Blaine Crim, the ex-Mississippi College standout, batted .323 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in August, capping his strong month with a three-hit, two-homer, five-RBI game for Double-A Frisco last Wednesday. August ended. Crim’s mashing did not. On Sunday, he homered for the fifth straight game in a win at Amarillo. That’s 22 homers on the season. He is batting .556 with 10 RBIs in four September games. He set a Frisco record with five hits in a game on Friday (see previous post). For the season, he is at .291 with 80 RBIs. No flash in the pan, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound first baseman has put up impressive numbers over three pro campaigns: .305 career average (.369 on-base percentage) with 59 homers. The Rangers have a strong farm system, but it is still hard to fathom how Crim does not appear on their Top 30 prospect list as compiled by MLB Pipeline. He has quite the resume. He batted .350 over four seasons at NCAA Division II MC and was the Gulf South Conference’s player of the year in 2019. Drafted in the 19th round by Texas, the Alabama native was the Northwest League MVP in 2019, a High-A East All-Star in 2021 and a Puerto Rican Winter League batting champion earlier this year. He went 4-for-12 in MLB spring training games in March. After the way Crim has handled the challenge of Double-A pitching over the past two seasons, it’ll be interesting to see what his future holds.
The flurry of recent trades that involved a ton of minor league prospects made for a major reshuffling of the organizational Top 30 charts by MLB Pipeline. Mississippi Braves shortstop Vaughn Grissom jumped up to the No. 1 spot in Atlanta’s list. He is raking at a .362 clip in 17 Double-A games. Nine other current M-Braves, including some on the injured list, are in the Top 30. No. 10 is Darius Vines, a right-handed starter slated to go tonight against Biloxi at Trustmark Park. Former Smithville High star Jared Johnson is No. 23 on the Braves’ list. The right-hander is on the IL (Tommy John surgery) at Low-Class A Augusta. … There are 18 other Mississippi products in the various Top 30s. (The lists will be redone again at some point to filter in the 2022 draft picks.) Former Mississippi State stars Will Bednar (No. 4, San Francisco) and Justin Foscue (No. 4, Texas) are the highest-rated. Others of note: MSU product Jordan Westburg is Baltimore’s fifth-rated prospect; ex-DeSoto Central High standout Blaze Jordan is Boston’s No. 6; Ole Miss alum Ryan Rolison is Colorado’s No. 7; Southern Miss product Matt Wallner is Minnesota’s No. 7; and former MSU star J.T. Ginn is Oakland’s No. 8. Wallner, who homered in last month’s All-Star Futures Game, has reached Triple-A. MSU product Ethan Small, Milwaukee’s No. 10, has made two big league pitching appearances this season. P.S. Lance Lynn, the veteran right-hander from Ole Miss, delivered a shot in the arm for the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. In what broadcaster Steve Stone described as a “wonderful” performance, Lynn threw six innings of one-run ball to beat Kansas City 4-1. It might have been the best of his 10 starts since coming off the injured list. Pitching around a rain delay, he allowed four hits and struck out eight. Lynn is 2-4 with a 5.87 ERA, not the numbers Chicago was hoping for from him. But Wednesday’s outing surely was encouraging. … Ex-UM star Thomas Dillard hit his ninth homer of the season, helping Biloxi complete a twinbill sweep of the M-Braves at the TeePee. … Mississippi College alum Blaine Crim, at Double-A Frisco in the Texas system, went 4-for-5 and hit a pair of homers. He is batting .277 with 15 bombs and 57 RBIs.
