The second no-hitter in Milwaukee Brewers history was delivered by a pair of pitchers who cut their teeth on the Coast. Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader, who stifled Cleveland 3-0 on Saturday, are among the large contingent of Brewers pitchers who came up through their system, including a stop at Double-A Biloxi. Shuckers fans saw Hader blow away hitters at MGM Park in 2015 and ’16 on his way to becoming one of the most feared closers in the big leagues. Burnes played for Biloxi in 2017 and is now an integral part of one of the best rotations in MLB, along with fellow Shuckers alums Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta and Adrian Houser. Supporting Hader in the bullpen are ex-Shuckers Devin Williams and Brent Suter. Milwaukee pitchers lead all of baseball in strikeouts, rank second in batting average against and third in ERA. More important, they rank fourth in wins with 88, which ranks them first in the National League Central and bound for the postseason. Burnes (10-4, 2.25 ERA) and Hader (31 saves) combined for 16 strikeouts against the Indians. Harrison Central High alum Bobby Bradley punched out three times in his three at-bats. P.S. Whatever happened to … Tim Dillard, the former Itawamba Community College standout, is now working as a TV analyst for the Brewers, the organization with which he spent most of his long playing career. The colorful Dillard, who has quite the Twitter following, formally retired from pitching in February, ending a career that began in 2003 and concluded with a stint with the independent Milwaukee Milkmen in 2020. A Saltillo High alum – and son of former big leaguer and Ole Miss alum Steve Dillard – Dillard appeared in over 500 minor league games and 73 MLB contests, the last with the Brewers in 2012. In 2019, at age 35, he went 9-9 with a 4.75 ERA at Triple-A Nashville in Milwaukee’s system. He signed a minor league deal with Texas this past off-season but was released in February.
Speed is the highlight tool in Jake Mangum’s bag. It was on full display Wednesday. The former Mississippi State star, playing center field for Double-A Binghamton, made three diving catches, one charging in, one going to his left and one to his right. (Check out the video on milb.com.) He also stole a base, his 12th of the season in 70 games for the New York Mets’ Double-A club, and just to show some versatility, belted his seventh home run in a 7-5 win at New Hampshire. Mangum is hitting .296 (.341 on-base percentage) with 21 doubles, four triples, 39 RBIs and 55 runs. The Flowood native was rated one of the fastest players in 2019 draft when the Mets took him – as an MSU senior – in the fourth round. Oddly enough, he has slipped off their Top 30 prospect chart. But if he keeps producing, that hardly matters. P.S. Loyd Star High alum James Beard was generally considered the fastest player in the 2019 draft, and he was picked in the fourth round, a few spots ahead of Mangum, by the Chicago White Sox. Now playing at Low-A Kannapolis, the 20-year-old Beard has nine steals and a .193 average in 63 games. … For the record, the top base-stealer among Mississippians in the minors in 2021 is Delvin Zinn, the ex-Itawamba Community College star now in the Cubs’ system. The fifth-year pro has 43 bags – 42 at High-A South Bend, one (in four attempts) in 17 games at Double-A Tennessee.
One call rarely decides a game, though it can certainly alter the course. Everyone watching Saturday’s Milwaukee-Atlanta game at Truist Park saw Brandon Woodruff throw strike three past Dansby Swanson for the second out of the Braves sixth inning. Everyone except home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor, who called it a ball. (Doesn’t it seem that bad ball-strike calls have become epidemic in the majors?) Swanson hit the next pitch out of the park to give the Braves a 3-1 lead. Mississippi State product Woodruff glared and barked at Bucknor as he left the game. Swanson, the former Mississippi Braves star, later hit a grand slam as the Braves claimed an 8-1 victory. Swanson said after the game that, yes, he thought the sixth-inning pitch was a strike. Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said, yes, it was a strike — but Swanson rated credit for banging the hanger that followed. Woodruff, who has endured a lot of tough luck this season, said in an mlb.com piece: “It [stinks] because we’re playing good baseball and something like that kind of bugs me a bit. I’ll get over it.” Woodruff, a 2021 All-Star, saw his record fall to 7-6 despite a 2.26 ERA, among the best in the big leagues. He was 0-3 in July for the first-place Brewers, who just don’t score when the big right-hander pitches. P.S. Delvin Zinn, the former Itawamba Community College star from Pontotoc, got a chance to try out his wheels on a new track on Saturday. He had a flat. Leading the High-A Central in stolen bases with 42, Zinn was promoted to Double-A Tennessee by the Chicago Cubs. He walked in his first at-bat, then promptly got picked off and cut down trying to steal second. Zinn went 0-for-1 with two walks and a sac bunt for the Smokies. He was batting .234 with four homers and 42 runs for South Bend in his fifth pro season.
