15 Dec

looking (way) ahead

Five of the top 50 draft prospects for 2021 will be based in Mississippi, according to mlb.com. Seven months out from the MLB draft, a new Top 100 draft prospects list features Ole Miss ace Gunnar Hoglund, Mississippi State’s projected weekend rotation of Christian MacLeod, Will Bednar and Eric Cerantola and Madison Central High two-way star Braden Montgomery. Hoglund, a 6-foot-4 right-hander who was drafted 36th overall out of high school in 2018, is ranked No. 30. MacLeod, a big lefty, and Bednar, a righty, are Nos. 40 and 41 and Cerantola, a 6-5 righty from Canada, is No. 50. Checking in at No. 44 is Montgomery, a switch-hitting, righty-throwing outfielder/pitcher who has signed with Stanford. Montgomery reportedly impressed at the Perfect Game All-American Classic in September. … Cerantola tops the latest prospectslive.com draft list at No. 22. Hoglund, MacLeod and Montgomery are also in that site’s top 50 along with Ole Miss left-hander Doug Nikhazy. Another site, prospects365.com, projects Cerantola, MacLeod and Hoglund all going in the first round next summer. … The draft, expected to be 20-30 rounds in 2021, is set for July 11-13 in conjunction with the MLB All-Star Game. A new element in play for 2021 is the MLB Draft League, a six-team loop for draft-eligible college, juco or prep players who might want more exposure.

30 Oct

detroit leaning

The Detroit Tigers added Colt Keith to a system already well-stocked with Mississippi connections when they drafted the former Biloxi High star in the fifth round in June. The left-handed hitting third baseman, one of three state products currently in the Tigers’ Instructional League camp in Florida, reportedly has made a good impression. “Colt is a big, strong athlete who can really impact the ball. We’re all glad to be able to have him here,” Tigers VP for player development Dave Littlefield told MLB Pipeline. Keith, 19, who moved to Biloxi in 2019, was the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year that season, batting .527 with eight homers while also pitching. He batted .269 in the curtailed 2020 season. Also in the Tigers’ fall camp is former Mississippi State standout Zac Houston and Ole Miss product Cooper Johnson. Right-hander Houston, 25, was drafted in 2016 and has 10 wins, 22 saves and a 2.42 ERA over 138 games in the minors. Johnson, one of five catchers in the fall camp, was a sixth-rounder in 2019 and batted .198 in 41 games in the low minors that year. “He has some power,” Littlefield told MLB Pipeline. “He looks like a major league catcher, so we just need to keep working on the bat.” The Tigers have Madison Central alum Spencer Turnbull and Richton High product JaCoby Jones on their major league roster and ex-State standout Jacob Robson and Southwest Mississippi Community College alum Kade Scivicque on their current Triple-A roster. … The Tigers named A.J. Hinch their new manager today. P.S. Jordan Westburg, a 2020 draftee out of MSU, has gotten some good reviews in Baltimore’s fall program. He and another draftee, Gunnar Henderson, were described as “two thoroughbred stallions” by farm director Matt Blood said in an mlb.com piece. “Both can play shortstop, both can hit and both can run. … It’s exciting what our player procurement staff has done bringing in talent.”

