20 Sep

playoff time

The Mississippi Braves will open the Double-A South Championship Series at Montgomery, a Tampa Bay affiliate against which the M-Braves have an unhappy history. The M-Braves, regular season champs in the league, will take on the Biscuits on Tuesday in Game 1 of the 5-game series. Game 3 (and any remaining games) will be played at Pearl’s Trustmark Park beginning Friday. The M-Braves lost their inaugural game against Montgomery in 2005 and also lost their home opener to the Biscuits that season. In 2007, when the M-Braves made the playoffs for the first time, Montgomery knocked them out. This is the M-Braves’ fifth playoff appearance; they won the Southern League pennant in 2008. Mississippi ranks second in the Double-A South in ERA and homers but seventh in batting average. Montgomery is third in batting average, fourth in homers and fourth in ERA. … Several Magnolia State products were on the final regular season roster of minor league teams making the postseason. Ex-Mississippi State star Konnor Pilkington is with Akron, which meets Bowie and Bulldogs alum Jordan Westburg in the Double-A Northeast title series. Southern Miss product Matt Wallner plays for Cedar Rapids, which is in the High-A Central series. Ex-MSU standout Hunter Stovall and Ole Miss alum Will Ethridge are with Spokane in the High-A West. Will Bednar, a first-round pick from State this year, finished his 2021 campaign with San Jose, which is in the Low-A West series. And former Northeast Mississippi Community College standout Tyler Samaniego pitches for Bradenton in the Low-A Southeast. … The Triple-A seasons continue through this month. P.S. After a Triple-A tour during which practically nothing went right, former Ole Miss star David Parkinson went down to Double-A and got a shot of confidence on Sunday. Parkinson, 1-11 with a 7.93 ERA for Lehigh Valley in the Philadelphia system, threw three clean innings to notch a save in Reading’s last game of the season.

05 Sep

minor matters

Several atta-boys are in order: Thomas Dillard, the ex-Ole Miss star from Oxford, hit his first Double-A home run on Saturday in Biloxi’s loss to the Mississippi Braves at MGM Park. Dillard is batting .296 in 16 games since Milwaukee promoted him from A-ball, where he had blasted 16 homers. … Mississippi State product Konnor Pilkington posted his third win in his fifth start for Double-A Akron in the Cleveland system. Pascagoula native Pilkington was traded from the Chicago White Sox to the Indians for big league infielder Carlos Hernandez in July. The big left-hander is 7-2 with a 2.72 ERA overall in his third pro season. He has a 1.17 ERA for Akron. … Jacob Waguespack, an Ole Miss alum, improved to 7-2 with a 2.66 ERA for Toronto’s Triple-A Buffalo club. The onetime big leaguer is no longer on the 40-man roster but might rate another shot. … Former MSU standout Ben Bracewell notched his third save for Triple-A Las Vegas in the Oakland chain. The 30-year-old minor league vet is 5-1 with a 3.91 ERA as a reliever. … MSU product Hunter Stovall, who turns 25 today, had a 21-game hit streak stopped on Friday. He is batting .314 with six homers, 40 RBIs and 24 steals for High-A Spokane in Colorado’s system. He’s due for a promotion. … Will Bednar, the 2021 College World Series MVP for State, made a second straight scoreless appearance for San Francisco’s Arizona Complex League team. The Giants’ first-round pick has three punchouts in two innings of work. … On a sour note, ex-Ole Miss standout David Parkinson fell to 1-11 after yielding six runs in two innings for Philadelphia’s Triple-A Lehigh Valley club. Parkinson, who has a career 3.86 ERA, is at 7.93 in 2021.