There are always surprises in the MLB draft, which begins today (6 p.m., MLB Network/ESPN). It would be a bit of a surprise if a player from Mississippi is picked in the first round. A sampling of mock drafts (Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, The Sporting News) turns up just one instance of a state player pegged in the top 30: Baseball America has Mississippi State pitcher Landon Sims going 28th to Houston. Sims, the closer on the national title team in 2021, had Tommy John surgery this spring, creating questions about his status as a first-rounder. BA rated Sims No. 22 among draft prospects. MLB Pipeline placed Sims No. 44 among its Top 250 draft prospects, three spots behind Bulldogs catcher Logan Tanner. Bradley Loftin, a lefty pitcher at DeSoto Central High, is No. 77; Northeast Mississippi Community College righty Colby Holcombe No. 134; Ole Miss catcher Hayden Dunhurst No. 155; MSU outfielder Brad Cumbest No. 173; Jackson Academy outfielder Dakota Jordan No. 177; Madison Central catcher Ross Highfill No. 197; and South Panola outfielder Emaarion Boyd No. 245. Baseball America ranks Tanner No. 68, Dunhurst No. 139 and Holcombe No. 154. No state high school players made BA’s Top 200, though the magazine did rank four state schools in its final Top 50 for 2022: No. 2 Sumrall, No. 5 Northwest Rankin, No. 21 Jackson Prep and No. 33 Madison-Ridgeland Academy. Day 1 of the draft includes the first two rounds plus supplemental picks, a total of 80. The 20-round draft runs through Monday and Tuesday. P.S. Twelve players from state schools were drafted in 2021, including two first-rounders (MSU’s Will Bednar, No. 14, and UM’s Gunnar Hoglund, No. 19). Hoglund, like Sims this year, was coming off arm surgery. … Two Jackson State players made the list of HBCU draft prospects compiled by blackcollegenines.com. Right-hander Nik Gallatas and infielder Ty Hill are joined on that list by Grambling State right-hander Shemar Page, a former Pearl River CC star from Laurel, and Southern U. outfielder O’Neill Burgos, a Brookhaven Academy and Jones College alum. Page, also a hitter at Grambling, was the SWAC pitcher of the year. … A recent mlb.com feature focused on the small number of top three overall draft picks who failed to reach the major leagues. On that list are former MSU pitcher B.J. Wallace, No. 3 by Montreal in 1992, and Oak Park High third baseman Ted Nicholson, No. 3 by the Chicago White Sox in 1969. Wallace had injury issues, while Nicholson’s career may have been short-circuited by military duty.
The Mississippi Braves, no doubt happy to put the first half behind them, and Biloxi Shuckers face off tonight at MGM Park to begin the second half of the Southern League season. The M-Braves lost 17 of their last 23 games to finish 29-40, last in the four-team SL South. With Michael Harris II gone to Atlanta at the end of May, the Double-A M-Braves have struggled to produce runs, scoring just 62 in June so far. No other team in the league has scored fewer than 103 this month. The Shuckers, on the other hand, have been an offensive juggernaut in June, scoring 156 runs. They won seven of their last 10 to finish the first half at 34-33, second place in the division. Aiming to quell the Shuckers’ attack and start the second half on a high note, the M-Braves will start Atlanta No. 9 prospect Jared Shuster (4-7, 3.53 ERA) in Game 1 of the six-game series. Biloxi’s hottest hitter has been Cam Devanney (.291), who’ll take a 19-game hitting streak into tonight’s game. Ole Miss alum Thomas Dillard is batting .227 with five homers for the Shuckers. Andrew Moritz was named the M-Braves’ player of the week for last week after batting .416 with five RBIs in six games. He’s at .268 for the year. The M-Braves count on the power of Drew Lugbauer (15 homers) and C.J. Alexander (12) for much of their offense. … The Shuckers will honor Pearl River Community College’s national championship team in pregame ceremonies tonight. P.S. Ex-Southern Miss star Matt Wallner and DeSoto Central High product Blaze Jordan were named to MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Week for June 20-26. Wallner, playing for Minnesota’s Double-A Wichita club, went 9-for-21 with three homers, six RBIs, seven runs and six walks; he has 16 bombs on the season. Jordan went 12-for-24 with two homers, five RBIs and five runs for Boston’s Low-Class A Salem team; he is hitting .311 with eight homers for the season. Other notable performances last week, per MLB Pipeline: Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray, Jr., had a two-homer game for High-A Wisconsin in Milwaukee’s system, boosting his total to nine. He’s batting .177, so a promotion to Biloxi isn’t likely anytime soon. … Mississippi State product Jordan Westburg had a five-hit game for Triple-A Norfolk in Baltimore’s system. He is batting .366 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 16 games for the Tides. … Former Itawamba Community College standout Tyreque Reed, having a rough year (.202) at Double-A Portland (Boston), broke up a no-hitter in the seventh inning against Richmond last Friday.
