22 Sep

boys of fall

The most interesting name among the handful of Mississippi products headed for the Arizona Fall League is Will Bednar. The Most Outstanding Player in the 2021 College World Series for champion Mississippi State, Bednar has been beset by injury issues in pro ball. San Francisco drafted the right-hander with the 14th overall pick in ’21, but he has pitched in only 20 games since. A lingering back injury limited Bednar to four appearances in rookie ball this year; he went 1-2 with a 4.22 ERA and finished the season on the injured list. He’ll face much stiffer competition in the prospect-packed AFL, which begins on Oct. 2. Others on AFL rosters: Former Southern Miss pitcher Ben Ethridge put up a 3-6 record with a 2.99 ERA in Low-Class A for Minnesota in his second pro season. … MSU product Rowdey Jordan, a member of the ’21 champs, hit .230 with 13 homers, 63 RBIs and 30 steals in Double-A for the New York Mets. … Ex-Northeast Mississippi Community College left-hander Tyler Samaniego, 15th-round draft pick by Pittsburgh out of South Alabama in 2021, was 2-1 with six saves and a 5.51 in Double-A this year. … MSU alum Eric Cerantola, a fifth-rounder in 2021, was 3-4, 3.66, at the High-A and Double-A levels for Kansas City. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of IMG Academy in Florida in 2019, went 4-6, 3.42, at the High-A and Double-A levels in 2023. … Tyler Tolve, a catcher with the Mississippi Braves this season, is among Atlanta’s AFL reps, and Wes Clarke, a slugging catcher/first baseman who played in Biloxi, is part of Milwaukee’s contingent.

20 Sep

party time

Dalton Rogers, former Southern Miss standout, and Colton Ledbetter, a Mississippi State product, celebrated minor league championships on Tuesday night. Northwest Rankin High alum Rogers, in his second year in Boston’s system, started and threw three innings of one-run ball to launch Greenville to a 7-3 win against Hudson Valley in the High-Class A South Atlantic League. Left-hander Rogers, rated the Red Sox’s No. 27 prospect (MLB Pipeline), went 2-6 with a 5.52 ERA for Greenville, with 102 strikeouts in 75 innings. He had 140 punchouts in 96 2/3 innings overall in 2023 at two levels. Ledbetter, a second-round draft pick by Tampa Bay in July and already slotted in as the No. 9 prospect, was 1-for-4 in Tuesday’s clincher for Charleston, which beat Down East 7-5 for the Low-A Carolina League crown. Ledbetter hit .254 with a homer and eight RBIs for Charleston, .274 with two homers overall in his pro debut. The outfielder played one year in Starkville after transferring from Samford. P.S. Happy 53rd birthday to former Ole Miss star and ex-big leaguer Chris Snopek. Snopek hit .234 with 13 homers in 215 MLB games between 1995-98. He had the distinction of getting a hit in his first big league at-bat and in his final one. Snopek now operates P360 Performance Sports and serves as an assistant coach at Madison-Ridgeland Academy.

16 Sep

here and there

Mashing three home runs, including Wes Clarke’s 26th of the year, Biloxi pounded Montgomery 9-2 on Friday night at MGM Park to stay alive in the fight for the second-half title in the Southern League South. The Double-A Shuckers, a Milwaukee farm club, must win the last two games against the Biscuits to make the postseason for the first time since 2019. … South Panola High product Emaarion Boyd went 2-for-4 with a run and a stolen base as Clearwater beat Lakeland 2-1 to reach the championship series in the Low-Class A Florida State League. The Threshers, a Philadelphia affiliate, will play Jupiter (Miami) for the league title. Ex-Ole Miss star Kemp Alderman is a starting outfielder for Jupiter. … Former Mississippi College standout Blaine Crim smacked homers No. 19 and 20 and ex-Mississippi State standout Justin Foscue added his 16th as Triple-A Round Rock (Texas) beat Las Vegas 7-3 in a matchup of Pacific Coast League division leaders. Crim and Foscue combined for six RBIs. … MSU alum Zac Houston, 28, now in his seventh minor league season, got a win in relief for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (New York Yankees), striking out four Buffalo batters in two scoreless innings. Houston, who has a 4.62 ERA, is averaging 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings for the RailRiders. The 6-foot-5 right-hander has a 3.17 career ERA while averaging 13.7 punchouts per nine. … The independent American Association’s Wolff Cup Finals begin tonight with the Kansas City Monarchs — featuring MSU alums Jacob Robson and Gavin Collins — taking on Chicago Dogs. … In MLB, former Southern Miss star Matt Wallner went 2-for-2 with an RBI to help Minnesota beat the Chicago White Sox 10-2 and reduce its magic number to 7 for clinching the American League Central crown. … Ex-George County High standout Justin Steele suffered a rare rocky outing (six runs on two homers in six innings) as the Cubs fell at Arizona 6-4. Steele is 16-4 with a 2.73. The Cubs are clinging to the second wild card in the National League, with the Diamondbacks and three other clubs in hot pursuit. … MSU products Jordan Westburg and Adam Frazier were a combined 0-for-5 with three strikeouts as Baltimore lost to visiting Tampa Bay 7-1 and fell into a tie for first place with the Rays in the AL East.

