Rafael Palmeiro, one of seven players in MLB history with 500 homers and 3,000 hits, made the cut for the Contemporary Era Hall of Fame ballot. The former Mississippi State star is among eight finalists chosen by special committee. Also on the list are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens; like Palmeiro, their careers were tainted by PED allegations. The BBWAA will vote on these candidates on Dec. 4. Will Clark, Dave Parker and Frank White were among candidates who did not make the eight-man ballot… Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith, Mississippi’s Gatorade player of the year in 2019, went 1-for-3 with a double and RBI in Saturday’s Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game. Keith is a highly rated Detroit prospect. … MSU alum Jake Mangum made the New York Mets’ Organization All-Star team, as selected by milb.com. Mangum, an outfielder, hit .306 with four homers, 35 RBIs and 14 steals in 2022, spending most of the year in Triple-A. … Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson, ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton and MSU product Adam Frazier have elected free agency.
Bobby Abreu is among the most accomplished former Jackson Generals players. He hit .291 for his big league career with a .395 on-base average, 288 homers and 400 steals, one of just six players all-time in the 250/400 club. He was a two-time All-Star, won a Silver Slugger, a Gold Glove and a Home Run Derby. Abreu, a star right fielder for the 1994 Generals (Houston’s Double-A club), is on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot for the third time, and there is an interesting piece on mlb.com in which a panel of experts debate Abreu’s credentials. The consensus would seem to be that he won’t make the writers’ cut and likely would need to get in down the road via one of the veterans committees. Pitcher Billy Wagner, also still on the writers’ ballot, stands a much better chance of being the first ex-Gens star to be elected. … Jackson native and longtime big leaguer Chet Lemon is featured in the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s weekly e-newsletter. The Card Corner item, which includes a nice story, is Lemon’s 1988 Fleer card. Lemon batted .273 over 16 years in MLB before an illness ended his career in 1991. He was a three-time All-Star, won a ring with the 1984 Detroit Tigers and still holds the American League record of 512 putouts, set in 1977 with Chicago. Lemon’s son Marcus played for the Mississippi Braves in 2011. … Former Mississippi College standout Blaine Crim is playing for Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican (Roberto Clemente) League Championship Series, which is being televised on FS2. Game 4 is Wednesday night at 5 p.m. Crim, a Texas Rangers farmhand, batted .406 for Mayaguez this season after mashing 29 homers in the minors in 2021. … Mississippi State product Justin Foscue was named a Rangers Organization All-Star by milb.com after batting .275 with 17 homers at three levels in 2021. He also played well in the Arizona Fall League. But the second baseman’s big league path is currently blocked by Marcus Semien, who signed a huge free agent contract with Texas.
Colby White, a Mississippi State product drafted by Tampa Bay in 2019, made the Rays’ Organization All-Star team as selected by milb.com. White, a right-handed reliever, posted a 1.44 ERA while rising through four levels of the minors in 2021. Would not be a surprise to see him in the big leagues in 2022. One scout has compared White to Craig Kimbrel, which is some high praise. … Ole Miss alum and erstwhile big leaguer Jacob Waguespack has signed with the Orix Buffaloes in Japan. Waguespack spent all of 2021 in the minors for Toronto; he went 5-5 with a 5.08 ERA in 27 games for the Blue Jays in 2019-20. … Ex-State standout Jonathan Holder, who recently re-signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs, has been invited to big league spring camp. Holder, an MLB vet with a 4.38 ERA, did not pitch in the majors in 2021 because of a shoulder problem. He made two appearances in the Cubs’ minor league system and was dropped from the 40-man roster after the season. … Former MSU star Travis Chapman, a longtime minor league manager and coach, has been named the New York Yankees’ first base coach. … The Biloxi Shuckers got a shout-out (sorta) in Sports Illustrated’s year-end issue thanks to one of the craziest games of 2021. In a May 6 Double-A South contest at Birmingham, the Shuckers drew 13 walks and an HBP in one inning, scoring 12 runs en route to a 14-6 win over the Barons. SI’s Steve Rushin labeled it “Baron Wasteland” in his witty summary of the year’s oddest events. … The change in ownership of the Mississippi Braves franchise (from the Atlanta Braves/Liberty Media to Diamond Baseball Holdings) won’t affect the team’s affiliation with Atlanta or its location in Pearl, but one has to wonder if a name change might happen down the road. … Ready or not, the college season in Mississippi is slated to open on Feb. 2, when Rust College visits Tuskegee for a doubleheader that will also mark the debut of Bearcats coach John Bates. William Carey University, another NAIA program, opens at home in Hattiesburg on Feb. 4 against Lindsey Wilson. NAIA Tougaloo College starts Feb. 5 with a twinbill at Xavier of New Orleans. Tougaloo recently named its home field after longtime coach Earl Sanders, the ex-Jackson State star; the Bulldogs’ first game there is set for Feb. 19.
