05 Apr

baserunners beware

Big league baserunners, or their coaches, still challenge Hunter Renfroe from time to time. More often than not, it seems, the veteran outfielder makes them regret the decision. The Mississippi State alum from Crystal Springs, now playing right field for Kansas City, threw out a runner at home on Thursday night in the Royals’ 10-1 win over the Chicago White Sox. On Wednesday night, he threw out a Baltimore runner at second base from the right-field corner — “an insane play,” according to a Royals broadcaster. Renfroe, perhaps best known for his power bat, has had his ups and downs as a hitter — he is currently batting .091 without a home run in 22 at-bats — but his right arm has been a consistent weapon since he reached the big leagues in 2016. He has 67 outfield assists all told, 66 since the start of 2017, which is eight more than any other outfielder, according to mlb.com. He has a season-high of 16, with Boston in 2021, and he gunned down 11 two years ago with Milwaukee. Outfield assists records are skewed toward players from the early 1900s, when baserunners were more aggressive, even reckless, and perhaps not as fast as modern-day players. The all-time mark for outfield assists, per baseballreference.com, is a ridiculous 449 (Tris Speaker, 1907-28). The active leader is Starling Marte with 100. Renfroe is seventh on that list and has played far fewer innings than the players ranked above him. The all-time leader among Mississippi natives is Dave Parker, who cut down 143 runners. The Royals are the seventh team Renfroe has played for in the the last six years, and they no doubt signed him for his power (177 career bombs), which hasn’t showed up yet in 2024. His arm might keep him in the lineup until it does.

18 Sep

found wanting

Cincinnati, feverishly chasing a wild card berth with two weeks left in the National League season, will do so without Hunter Renfroe, who has been designated for assignment. The former Mississippi State star was claimed off waivers by the Reds from the Los Angeles Angels in late August with the hope that he would add some thump to their lineup. He hit one homer in 39 at-bats, struck out 12 times and batted .128. Renfroe, 31, likely has played his last game of 2023 and will be a free agent after the season. He hit .242 with 19 homers and drove in 56 runs for the Angels this year and has 177 career bombs, ranking seventh all-time among Mississippi natives in the majors. Oddly enough, he has played for six different teams the past five seasons. The Reds (78-73) are a half-game back of third place in the NL wild card standings as they welcome Minnesota for a meaningful three-game series beginning tonight at Great American Ballpark. The Twins (79-71), the American League Central leader, saw their magic number for clinching reduced to 5 when Kansas City rallied to beat second-place Cleveland today. (Ole Miss product James McArthur pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his first career save for the Royals.) Ex-Southern Miss standout Matt Wallner, who is hitting .409 over his last seven games and has 12 homers on the year, is in the Minnesota lineup, batting seventh at the hitter-friendly Cincy park.

31 Aug

red alert

Cincinnati has fortified its lineup with the reported addition via waiver claims of outfielders Hunter Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State slugger, and Harrison Bader. Renfroe, 31 and an eight-year MLB vet, was batting .242 with 19 home runs and 56 RBIs for the scuffling Los Angeles Angels. Bader was with the enigmatic New York Yankees. The Reds, with a very young roster, are 69-66, 6 games back in the National League Central and fifth in the wild card standings. Ex-MSU star Jeff Brantley, now a Cincy broadcaster, said in an interview in late June — when the Reds were in first place and riding an 11-game win streak — that the true test for the team would come in the dog days of August (see previous post). “The young guys haven’t played that duration of baseball,” Brantley said. The Reds went 10-17 in August, an indication they needed some juice. Renfroe’s power should play well at Great American Ballpark, a well-known launching pad where the Reds will host division and wild card rival Chicago in a big series that begins Friday. Renfroe has belted 120 homers the past five seasons while playing for five different clubs.

