08 Feb

there’s another one

Konnor Griffin, outfielder/pitcher at Jackson Prep, is generally regarded as the state’s top high school prospect in the 2024 MLB draft, a potential first-rounder. Samuel Richardson, third baseman at Lewisburg High, might be another first-round candidate. Lindy’s preseason magazine ranks Richardson as the No. 33 prospect in the draft, the ninth-highest ranked high school player. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound right-handed hitter, cited for his raw power in various scouting reports, batted .301 with six homers, 23 RBIs, 11 doubles and five triples for MHSAA Class 6A state champion Lewisburg in 2023. A Missouri commit, he is one of four state-connected players in Lindy’s Top 50. Griffin (No. 8), ex-Madison Central High star Braden Montgomery of Texas A&M (No. 13) and Mississippi State’s Dakota Jordan (No. 25) are the others. Those three are also highly ranked by MLB Pipeline, which doesn’t have Richardson on its latest chart of the top 100. Both Griffin and Richardson made MaxPreps’ preseason high school All-America team. Lewisburg opens its season Thursday at Center Hill. P.S. Former Mississippi Braves Christian Bethancourt and Johan Camargo (Panama), Andrelton Simmons and Hendrik Clementina (Curacao) and Jairo Ascencio (Dominican Republic) have helped their teams reach the semifinal stage of the Caribbean Series in Miami. The semis are Thursday at loanDepot Park, the title game on Friday.

28 Jan

big money, big expectations

Forty-five years ago this month, Mississippi native Dave Parker signed a five-year, $5 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates, creating lots of buzz in the sports world by becoming the first MLB player to earn a million a year. Parker, a slugging outfielder, had been in the majors for six years at the time and was coming off an MVP campaign. Boy, have times changed. Today, the Detroit Tigers announced they have signed ex-Biloxi High star Colt Keith to a six-year, $28.6M contract with options that could push its value to $82M. Keith is 22 and has yet to play a game in the majors. The lefty-hitting infielder, rated the No. 22 prospect in the minors by MLB Pipeline, reportedly will get every opportunity to win the second base job this spring. 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 fifth round of the curtailed 2020 draft and offered a $500,000 bonus. Keith, 6 feet 2, 211 pounds, batted .306 with 27 homers and 101 RBIs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2023. He also played in the All-Star Futures Game last summer. The Tigers are showing tremendous faith in Keith, who’ll certainly face a lot of pressure to perform when he cracks the Detroit lineup. It’s worth remembering that Parker, who helped Pittsburgh win the ’79 World Series, soon fell out of favor — to put it mildly — with Pirates fans when his production fell off and he left Pittsburgh as a free agent after the 1983 season.

05 Dec

four months out

The 2023 Mississippi Braves deployed several position players who put up some nice numbers, but there really wasn’t a player who moved the needle on the excitement meter. No Michael Harris II or Ronald Acuna or Dansby Swanson type. Might there be one in 2024? Baseball America ranks three position players among Atlanta’s top 10 prospects, and it’s possible all three could be with the M-Braves when they open on the road on April 5. David McCabe, a corner infielder/DH, is No. 6; catcher Drake Baldwin No. 7; and shortstop Ignacio Alvarez No. 8. McCabe, 6 feet 3, 230 pounds, played at two Class A levels in 2023 and hit .276 with 17 homers and 75 RBIs, then hit .278 in the Arizona Fall League. A college draftee out of UNC-Charlotte, the 23-year-old McCabe is projected as Atlanta’s DH in 2027. Baldwin, a Missouri State alum, is rated as the top power-hitting prospect in the Braves’ system after mashing 16 homers at three levels in 2023. A lefty hitter, he played 14 games (.321, one homer) for the M-Braves late last season before finishing in Triple-A. The most dynamic of those three prospects is Alvarez, the highest rated position player (at No. 8) on Atlanta’s Top 30 by MLB Pipeline. The 20-year-old Alvarez, drafted out of a California junior college, played at High-Class A Rome last season and hit .284 with seven homers, 66 RBIs and 16 steals. BA rates him the best overall hitter in the Atlanta system. Also worth keeping an eye on are infielders Keshawn Ogans and Gerald Quintero, both of whom had solid seasons at Rome in 2023 and could move up. Quintero is a second baseman in the Ozzie Albies mold — 5 feet 5, 155 pounds — who stole 29 bases while batting .251 for the R-Braves. He has 96 career steals in three years. Ogans, out of Cal-Berkley, hit .266 with nine homers at Rome and .299 in the AFL, where he made the Fall Stars Game. … The M-Braves’ best position players in 2023 included infielder Luke Waddell, a Southern League postseason All-Star who batted .290 and stole 26 bases, and outfielder Cody Milligan — injured for a chunk of time — who hit .280. Cal Conley, a middle infielder, has dropped to No. 21 (per MLB Pipeline) on the Braves’ prospect chart after batting .219 (with 32 bags) in 2023. Outfielder Jesse Franklin V — projected by Baseball America as Atlanta’s starting left fielder in 2027 — hit .232 with 15 homers and 21 steals last season and is now rated the No. 22 prospect. P.S. Former Jackson Mets catcher — and MLB manager — John Gibbons and ex-M-Braves outfielder Antoan Richardson have been named to the New York Mets’ coaching staff as bench coach and first-base coach, respectively.

