23 Nov

new angel in outfield

The Los Angeles Angels’ 2023 quest to end their eight-year playoff drought will include Hunter Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State slugger whom they acquired in a trade Tuesday with Milwaukee. Renfroe, who hit 29 homers for the Brewers last season, joins an Angels lineup that features Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, and he’ll be working with new hitting coach Marcus Thames, the former East Central Community College star. Renfroe, 30, is a .240 career hitter with 157 homers since his 2016 MLB debut and is regarded as an excellent right fielder. “He’s got the total package,” Angels GM Perry Minasian told mlb.com. “We felt like he was a really good fit for us.” The Brewers receive three young pitchers in the trade. The Angels will be Renfroe’s fifth team in five seasons. He has been on two postseason clubs: 2020 Tampa Bay and ’21 Boston. The Crystal Springs native was the 13th overall pick out of Starkville in 2013. P.S. Southern Miss product Matt Wallner, who made his big league debut in September, is pegged by mlb.com as Minnesota’s best rookie of the year candidate for 2023. The left-handed hitting outfielder batted .228 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 18 games for the Twins. He put on a power show last year, blasting 27 homers between Double-A and Triple-A and homering in the All-Star Futures Game and in his first MLB game. … USA Today ranks former Meridian Community College standout Corey Dickerson No. 87 among the 87 best available free agents this off-season. The veteran outfielder, 33, had an inconsistent year with St. Louis, hitting .267 with six homers and 36 RBIs and missing a chunk of time with injury. … Kirk McCarty, ex-USM star from Hattiesburg, was released by Cleveland after being designated for assignment earlier this month. McCarty, a left-hander, made his MLB debut with the Guardians this past season (see previous post).

20 Aug

power surge

Among the smattering of home runs hit by Mississippians in pro ball on Friday was a milestone blast by Hunter Renfroe. The former Mississippi State standout from Crystal Springs hit his 150th career homer for Milwaukee, which lost to Chicago 8-7 at a windy Wrigley Field. Renfroe’s 22nd homer of the season carried 427 feet to center field. In just his sixth full season (counting 2020 as a full season), he currently sits 10th on the all-time home run list of Mississippi-born players in MLB. Bill Melton and Frank White are tied for eighth at 160. The rest of the list: Ellis Burks 352, Dave Parker 339, George Scott 271, Chet Lemon 215, Brian Dozier 192, Mitch Moreland 186 and Dmitri Young 171. Corey Dickerson, from McComb, now playing for St. Louis, is second to Renfroe on the active list with 132 homers, four this season. (Moreland hasn’t officially retired but has not played this season.) … Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High star, hit career bomb No. 90 for Atlanta in a big 6-2 win against Houston in their World Series “rematch.” Riley has 31 on the year, his fourth in the big leagues. At Triple-A Norfolk in the Baltimore system, MSU alum Jordan Westburg hit his 10th homer for that club and 19th total in 2022. At Double-A Hartford (Colorado), former Bulldogs standout Hunter Stovall hit his ninth of the season. And at Low-A Visalia (Arizona), ex-Ole Miss star Kevin Graham hit homer No. 2 in his 10th career game. P.S. Toronto is interested in Billy Hamilton, according to a report. The veteran outfielder from Taylorsville recently became a free agent after Miami sent him to the minors. Since 2018, his last season with Cincinnati, his original club, the dash-fast Hamilton has hooked up with nine different major league organizations. Speed never slumps.

25 Jul

climbing the chart

With his third home run in three games, all wins by the first-place Milwaukee Brewers, Hunter Renfroe moved into the top 10 Sunday on the all-time homer list among Mississippi-born players in the big leagues. The Crystal Springs native and former Mississippi State star has 144 career homers, equaling the total of Hattiesburg native Charlie Hayes. Gulfport’s Bill Melton and Greenville’s Frank White are tied for eighth at 160. The all-time leader is Vicksburg native Ellis Burks with 352. Amory’s Mitch Moreland, not formally retired but not currently playing, stands sixth with 186. Renfroe has 16 homers this year, his seventh in MLB. His career-high is 33, which he reached with San Diego in 2019. The Padres, his original club, traded him to Tampa Bay, where he hit eight homers but batted just .156 in 42 games in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. The Rays non-tendered Renfroe, and he signed with Boston, where he had a huge year with 31 homers, 33 doubles, 96 RBIs and a .259 average. Nevertheless, the Red Sox traded him to Milwaukee. P.S. Dakota Hudson threw five strong innings (five hits, one run, three walks, six strikeouts) in a rehab start for Triple-A Memphis in the St. Louis chain. The ex-MSU standout, who went on the injured list with a neck strain, is 6-6 with a 4.10 ERA for the Cardinals. … The signing deadline for 2022 draftees with college eligibility remaining is a week from today, and to this point three Mississippi products have signed, according to mlb.com. Mississippi State’s Landon Sims, the first player from the state to go at No. 34 overall, signed for a reported $2.4 million with Arizona. State’s Logan Tanner, the No. 55 pick, got $1.03M from Cincinnati. And 20th-round pick Ke’Shun Collier from Meridian Community College inked with the Chicago Cubs for $100,000.