Carrying an .083 average and having already struck out three times against Patrick Sandoval, Brent Rooker was a most unlikely candidate to spoil the Los Angeles Angels left-hander’s no-hit bid. But baseball is funny that way. Former Mississippi State star Rooker blooped an opposite-field double down the right-field line with one out in the ninth inning Saturday to end Sandoval’s bid for a no-no. Rooker, only recently recalled from Triple-A by Minnesota, said he was fooled on the pitch and called it a “lucky hit.” Rooker later scored, but the Angels held on for a 2-1 win. … Ex-State standout Kendall Graveman, a possible trade piece for Seattle, got the win and trimmed his ERA to 0.84 in the Mariners’ walk-off win against Oakland. Graveman, who has 10 saves, told mlb.com that it would be “a little bit discouraging” to be traded from a Mariners club that is still in the wild card hunt in the American League. … Harrison Central High product Bobby Bradley, mired in a slump, hit his 11th home run (in 39 games) in Cleveland’s loss to Tampa Bay. Bradley has just two hits in his last 21 at-bats and is at .211 for the year. … Down in Double-A, former Itawamba Community College star Tyreque Reed hit his first homer — a walk-off bomb, no less — since his promotion by Boston to Portland. Reed is batting .346 in seven Double-A games. He has 15 homers all told this season. … Southern Miss product Matt Wallner homered for the second time in four games since rejoining Minnesota’s High-A Cedar Rapids team. Wallner had missed almost two months with a wrist injury. The second-year pro is batting .337 with six homers and 16 RBIs in 21 games. … After a sluggish start to his pro career, ex-DeSoto Central slugger Blaze Jordan is heating up for Boston’s Florida Complex League team. Jordan, a 2020 draftee, has a six-game hit streak that includes two home runs and has boosted his average to .269 with 14 RBIs in 13 games at the rookie level. … The first five players picked from state schools in the 2021 draft have signed: Will Bednar, Gunnar Hoglund, Doug Nikhazy, Reed Trimble and Tanner Allen. Ryan Och, Brennon McNair, Rowdey Jordan and Hunter Stanley, the last four of the 12 picked, also have signed. Eric Cerantola, Christian MacLeod and Taylor Broadway remain unsigned. Walker Powell and Houston Harding have signed as undrafted free agents. (When Harding debuts for the Angels, he’ll be the fourth ICC alum in pro ball, joining Reed, Delvin Zinn and Steffon Moore.) … And finally, there is this: The Biloxi Shuckers, the worst team (by far) in the Double-A South, have beaten the league’s best team, the Mississippi Braves, five straight times at Trustmark Park in Pearl this week. Saturday’s score was 13-1. Game 6 of the series is today. Will order finally be restored to the universe? Who knows? Baseball is funny that way.
Yes, it was Division II juco baseball, and, yes, it was with a metal bat. Still, the .504 batting average posted by Tyreque Reed at Itawamba Community College in 2017 was an eye-popping number. And Reed is proving in pro ball that it wasn’t purely a fluke. The 6-foot-1, 250-pound Houlka native can rake. Reed, now playing at High-A Greenville in the Boston system, went 3-for-3 with two walks, a homer and a career-high five RBIs in a game on Thursday. He is batting .296, slugging .587, with 14 homers and 50 RBIs for the Drive. His slugging percentage ranks second in the High-A East and the homer total is tied for third-most. Over four minor league seasons, Reed is batting .283 with 55 homers. A first baseman/DH, Reed is 24 and no doubt ready to be challenged at a higher level. He’s not rated among the Red Sox’s Top 30 prospects on mlb.com, but the organization reportedly is high on his potential. Boston plucked Reed from the Texas organization in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft in December. The Rangers had drafted him in the eighth round out of ICC in 2017; he hit a homer for them in his first big league spring training game in 2019. “(W)e really believe in the power potential, so we’re excited to bring him into the organization. He’s been someone we’ve kept an eye on even outside of the Rule 5 context,” Boston scouting exec Gus Quattlebaum told bloggingtheredsox.com in December. P.S. Former Ole Miss standout Bobby Wahl, released by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday, re-signed with them Thursday to a minor league deal.