The state’s high school player of the year and a handful of Mississippi State players are among the 255 prospects taking part in this week’s MLB Draft Combine at Petco Park in San Diego. Jackson Academy star Dakota Jordan is one of two Mississippi high school players at the combine, joined by Emaarion Boyd from South Panola. MSU alums Logan Tanner, Landon Sims (recovering from spring Tommy John surgery), Kamren James and Jackson Fristoe are also there, along with Southern Miss’ Tyler Stuart and Northeast Mississippi Community College’s Colby Holcombe. Three Ole Miss players — Hayden Dunhurst, Derek Diamond and T.J. McCants — are on the list of invitees, but, of course, they have other business to attend to in Omaha. MLB Network will televise portions of the workouts today and Friday beginning at 11 a.m. The MLB draft starts on July 17. Sims, who missed most of the 2022 season after helping the Bulldogs win the national title in 2021, is pegged to go 35th overall to Kansas City by MLB Pipeline in its latest mock draft; the right-hander is the only state player projected to go on the first day. … Holcombe, a State commit, is one of the most intriguing players at the combine. The 6-foot-7, 245-pound right-hander from Alabama went 7-3 with a 2.60 ERA in 12 starts for Northeast, striking out 115 batters in 65 2/3 innings. P.S. MSU product Nathaniel Lowe was part of a history-making occurrence on Wednesday but not in a desirable way. Lowe, playing for Texas, was the first strikeout victim in both of the immaculate innings recorded by Houston pitchers. It’s a rare feat: nine pitches, all strikes, three strikeouts. The Astros’ Luis Garcia and Phil Maton turned the trick, reportedly the first time an MLB team has done it twice in the same game. To his credit, Lowe is batting .276 with eight homers for the Rangers.
Colt Keith, the former Biloxi High star, hasn’t switched on the power yet in High-A ball, but his disciplined, “old-school” approach is producing nice results. Keith, who looks like a masher at 6 feet 3, 235 pounds, is batting .298 for West Michigan in the Detroit system. He has a .359 on-base percentage and has struck out just 19 times in 84 at-bats. One of the younger players in the Midwest League at 20, Keith has one home run, seven doubles, two triples and 14 RBIs. Drafted in the fifth round in 2020, Keith hit .286 with two homers at three levels last season in his pro debut. It figures that the power will come. For his part, Keith told motowntigers.com back in the spring that his approach is based on his disdain for striking out. “It’s a great mindset to have, staying with a short swing and putting the ball in play,” he said. Keith is primarily a third baseman but has also seen some time at second. MLB Pipeline rates him the No. 13 prospect in Detroit’s system, highlighting his athleticism and “quick, efficient left-handed swing.” Keith moved to Biloxi from Arizona in 2019 and was the state’s Gatorade player of the year that season. He was an Arizona State commit before the Tigers picked him in the curtailed 2020 draft and offered him a $500,000 bonus. P.S. Former Ole Miss and Mississippi Braves pitcher Chris Ellis, who made two appearances with Baltimore this season, will have shoulder surgery and miss the remainder of the campaign.
