01 Jun

banging on door

Sent back to the minors despite going 6-for-6 in his last two games for Minnesota, Matt Wallner has responded by banging out six hits, including two home runs, in his first two games for Triple-A St. Paul. He had a double, triple and homer on Tuesday, a homer and two singles on Wednesday. The former Southern Miss standout has crushed the ball with such ferocity that a St. Paul broadcaster called him “Judge-like.” A 6-foot-4, 220-pound lefty-hitting outfielder, Wallner is batting .298 with six homers and 21 RBIs for the Saints. He was at .368 in 19 at-bats for the Twins when they optioned him out to make room for Max Kepler, who came off the injured list. The Twins, clinging to first place in the American League Central, surely can’t keep Wallner down on the farm for long. … There are several other Mississippi products in Triple-A seemingly banging on the big league door. At Norfolk (Baltimore system), Mississippi State alum Jordan Westburg is batting .311 with 14 homers and 47 RBIs. The Orioles’ No. 3 prospect, who has played shortstop, third base, second and the outfield this season, hit nine homers in May. At Sugar Land (Houston), Oxford native and Ole Miss alum Grae Kessinger is batting .286 after a 3-for-7 effort in a pair of games on Wednesday. He hit his sixth homer and has 31 RBIs. At Louisville (Cincinnati), ex-USM star Chuckie Robinson went 2-for-4 with two RBIs on Wednesday and is batting .331 with six homers and 29 runs driven in. Robinson got a brief look with the Reds last season. At Jacksonville (Miami), Flowood native and ex-MSU standout Jake Mangum is hitting .307 after an 0-for-3 Wednesday. The speedy outfielder has two homers, 22 RBIs and seven steals. At Round Rock (Texas), Mississippi College product Blaine Crim is batting .255 with four homers and 18 RBIs and former State star Justin Foscue is at .272 with seven and 23 plus seven steals. At Albuquerque (Arizona), MSU alum Hunter Stovall is batting .296 with 27 runs in 32 games. P.S. Kudos to ex-Ole Miss standout Nick Fortes, who got his second career walk-off hit for Miami, an RBI single in the ninth against San Diego closer Josh Hader. … Tough day for Lance Lynn and Justin Steele, starting pitchers for Chicago on Wednesday (see previous post). Ole Miss alum Lynn gave up eight runs in four innings in a loss for the White Sox and George County High product Steele was pulled with left forearm tightness after throwing three perfect innings for the Cubs, who would go on to lose. … William Carey University’s great season ended with a 15-6 loss to Lewis-Clark State in a semifinal game at the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. The Crusaders won the SSAC regular season title, climbed to No. 8 in the national poll and finished 49-11; their last win in Idaho was coach Bobby Halford’s 1,300th at WCU. … Congrats to East Central, Purvis and East Union for winning series openers in the MHSAA state championships at Pearl. East Union’s Landon Harmon tossed a perfect game.

26 May

the hot list

If Dalton Rogers was overshadowed a bit on Southern Miss’ outstanding pitching staff in 2022, that is not the case now that he is in the Boston Red Sox’s system. A third-round pick by Boston last year, Rogers was named one of the 30 “Hottest Pitching Prospects” this month by MLB Pipeline. The left-hander, a Northwest Rankin High alum, had a 2.49 ERA with 38 strikeouts and 13 walks in 21 1/3 innings over six starts at Low-Class A Salem when he was promoted on Wednesday. He went 4 1/3 for High-A Greenville in his debut that night, allowing three hits and one run (a homer) while fanning seven and walking four against Rome, Atlanta’s affiliate. (Greenville won the game 7-1 as ex-DeSoto Central High star Blaze Jordan homered and drove in four runs. Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product Brandon Parker struck out twice for the R-Braves against Rogers.) Rated the Red Sox’s No. 24 prospect on mlb.com, the 5-foot-11 Rogers has a “drop-and-drive delivery” that gives him “exceptional carry on his (low-90s) heater,” according to the scouting report. Rogers transferred to USM in 2022 from Jones College, where he was an All-MACCC pick in 2021. He had a 1.95 ERA and six saves in 23 games for a Golden Eagles team that featured Tanner Hall and Hurston Waldrep and was oh-so-close to a College World Series trip. … Also on the “Hottest Prospects” list is former Jackson Prep standout Will Warren, now in Triple-A with the New York Yankees. A third-year pro, Warren was 3-0 with a 2.45 in Double-A but has had a couple of bumpy outings since moving to the new level.

