23 May

early returns

Two games in, it appears that Jacob Gonzalez was ready for the challenge of Double-A baseball. The former Ole Miss standout is off to a 6-for-10 start for Birmingham. On Wednesday at Biloxi, the lefty-hitting shortstop doubled, homered, drove in two runs and scored twice in the Barons’ 8-4 win at MGM Park. Gonzalez’s homer came as part of a five-run 10th inning in which his former Rebels teammate Tim Elko also went yard, his fourth of the season. Gonzalez was the 15th overall pick by the Chicago White Sox in 2023 following a decorated career in Oxford, where he won a national title. He hit just .211 with four extra-base hits in rookie ball and Low-Class A last season, but that surely was an anomaly for the ChiSox’s No. 7 prospect. The California native, who goes 6 feet 2, 200 pounds, was batting .273 with three homers and 15 RBIs at High-A Winston-Salem this year before his promotion. P.S. Spencer Schwellenbach delivered another sparkling performance for the Mississippi Braves on Wednesday, throwing seven shutout innings to beat host Chattanooga. In two Double-A outings, the 23-year-old right-hander has yet to allow a run over 13 innings, yielding five hits, two walks and striking out 17. He is Atlanta’s No. 3 prospect. … Ole Miss alum Ryan Rolison — the 22nd overall pick by Colorado in 2018 — made a rehab appearance in rookie ball on Tuesday, throwing a scoreless inning. The oft-injured left-hander, once a highly rated prospect on the cusp of making the majors, made just four appearances in 2023 and none in 2022. He is currently on the Triple-Albuquerque roster. … Demarcus Evans, the onetime big leaguer from Petal, was released by Charleston of the independent Atlantic League after four appearances (12.46 ERA). He had signed with a Mexican League club in February but never pitched there. The big right-hander, 27, didn’t pitch at all in 2023 while in the New York Yankees’ organization. He has a 2.76 career ERA in the minors, a 4.75 in the majors.

04 Apr

just stuff

Brock Wilken, Wake Forest’s all-time home run leader and now Milwaukee’s No. 7 prospect, smacked a two-run homer to power the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers to a 7-0 win Wednesday night in an exhibition game against Pearl River Community College at MGM Park. The Shuckers open the Southern League season Friday at home against Montgomery. … Former Shuckers star Jackson Chourio hit his first big league homer for the Brewers in a loss, the team’s first, against Minnesota. The highly touted Chourio is off to a .350 start in his rookie campaign. … The Norfolk Tides, Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate, banged out 29 hits in a 26-11 win against Charlotte in game highlighted by Heston Kjerstad’s 10-RBI effort and Kyle Stowers’ three homers. Ole Miss alum Errol Robinson, a minor league vet in his first year in the Orioles’ system, contributed a little: one hit and two runs. He is batting .316. … Hunter Renfroe, ex-Mississippi State star, got his first hit of 2024 — he is now 1-for-19 — and picked up an assist on a sensational throw from right field, but his Kansas City club lost to Baltimore. … East Central CC alum Tim Anderson went 0-for-2 and ex-Ole Miss standout Nick Fortes 0-for-3 as Miami fell to 0-7 with a 10-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Anderson, a free agent signee, is batting .231 with one RBI, no homers and no steals. Fortes is batting .083. … MSU product Brent Rooker went 0-for-4 in Oakland’s loss to Baltimore and is at .100 on the season for the 1-6 A’s. … Former State standout Justin Foscue, recalled from the minors on Tuesday by Texas, has yet to make his MLB debut. The Rangers are off today, host Houston this weekend.

18 Mar

quite a talent pool

Fans of the Biloxi Shuckers may look back someday on their 2023 team as the best collection of talent they ever saw at MGM Park. Much of that talent was on display Sunday in Arizona when Milwaukee’s Spring Breakout team played Kansas City. Seven ’23 Shuckers were in the opening lineup — and six of them rank among the top 25 prospects in the Brewers’ loaded system, rated No. 3 in all of MLB. Milwaukee’s top prospect (per MLB Pipeline) is outfielder Jackson Chourio, who got an $82 million contract before ever playing a big league game. He’ll do that this season, possibly on opening day. He belted 22 homers and stole 43 bases for the Double-A Biloxi club last year. The leadoff batter on Sunday was first baseman Tyler Black, the Brewers’ No. 4 prospect, who hit 14 homers and stole 47 bases for the Shuckers. He tripled and scored in the Spring Breakout game. Jeferson Quero, a catcher who ranks No. 3 in the Brewers’ system, hit 16 homers for Biloxi last year. He DH’d and hit cleanup Sunday, followed by catcher Wes Clarke (No. 25), who belted 26 bombs for the ’23 Shuckers. Also in Sunday’s lineup, batting third, was third baseman Brock Wilken (No. 7) and shortstop Eric Brown Jr., both of whom got some Double-A time last year. The starting pitcher was Jacob Misiorowski, Milwaukee’s No. 2, who made five starts for the Shuckers a year ago and threw 2 2/3 hitless innings with five strikeouts on Sunday. Expect to see many of these players in Milwaukee soon. Note: Former Magnolia Heights High star Cooper Pratt, a 2023 draft pick already pegged as Milwaukee’s No. 10 prospect, got in Sunday’s game at shortstop. He’ll be in Biloxi soon enough, possibly in 2025.