College baseball aficionados, please direct your attention to the patch of dirt behind home plate, more specifically to the masked man squatting in front of the ump. This promises to be the year of the catcher on the Mississippi major college scene. Mississippi State’s Logan Tanner and Ole Miss’ Hayden Dunhurst, highly skilled backstops who can also hit a little, are among the top-rated MLB draft prospects in the state. Both are on the Golden Spikes Award watch list. And for the record, Southern Miss has a fine catcher, too, in Blake Johnson, and Jackson State features a pair of returnees from its dominant 2021 team: Marshal Luiz and Jefrey Rodriguez. Tanner, a junior out of George County High, drew raves from scouts and analysts for his arm strength last season while helping the Bulldogs charge to the national championship. MLB Pipeline rates Tanner the 19th-best prospect in the 2022 draft, a solid first-rounder. He batted .287 with 15 home runs and 53 RBIs last year. Dunhurst, a junior from Pearl River Central, won a college Gold Glove in 2021 and is rated No. 41 among ’22 draft prospects. He hit .280 with seven bombs and 43 RBIs for an Ole Miss team that reached a Super Regional. The Bulldogs and Rebels, both highly ranked in various polls, are rebuilding their pitching staffs for 2022 and are fortunate to have experienced players behind the dish. At USM, Johnson, from Gulfport via Jones College, had a strong debut season and showed out in the Oxford Regional, going 5-for-14 with two homers and a double as the Golden Eagles reached the final. He was a .300 hitter in two seasons at Jones and hit .246 with three homers and 20 RBIs in 47 games for USM in 2021. At JSU, Luiz, from Canada, and Rodriguez, from Miami, shared catching duties last year, with each batting .259. They’ll be counted on again as the Tigers shoot for the SWAC title that so cruelly eluded them in 2021. P.S. NCAA Division I schools open Friday. State hosts Long Beach State, Ole Miss welcomes Charleston Southern, USM brings in North Alabama and JSU takes on Grambling State in the Andre Dawson Classic in New Orleans.
Yes, it’s been quite a summer for Ryan Rolison, the former Ole Miss star. And not in a good sense. The left-hander, a hot prospect in Colorado’s minor league system, had earned a promotion to Triple-A Albuquerque back in May. The big leagues were in sight. But in June, just as he was settling in with the Isotopes, he suffered appendicitis and had to have his appendix removed. Later that month, working out while still on the injured list, he broke his left hand. He finally returned to Albuquerque’s rotation on Aug. 27. In three starts, he has allowed 15 runs in 12 2/3 innings. On Tuesday night, at Oklahoma City, opposed by rehabbing big leaguer Clayton Kershaw, Rolison cruised through two innings, battled through a scoreless third, but hit a wall in the fourth. He was pulled after allowing three runs, leaving with the bases loaded. Reliever Jake Bird then gave up a grand slam. Rolison’s line: 3 2/3 IP, 7 hits, 2 walks, an HBP, 6 runs and 4 strikeouts. For the season at Albuquerque, he is 1-2, 7.56 ERA. Rated the Rockies’ No. 3 prospect, the former first-round pick stood a good chance of making his MLB debut in 2021 before the summer setbacks. That’ll probably have to wait until year. He certainly seems to have the tools for success. “Rolison needs to continue to trust his stuff and be aggressive with it,” says the MLB Pipeline scouting report. P.S. Ex-Southern Miss star Matt Wallner, now at High-A Cedar Rapids in Minnesota’s chain, hit a grand slam Tuesday as part of a three-hit night. Wallner, the 39th overall pick in 2019 and the Twins’ No. 14 prospect, is batting .260 with 12 homers and 39 RBIs. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound right fielder slumped in August after a strong July but may be poised for a finishing kick.
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.
In his long-awaited debut for the Salem Red Sox on Thursday night, Blaze Jordan hit a home run. Very appropriate. The slugger from Southaven, whose long-ball exploits as a kid have been well-chronicled (see previous posts), hit one out in the ninth inning at Lynchburg for his first hit with Boston’s Low-A club. Jordan, 18, was promoted from the rookie Florida Complex League two weeks ago but had not played before Thursday, when he hit fifth as the Salem DH. Jordan batted .362 with four homers in 19 games for the FCL Red Sox this season in his pro debut. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Jordan, a third baseman in high school, was a third-round pick in 2020 (after reclassifying at DeSoto Central to be eligible for that draft) and is currently rated Boston’s No. 9 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. The scouting report on mlb.com touts Jordan’s “impressive bat speed and strength that allow him to hit tape-measure shots without a lot of loft in his right-handed swing.”