A new rule in High-A ball this season has given some players what must feel like a license to steal. The pitcher must step off the rubber before making a pickoff move. No one has taken better advantage of the rule than Delvin Zinn, the former Itawamba Community College star now with the Chicago Cubs’ South Bend affiliate. Zinn pilfered his 22nd bag on Saturday; that leads all three High-A leagues. He hasn’t been thrown out once. Zinn’s career may have stalled a bit; he was drafted in 2016 and hasn’t played above A-ball. But the 5-foot-10, 170-pound shortstop does have some speed. He stole 30 bases in A-ball two years ago under the old rules. As great as his pace is this season, Zinn isn’t going to match what Billy Hamilton did at the high Class A level in 2012. The Taylorsville Tornado stole 104 bases in the California League before adding 51 more in Double-A to set an all-time pro record with 155 bags. … In Low-A ball, where the pitcher is limited to two pickoff moves per plate appearance, steals are also up this season, though none of the Mississippians at that level are exactly running wild. Former Hattiesburg High standout Joe Gray Jr., having a really good year, has eight steals for Carolina (Milwaukee), and Meridian CC product Sam McWilliams has eight for Rancho Cucamonga (Los Angeles Dodgers). Willie Joe Garry Jr., from Pascagoula, has seven bags for Fort Myers (Minnesota) while hitting .165.
Joe Gray Jr. had a day, perhaps one of his best, for Low-A Carolina in Milwaukee’s system on Tuesday. The ex-Hattiesburg High standout went 3-for-6 with a grand slam, six RBIs, four runs and a stolen base. A second-round pick in 2018, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound outfielder scuffled in his first two pro seasons, batting under .200, but is at .239 with five homers, 18 RBIs and five bags for the Mudcats. Over his last four games, Gray is 7-for-20 with three bombs. Once ranked among the Brewers’ top 10 prospects, he has dropped off the mlb.com chart. Only 21, he is certainly capable of a resurgence. Missing the 2020 season didn’t help. Gray hit .182 with two homers in 24 games in the rookie Arizona League in 2018 and .164 with three homers in 31 games in the advanced rookie Pioneer League in 2019. … Jake Mangum, the former Mississippi State and Jackson Prep star, has made a smooth adjustment to Double-A pitching. Moved up as part of the injury-riddled New York Mets’ roster shuffling, Mangum is batting .385 in three games at Binghamton in the Double-A East. He homered and drove in four runs Tuesday. He was hitting .206 in A-ball. … Delvin Zinn, the Itawamba Community College product from Pontotoc, is batting .275 with eight RBIs, 13 runs and 14 steals, tops in the High-A Central, for South Bend in the Chicago Cubs’ system. Zinn swiped 30 bags in 2019. (He was involved in a rare benches-clearing brawl that led to four ejections on Tuesday in a game against Fort Wayne; Zinn was not ejected.) … Ex-MSU standout Hunter Stovall, back in Colorado’s system after a brief detour with Philadelphia, is hitting .264 with a homer and nine RBIs for High-A Spokane. … Jordan Westburg, the 30th overall pick out of State last summer, is raking at a .373 clip with three homers and 18 RBIs for Baltimore’s Low-A Delmarva team. He might not be long for that level.