30 Aug

bat for hire

A day after being placed on waivers, Hunter Renfroe did a little personal public relations work, going 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs in the Los Angeles Angels’ 10-8 win at Philadelphia. The hard-luck Angels waved the white flag on 2023 on Tuesday when they placed several key veterans on waivers, hoping they might be claimed — and their remaining salary picked up — by a contending club. Ex-Mississippi State star Renfroe showed what he is capable of against the Phillies, who happen to be a contender. He belted his 19th homer, a two-run shot in the second inning, and added a two-run single as part of an eighth-inning rally. He also had a double, his 31st. The Crystal Springs native, in a bit of a slump of late, is batting .242 with 56 RBIs. With 176 career homers, he ranks seventh on the all-time list among Mississippi natives. He also plays a mean right field, having registered eight assists this year and 65 career. Renfroe signed a 1-year, $11.9 million contract with the Angels as a free agent in the off-season, joining his fifth different team in five years. Another change of uniforms might be in the offing. P.S. Darius Vines, who went 7-4 with a 3.95 ERA for the Double-A Mississippi Braves in 2022, is set to join the long list of M-Braves alums to pitch in the majors. The right-hander is scheduled to start tonight for Atlanta — at Colorado, not exactly the place you’d pick for your debut. … Hurston Waldrep, the Braves’ first-round pick in July who joined the M-Braves on Tuesday, made four starts in A-ball, last pitching on Aug. 26. On four days rest, his next start would come Thursday, when the M-Braves play Rocket City at Trustmark Park. No announcement has been made. The Southern Miss alum, drafted out of Florida, has a 1.20 ERA so far this season.

25 Jun

pouring it on

Making his first start at first base for the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night at Colorado, Hunter Renfroe made a nice play to start a double play and end the first inning. Then the former Mississippi State standout celebrated with a single to lead off the second inning. The party at Coors Field was just getting started. Renfroe went 5-for-5 with a walk as the Angels set franchise records for hits (28) and runs in a 25-1 rout of the Rockies. Mickey Moniak also had five hits and four other Angels had at least three. “(H)itting gets contagious sometimes,” Angels manager Phil Nevin told mlb.com in one of the season’s great you-don’t-say statements. Renfroe hit a three-run double in the club record-tying 13-run third inning. He finished with four RBIs and three runs. His career day raised his average to .261. Normally the team’s right fielder, Renfroe is batting .281 over his last 15 games, though he has been stuck on 12 homers since June 13. The Angels (42-36) have climbed past Houston into second place in the American League West. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss standout James McArthur got his first big league call-up Saturday with Kansas City but did not pitch. McArthur, 26, traded from Philadelphia to the Royals in May, has a 4.87 ERA in 12 appearances at Triple-A Omaha. … Ex-Rebels star Mike Mayers, a big league vet, was assigned by the Royals to Omaha last week after a rough stint in the majors. He got a hold in his return to Triple-A on Friday. … Former MSU ace Ethan Small went on the injured list Saturday at Triple-A Nashville (Milwaukee system). The former first-rounder has a 3.46 ERA in the minors this season and made one wobbly appearance with the Brewers. … Houston Harding, who got into pro ball as an undrafted free agent in 2021, made his Double-A debut Saturday for Rocket City in the Angels’ system. The left-hander, who won seven games for MSU’s 2021 national title team, allowed a three-run homer but fanned five in 2 2/3 innings vs. Montgomery. He had a 1.32 ERA in A-ball before his promotion. A Coldwater native, Harding was a strikeout machine at Itawamba Community College before signing with MSU. … Landon Sims, one of the heroes of State’s ’21 championship team, made his pro debut this month and has pitched in four games, allowing no runs, in rookie ball for Arizona. Sims was the 34th overall pick last summer after missing most of the ’22 season at State with an elbow injury.

18 Apr

the power of power

Hunter Renfroe is a good outfielder with a great arm. The former Mississippi State star also runs pretty well for a 230-pound dude. But never mind that. It’s his ability to hit dingers that grabs our attention. The Crystal Springs native hit his 161st big league homer on Monday, a three-run blast in the first inning that boosted the Los Angeles Angels to a 5-4 win over Boston on Patriots Day at Fenway Park. Renfroe has moved past Bill Melton and Frank White (both with 160) and into eighth place on the all-time homer list of Mississippi natives in the majors. (Dmitri Young, with 171, is next in Renfroe’s sights.) Renfroe was a power prodigy in high school, belting an MAIS record 20 bombs for Copiah Academy back in 2010. He went deep 16 times as a junior at State in 2013, earning All-America honors and then getting drafted in the first round by San Diego. He continued to rake in the minors, belting 77 homers over parts of four seasons before his first big league call-up in 2016. He got his first MLB bomb in his fourth game. In his five full seasons in the majors (not counting 2020), Renfroe has hit 26, 26, 33, 31 and 29 homers. Oddly enough, he has been traded three times since 2019. He’ll likely never be a .300 hitter, but he has improved in that area the previous two years, batting .259 for Boston in 2021 and .255 for Milwaukee last season. The Angels dealt three young pitchers to the Brewers to acquire Renfroe in November, hoping he can help power them into the postseason for the first time since 2014. With four homers in 16 games, he is off to a strong start.

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.