31 Aug

opportunity knocks

Mississippi college products Jordan Westburg, Reed Trimble and Anthony Servideo are part of what MLB Pipeline rates as the strongest farm system among major league clubs. Baltimore also has the worst record in the majors, which for the state trio could mean there is great opportunity for quick advancement. Westburg, a shortstop out of Mississippi State, was the 30th overall draft pick in 2020 and is rated the Orioles’ No. 6 prospect. He’s in Double-A. Servideo, a shortstop from Ole Miss, was picked in Round 3 in 2020 and is rated No. 27, while Southern Miss alum Trimble, a supplemental pick following Round 2 this year, checks in at No. 21. All three would appear to be at least two years away from the majors. Atlanta’s system is rated 23rd, though there are four overall top 100 prospects in the organization. Much of the Braves’ young talent already is in the big leagues. Former Smithville High right-hander Jared Johnson is No. 30 in the Braves’ chain. Milwaukee is No. 25. MSU alum Ethan Small (5), Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray, Jr. (9) and ex-UM standout Thomas Dillard (25) are ranked in the Brewers’ Top 30. P.S. MSU product J.P. France, who threw seven shutout innings (one hit, nine strikeouts) for Sugar Land last Friday, was named the Triple-A West’s pitcher of the week. France, a 2018 draftee, is 4-0 with a 2.93 ERA for Houston’s top affiliate. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Brady Feigl made his Triple-A debut Monday for Oakland’s Las Vegas club, yielding two runs with five punchouts in 4 2/3 innings. Feigl, a 2018 draftee and the A’s No. 23 prospect, was 7-7, 3.96 in Double-A. Ex-State standout Ben Bracewell, an eighth-year pro, got the save in Las Vegas’ win over Oklahoma City; he has two saves, four wins, eight holds and a 4.18 ERA for the Aviators.

18 Aug

rebel yells

It was a good night for Ole Miss pitchers in pro ball. Chris Ellis and Mike Mayers registered wins Tuesday in the big leagues, Parker Caracci picked up a W in Double-A and Taylor Broadway made a third straight scoreless appearance in Low-A. Ellis, in his second MLB game and first in 2½ years (see previous post), worked the final four innings of Tampa Bay’s 10-0 win against lowly Baltimore. The 28-year-old righty yielded three hits and one walk with seven strikeouts. “That’s awesome. We’re really, really pumped,” Rays manager Kevin Cash told mlb.com in reference to Ellis’ outing. … Mayers, beginning to show his 2020 form (2.10 ERA in 29 games), pitched two scoreless innings of the Los Angeles Angels’ 8-2 win at Detroit, benefitting from a six-run ninth to claim his third win of the year. Mayers has 13 holds and a 4.02 ERA for the scuffling Angels. … Caracci, a 2019 draftee by Toronto, threw two scoreless innings in his Double-A debut for New Hampshire. The Jackson Prep product had eight saves and a 2.64 ERA in high-A ball. … Broadway, a 2021 draftee by the Chicago White Sox, pitched a clean inning in a loss by Kannapolis, which scored its lone run on a homer by former Loyd Star High star James Beard. P.S. It was a tough day for Hunter Renfroe and his Boston Red Sox mates, who suffered a doubleheader loss at the hands of the rival New York Yankees and fell into a virtual three-way tie for the American League wild card lead. Mississippi State alum Renfroe was 2-for-5 on the day but was thrown out at third base for the final out of the first inning in the opener and struck out – on a 100-mph pitch – with the bases loaded for the final out of that game, a 5-3 defeat.

07 Aug

coming attractions

Ryan Rolison, the former Ole Miss standout, remains the highest-rated Mississippi product in the minors in MLB Pipeline’s post-trade deadline prospect rankings. Rolison, a 2018 first-round pick, is still No. 2 in Colorado’s system. The left-hander is currently on the injured list at Triple-A Albuquerque, where he is 1-0 with a 3.48 ERA in three starts. He was 2-1, 3.07 in Double-A. Two of the ranked prospects, Mississippi State alum Brent Rooker (12, Minnesota) and George County High alum Justin Steele (29, Chicago Cubs), already have played in the big leagues. Who’ll be next up? Maybe Rolison, or maybe Ethan Small, the ex-MSU star who is rated No. 4 in Milwaukee’s system. He also is currently on the IL at Triple-A Nashville. Two more state products appear in the Brewers’ Top 30: catcher/first baseman Thomas Dillard, a UM alum (21), and outfielder Joe Gray (30) from Hattiesburg. MSU product J.T. Ginn is the New York Mets’ No. 5 prospect, but the righty pitcher is in A-ball in his first pro season. Justin Foscue, the former Bulldogs second baseman, is Texas’ No. 5 but is also in A-ball (and flourishing) as a first-year pro. Other ranked Magnolia Staters: Jared Johnson (27, Atlanta); Jordan Westburg (6, Baltimore); Anthony Servideo (23, Baltimore); Blaze Jordan (10, Boston); James Beard (20, Chicago White Sox); Colt Keith (16, Detroit); Grae Kessinger (13, Houston); Kendall Williams (18, Los Angeles Dodgers); Matt Wallner (13, Minnesota); Jake Mangum (30, Mets); Brady Feigl (28, Oakland); James McArthur (28, Philadelphia); and Tyler Keenan (23, Seattle). … None of the 2021 draft picks – and there were 12 from the state, including first-rounders Will Bednar and Gunnar Hoglund – have been slotted into the rankings yet.