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.

10 Sep

four of a kind

A shout-out to a quartet of Mississippians who delivered ace-worthy efforts on Saturday. In Triple-A, Jonathan Holder, ex-Mississippi State star from Gulfport, notched his first win of the season, throwing two scoreless relief innings for Salt Lake of the Los Angeles Angels’ organization. The 30-year-old Holder is still grinding, three years after he last pitched in a big league game. He has filled many roles for Salt Lake, making four starts and registering six holds and one save in four chances. He sits at 1-5 with a 5.55 ERA in 61 1/3 innings. Holder, once a key bullpen piece for the New York Yankees, spent a couple of injury-riddled years in the Chicago Cubs’ system before signing a minor league deal with the Angels this past off-season. Down in Low-Class A, Landon Harper, a Southern Miss alum from Meridian, notched his fifth save of the year, striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth, for Augusta in the Atlanta system. Harper, a 2022 draftee, is 6-3 with a 3.34 ERA in 31 relief appearances for the GreenJackets. In the big leagues, Lucedale native Justin Steele registered his 20th quality start of the season for the Cubs, throwing seven innings of one-run ball against Arizona in a battle of wild card contenders. Steele, 16-3 with a 2.49, got a no-decision in a game the faltering Cubs would lose in 10 innings at Wrigley Field. At Toronto, former Ole Miss standout James McArthur made his second MLB start — as an “opener” — for Kansas City and threw two clean innings against the Blue Jays, who scored four times against Zack Greinke over the next four innings. McArthur, who yielded seven runs in his MLB debut in June, has an 8.53 ERA in 10 games but hasn’t allowed a run in his last four appearances.

08 Sep

have a day

Mississippians in the minors made some major noise on Thursday. Start with the clamor out of El Paso, where Mississippi State alum Justin Foscue went 4-for-5 with two homers, two doubles and five RBIs as visiting Round Rock beat the host Chihuahuas 11-10 in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Foscue, the Texas Rangers’ No. 6 prospect, is batting .271 with 15 homers and 68 RBIs. Teammate Blaine Crim, former Mississippi College star, had two hits and two RBIs for the Express and is batting .285 with 74 RBIs. At the Double-A level, ex-Pascagoula High standout Willie Joe Garry Jr. entered the game for Wichita in the top of the ninth inning, stole second base and scored the game-winning run against Corpus Christi on a throwing error by the catcher. Garry, breaking out since his move up to Double-A in the Minnesota system, is batting .273 with seven steals, 13 runs, four homers and 19 RBIs in 25 games for the Wind Surge. In a brilliant Double-A pitchers’ duel at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Southern Miss product Walker Powell put up six scoreless innings (three hits, two walks, six strikeouts) for Tennessee, matching the effort of Atlanta prospect Luis De Avila (one hit, three walks, 11 K’s). The Smokies, a Chicago Cubs’ farm team, got a run in the eighth to beat the Mississippi Braves 1-0. Powell lowered his ERA to 3.57 and trimmed his Southern League-best WHIP to 1.07. At High-Class A Wisconsin, ex-Hattiesburg High star Joe Gray Jr. went 3-for-4 with a double, three runs and an RBI to boost the Timber Rattlers — a Milwaukee affiliate — past Cedar Rapids 11-6. Gray is batting .249 with 17 doubles and 57 RBIs. At High-A Bowling Green, MSU product Kamren James hit a homer — his ninth — and drove in four runs, but the Hot Rods, a Tampa Bay affiliate, lost to visiting Greensboro 19-10. And finally, at Low-A St. Lucie, ex-Brandon High and MSU star Kellum Clark hit his first professional home run, banged out two other hits and drove in four runs to power the Mets to a 14-7 win against Daytona. A 2023 draftee, Clark is batting .250 in 10 games for St. Lucie after hitting .308 in rookie ball.