06 Aug

cuts like a knife

Former George County High standout Justin Steele’s major league debut will have to wait. Added to the Chicago Cubs’ 30-man active roster on Sunday, the left-hander – drafted in 2014 — was sent back to the alternate camp today, when rosters were cut to 28. Also shipped out was Ole Miss product Jacob Waguespack, who had not allowed an earned run in three relief appearances for Toronto. Former Ole Miss star Bobby Wahl and Southern Miss alumnus Cody Carroll had previously been sent out by Milwaukee and Baltimore, respectively. Also missing from Opening Day rosters: East Central Community College product Tim Anderson, the 2019 American League batting champ, is on the injured list (groin injury) for the Chicago White Sox, where he was joined this week by Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman (neck), who scuffled in his first two starts for Seattle this season as he returns from 2018 Tommy John surgery. In other news: Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made his New York Mets debut on Wednesday, going 0-for-4 as the center fielder. … Former Mississippi Braves catcher Joe Odom made his big league debut for Seattle on July 28, then went back to the alternate camp on Aug. 2. … Southern Miss’ Chandler Best finished 2-2 with a 1.99 ERA for the Acadiana Cane Cutters, a Texas Collegiate League team that featured several Mississippi connections. A rising sophomore left-hander, Best ranked second in the college summer league with 33 strikeouts. Fellow USM pitcher Mathew Adams had a 5.78 ERA in 12 appearances; Ole Miss’ Drew McDaniel a 7.36 in five games; and Belhaven’s Reed Vincent a 4.62 in eight games. Trace Henry, a former Jones Junior College star from Mooreville, was one of the league’s top hitters at .341. USM’s Billy Garrity hit .213 in limited at-bats. … Ole Miss’ Gunnar Hoglund, a right-hander with mid-90s stuff, is rated the No. 14 draft prospect for 2021 by MLB Pipeline. He was a first-round supplemental pick out of a Florida high school in 2018. … The Hattiesburg Black Sox rebounded from a tough loss to win their second game in the National Baseball Congress World Series, the double-elimination event in Kansas. The Black Sox, the state’s semi-pro champs, play the Hutchinson Monarchs tonight. Pablo Lanzarote, a former Hinds Community College star, homered for the second straight game to help the Black Sox beat the Denver Cougars 9-4. Marcus Ragan, an East Mississippi CC alum, and Jamal Washington drove in two runs each for Hattiesburg, and Austin Sanders, another Hinds CC product, picked up the win.

15 Jul

call to arms

Three Mississippians, all left-handed pitchers, were added to MLB 60-man rosters on Tuesday. The Chicago White Sox invited 2020 first-round draftee Garrett Crochet of Ocean Springs and onetime big leaguer Jacob Lindgren of Biloxi to their satellite camp in Schaumberg, Ill. Justin Steele, a former George County High star from Lucedale, was added to the Chicago Cubs’ pool of 2020 eligible players and will report to their secondary camp in South Bend, Ind. Crochet, who signed for $4.5 million as the 11th overall pick out of Tennessee, isn’t likely to make his big league debut this summer, but nothing is out of the question in this most unusual season. “Garrett is a talented player, but the focus is truly just to get his foot in the door here and get around our guys, and we’ll go from there,” White Sox farm director Chris Getz told reporters. “With talented players like himself, I hate to rule anything out.” Lindgren, a former Mississippi State star, was a second-round pick in 2014 by the New York Yankees and reached the majors in 2015. He has battled arm injuries ever since, though he put up a 1.53 ERA in 12 games in high-A ball last season. Steele, a fifth-round pick by the Cubs in 2014 and a member of their 40-man roster, also has had arm troubles. He has a 3.62 career ERA but posted a 5.59 in 11 starts at Double-A in 2019. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Ryan Rolison, a 2018 first-rounder who is on Colorado’s 60-man list, drew praise from Rockies manager Bud Black after an outing in the main summer camp last weekend. “This guy knows how to pitch; he can change speeds,” Black told mlb.com. “He’s got two secondary pitches that I think will play in the big leagues, (and) he’s got enough fastball.” Rolison, a lefty, pitched in high-A last season.