04 Aug

pennant fever rises

The chase for playoff berths is getting real in MLB, and a bunch of Mississippians are in the thick of things. The most compelling game on Tuesday was Houston-Los Angeles, a “rematch” of the 2017 World Series before 52,692 vocal fans at Dodger Stadium. Former Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman, in his second appearance for first-place Houston, helped send Dodgers fans home disappointed by throwing a scoreless eighth inning in a 3-0 victory. L.A. is running second in its division. … Tim Anderson, the East Central Community College alum, went 3-for-4 with his 10th homer of the season to spark the first-place Chicago White Sox to a 7-1 win over Kansas City. Ocean Springs’ Garrett Crochet threw a scoreless inning for the ChiSox. McComb’s Jarrod Dyson went 0-for-2 for the Royals, who are not a playoff contender. … Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High star, had a pair of hits and scored a run in Atlanta’s 6-1 win against St. Louis in a matchup of third-place teams still in the postseason hunt. … MSU product Hunter Renfroe belted his 17th home run for Boston, but the second-place Red Sox lost to resurgent Detroit 4-2. … Ex-Meridian CC standout Corey Dickerson went 0-for-4 in his Toronto debut, but the Blue Jays got a big win, 7-2, against Cleveland in a contest of two clubs fighting to hang on in the wild card race. Gulfport’s Bobby Bradley went 2-for-4 with an RBI for the Indians. … San Diego beat Oakland 8-1 in an interleague matchup of wild card chasers, but none of the Mississippi college products on the two rosters – Adam Frazier, Drew Pomeranz and Mitch Moreland – got in the game. Game 2 of the series is today. P.S. If St. Louis is still in the playoff race come September, the Cardinals might get a lift from Dakota Hudson’s return. The State alum, who had Tommy John surgery last September, has been throwing to live batters since mid-July. Right-hander Hudson, a former first-round pick, was 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA last year before he was shut down and is 23-10, 3.17 for his MLB career. If he does in fact return, Hudson likely would pitch out of the bullpen, which he did as a rookie for the Cards in 2018. … Worth noting: Ex-Mississippi College star Blaine Crim homered Tuesday in his Double-A debut for Frisco in the Texas system. He had 20 bombs at High-A Hickory (see previous post). … Also worth noting: Last Sunday, Brandon Parker, the Mississippi Gulf Coast CC alum from Saucier, hit a home run for Low-A Augusta (Atlanta system) that was caught by his little brother on a walkway beyond the left-field wall.

26 Jul

very interesting …

Mississippi State product Justin Foscue, a first-round pick by Texas in the 2020 draft, homered in his eighth straight game on Sunday. (Note: The big league record is eight straight.) Foscue went deep for High-A Hickory in the completion of a game suspended last Friday. His streak began on July 9 when he was on a rehab assignment with the Arizona Complex League Rangers. He is batting .324 with 10 homers and 23 RBIs for Hickory. Foscue didn’t play in Sunday’s regularly scheduled game, but ex-Mississippi College star Blaine Crim did. And he homered in his second straight game and for the 12th time in July. Crim is batting .298 with 19 homers and 58 RBIs for Hickory. … The remains of the 2021 season will be a lot more interesting for Adam Frazier now that the ex-State standout has been traded from Pittsburgh to San Diego. The Pirates are mired in last place in their division. The Padres are in a heated battle with San Francisco and Los Angeles in the National League West. Frazier, 29, was a coveted trade piece, with several teams reportedly expressing interest. The All-Star second baseman is batting .324 and leads the big leagues in hits with 125. According to mlb.com, Frazier is only the third player in the modern era to be traded midseason while leading MLB in hits. The others: Willie McGee (1990) and Red Schoendienst (1957). Frazier is a left-handed hitter with some pop (39 career homers) who has played six different positions over his six seasons in the majors. … It wasn’t surprising that All-Stars Lance Lynn and Brandon Woodruff gave us quite the pitchers’ duel on Sunday night (see previous post). The surprise was that former Ole Miss star Lynn delivered the game’s biggest hit, a two-run single off MSU product Woodruff that propelled the Chicago White Sox to a 3-1 win over Milwaukee in a matchup of division leaders. Lynn’s second-inning hit, on an 0-2 fastball, was his first since 2017. It came in his first plate appearance in over two years. Woodruff, a good-hitting pitcher, also had a knock off Lynn but came up empty in a key at-bat in the fifth inning. Down 3-1 with a runner at second and one out, Woodruff took a called third strike on a 3-2 pitch.