07 Sep

numbers to crunch

9 — Consecutive wins by the Biloxi Shuckers, who are a half-game out of first place in the Southern League South second-half race. Isaac Collins went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs in Wednesday’s 6-4 win at Birmingham.
6 — Walk-off wins for the Mississippi Braves, who beat Tennessee 4-3 on Cody Milligan’s RBI single in the ninth inning at Trustmark Park. The M-Braves are out of the SL South playoff hunt.
11 — Wins this season by Walker Powell, the former Southern Miss standout who’ll go for No. 12 tonight when he starts for Tennessee — a Chicago Cubs affiliate — against the M-Braves in Pearl. Powell’s win total leads the SL, as does his 1.08 WHIP.
20 — Stolen bases this season for USM product Matthew Etzel, who swiped two for High-Class A Aberdeen on Wednesday in his second game at that level. Baltimore’s 10th-round draft pick is 4-for-8 for Aberdeen and is now hitting .348 on the season.
3 — Saves in four opportunities for Jared Johnson, the ex-Smithville High star now pitching for High-A Rome in the Atlanta system. Converted starter Johnson, a 2019 draftee, has a 3.09 ERA in nine relief appearances for the R-Braves after working a clean inning Wednesday.
6 — Wins by Dakota Hudson, the former Mississippi State ace who beat Atlanta despite yielding five runs in five-plus innings for St. Louis. Hudson is 5-1 in seven starts since he moved back into the Cardinals’ rotation in August; he has a 4.43 ERA in 14 games overall.
40 — Home runs allowed in 2023 by Lance Lynn, the Ole Miss alum who yielded three bombs and eight runs in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 11-4 loss to Miami. After a hot start with the Dodgers, Lynn has given up 15 runs in his last two starts and is 4-2, 4.95 for his new club.
9 — Holds by Nick Sandlin, the ex-USM standout who retired the top three batters in Minnesota’s order in the eighth inning of a 2-1 Cleveland win. Sandlin has a 3.59 ERA for the Guardians, who sit 6 games back of the Twins in the American League Central despite winning the season series 7-6.
59 — Strikeouts this season in 157 at-bats by USM product Matt Wallner, who K’d three times for Minnesota, including the final out of Wednesday’s game. Wallner has 11 homers among his 36 hits.

03 Sep

hustle pays off

It looked like an inning-ending double play when the shortstop snagged the ball, but Hunter Renfroe charged hard down the first-base line and, by a whisker, beat the relay throw from the second baseman. The game-winning run scored from third, giving former Mississippi State star Renfroe his first RBI with Cincinnati and the Reds a huge 2-1 victory Saturday night against the Chicago Cubs. “I was doing everything I could to get there as fast as I can,” the 230-pound Renfroe said in a postgame TV interview, adding that he was surprised Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson reached the hard-hit grounder deep in the hole in the ninth inning. Renfroe is 0-for-9 since the Reds claimed him off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels, but his hustle on Saturday contributed mightily to the Reds’ ninth walk-off and 43rd comeback victory of 2023. Renfroe — “glad to be here” — was swarmed by his teammates. The so-called “Rally Reds” are in a three-way tie for the third wild card in the National League, 2 games back of the Cubs. P.S. Ex-State standout Adam Frazier had an RBI double and scored a run in the middle of a seven-hit, six-run, fourth-inning barrage by Baltimore, which kept its grip on first place in the American League East with a 7-3 win against Arizona, an NL wild card contender. Frazier has 54 RBIs and 53 runs in 119 games for the O’s. … MSU product Brent Rooker’s 23rd homer accounted for all of Oakland’s runs in a much less meaningful 2-1 win over the Angels. … Ronald Acuna continues to put up jaw-dropping numbers: The former Mississippi Braves star’s 32nd homer left the bat at 121.2 mph and went 454 feet, helping Atlanta beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-2 in 10 innings, for the third straight night. … In the minors, Kemp Alderman, the 2023 Ferriss Trophy winner out of Ole Miss, belted his first homer as a pro for Low-Class A Jupiter in the Miami system. Alderman, a second-round pick, is batting .181 with 10 RBIs in 28 games. … Southern Miss product Matthew Etzel went 3-for-6 with a double, two RBIs and a steal in a doubleheader for Low-A Delmarva in the Orioles’ chain. Etzel, a 10th-round pick in July, is batting .318 with two homers, 19 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 20 games for the Shorebirds. … USM alum Hurston Waldrep, Atlanta’s first-round pick, threw three shutout innings with four strikeouts and three walks in his Double-A debut for the M-Braves at Trustmark Park.