08 Jul

whatever happened to …

T.J. House, the former Picayune High star and MLB veteran, is pitching for the Eastern Reyes del Tigre, one of the four clubs in the newly formed Constellation Energy League in Texas. The league was created by the Sugar Land Skeeters, a member of the independent Atlantic League, which is shut down for 2020. House, 30, pitched in 29 big league games from 2014-17. The left-hander held a spot in Cleveland’s rotation for part of 2014, going 5-3 with a 3.35 ERA. He spent last season in the independent American Association. The Constellation Energy League will be based at Sugar Land’s Constellation Energy Field and starts its 28-game season on Friday. … There are several former big leaguers on the CEL rosters, including Cameron Rupp, David Huff, Tommy Joseph and former Mississippi Braves star Dustin Peterson. P.S. With Baltimore having agreed to a $950,000 signing bonus for third-round draft selection Anthony Servideo of Ole Miss, all seven players picked from in-state schools in last month’s draft have now signed or agreed to terms. (Former DeSoto Central star Blaze Jordan’s reported deal with Boston has not yet been made official.) … Henri Lartigue, an Ole Miss product from Southaven, was added to Philadelphia’s 60-man roster at catcher over the July 4 weekend. That makes seven non 40-man roster members with Mississippi ties in MLB summer camps, the others being Billy Hamilton, Tyler Keenan, Jack Kruger, Brent Rooker, Nick Sandlin and Ryan Rolison. Hamilton, the only one of this group with big league time, is expected to be added to San Francisco’s 40-man roster before the season begins. … Tanner Propst, an MRA alum who pitched at Delta State in 2020, signed as a non-drafted free agent with Colorado.

02 Jul

eye on …

Cody Carroll might prove to be a key figure in Baltimore’s bullpen, which was generally awful in 2019. The ex-Southern Miss star, now 27, missed most of last season with a back injury but was impressive in spring training before the lockdown. As mlb.com reports, “The O’s think the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Carroll has back-end stuff, pointing to his high-90s fastball and strong slider.” With a 60-game season, bullpens may play an even larger role than in normal years. (That might also be good news for other Mississippi college products such as Jonathan Holder, Mike Mayers, Cody Reed and Bobby Wahl.) Tennessee native Carroll was drafted out of USM by the New York Yankees in 2015 and traded to Baltimore in July 2018; he made his big league debut shortly thereafter, posting a 9.00 ERA in 15 appearances. He was hurt by walks and home runs. In six 2020 spring innings, he yielded no walks or homers and fanned eight. Carroll has a 2.71 career minor league ERA and made All-Star Games at three levels on the way up. P.S. The Orioles have signed or agreed to terms with each of their six 2020 draftees except for third-rounder Anthony Servideo, the shortstop out of Ole Miss. Former Mississippi State shortstop Jordan Westburg, a competitive balance pick after Round 1, signed last week. The MLB slot value for Servideo’s draft position (74th) is $844,200. The Orioles reportedly have more than that remaining in their allotted pool.

30 Jun

the gamble

J.T. Ginn rolled the dice in 2018, turning down a reported $2.4 million signing bonus to pitch at Mississippi State and gamble that that kind of money would be available again after his college career. The gamble paid off for the former Brandon High star on Monday, when he signed for a reported $2.9M with the New York Mets. It’s the Mets who are rolling the dice now. Ginn, 21, had Tommy John surgery in February, so he won’t see the mound again until next spring. Many pitchers come back stronger from that surgery. Some don’t. That’s the gamble the Mets have taken by paying Ginn roughly twice the slot value of the 52nd pick. He was a first-rounder in 2018, going 30th overall to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ginn, who posted a 3.22 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 89 1/3 innings at State, is a pure power pitcher. The 6-foot-2 right-hander throws an upper 90s fastball, a nasty sinker and a hard slider. The Mets are understandably excited about his potential. Old cranks might recall the excitement the Mets had about another right-hander from Mississippi whom they picked eighth overall back in 1993. That would be Kirk Presley, the prep phenom from Tupelo who chose pro ball – and a $900,000 bonus – over Mississippi State, where he planned to play baseball and football. The Mets heralded Presley as one of their young guns, along with fellow prospects Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson. Alas, Presley developed shoulder problems, had a couple of surgeries and ultimately retired in his fifth pro season, never pitching above A-ball. When it comes to pitchers and their arms, you just never know how it’s gonna play out.