19 May

arm robbery

Home runs by Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani were certainly highlight-worthy plays in the Los Angeles Angels’ 6-5 win at Baltimore on Thursday. Not to be overlooked was Hunter Renfroe’s throw in the bottom of the ninth inning. The former Mississippi State standout took a ball that hopped off the right-field wall, whirled and cut down former Bulldogs teammate Adam Frazier at second base for the second out of the inning. Angels manager Phil Nevin called the throw “incredible.” “I’ve seen him make a couple against me, I know that,” Nevin said in a TV interview. “It’s nice to have it on my side once.” Renfroe, in his first season with the Angels, has five assists from right field in 43 games in 2023 and 62 all told in his big league career. (And runners don’t challenge him all that often.) Renfroe is hitting .250 with 10 homers, a total matched by Trout and Ohtani on Thursday. P.S. East Central Community College plays No. 1 LSU-Eunice today for the NJCAA Division II Region 23 championship and a berth in the juco World Series. ECCC beat LSU-E in a winners bracket game Thursday, then lost to the Bengals in a later rematch. LSU-E eliminated defending national champ Pearl River in between. … Kudos to: Southern Miss’ Tanner Hall for notching his 11th win of the season — and USM’s 14th straight — with eight shutout innings against Louisiana-Lafayette; Mississippi State’s Amani Larry for his walk-off home run against Texas A&M; former Mississippi Braves star Freddie Freeman, now with the Dodgers, for his 300th career homer; former Ole Miss standout Doug Nikhazy for his first Double-A win for Cleveland’s Akron club; Jackson Prep product Will Warren for a win in his Triple-A debut for the New York Yankees’ Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team; and Jackson Prep for claiming its sixth straight MAIS 6A state title with a win over Madison-Ridgeland Academy.

18 May

atta boys

Luis Cano: The freshman right-hander, one of several stars for East Central Community College on Wednesday, worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to save an 8-5 win against No. 1-ranked LSU-Eunice and propel the Warriors into the NJCAA Division II Region 23 championship round. Cano is a Mexico native who pitched at Belmont High in 2022.
Davis Bradshaw: The ex-McLaurin High and Meridian CC star went 2-for-3 for High-Class A Beloit in the Miami system and raised his average to .415, which leads the Midwest League. Bradshaw has 13 hits in his last six games.
Will Warren: The former Jackson Prep standout, 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA at Double-A Somerset, has been promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre by the New York Yankees and will make his debut at the new level tonight.
Ryan Rolison: The Ole Miss alum, making his first live appearance in a game since August 2021, threw three scoreless innings on a rehab assignment for Low-A Fresno in the Colorado system. The former 2018 first-round draftee has yet to make his big league debut.
Bobby Bradley: The former Harrison Central High star — and erstwhile big leaguer — belted his eighth home run (in 15 games) for Charleston in the independent Atlantic League. Bradley has 188 homers in his pro career.
Garrett Crochet: The Ocean Springs native, who missed all of the ’22 season after Tommy John surgery, has been activated from the injured list by the Chicago White Sox but has yet to appear in a game. The left-hander, a first-round pick out of Tennessee in 2020, has a 2.45 career ERA over 59 games.
Mike Mayers: The ex-Ole Miss standout, back in the majors with Kansas City, threw 2 2/3 innings in middle relief, allowing six baserunners but just one run in the Royals’ 4-3 win against San Diego. Mayers, an eight-year MLB vet, was signed to a minor league contract in the off-season and had been pitching at Triple-A Omaha.
Corey Dickerson: The Meridian CC alum from McComb, fresh off the IL, homered in his first at-bat since April 1 for Washington. He has 135 homers and 994 hits over his 11-year MLB career.
Orlando Arcia: The former Biloxi Shuckers star, now Atlanta’s shortstop, hit a game-winning homer in the ninth inning as the Braves took down Texas 6-5 in a battle of first-place teams. Arcia is hitting .342 with four homers.