14 Mar

clearing the bases

Anthony Alford hit his first home run of the spring Wednesday for Cincinnati in the Cactus League. The two-run shot by the former Petal High star, in Reds camp as a non-roster invitee, came at the expense of former Mississippi State standout Ethan Small, who yielded five runs (two homers) in two innings in San Francisco’s 19-11 loss. Small, trying to earn a spot in the Giants’ bullpen, has a 9.53 ERA this spring. … Southern Miss alum Matt Wallner hit his first homer of the spring for Minnesota in the Grapefruit League. Wallner, USM’s all-time homer leader, belted 14 in 76 games for the Twins last year. … Aaron Downs, a junior out of Heritage Academy, delivered an 11th-inning walk-off single for MSU in a 2-1 win over New Orleans at MGM Park in Biloxi. It was the first RBI of the season for Downs. The Bulldogs (13-5) play defending national champion LSU in Starkville this weekend to open SEC play. … Ole Miss (13-5 with seven straight wins) launches SEC play Friday against nationally ranked South Carolina in Oxford. … Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson will host a pair of SWAC series over three days this weekend with Mississippi Valley State playing Bethune-Cookman and winless Alcorn State meeting Grambling State in three-game sets. … In the first regular season NAIA coaches poll released on Wednesday, William Carey — preseason No. 4 — fell out of the Top 25. The Crusaders, who made the NAIA World Series in 2023, are 13-9 and 4-5 in the SSAC. Blue Mountain Christian (18-5, 5-4 SSAC) did not get any votes in the new poll. … East Central Community College, ranked No. 1 in NJCAA Division II, beat No. 15 Meridian 7-5 and 4-3 to improve to 27-0 and 4-0 MACCC. … Jackson Prep, 18-2 and ranked No. 2 in the state by Prep Baseball Report, beat ninth-ranked Sumrall 7-2 to finish a 3-1 run through the Battle at the Beach. Patriots star — and LSU commit — Konnor Griffin threw six one-hit innings with 12 strikeouts and got two knocks in the Sumrall win. Lewisburg, ranked No. 1 by Prep Baseball Report, plays in the four-team Southeastern High School Baseball Classic at Trustmark Park this weekend. … MaxPreps’ latest state rankings have Hartfield Academy No. 1, followed by Lewisburg. Prep is fifth in that poll.

14 Sep

something to see

Fans in Biloxi are being served quite the treat this week. The Double-A Shuckers and Montgomery Biscuits are in a showdown for the second-half championship in the Southern League South, and both teams are stacked with major league prospects. (For the record, fans did not exactly flock to MGM Park for the first two games of the series: An announced 1,801 turned out to see the Shuckers win the opener 11-7, and 1,552 witnessed the Biscuits’ 4-2 win on Wednesday.) Biloxi trails Montgomery by 1.5 games and needs to win three of the remaining four to win the title and make the postseason for the first time since 2019. The Shuckers feature six of Milwaukee’s top 10 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline’s rankings. That list includes No. 1 Jackson Chourio, No. 2 Jeferson Quero and No. 7 Brock Wilken. Chourio, an outfielder, is batting .276 with 22 home runs, 88 RBIs and 41 steals. He is the No. 2 overall prospect in the minors. Wilken, a third baseman, hit a grand slam in his Biloxi debut on Tuesday. Tampa Bay’s top-rated prospect is Biscuits third baseman Junior Caminero, who is batting .315 with 20 homers and 62 RBIs; he is the No. 6 overall prospect. Montgomery also trots out Rays No. 2 Carson Williams and No. 13 Mason Auer. Former Mississippi State standout Colby White, coming back from Tommy John surgery last season, threw a clean inning for the Biscuits on Wednesday. White reached Triple-A in 2021 and is on Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster.

