out at third base, his fourth assist of the season. Injuries limited Dyson to 67 games for Arizona in 2018, when he batted .189. He also had an injury in spring training this year. Projected to be primarily a spare outfielder and pinch runner this season, he has gotten 18 starts. This is Dyson’s 10th big league season – the first seven were with Kansas City – and he is batting .253 with 227 stolen bases in 756 career games. He also has a World Series ring. Not bad for a 50th-round draft pick out of Southwest Mississippi Community College. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, who coughed up seven runs in a 1 2/3 innings in his last start on Monday, went on the injured list for San Francisco with a lat strain. The big left-hander is 1-4 with a 5.93 ERA in his first season with the Giants.
He came up in the ninth inning Wednesday needing a home run for the cycle. Delvin Zinn had to settle for a double, his fifth hit of the game in what was the best performance in his four years of pro ball. “One-hundred percent I was (thinking home run), but I guess if you miss with a double, that’s alright,” the ex-Itawamba Community College star from Pontotoc told milb.com. Zinn is batting .375 through 13 games in his second season with South Bend, the Chicago Cubs’ Class A club. The 21-year-old middle infielder was drafted in the 23rd round in 2016 by the Cubs. He had hit .411 and drawn raves for his defense during his one season at ICC, but he’s moved slowly in pro ball. He spent two years at the rookie level, helping the Cubs win an Arizona League title in 2017. He batted .286 in 59 games for South Bend last year. The five-hit game might be a springboard for him. … Five was also a number of note for Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz. The big lefty got his first win for San Francisco, throwing six shutout innings at Toronto. He now has big league wins for five different clubs. The fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft by Cleveland, Pomeranz has been a relatively effective pitcher (45-50, 3.91 ERA) who just never stays in one place for very long.