It’s not exactly King Kong vs. Godzilla, but Saturday’s doubleheader at Cresap Field in Fulton throws together the two current behemoths of Mississippi juco baseball. Pearl River Community College, ranked No. 2 in NJCAA Division II, is 14-4 in the MACCC standings, tied for first with Itawamba, ranked 11th. Not surprisingly, both of these clubs are loaded with hitters and hurlers boasting great numbers. The host Indians are led by Riley Davis, batting .484 with 24 RBIs and 28 runs, and Lane Domino, who has nine homers, 28 RBIs, 35 runs and a .398 average. On the mound, Brady Davis is 4-0, Will Armistead 3-0 and Collin Babin 4-2. PRCC features Tate Parker, hitting .398 with 10 homers and 41 RBIs, and Graham Crawford, .349 with nine bombs and 33 RBIs. Wildcats ace Landon Gartman is among the nation’s leaders at 6-0 with a 1.71 ERA. Sam Hill is 4-0, 3.18. … East Central is third in the league at 14-6 but coming off a crushing sweep at the hands of Hinds, which outscored the Warriors 21-3 behind five homers on Tuesday. ECCC visits Northwest (13-11) on Saturday. Meridian and Gulf Coast are both 12-6.
The likely delayed start of spring training for most minor leaguers scuttles what might have been a cool scene this spring in Fort Myers, Fla., site of Boston’s spring training facility. Imagine a batting practice session that includes three big dudes from Mississippi, each a newcomer to the Red Sox, each with a well-earned reputation as a masher. Imagine Hunter Renfroe, Tyreque Reed and Blaze Jordan taking their hacks in a group. Wouldn’t that be something to see? Renfroe, 6 feet 1, 230 pounds, from Crystal Springs by way of Mississippi State, has 97 home runs over his four-plus big league seasons. The Red Sox signed him as a free agent in December. Reed is from Houlka and an Itawamba Community College product. The 6-1, 250-pound first baseman has hit 41 bombs in two-plus minor league seasons at the rookie and A-ball levels. The Red Sox took him from the Texas organization in December’s Rule 5 draft. Jordan, from prep powerhouse DeSoto Central, was drafted in the third round in 2020 and jumped in as the organization’s No. 15 prospect. The 6-2, 220 third baseman has yet to play a game above the high school level, but he has been making headlines as a slugger since he was a pre-teen. He won the high school home run derby at the 2019 MLB All-Star Game. Renfroe, Reed and Jordan, launching missiles into the Florida sky at JetBlue Park. Maybe next year. P.S. Baseball America has reported that Double-A and Class A level players won’t start spring training until after the big league and Triple-A clubs have left. That means a later start and finish to the season for the lower minors, including the Class AA Mississippi and Biloxi teams. Additionally, there will be no postseason at those levels. MLB, now running the streamlined minor leagues, has not released any schedules.
Change was in the wind for several Mississippi-connected players on Thursday. On the big league front, ex-Mississippi State star Nate Lowe was traded from Tampa Bay to Texas, which has an apparent affinity for first basemen from MSU. In the Rule 5 draft’s minor league phase, three Mississippi college products changed organizations, with Ole Miss’ Errol Robinson and Southern Miss’ Chuckie Robinson going to Cincinnati and Itawamba Community College’s Tyreque Reed to Boston. Lowe, a lefty slugger who hit 11 homers in 71 games for the Rays over the last two seasons, projects as Texas’ first baseman in 2021. “I told him to expect competition, but we made this deal anticipating he would win the job and be our first baseman,” Rangers GM Jon Daniels told mlb.com. Former State star Rafael Palmeiro spent 10 of his 20 MLB seasons with the Rangers, and Will Clark manned first base for Texas for five years (between Palmeiro’s two stints there). Mitch Moreland, currently a free agent, spent the first seven of his 11 MLB seasons with the Rangers. … Errol Robinson, a shortstop, went from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Reds in the first round of the Rule 5 Triple-A phase, and Chuckie Robinson (no relation), a catcher, moved from Houston to the Reds in the third round. Errol is a .262 career hitter in four pro seasons and has reached the Triple-A level. “He’s a really good athlete. He’s extremely versatile,” Rob Coughlin, Cincinnati’s director of pro scouting, told mlb.com. Chuckie is a .249 hitter over four pro seasons and played at the Class AA level in 2019. He has a 15-homer season on his ledger. Reed, a storied slugger at Houlka High and ICC, was plucked out of the Texas system by the Red Sox in the first round of the Triple-A phase. “(W)e really believe in the power potential, so we’re excited to bring him into the organization,” Boston’s VP of professional scouting Gus Quattlebaum told mlb.com. Reed, a first baseman, is a .281 hitter with 41 homers in three pro seasons. He played high-A ball in 2019.