11 Sep

going forward

On the day when the Atlanta Braves clinched a National League playoff berth with a victory at Truist Park, there was also a clinching at Trustmark Park, home of the Braves’ Double-A club. But it wasn’t the Mississippi Braves who celebrated on Sunday — it was the visiting Tennessee Smokies, who rallied late to beat the M-Braves 6-4 and clinch the second-half title in the Southern League North. One of the key players for the Smokies — a Chicago Cubs affiliate — is former Southern Miss star Walker Powell, who is 11-6 with a 3.57 ERA. The league leader in wins and WHIP (1.07), he pitched brilliantly in a no-decision against the M-Braves last week. The M-Braves finished their 2023 home schedule before an announced crowd of 2,113 with a 32-36 record. They are 26-37 (last in the SL South) in the second half and 59-72 overall with a series left at Pensacola. … There will be a clinching this week at MGM Park in Biloxi, where the Shuckers and the Montgomery Biscuits, two of the hottest teams in the minors, will play a six-game series that’ll decide the second-half title in the SL South. The Biscuits (Tampa Bay) have won 10 straight games and lead the Shuckers (Milwaukee), who’ve won nine of 10, by 1.5 games. … Among other clinchings in the minors on Sunday, Binghamton (New York Mets) claimed a second-half division title in the Double-A Eastern League with a 10-0 win at Hartford. Ex-Mississippi State standout Rowdey Jordan went 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs for the Rumble Ponies. The third-year pro is hitting .227 with 13 homers, 58 RBIs and 28 stolen bases. P.S. Kudos to Atlanta manager Brian Snitker, the skipper of the original M-Braves club in 2005, who has had the big Braves in the postseason six straight years, winning the World Series in 2021. Six former M-Braves played in Sunday’s 5-2 win over Pittsburgh.

29 Jul

on the rise

The Biloxi Shuckers won their fourth straight game Friday night at MGM Park and moved into a tie for first place in the Southern League South, fueled by a pair of the top prospects in Milwaukee’s productive pipeline. Jackson Chourio, the No. 2 prospect (per mlb.com) in the minor leagues, went 3-for-5 with two doubles, two RBIs and three runs in the Shuckers’ 9-5 win against Birmingham, and Tyler Black — the Brewers’ No. 5 prospect — added a triple, two RBIs, two runs and a stolen base. Chourio, signed out of Venezuela in 2021, is batting .281 with 15 homers, 65 RBIs, 57 runs and 31 steals. Black, the 33rd overall pick out of Wright State in 2021, is at .281 with 14 bombs, 46 RBIs, 67 runs and 45 steals, which leads the league. Black leads off and Chourio hits second for a Shuckers team that features six of the Brewers’ top 15 prospects. Four recent Shuckers alums — Sal Frelick, Brice Turang, Joey Wiemer and Abner Uribe — have had an impact as rookies for the Brewers, who lead the National League Central. The Shuckers, winners of eight of their last 10, moved to 15-10 in the second half with Friday’s win. They got an assist from the Mississippi Braves, who took down first-place Pensacola 4-1 Friday at Trustmark Park as Nolan Kingham threw five shutout innings, Jesse Franklin V banged out three hits and two RBIs and Drew Lugbauer slugged his 15th homer. P.S. Former Mississippi State star Adam Frazier didn’t get a hit Friday for Baltimore but made two great stops at second base and turned a double play to help the first-place Orioles beat the New York Yankees — and Aaron Judge — 1-0 at Camden Yards. Anthony Santander hit a walk-off bomb in the ninth. … As part of the Chicago White Sox’s fire sale, Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers and ex-MSU standout Kendall Graveman went to Houston. Lynn is 6-9 with a 6.47 ERA this year but is 129-93, 3.71, for his career. Graveman, who pitched for the Astros in 2021, is 8-for-12 in save opps with a 3.48 ERA in 2023.

28 Jun

a clean start (sorta)

The do-over starts tonight for the Mississippi Braves, who play Biloxi at MGM Park. With the start of the second half of the Southern League season, the team’s record is wiped clean. Considering that the M-Braves finished last in the South Division at 33-35, that’s a good thing. The Shuckers went 34-35, so the do-over is welcome there, too. Unfortunately for many of the M-Braves players, their individual numbers will follow them into the second half. But perhaps they’ll feel like they’re getting a fresh start, a feeling Alan Rangel — tonight’s starting pitcher — would welcome. The right-hander is 1-7 with a 4.91 ERA. He’s better than those numbers. The Mexico native, 25, is on his third tour with the Double-A M-Braves. He was the winning pitcher in the deciding game of the 2021 Double-A South championship series. He made it to Triple-A in 2022 and, for a brief time last September, was in the big leagues, though he never got into a game. He’ll make his 13th start of 2023 tonight against Biloxi, hoping to notch his first win since May 14. He’ll also be hoping that the M-Braves’ bats perk up against the Shuckers’ Carlos F. Rodriguez, 4-2, 3.02. After making a long climb to get over .500, the M-Braves finished the first half with a whimper, losing their last three and scoring a total of four runs. They’ve had two days off to recharge. Drew Lugbauer, batting .271 with 12 homers, is expected back in the lineup after a stint on the injured list. Landon Stephens, despite a .220 average, has emerged as a power threat with 13 homers. But the top Atlanta prospects on the roster have scuffled: Jesse Franklin V is at .214, Cal Conley at .221 and Tyler Tolve at .247. The M-Braves are next-to-last in the league in runs, first in ERA. In the first half, that was not a winning formula. As of right now, they are 0-0.