25 Jul

just stuff

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.

14 Jul

power grid

While the big league stars were out in Colorado on Tuesday, former Mississippi State star Brent Rooker generated some luminosity down in Triple-A. Rooker blasted three home runs and drove in a career-high seven runs to power St. Paul to a 19-1 win over Columbus. Rooker, who started this season in Minnesota but didn’t hit enough to stick, now has 17 homers on the season, tied for the most in the Triple-A East. The right-handed hitting outfielder/DH is batting .245 with 41 RBIs for the Saints as he awaits another big league shot. “(Y)ou have to just stay confident in yourself and make the right adjustments,” he told milb.com. “I believe in myself and know I can be successful (in the big leagues).” … In Double-A, Ole Miss alum Grae Kessinger hit his sixth homer for Houston’s Corpus Christi club. The infielder, in his second pro season, has lifted his average to .213 with a recent hot streak. … In High-A, ex-State star Justin Foscue and former Mississippi College standout Blaine Crim, hitting 2-3 in the Hickory lineup, produced long balls. Crim, who has been on a tear, has 13 homers and Foscue, a 2020 draftee, four for the Texas affiliate. (Foscue’s former Bulldogs teammate and 2020 draftee Jordan Westburg went 2-for-5 for Aberdeen (Baltimore) in that same game.) … In Low-A, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product Brandon Parker went yard for Augusta, an Atlanta farm club. Parker, in his second pro season, has six homers but is batting just .174. … And in the Florida Complex League on Monday, ex-DeSoto Central High star Blaze Jordan got his first pro homer. The storied slugger, 18, a third-round pick by Boston last year, is hitting .194 through eight games. P.S. Bobby Wahl, the former Ole Miss pitcher, has been released by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Wahl, 29, who has big league time, has an 11.12 ERA in 15 games this season for three minor league teams in the Milwaukee and L.A. systems.

12 Jul

minor matters

In his first game since the Chicago Cubs decided to return him to a starting role, Justin Steele threw the first 3 2/3 innings Sunday of a seven-inning no-hitter for Triple-A Iowa. Left-hander Steele, a George County High alum, struck out five and walked two in the 1-0 win against St. Paul. Former Delta State star Trent Giambrone drove in the game’s only run with a walk-off sac fly. Former Mississippi State star Brent Rooker went 0-for-3 for St. Paul, a Minnesota farm team. Steele, a starter most of his lengthy minor league career, made his long-awaited MLB debut this season and had a 2.03 ERA in 11 games for the Cubs before landing on the injured list. … MSU product Ethan Small gave up three hits and two runs but got the last two outs in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday. Small is now at Triple-A Nashville in Milwaukee’s system. … Ole Miss alum Thomas Dillard belted his 10th homer for High-A Wisconsin in the Brewers’ chain. Former Hattiesburg High star Joe Gray, Jr., was recently promoted to Wisconsin after batting .289 with 12 homers in Low-A ball. Gray is at .158 in six games at the new level. … Ex-Bulldogs standout Justin Foscue, recently back from the IL, put up a 3-for-4 that included his third homer for High-A Hickory in Texas’ system. Foscue, a 2020 draftee, is batting .237. … Ole Miss product Parker Caracci notched his sixth save for High-A Vancouver in the Toronto organization. The Jackson Prep alum has a 2-2 record and 1.50 ERA in 22 games in his second pro season. Toronto picked ex-UM star Gunnar Hoglund in the first round (19th overall) of Sunday’s MLB draft; his pro career will be delayed to 2022 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. … MSU’s Will Bednar, taken with the 14th overall pick by San Francisco, likely would start his pro career in the Arizona Complex League or at Low-A San Jose.