15 May

as the seams turn

Life in the minor leagues can be quite the roller coaster. There are good days and bad days, all part of the process. A sampling of the experiences on Sunday of a handful of pitchers with Mississippi ties: In the Low-Class A Florida State League, former Southern Miss and West Lauderdale High standout Ben Ethridge pitched the final inning of a four-man no-hitter for Fort Myers, notching his first career save. The right-hander, a 2022 draftee making his pro debut this season, has enjoyed a run of good days; he has a 1.13 ERA over nine games for the Minnesota farm club. Ben Ethridge is not to be confused with Will Ethridge (no relation), an Ole Miss alumnus who pitched for Colorado’s Double-A Hartford club on Sunday. Will Ethridge, a four-year pro, allowed three hits and a run in 1 2/3 innings of relief work in a game his Yard Goats lost 9-2. Converted to the bullpen this season, Ethridge has a 2.35 ERA in four appearances; his numbers as a starter in three prior seasons in the low minors weren’t so good (13-15, 4.50 ERA). At Double-A Midland in the Texas League, former Mississippi State star J.T. Ginn, a highly regarded Oakland prospect now in his third pro season, came off the injured list Sunday to make a start. It was a bad day. Brandon native Ginn retired just one batter, allowing four hits, a walk, an HBP and six runs. His ERA swelled to 12.83 over four starts. It was a tough day also for Jonathan Holder, the ex-State standout who is trying to get back to the big leagues in the Los Angeles Angels’ system. On in the ninth for the save for Triple-A Salt Lake, Holder loaded the bases on two hits and a walk and was undone by a two-out error on his third baseman that allowed the tying and winning runs to score for Sacramento. Holder, soon to turn 30, fell to 0-4; the Gulfport native has a 4.58 ERA in 12 games. P.S. The Double-A Mississippi Braves, who got off to a rough start this year, completed a five-game series sweep of Chattanooga at Trustmark Park on Sunday as starter Alan Rangel (1-3) went five innings and punched out 10 batters in a 10-5 win. Victor Vodnik, an Atlanta prospect, got the last five outs for the save. Cade Bunnell hit a grand slam on his 26th birthday. The M-Braves are now 14-18.

11 May

worth noting

Justin Steele, former George County High standout, ran his record to 6-0 on Wednesday, throwing six strong innings for the Chicago Cubs in a 10-4 win over rival St. Louis at Wrigley Field. “It was a fun game,” he told The Associated Press. Steele, who has a 1.82 ERA, yielded three earned runs, the first time in 15 starts dating to 2022 that the left-hander had allowed more than two. … For the other Chicago team, ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn gave up a career-high seven earned runs against Kansas City and saw his record drop to 1-5 and ERA rise to 7.51. The crumbling White Sox also placed Taylorsville native Billy Hamilton on the injured list. The 11-year veteran, now basically a pinch-running specialist, had scored two runs and stolen two bases in three games since his call-up earlier this month. … On a brighter note for White Sox fans, former Ocean Springs High star Garrett Crochet posted back-to-back scoreless outings on Tuesday and Wednesday at Triple-A Charlotte as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. … In the independent Atlantic League, Gulfport’s Bobby Bradley hit his fourth home run for Charleston. It was just the fifth hit of the young season for the ex-big leaguer, batting .147 for the Dirty Birds. Braxton Lee, the ex-Pearl River Community College and Ole Miss star, lifted his average to .378 with a 2-for-3 game and drove in three runs in a win for Southern Maryland; Jacques Pucheu, an East Mississippi CC alum, made his fourth straight scoreless relief appearance for the Blue Crabs. … Tyler Tolve, an Atlanta catching prospect, went 0-for-4 with a walk and a run in his Double-A debut Wednesday in a win by the Mississippi Braves at Trustmark Park. Tolve hit .261 with 12 homers at High-Class A Rome in 2022. … Former Hattiesburg High standout Joe Gray Jr. went 0-for-4 for Double-A Biloxi at MGM Park and saw his average dip to .038 (1-for-26) in six games since Milwaukee promoted him to the Shuckers. … Jackson Prep product Will Warren, a New York Yankees prospect, leads the Double-A Eastern League in strikeouts with 37. He is 2-0 with a 3.09 ERA in five starts for Somerset. Ex-Ole Miss star Tim Elko (White Sox system) leads the Class A Carolina League in homers with 10, and ex-South Panola High standout Emaarion Boyd (Philadelphia system) tops the Class A Florida State League with 18 stolen bases. Davis Bradshaw (Miami system), a Meridian CC and McLaurin High alum, had three hits Wednesday to raise his average to .378, second in the Class A Midwest League. … The first-round pairings are set for Monday’s NJCAA Divison II Region 23 Tournament at Eunice, La. State champion East Central will play Itawamba; defending national champ Pearl River draws Meridian; and Northeast gets No. 1-ranked LSU-Eunice. The winner of the double-elimination tourney goes to the juco World Series in Enid, Okla.