They don’t play the game to pick up personal honors such as milb.com Organization All-Star, but the recognition is cool. Jake Mangum, the former Jackson Prep and Mississippi State standout, became the latest Mississippian to make the grade when milb.com released the New York Mets’ list earlier this week. After batting .285 with nine homers, 47 RBIs and 14 steals in 2021, the lefty-hitting Mangum was named one of the Mets’ minor league all-star outfielders. Mangum is 25 and spent most of last season — his second in pro ball — at the Double-A level. He isn’t a highly rated prospect in the system, but the SEC’s all-time hits leader certainly opened eyes with his 2021 production, flashing some much-needed power. Mets farm director Jeremy Barnes hailed Mangum’s “insane bat-to-ball skill.” He’s also fast and plays a pretty good center field. … Not all of the Organization All-Stars have been released. The list of Mississippi products who’ve been named so far includes Jordan Westburg (MSU), Baltimore shortstop; Jacob Robson (MSU), Detroit outfielder; J.P. France (MSU), Houston right-hander; Nick Fortes (Ole Miss), Miami catcher; Thomas Dillard (UM), Milwaukee first baseman; Joe Gray, Jr. (Hattiesburg), Milwaukee outfielder; and Ethan Small (MSU), Milwaukee left-hander. Robson and Fortes made their MLB debuts in 2021. P.S. Atlanta’s all-star team includes several 2021 Mississippi Braves and a player whose arrival in 2022 will be greatly anticipated: Michael Harris II. The lefty-hitting outfielder, 6 feet, 195 pounds, was the Braves’ minor league player of the year and is ranked as their No. 1 prospect by Baseball America. He hit .294 with seven homers, 64 RBIs and 55 runs at High-A Rome last summer.
Though his projected big league debut is two years away, Mississippi State product Justin Foscue is a player to keep an eye on in 2021. Foscue, drafted 14th overall by Texas last summer, has been rated the No. 8 second base prospect in the game by MLB Pipeline. Shortly after the draft, the Rangers put Foscue on their 60-man roster and invited him to the alternate training camp. Not every 2020 draft pick got that chance. He is already at their spring training facility in Arizona and, per an interview last week on milb.com’s “The Show Before The Show” podcast, is brimming with confidence as his first actual pro season approaches. “They told me they believe in my abilities,” Foscue said. “They believe in me. I appreciated them telling me that.” He said he has devoted a lot of off-season work on his defense. “That’s where I can take the biggest jump,” he said on the podcast. Foscue, who turns 22 on March 2, is likely to spend the ’21 season in the minors – “unless something crazy happens,” he said. When he eventually encounters the bright lights, big crowds and electric moments of the major leagues, his time at State and Dudy Noble Field will have him well-prepared. As Foscue said during the podcast: “(Dudy Noble) is the best place to play in college baseball. The best. By far. Not even close. … I’m so happy I got the opportunity to play there.”
On a windy April day at Frontier Field in Rochester, N.Y., in 2019, Mississippi State alumnus Brent Rooker hit a home run. He has hit a lot of those as a pro, including one as a big leaguer in 2020, but this April 13, 2019, homer is significant because it was one of 15 balls that flew out of the park that day in a record-setting Triple-A game between Lehigh Valley and the host Red Wings. Pitchers and perhaps purists might cringe at this, but the folks at milb.com picked that game as the sixth-best of the decade (2011-19) in the minor leagues. Lehigh Valley won it 20-18, though the Iron Pigs were out-hit 22-21 by the Red Wings. Rooker went 3-for-6, and the homer was his third of that young season. … The No. 1 game on milb.com’s top 10 list also involved a Mississippi college product — and also featured a lot of offense. Ex-Ole Miss star Ryan Rolison started for Class A Lancaster (Calif.) on Aug. 14, 2019, and allowed one earned run over five innings against visiting Lake Elsinore. He departed with a 3-2 lead. But the young left-hander would get no win this day. Down 13-3 in the ninth, Lake Elsinore scored 10 times with two outs to tie it and then won 14-13 with a 10th-inning tally.