20 Oct

the right stuff

The Arizona Fall League has been described as an All-Star game every night, and Mississippi State product Rowdey Jordan is showing that he belongs among the highly rated prospects in the league. Jordan — who isn’t among the New York Mets’ Top 30 prospects — had a three-hit game for Glendale on Thursday night, raising his average to .275 in 11 games. The switch-hitting infielder/outfielder scored twice and picked up his sixth double, which is tied for the AFL lead. He has eight runs and three RBIs. Alabama native Jordan batted .323 with 10 homers for State’s national championship team in 2021 and was drafted, as a senior, in the 11th round by the Mets. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Jordan reached Double-A Binghamton late in 2022 and spent all of 2023 there, hitting .230 with 13 homers, 63 RBIs and 30 steals. P.S. Jordan’s teammate on the ’21 Bulldogs, College World Series star Will Bednar has had a rocky go in the AFL as he attempts to get his pro career on track. Bednar, the 14th overall pick in 2021 by San Francisco, has a 9.82 ERA in four appearances for Scottsdale. The right-hander, beset by injuries since he was drafted, has allowed four runs on three hits and seven walks in 3 2/3 innings. He does have six strikeouts. Once the Giants’ No. 4 prospect (by MLB Pipeline), Bednar is now listed 26th. He went 1-2, 4.22, in four games in rookie ball this season.

18 Sep

coming attraction

Former Jackson Prep standout Will Warren, now in the New York Yankees’ system, got some well-deserved recognition today from Baseball America in its daily Prospect Report. Warren threw five shutout innings Sunday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, yielding just two hits and striking out a career-high 10 batters. An eighth-round draft pick out of Southeastern Louisiana in 2021, Warren, 24, has allowed just one earned run over 23 2/3 innings in September. He has struck out 29, walked nine and limited opposing hitters to a .127 average. He is rated the Yankees’ No. 10 prospect by MLB Pipeline, which gives his estimated time of arrival in The Show as 2023. That may not happen, but he is close. The 6-foot-2 right-hander started this season in Double-A and went 3-0 with a 2.45 before moving up to S/W-B. He is 6-4 with a 3.71 in 20 games for the RailRiders. Warren features a mid-90s fastball and a wipeout slider, which MLB Pipeline calls his “best weapon.”

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.