04 May

farm livin’

After four-plus seasons of grinding in the low minors, former Hattiesburg High star Joe Gray Jr. received a promotion to Double-A Biloxi on Tuesday. Gray, a second-round draft pick by Milwaukee five years ago, was batting .247 with a homer, 12 RBIs and five steals at High-Class A Wisconsin when the Brewers moved him. Two games into the big jump, he is still looking for his first hit, having started 0-for-9 with four strikeouts in a series at Montgomery. The 23-year-old outfielder, considered a 5-tool player in high school, has fallen off the Brewers’ prospect charts; he is a .212 career hitter though he has flashed some power and speed. It’s time to put it all together. … The Colorado Rockies, currently 11-20, look like a team that could use some help. Maybe they’ve got an eye on what Hunter Stovall is doing at Triple-A Albuquerque. The Mississippi State product is batting .381 in 17 games. He was on base six times in the Isotopes’ 22-4 win over Sugar Land on Wednesday, hitting his first home run of the season, scoring three runs and knocking in two. The middle infielder, 26, is in his fifth year of pro ball. … Jordan Westburg is clamoring for a call-up from Baltimore. The ex-State star went 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs for Triple-A Norfolk and is at .337 for the year with six bombs. He has played five different positions this season, though second base might be where he fits best. … Southern Miss alum Chuckie Robinson is batting .414 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 20 games at Triple-A Louisville. If or when Cincinnati needs a catcher, he looks ready for a second MLB stint. … Pitching exclusively out of the bullpen this season, former MSU ace Ethan Small has done solid work for Milwaukee’s Triple-A Nashville club. The lefty, the Brewers’ No. 13 prospect, tossed three scoreless innings Wednesday, trimming his ERA to 2.70 in nine appearances. His brief big league looks as a starter in 2022 didn’t go well, but he’ll get another shot in this new role. … Hoping to become the first Mississippi College alum to play in the majors since Harry Craft in 1942, Blaine Crim just keeps banging in the Texas system. Crim, a first baseman, went 2-for-5 for Triple-A Round Rock in a Wednesday doubleheader to boost his average to .300 with two homers and seven RBIs. He is a .304 career hitter over four minor league campaigns. P.S. Taylorsville native Billy Hamilton, the speedy MLB veteran, is back in The Show with the Chicago White Sox and in two appearances as a pinch runner, he has a run and a stolen base. The White Sox won both games.

02 May


Konnor Pilkington, Mississippi State alum, has been traded to Arizona from Cleveland, which designated the Pascagoula native for assignment on April 26. The Diamondbacks, who need some pitching help, sent the left-hander to Triple-A Reno, but he figures to get a big league call soon. Originally drafted out of MSU by the Chicago White Sox in 2018, Pilkington posted a 3.88 ERA for the Guardians in 15 games in 2022, working as both a starter and reliever. He made one scoreless appearance this season, spending most of the first month at Triple-A Columbus, where his numbers weren’t great. … Braxton Lee, the ex-Ole Miss standout from Picayune, is the hitting coach for the independent Southern Maryland club — and he is leading by example. Lee, who had a brief MLB stint in 2018, also plays outfield for the Blue Crabs and is batting .300 in their 3-0 start. He hit .306 for them last season. Jackson native Stan Cliburn is the manager of the Atlantic League team. … Former East Central Community College star Tim Anderson is slated to return to the White Sox’s lineup today at home against Minnesota. The All-Star shortstop has been out since April 10 with a knee injury. … Meridian CC product Corey Dickerson, now with the Washington Nationals, remains on the shelf with no clear timetable to return, per reports. The career .281 hitter played two games for the Nats before going down with a calf injury. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz was shut down by San Diego from his rehab assignment after a rough outing at Triple-A El Paso last week. That’s not a good sign for the 34-year-old lefty, who missed all of 2022 after arm surgery. … Emaarion Boyd, a 2023 draftee out of South Panola High by Philadelphia, has 14 stolen bases at Low-Class A Clearwater despite batting just .191. Boyd’s steals total leads the Florida State League and ranks among the best in the minors. … Props to Mississippi Braves slugger Drew Lugbauer, who hit his 50th career homer last week, extending his club record. The sobering news is that Lugbauer, 26, has been in Double-A long enough — parts of three years — to hit 50 homers.