Ryan Rolison did not make it to the big leagues this season, but it’s a safe bet the ex-Ole Miss star will get the call in 2021. The 6-foot-2 left-hander, a 2018 first-round pick and Colorado’s No. 2-rated prospect, was in the Rockies’ alternate camp during the 2020 season. In a recent milb.com assessment of the Rockies’ minor league system, Rolison was pegged as “the next big thing.” “So he took steps in the right direction toward a major league career here at some point over the next year-ish,” Colorado assistant GM Zach Wilson said in the story. “When that happens, I don’t know, but he’s got himself closer to that over the last year.” Rolison, projected as a big league starter, throws four pitches and has demonstrated good command in pro ball: 132 strikeouts and 40 walks in 131 innings. He is 8-8 with a 4.40 ERA after finishing the 2019 season in the high-A California League. The Tennessee native was 16-7, 3.50 during two standout years in Oxford. Rolison will likely go to spring training to compete for a spot in a rotation that needs help after Antonio Senzatela, German Marquez and Kyle Freeland. … Three Magnolia State products made their MLB debut in 2020: Mississippi State alum Brent Rooker, ex-Ocean Springs High star Garrett Crochet and Petal High’s Demarcus Evans. P.S. Washington has re-signed Ole Miss product Aaron Barrett to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Barrett, who has a career 4.01 ERA, pitched in two games this season.
Good story now posted on milb.com about former Ole Miss star Grae Kessinger, now in the Houston Astros’ system, and the legacy he carries. Kessinger, a second-round pick by the Astros in 2019, is the grandson of ex-MLB All-Star Don, nephew of former big leaguer Keith and son of ex-minor leaguer Kevin. Grae leans on that family history. “It’s something that I think motivates me,” he said in the milb.com piece. “I think it motivates me that I know these people in my family, they gave it all they got every single day. They tell me about it and that makes me want to do it even more.” A .283 career hitter in Oxford, he played at two pro levels last summer, batting .224 with two homers and 17 RBIs in 50 games at low Class A Quad Cities. He played mostly shortstop — his UM position — but the 6-foot-2 Oxford native also got work at second and third base last season. He went 0-for-9 with a walk in big league spring action before the shutdown. P.S. Jordan Fowler, a former Ole Miss pitcher who played at Central Missouri this season, signed with Philadelphia for the $20,000 bonus available this year to eligible players not picked in the five-round draft. … The Tupelo Thunder sits atop the Cotton States League standings with a 5-0-1 record, led by Itawamba Community College alum Riley Davis (.538, four RBIs) and Blue Mountain College’s Easton Williams (2-0, 1.12 ERA).
There will be holes in Atlanta’s roster next season, and the Braves may well have the talent in their minor league system to fill them. The club’s Organization All-Stars squad, selected by the good folks at milb.com, features six prospects who played at Double-A Mississippi or higher in 2019, three of whom rank among the top 31 prospects in all of the minors. (M-Braves fans know these names.) Austin Riley, the DeSoto Central High product who moved off the prospect list and into the big leagues this summer, could be in line for the third base job if Josh Donaldson isn’t re-signed. Riley showed flashes of brilliance in Atlanta, with 18 homers and 49 RBIs in 80 games (playing mostly as a left fielder). He blasted 33 homers between Triple-A and the majors. Alex Jackson, another former M-Braves star, should be in the mix at catcher, where Brian McCann’s retirement opens a door. Jackson, who also got some big league time this summer, hit 28 homers at Triple-A Gwinnett. In the outfield, where there could be two starting jobs available next spring, there’s Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, the Nos. 11 and 23 overall prospects. Both started and excelled this season with the M-Braves before moving to Gwinnett. Waters was the Southern League MVP and batted .309 with 40 doubles and 16 steals between the two levels. Pache, whose forte is defense in center field, batted .277 with 12 bombs on the year. A step behind those two is outfielder Trey Harris, who played at three levels in 2019, finishing in Mississippi, and hit .323 overall, earning organization player of the year honors from Atlanta. “Trey probably had about as good a year as a player could have … on both sides of the ball,” Braves farm director Dom Chiti told milb.com. The two pitchers on the milb.com Organization All-Star team are right-hander Ian Anderson and lefty Tucker Davidson, both of whom starred for the M-Braves before moving to Gwinnett. Anderson, the No. 31 overall prospect, had a hand in the no-hitter in June, and Davidson made the SL All-Star team at season’s end. So, when do pitchers and catchers report?