29 Aug

minor matters

Brandon Parker, former West Harrison High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star, will make his home debut this week for the Mississippi Braves, who are hosting Rocket City in a seven-game Southern League series at Trustmark Park. Parker, an outfielder now in his fourth pro season, is 3-for-13 since Atlanta moved him to Double-A from High-Class A Rome, where he hit .250 with five homers and 21 RBIs. As a freshman at Gulf Coast in 2018, Parker was the NJCAA Division II player of the year. He set the school home run record with 24 and batted .424 with 81 RBIs that year. The Braves drafted him in 2019. On Rocket City’s roster is former Itawamba CC and Mississippi State left-hander Houston Harding, who has a 9.48 ERA (thanks mainly to a couple of rocky outings) in 13 appearances for the Los Angeles Angels’ affiliate. The Coldwater native had a 1.32 ERA at High-A Tri-City before being promoted in late June. … Biloxi High product Colt Keith and ex-Ole Miss ace Gunnar Hoglund were named to MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Week. Keith, a top Detroit prospect, went 11-for-24 with three homers for Triple-A Toledo last week, when he was also named the International League’s player of the week. Hoglund, Oakland’s No. 19 prospect and a first-round pick (by Toronto) in 2021, threw five hitless innings with seven strikeouts in his debut for High-A Lansing. … Former Magnolia Heights Academy standout Cooper Pratt, a sixth-round pick this year by Milwaukee, helped the Brewers’ Arizona Complex League team win the league championship. Pratt, a shortstop, batted .356 for the ACL Brewers. … Former MSU pitchers Jackson Fristoe and Eric Cerantola have been promoted by their respective organizations. Fristoe moved up to Low-A Tampa in the New York Yankees’ system and Cerantola to Double-A Northwest Arkansas in the Kansas City system. … Jackson Prep’s Konnor Griffin and ex-Madison Central star Braden Montgomery, now at Texas A&M, have been ranked among the top 10 2024 major league draft prospects by MLB Pipeline. Griffin, an outfielder/pitcher, is a senior this year. Montgomery, also a two-way player, recently transferred from Stanford, where he was an All-Pac-12 performer.

11 Aug

prospecting

Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith, who has reached Triple-A at age 21 in his third pro season, is ranked No. 26 in MLB Pipeline’s newly released Top 100 minor league prospects. Keith is the lone Mississippi product in the overall rankings. The former Gatorade player of the year is Detroit’s No. 2 prospect and is currently hitting .270 with three homers and 19 RBIs at Toledo while playing mainly third base. There are 19 other state college or prep alums in the team Top 30 rankings. Six players from this year’s draft class were slotted in, including Southern Miss alum Hurston Waldrep, who is Atlanta’s No. 2. Ole Miss product Jacob Gonzalez is the Chicago White Sox’s No. 4, fellow former Rebels star Kemp Alderman is Miami’s No. 9 and former Mississippi State star Colton Ledbetter is Tampa Bay’s No. 9. Ledbetter, a left-handed hitting outfielder, is 7-for-17 with a homer in his first five pro games. Cooper Pratt, the state’s 2023 player of the year at Magnolia Heights Academy, is Milwaukee’s No. 10, and ex-USM star Tanner Hall is Minnesota’s No. 15. Of particular note, Justin Foscue, the 14th overall pick out of MSU in 2020, is ranked as Texas’ No. 6 and is having a good year at Triple-A Round Rock, batting .262 with 11 homers, 49 RBIs and 65 runs in 86 games. With third baseman Josh Jung currently out with a broken thumb, the Rangers might give Foscue a call in the near future. … The Double-A Mississippi Braves’ roster includes four of Atlanta’s Top 30: lefty Luis De Avila (No. 13), shortstop Cal Conley (No. 21), outfielder Jesse Franklin V (No. 22) and righty Tyler Owens (No. 27). Former M-Braves right-hander AJ Smith-Shawver, now at Triple-A Gwinnett, is the lone Atlanta prospect in the Top 100 at No. 58. He has already debuted in MLB. P.S. Ex-USM star Nick Sandlin threw four pitches Thursday, got a ground ball to escape a base-loaded situation in the sixth inning and earned his seventh hold in Cleveland’s 4-3 win against Toronto. Sandlin has a 3.45 ERA for the second-place Guardians. … Former Ole Miss standout Thomas Dillard and ex-Harrison Central High star Bobby Bradley traded homers in the independent Atlantic League on Thursday. Dillard’s 31st was not enough for Lexington, which fell 8-6 to Bradley (23 bombs) and Charleston.