29 Jun

roster watch

Perusing the 60-man rosters released by most MLB teams on Sunday, there are a couple of surprises. One, Brian Dozier is NOT on San Diego’s list. Two, Tyler Keenan, drafted just this month, IS on Seattle’s. Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss star, signed a minor league deal with the Padres and was vying for the second base job in spring training, batting .227 in eight games. But the eight-year veteran is not currently in the pool of eligible players, though he reportedly could be added later. Ole Miss product Keenan, a fourth-round pick who signed late last week for $500,000, is among three 2020 draftees Seattle put on its list, which is replete with prospect types. Keenan is a lefty-hitting third baseman with big power. … USM alum Nick Sandlin, Mississippi State product Jack Kruger and ex-Ole Miss star Ryan Rolison are among the non 40-man roster players appearing in the 60-man pools. Sandlin, a reliever, is with Cleveland; Kruger, a catcher, with the Los Angeles Angels; and Rolison, a lefty starter, with Colorado. Rolison, a 2018 draftee, is the Rockies’ No. 2 prospect, per mlb.com. Minnesota did not release its list on Sunday, but speculation is former State standout Brent Rooker and possibly USM alum Matt Wallner could be on it. Teams start summer camp on July 1, though not all of the 60-man roster members will report to the big league stadium. The others will go to an alternate facility. P.S. It hasn’t been officially announced as a signing, but Blaze Jordan reportedly has agreed to a $1.7 million bonus with Boston, well above the slot value for the third-round pick. The DeSoto Central High product, a longtime MSU commit, was the 89th overall selection. … MSU alum Jordan Westburg has formally signed with Baltimore ($2.4M as a competitive balance pick after the first round), leaving only State’s J.T. Ginn and UM’s Anthony Servideo unsigned among the seven in-state players drafted June 10-11.

22 Jun

signed, sealed and … waiting

Ocean Springs High alum Garrett Crochet, the 11th overall draft pick out of Tennessee by the Chicago White Sox, has signed for a $4.5 million bonus. The 6-foot-6 left-hander was 10-9 with a 4.64 ERA and 13 saves over three seasons with the Vols, though he made just one appearance this spring. He joins fellow Mississippians Justin Foscue and Colt Keith in an odd sort of limbo: All signed up with no place to go. Foscue, the former Mississippi State standout, signed a reported $3.25 million deal last Friday with Texas, which drafted the infielder 14th overall on June 10. With no pro camps open – and no minor league season underway – Crochet, Foscue and Keith are limited to working out on their own. “My mindset is to wait for somebody to tell me what to do and then I will do it. I am not worrying about it too much,” Foscue told mlb.com. Foscue, one of the first of the 29 first-round picks to sign, was batting .321 with two homers and 16 RBIs in 16 games for the Bulldogs when the 2020 season was halted in mid-March. Former Biloxi High star Keith, a fifth-round pick by Detroit, signed last week for a $500,000 bonus.

19 Jun

make it three

On this date in 2001, Vicksburg native Ellis Burks – the all-time home run leader among Mississippi-born players — hit three home runs in a game for Cleveland, accomplishing a pretty neat feat that’s not as rare as one might think. A three-(or four-)homer game has been done more than 600 times, with quite a few players having hit three in a game multiple times. (Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa did it six times each!) The list of Mississippians with a three-jack game numbers seven. The first was Hal Lee from Ludlow, who slugged his way onto the list in 1934 while with the Boston Braves. The most recent was Hunter Renfroe, who hit three for San Diego on June 14 of last year, the second time the Crystal Springs native had managed the feat. He also did it as a rookie in 2017. Vicksburg native Dmitri Young is one of just four players to hit three bombs in his team’s Opening Day game; that happened in 2005, when Young was with Detroit. The others on this exclusive list: Bill Melton (1969), Larry Herndon (1982) and Brian Dozier (2016). P.S. Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith, a fifth-round pick by Detroit, reportedly has signed for a $500,000 bonus. The third baseman/pitcher, originally from Arizona, was an Arizona State signee. … Pitcher Drake Nightengale, a Pearl River Community College alum from Sumrall, has signed as a non-drafted free agent (out of South Alabama) with the New York Mets.