The swarm of minor league free agents hitting the open market includes Demarcus Evans, the former Petal High star whose once promising career hit a pothole in 2023. Evans, who signed with the New York Yankees last year as a minor league free agent, went to spring training with the big league club but was sent to the minors and then missed the entire year with an undisclosed injury. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound right-hander, 27, has pitched in 29 MLB games, all with Texas from 2020-22, posting a 4.75 ERA while battling command issues. In the minors, he has piled up 444 strikeouts and a 2.76 ERA in 297 innings. So, he’s got some stuff. Drafted in 2015, he made it to the majors on Sept. 18, 2020. He was welcomed by Albert Pujols, who belted Evans’ second pitch over the wall in Anaheim for his 662nd career home run. If Evans is healthy, he figures to get another look. … Veteran big leaguers Billy Hamilton and Jonathan Holder are also now minor league free agents, along with fellow Mississippi products Zac Houston, Cooper Johnson, Tyreque Reed, Chuckie Robinson and Chad Smith. Taylorsville native Hamilton, 33, who appeared in three games with the Chicago White Sox this year, finished 2023 in Tampa Bay’s system. Gulfport’s Holder, 30, who last pitched in the majors in 2020, posted a 5.40 ERA in Triple-A with the Los Angeles Angels. Robinson, a Southern Miss alum with a touch of MLB experience as a catcher, hit .290 with 13 homers for Cincinnati’s Triple-A Louisville team; he has been playing in the Dominican Winter league. Ole Miss product Smith had a 6.59 ERA for Oakland this year and spent most of the season in the minors. Reed, former Itawamba Community College slugger from Houlka, missed the 2023 season in Boston’s system with an injury. In pro ball since 2017, he has a .268 average and 64 homers in 374 minor league games. Houston, a Mississippi State product, has a 3.18 career ERA in 230 minor league games and spent this season in the Yankees’ system. Ex-Ole Miss star Johnson batted .206 this season, playing in A-ball and Double-A in Texas’ organization. P.S. Ex-State star and 2021 College World Series hero Will Bednar has been pulled from the Arizona Fall League reportedly because of lingering back trouble. The San Francisco prospect allowed eight runs in 5 1/3 innings. He made only four rookie ball appearances this past season because of injury issues.
News that ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton, Mississippi’s all-time MLB stolen base leader, has signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox rates some attention, but an under-the-radar signing of another South Mississippi product might be more intriguing. Petal High alumnus Demarcus Evans, a big man with a big fastball, was plucked off the minor league market by the New York Yankees. Evans pitched rather ineffectively (4.75 ERA) in the big leagues for Texas in 2020-21 (yielding a homer to Albert Pujols on the second pitch of his career) but had good numbers in the minors on his way up. He spent all of last season at Triple-A Round Rock and registered a 1.00 ERA with four saves over his last 18 games. The 6-foot-5 right-hander, only 26, became a six-year free agent after the season. Control is an issue for Evans, but if the Yankees can straighten him out, he might be a factor in their bullpen next season. He has been assigned to the Triple-A roster. … The well-traveled Hamilton, 32, played sparingly in 2022 for Miami and Minnesota but showed he can still run. With the White Sox in 2021, he hit .220 with nine bags in 71 games for a playoff team. He has 324 career stolen bases. P.S. Former Ole Miss slugger Thomas Dillard, who hit 12 homers (with a ton of strikeouts) at Double-A Biloxi last season, was released by Milwaukee. Pearl River Community College product Dexter Jordan, who played two seasons of rookie ball with Houston, also has been released.
Michael Harris II, who had never played a game in Double-A before this season, has become the third former Mississippi Braves star to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award. The outfielder made the jump from Pearl to Atlanta in late May and batted .297 with 19 homers, 64 RBIs, 20 steals and 75 runs in 114 MLB games. He also excelled in center field for the NL East champs. Harris joins Ronald Acuna (2018) and Craig Kimbrel (2011) as former M-Braves to win the BBWAA award. Right-hander Spencer Strider, another M-Braves alum, was one of the three finalists this year. Two other Magnolia State minor league alums have won the ROY: ex-Jackson Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry in 1983 and former Biloxi Shuckers pitcher Devin Williams in 2020. Chris Coghlan, an Ole Miss product, won the 2009 NL rookie award and is the only state native or college alum to have claimed the honor. … A bundle of Mississippians have become minor league free agents, including several who have big league experience. The list: Ti’Quan Forbes, Trent Giambrone, Jonathan Holder, Wyatt Short, Delvin Zinn, Chuckie Robinson, Zac Houston, Dalton Moats, Cody Reed, Jack Kruger and Demarcus Evans. Corey Dickerson, Billy Hamilton and Adam Frazier were 2022 major leaguers who elected free agency. … A belated congrats to Marcus Thames, the Louisville native and ex-East Central Community College standout, on being named the Los Angeles Angels’ hitting coach. He spent last season with Miami after four years with the New York Yankees. The Angels, despite the presence of Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, were one of the worst hitting teams in the majors in 2022. … On a sad note, former JaxMets outfielder Chuck Carr has died. He played at Smith-Wills Stadium in 1989-90 and spent eight years in the big leagues, stealing an NL-best 58 bases with Florida in 1993.