23 Jul

now that’s clutch

On the brink of a fourth straight loss, one strike away from defeat at their home park Friday night, the Milwaukee Brewers were jolted to life by a 447-foot, game-tying home run off the bat of Hunter Renfroe. The ex-Mississippi State star’s 14th homer of the year — and first in over a month — came in the 10th inning and enabled the Brewers to play on against Colorado, ultimately winning 6-5 in 13 on Luis Urias’ walk-off single. “Obviously, we want to win any way possible, but this really helps the camaraderie in the clubhouse,” Renfroe said in an mlb.com story. Things didn’t look good before Renfroe smashed a 2-2 slider from Robert Stephenson high over the left-field wall at American Family Field to tie the score at 5-5 with two down in the 10th. “If you’ve got a chip, you’ve got a chance,” a Brewers broadcaster said as Renfroe rounded the bases. The Brewers opened up a 1 1/2 game lead over St. Louis in the National League Central. Renfroe, who missed a couple weeks with a hamstring injury, is batting .247 with 31 RBIs in his first season with Milwaukee after a career year in Boston in 2021. … Elsewhere in MLB, George County High alum Justin Steele allowed a first-pitch homer to Philadelphia’s Kyle Schwarber but nary another run in five innings as he picked up the win in the Chicago Cubs’ 15-2 blowout of the host Phillies. Steele is 4-6. … Former Ole Miss standout Nick Fortes drove in three runs in Miami’s 8-1 win at Pittsburgh that ended a three-game scoreless streak for the Marlins (see previous post). The drought reached a franchise record-tying 37 innings before it ended. P.S. Minor matters: Former Ole Miss star Errol Robinson signed a minor league contract with St. Louis on Friday and was assigned to Double-A Springfield. Robinson was playing for Sussex County in the independent Frontier League, batting .312 with 22 stolen bases. Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016, Robinson was a minor league Rule 5 pick by Cincinnati in 2020 and reached Triple-A last season before being released. He was batting .176 at Louisville and .254 for his pro career. … Ole Miss product Tyler Keenan has been promoted to Double-A New Hampshire in Toronto’s system. The power-hitting third baseman was drafted by Seattle in 2020 and traded earlier this season. He was batting .300 in 15 games at High-A Vancouver, where he had spent time on the injured list. … Ex-Southern Miss star Reed Trimble came off a brief rehab assignment and was sent to Low-A Delmarva by Baltimore. He was 2-for-4 in Friday’s game. The 2021 draftee hit .200 in A-ball last season and had been on the IL since the start of this year. … MSU product J.T. Ginn pitched three innings (no earned runs) on a rehab assignment for Oakland’s Arizona Complex League team. He was 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA at Double-A Midland when he was hurt. Ginn was acquired by the A’s in a spring trade with the New York Mets.

01 May

according to plan

The Milwaukee Brewers were looking for thump in the middle of the lineup when they pulled a surprise trade for Hunter Renfroe last fall. The Crystal Springs native, after a slow start this season, appears to have found his home run stroke. Renfroe mashed his third homer in two games on Saturday, helping the streaking Brewers pound the Chicago Cubs 9-1. The Brewers are 13-7 with five straight wins. Renfroe is batting .310 with four homers in his last seven games. He has five homers and 10 RBIs on the year, and his 3-for-5 effort Saturday boosted his average to .253. Former Mississippi State star Renfroe crushed 31 homers for Boston in 2021, but the Red Sox dealt him to the Brewers for Jackie Bradley Jr. and two prospects after the season. Renfroe, also an outstanding right fielder, made mlb.com’s All-Underrated Team before this season. He hasn’t made an All-Star team, won a Silver Slugger or a Gold Glove. He’s due for a breakthrough there. With 133 career homers since 2016, Renfroe is closing in on the top 10 all-time among Mississippi natives. Matt Lawton is No. 11 with 138. Charlie Hayes ranks 10th with 144. P.S. Atlanta fans surely cringe when they see what Shea Langeliers is doing in Triple-A for Oakland. The young catcher has hit five homers in his last six games and has nine on the year to go with a .301 average at Las Vegas. After blasting 22 bombs for the Double-A South champion Mississippi Braves last year, Langeliers was one of the four prospects the Braves sent to the A’s for Matt Olson.