31 Aug

here, there and everywhere

Tanner Allen, the former Mississippi State All-America, is finding his groove at Double-A Pensacola, the third level he has played at this season. The lefty-hitting outfielder, a 2021 draftee by Miami, smacked his first Double-A homer on Wednesday night and is 10-for-23 (.323) in eight games for the Blue Wahoos. Overall this season, Allen is batting .275 with nine homers, 39 RBIs and eight stolen bases. … Former Pascagoula High star Willie Joe Garry Jr., who has reached Double-A in his fifth pro season, is also enjoying success at the game’s herd-cutting level. Garry, a lefty-hitting outfielder, is batting .263 for Wichita in the Minnesota system. He has four doubles, two triples, three homers, 16 RBIs, nine runs and four steals for the Wind Surge. Garry, a 2018 draftee, is still only 23. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Grae Kessinger, at Double-A Corpus Christi on a rehab assignment from Houston, delivered a two-run single in the eighth inning to boost the Hooks to a 2-1 win against Frisco. Kessinger, who made his big league debut earlier this season, is batting .194 in 19 games for the Astros. … Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton has signed a minor league contract with Tampa Bay. The MLB veteran, recently released by the Chicago White Sox (see previous post), could be a serviceable pinch runner/defensive replacement for the Rays, who are battling for an American League playoff berth. … Darius Vines became the fifth Mississippi Braves alum to debut as a starting pitcher for Atlanta this season, throwing six strong innings to notch the win at Colorado on Wednesday night. Former M-Braves Dylan Dodd, Jared Shuster, AJ Smith-Shawver and Allan Winans also debuted this year and are among the 16 different starters the Braves have used in 2023. … The Braves visit the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight for a compelling clash of National League titans, with Atlanta ace — and M-Braves alum — Spencer Strider (15-4, 3.46 ERA) facing former Ole Miss star Lance Lynn (4-0, 2.03 in five starts for LA). Of note: Lynn has allowed an MLB-worst 34 homers (six since joining the Dodgers), while the homer-happy Braves just set a franchise record for bombs in a season with 250. P.S. The U-18 version of Team USA, including Jackson Prep standout Konnor Griffin, begins play tonight (local time) against The Netherlands in the U-18 World Cup in Taipei, Taiwan. The U.S. is the defending champion. Griffin had an RBI triple and scored a run in an exhibition victory against Chinese Taipei earlier this week.

25 Aug

notable numbers

17 — Quality starts by George County High product Justin Steele of the Chicago Cubs. The All-Star left-hander went six innings Thursday, allowing two earned runs, and propelled the Cubs to a 5-4, 10-inning win against Pittsburgh. Steele is 14-3 with a 2.80 ERA in 24 starts this season. “I want to be the guy that we rely on,” he told mlb.com.
10 — Runs allowed by ex-Mississippi State standout J.P. France, who took the loss for slumping Texas in a 17-1 defeat against Boston. Rookie France (9-5) lasted just 2 1/3 innings in his worst outing. The Rangers’ lead in the American League West is 1 game over Seattle and Houston.
55 — RBIs this season by former MSU star Brent Rooker, who belted his 22nd homer in Oakland’s 8-5 win over the White Sox. Rooker, the SEC Triple Crown winner in 2017, leads the team in homers, RBIs and batting average at .245.
117 — Hits this season by MSU product Jake Mangum, who banged out two more — including a grand slam — in Triple-A Jacksonville’s 8-4 win over Columbus. Mangum, 27, in his first year in Miami’s system, is batting .315 with five homers, 46 RBIs and 12 steals.
1 — Hit by Kellum Clark, the ex-MSU standout from Brandon, who went 1-for-4 with an RBI in his second game for the Low-Class A St. Lucie Mets.
1 — Hit by Brandon Parker, the Saucier native, West Harrison High alum and ex-Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star who made his Double-A debut for the Mississippi Braves at Montgomery. Parker, who also drove in a run and drew a walk, is the first Mississippi high school alum to play for the M-Braves since DeSoto Central’s Austin Riley debuted on May 5, 2018, according to a team release. Parker is the first state native to play for the M-Braves since Jackson’s Zack Bird, a Murrah High alum, pitched in three games in 2015.
32 — Consecutive games reaching base by the M-Braves’ Jesse Franklin V, who homered (No. 14) and walked three times in the team’s loss to Montgomery.