31 Mar

opening acts

One of the most disappointing MLB teams in 2022, the Chicago White Sox needed to get off to a good start this season. With the aid of Mississippi products Tim Anderson and Kendall Graveman, they did exactly that on Thursday, beating the world champion Houston Astros 3-2. Anderson, former East Central Community College star, went 2-for-4 with a walk and a run — both in a ninth-inning rally — and Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman earned the win after throwing a scoreless eighth inning. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, like Anderson and Graveman a star in the WBC, gets the start for the ChiSox today at Minute Maid Park. Elsewhere on Opening Day, MSU alum Adam Frazier, in his Baltimore debut, went 2-for-4 with three runs and a stolen base as the Orioles beat Boston 10-9. Ex-Bulldogs standout Nathaniel Lowe had a hit, an RBI and a run, all in a nine-run fourth inning that propelled Texas past Philadelphia 11-7. Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star, went 0-for-2 with three walks and an RBI in Atlanta’s 7-2 victory against Washington. Meridian CC product Corey Dickerson was 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter in his Nationals debut. Hunter Renfroe was 0-for-4 (with a nice catch in right field) for the Los Angeles Angels and fellow former State standout Brent Rooker 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter for Oakland in the A’s 2-1 surprising win. P.S. The exhibition game between the Double-A Mississippi Braves and Jackson State scheduled for April 5 has been cancelled, reportedly due to concerns about field conditions at Trustmark Park in Pearl. (Tuesday night’s Southern Miss-Ole Miss game was cancelled in the fourth inning because recently installed infield sod was not holding up, and Belhaven University’s weekend series against Covenant College has been moved to Holmes Community College’s field in Goodman.) The M-Braves-JSU game — billed as the Hank Aaron Tribute Game by the Hank Aaron Sports Academy — was originally slated for Smith-Wills Stadium, home of the Double-A Jackson Mets and Generals from 1975-99. It would have been the first such contest between JSU and a Jackson-area pro team since 1991, when the Generals — a Houston affiliate — beat Jackson State 6-3 in an April exhibition at Smith-Wills. The M-Braves, Atlanta’s Double-A club now in its 19th year at Trustmark Park, open their Southern League season April 7 at home against Biloxi. The Shuckers, Milwaukee’s Double-A club, have slated an exhibition vs. Pearl River Community College on April 5 at MGM Park.

12 Mar

odds and ends

Sal Frelick, who played for the Biloxi Shuckers in 2022, went 3-for-5 with two RBIs to help Italy upset The Netherlands in pool play today and reach the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic. Frelick, an outfielder, is one of Milwaukee’s top-rated prospects and likely will make his MLB debut in 2023. … Mississippi State product Jacob Robson went 4-for-4 with a walk, scored three times and drove in a run as Canada opened WBC play with an 18-8 win against Great Britain. Robson played independent ball last year and spent several seasons in Detroit’s system. He got some big league time in 2021. … Delta State swept a three-game series from Christian Brothers this weekend to improve to an eye-popping 77-4 all-time against its Gulf South Conference rival. … Surging Blue Mountain Christian suddenly dropped three straight at home against SSAC power Mobile to fall to 18-7, 3-3. The Toppers’ Josh Smith, the NAIA pitcher of the week, got roughed up for 10 hits, seven walks and five earned runs in the series opener. Mobile is 20-2, 6-0. … William Carey dropped two of three to Talladega in Hattiesburg in its SSAC opening series. The Crusaders, who had never lost to Talladega, are 16-6 overall. … After its controversial (see previous post) loss against New Orleans on Friday, Mississippi Valley State fell 35-3 to the Privateers on Saturday and 16-3 today. (Note: Valley’s Davon Mims was 1-for-8 with five strikeouts, presumably all legit, in Games 2 and 3.) … Mississippi State, 11-5 with five wins in a row, will play Nicholls State and Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday and Wednesday at MGM Park in Biloxi. … Former Ole Miss right-hander James McArthur was optioned to Triple-A by Philadelphia. The 2018 draftee has yet to make his big league debut. … There is a nice piece on former Jackson Mets standout Al Pedrique on milb.com. The new manager of the Double-A Reading Phillies has been playing, coaching or managing in pro ball since 1978. He spent parts of four seasons as the JaxMets’ shortstop in the early 1980s and played parts of three years in the majors. “What is beautiful about this game is you learn something every day,” Pedrique said.