02 Dec

in other news

The lockdown in Major League Baseball was foreseeable. The Hunter Renfroe trade … not so much. In what reviewingthebrew.com called a “stunning” deal, Milwaukee acquired Renfroe, the former Copiah Academy and Mississippi State star, from Boston for Jackie Bradley Jr. and a couple of prospects. The trade was consummated Wednesday night just before the labor agreement expired. The Brewers reportedly were seeking to add power to their lineup, and they’ll get that from Renfroe, who has 128 career home runs. He had a big year in his one season with Boston, batting .259 with 31 homers, 96 RBIs and 16 outfield assists. He was both a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove finalist. And yet, Milwaukee will be his fourth team in four years. He signed with Boston as a free agent last off-season (one year, $3.1 million) and is arbitration-eligible entering 2022. The Brewers’ current roster features Renfroe’s former MSU teammate Brandon Woodruff, a staff ace, and their minor league prospect chart includes former Bulldogs ace Ethan Small, catcher/first baseman Thomas Dillard out of Ole Miss and outfielder Joe Gray, Jr., a Hattiesburg native. P.S. Left in limbo by the lockdown are Mississippi-connected free agents Corey Dickerson, Mitch Moreland, Billy Hamilton and Jarrod Dyson. … Ex-Richton High star JaCoby Jones has signed a minor league deal with Kansas City. He hit .170 for Detroit last year and ended the season in the minors. A former third-round pick out of LSU by Pittsburgh, Jones hit .212 with 32 homers over parts of six seasons with the Tigers, showing flashes of talent between a variety of injuries.

29 Oct

silver and gold

Though he came up short of a World Series ring, Hunter Renfroe has a chance to pick up a couple of other nice prizes this season. The ex-Mississippi State standout is a finalist for both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award following his outstanding first season with Boston. Renfroe, who tallied 16 outfield assists and hit 31 homers with 96 RBIs, is joined by Kyle Tucker and Joey Gallo among the American League Gold Glove candidates in right field. Renfroe had more assists but also more errors than either of the other two. Crystal Springs native Renfroe is among eight finalists for three AL outfield Silver Slugger awards. (Houston’s Tucker is also on that list.) Also making the cut for Silver Slugger honors were DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley, Atlanta’s third baseman, and ex-East Central Community College star Tim Anderson, shortstop for the Chicago White Sox. Gold Glove winners will be announced Nov. 7, the Silver Sluggers on Nov. 11.

21 Oct

on the brink

The frustration the Boston Red Sox experienced on Wednesday night can be captured in one at-bat in the bottom of the fifth inning. Former Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe was up with the Red Sox down 1-0, two runners on, no outs. The Crystal Springs native, who had 31 homers and 96 RBIs this season, got ahead in the count 2-0. Was it his time? No. Houston starter Framber Valdez threw his signature sinker, and Renfroe rolled into a 6-4-3 double play. The next batter, Alex Verdugo, also bounced out. Boston got nothing, and the Astros then blew up for five runs in the sixth en route to a 9-1 victory that puts them ahead 3-2 in the American League Championship Series that heads back to Houston. Valdez was brilliant over eight innings, limiting the Red Sox to three hits. The Sox had just five hits in a 9-2 loss in Game 4 on Tuesday. Several of Boston’s big bats have gone cold. Kyle Schwarber is batting .143 in the series, Xander Bogaerts .227, Verdugo .235. Renfroe’s slump has been particularly pronounced. He is 1-for-14 (.071) with one RBI, that coming in Game 1. He was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and two GIDPs in Game 5. Surely, he is frustrated, as are his teammates, but he is not down, said DH J.D. Martinez. “I think Hunter’s been even-keeled all year,” he said in a nesn.com story. “I don’t see him down at all. You know, he is still going up there. He puts up tough at-bats.” Backs to the wall, the Red Sox need some of those tough at-bats to produce hits and runs. P.S. Unsung hero in Atlanta’s crucial Game 4 win in the National League Championship Series: A.J. Minter. The former Mississippi Braves left-hander (2016-17) pitched two near-perfect innings in middle relief in the Braves’ 9-2 win against Los Angeles. Minter pitched the sixth and seventh innings when the lead was a precarious 5-2 and threw 16 of 22 pitches for strikes. He yielded just one hit. With ace Max Fried, another ex-M-Braves standout, starting tonight in Game 5, the Braves, up 3-1, have to feel they’re in pretty good shape.