28 Apr

minor matters

Putting up numbers is typically the key to advancement in the minor leagues. Several Mississippi-connected players are doing precisely that. To wit: At Triple-A Jacksonville in the Miami system, former Mississippi State and Jackson Prep standout Jake Mangum is batting .339 and slugging .500 (six extra-base hits) in 17 games. The switch-hitting outfielder is in his first season with the Marlins after being traded by the New York Mets in December. At High-Class A Beloit in the Marlins’ system, Meridian Community College and McLaurin High product Davis Bradshaw is hitting .368 (with a current six-game hit streak) in 14 games. The lefty-hitting outfielder got a look in Double-A in 2022 and is bidding for another. At Double-A Erie in Detroit’s chain, former Biloxi High star Colt Keith is hitting .300 (despite a recent skid) with three homers and 11 RBIs. The lefty-hitting third baseman is a highly rated Tigers prospect. At Low-A Kannapolis in the Chicago White Sox’s system, ex-Ole Miss star Tim Elko (see previous post) leads the Carolina League in homers (six) and RBIs (24) and is batting .362 through 17 games in his first full pro campaign. At High-A Brooklyn in the Mets’ organization, former Southern Miss standout Tyler Stuart has a 1.98 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings in three starts. The 6-foot-9 right-hander was a 2022 draftee. At Low-A Augusta in the Atlanta system, former Smithville High star Jared Johnson is 1-0 with a 1.29 in three appearances. The 2019 draftee’s progress has been slowed by injuries. P.S. Mississippi State alum Brent Rooker took Shohei Ohtani deep on Thursday and now has seven homers this season, tied with Hunter Renfroe for most in MLB by a Mississippian. Rooker, in his first season with Oakland, has 18 RBIs, tops among state-connected players, and is hitting .305.

23 Apr

around the horn

Names of note from a Saturday chock-full of diamond doings:
Kellum Clark, Luke Hancock, Slate Alford and Amani Larry hit home runs for Mississippi State in a hair-raising 11-10 win at Auburn.
Dustin Dickerson extended his hit streak to 17 games, but Southern Miss took one on the chin for the second straight day at Coastal Carolina, which has scored 35 times in the first two games of this key Sun Belt series.
Hunter Elliott’s much-anticipated return to the mound for Ole Miss was spoiled by LSU, which scored five times vs. Elliott in the first inning and beat the ailing Rebels 8-4 in Oxford.
Jatavis Melton rapped out three hits, including a homer, scored three times and drove in three runs to lead Jackson State to a 14-8 win at Alabama A&M.
A.J. Stinson threw a seven-inning, two-hit shutout to cap William Carey’s doubleheader sweep at Blue Mountain, running the Crusaders’ record to 34-9.
Sam Pitre belted a grand slam to propel Millsaps to a big 8-7 SAA win against Oglethorpe.
Jacob Pearson hit a walk-off grand slam to give the Double-A Mississippi Braves a split against Montgomery in a twinbill that drew an announced 5,689 to Pearl’s Trustmark Park.
Ethan Murray hit a grand slam for the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers in a win at Rocket City.
Blaze Jordan, the former DeSoto Central High slugger, went 4-for-5 with his first homer of the season for Boston’s High-Class A Greenville club.
Hunter Renfroe, former MSU standout, hit two homers and a double in a loss for the Los Angeles Angels and now has six bombs on the year, more than Shohei Ohtani or Mike Trout.
Former Biloxi Shuckers star Mauricio Dubon, filling in for injured Jose Altuve, extended his hit streak to 16 games, best active in MLB, to help Houston beat Atlanta 6-3.
Former M-Braves standout Ozzie Albies hit his fifth homer for the Braves in the loss at Truist Park.
M-Braves alum Joey Meneses put up a four-hit game for Washington.
M-Braves alum Cristian Pache hit his first homer of the year for Philadelphia and is 6-for-20 on the year with his new club.
Ex-Biloxi Shuckers star Josh Hader registered his seventh save in San Diego’s 11th win of the season.