20 Jun

eye on …

A lot of eyes will be on Kemp Alderman today and Wednesday. The Ole Miss alum from Decatur is in Phoenix for the MLB Draft Combine, and the outfielder was identified before workouts even began as a player to watch by MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis. “I think he’s going to put on quite a show at the combine,” Callis said Monday in a TV interview on MLB Network. “I think he’ll establish once again while he’s there that he hits the ball as hard as anybody in this draft.” The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Alderman put up a .376 average, 19 homers, 61 RBIs, a .440 on-base average and a .709 slug this past season at Ole Miss. He won the Ferriss Trophy as the best college player in the state. “He hits as hard and as far anybody I’ve ever seen,” Rebels coach Mike Bianco said at the Ferriss ceremony last month. Alderman hit 25 homers over three seasons at Newton County Academy, where he was team MVP his last three years. He went undrafted out of high school and played sparingly as a freshman at UM in 2021. “To his credit, he went to work,” Bianco said. “He kept getting better and better.” He hit .286 with 11 homers on the 2022 national title team and then erupted for one of the best seasons in school history in 2023. Alderman, the No. 62 draft prospect on MLB Pipeline’s latest rankings, is one of eight Mississippi college products invited to the combine, in just its third year. Also on the list: shortstop Jacob Gonzalez, the highest-rated draft prospect in the state, catcher Calvin Harris and pitcher Jack Dougherty from Ole Miss; Southern Miss pitcher Tanner Hall and outfielder Matthew Etzel; and Mississippi State outfielder Colton Ledbetter and pitcher Cade Smith. Batting practice, infield/outfield drills and bullpen sessions begin today; MLB Network will televise portions of the workouts.

08 Jun

box of chocolates

The crop of players harvested out of Mississippi in the 2013 major league draft, conducted 10 years ago this week, proved quite fruitful. Of the 10 players drafted out of the state in the first 10 rounds that year, nine made the majors and five of those are still playing. That’s pretty impressive. Hunter Renfroe, the 13th overall pick from Mississippi State, now mans right field for the Los Angeles Angels. Tim Anderson, chosen 17th overall from East Central Community College, is an All-Star shortstop for the Chicago White Sox. Mike Mayers (third round, Ole Miss), Adam Frazier (sixth round, MSU) and Kendall Graveman (eighth round, MSU) are currently in The Show. Cody Reed (Northwest CC), Stuart Turner (UM), Bobby Wahl (UM) and Chad Girodo (MSU) also logged big league time. The only one who didn’t get that far was Andrew Pierce, a Southern Miss pitcher drafted in Round 9 by St. Louis. Picked in the third round that year was JaCoby Jones, a Richton High product who was drafted out of LSU and made the big leagues. Quite a few others were picked from Mississippi schools over the 40 rounds, but none made The Show. Overall, that 2013 draft did not produce a bevy of big league stars. Kris Bryant was the second overall pick and Aaron Judge was the 32nd. (Yes, 32nd.) Devin Williams, Cody Bellinger, Jeff McNeil, J.P. Crawford and Jon Gray are among the others from that draft who’ve had some notable MLB success, but that list isn’t very long. The draft is very much like the proverbial box of chocolates. We are about a month out from the 2023 draft, and there are seven current Mississippi players in MLB Pipeline’s latest Top 200 prospects. Ole Miss’ Jacob Gonzalez is No. 15 (down from No. 8 in April), Magnolia Heights’ Cooper Pratt No. 43, MSU’s Colton Ledbetter No. 48, Kemp Alderman — the Ferriss Trophy winner from UM — No. 62, USM’s Tanner Hall No. 92, UM’s Calvin Harris No. 132 and Oxford High’s Campbell Smithwick No. 155. Former USM pitcher Hurston Waldrep, now at Florida, is No. 20. Those rankings are no predictor of where the players might be drafted — or what kind of impact they might have in pro ball. As Billy Beane points out in “Moneyball,” scouts will say they know — but they don’t.