11 Oct

only in baseball

Thanks to Rule 5.05(a)(8), Hunter Renfroe’s place in postseason history is secure. The Crystal Springs native and ex-Mississippi State standout will forever be linked to the quirky rule that had a major impact in Sunday’s American League Division Series game at Boston. In the 13th inning, with the go-ahead run at first base and two outs, a batted ball hit the short right-field wall at Fenway Park, caromed off the hip of Renfroe, the right fielder who was giving pursuit, and then went over the wall. For a few moments, confusion reigned. Apparently, no one involved had ever seen this happen before. Fenway is one of the few ballparks where something like that is even possible. Had the ball remained in play, the runner would have scored easily and the batter, Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier, likely would have made third. But the umpires got together and correctly applied Rule 5.05(a)(8), which states that a bounding fair ball unintentionally deflected out of play by a fielder is a ground-rule double. That put the runners at second and third. The score remained tied. Fair or not, the rule is the rule. Nick Pivetta then struck out the next batter, concluding his four shutout innings. In the bottom of the 13th, after Renfroe drew a one-out walk, Christian Vazquez gave Boston a 6-4 win and a 2-1 series lead with a homer over the Green Monster. … Meanwhile, in Chicago, in the other ALDS Game 3, things got a little wacky, as well, as the White Sox rallied from 5-1 down in the third inning to beat Houston 12-6 and stay alive in the best-of-5. The White Sox’s decisive three-run fourth was ignited by — who else? — Tim Anderson. The East Central Community College star led off with an infield single and eventually scored the go-ahead run. (And, yes, there was a quirky deflected-ball play later in that inning.) For his part, Anderson went 3-for-6 with two runs and an RBI Sunday and is now batting .467 in the series. … There are four games on tap today. Something crazy, something you’ve never seen before, is almost guaranteed to happen. That’s baseball.

07 Oct

eye on …

Lance Lynn gets the start for Chicago in today’s American League Division Series opener, which arguably is the most important game in a best-of-5. Lynn may have gone to Ole Miss, but the big right-hander is a bulldog on the mound. He went 11-6 with a 2.69 ERA for the White Sox this season, working 157 innings in 28 starts, and was considered a Cy Young Award candidate at one point. “He’s going to come at you,” White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal told the Chicago Tribune, “he’s going to pressure you and you’d better be ready when he’s on the mound.” Lynn’s one appearance against Houston did not go well: six runs in four innings back in June. Expect him to use that as motivation. Lynn has a wealth of postseason experience, having pitched in 26 games going back to his rookie year of 2011, when he won a ring as a reliever with St. Louis. Tim Anderson, the former East Central Community College star, will lead off the game for the White Sox; he was hot down the stretch and went 9-for-14 in his first MLB postseason in 2020. Ocean Springs High alum Garrett Crochet, a lefty reliever, and Taylorsville High product Billy Hamilton, a reserve outfielder, could also play valuable roles for Chicago. But Lynn is the one to watch today. …
Hunter Renfroe feasted (.338, four homers, 18 RBIs) on Tampa Bay pitching this season, perhaps motivated by the fact the Rays cut him loose after last season. The ex-Mississippi State standout, who batted .259 with 31 homers and 96 RBIs in 2021, will be somewhere in the middle of Boston’s lineup — and in right field — in tonight’s ALDS. Renfroe has limited postseason experience, but he hit two homers for the Rays last fall during their run to the World Series and went 1-for-3 in the pressure-cooker AL Wild Card Game vs. New York on Monday. He brings game-changing power, even in a pitcher’s park like Tropicana Field.