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.”
Justin Foscue is the lone Mississippian (native or school alum) in MLB Pipeline’s new list of the top 100 prospects in pro ball. The former Mississippi State star, currently playing in Double-A in the Texas system, is rated No. 90 overall. He is No. 4 on the Rangers’ new Top 30 chart. Foscue, a second baseman and a 2020 draftee, is batting .273 in six games at Frisco after batting .296 with 14 homers in High-A ball. … Current Mississippi Braves catcher Shea Langeliers is No. 75 overall, and former M-Braves Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, now at Triple-A Gwinnett, check in at 40 and 86. … MLB Pipeline’s new team rankings include 2021 draft picks. MSU product Will Bednar, first player chosen from the state, is San Francisco’s No. 7 and Ole Miss product Gunnar Hoglund, also a first-rounder, is Toronto’s No. 5. Bednar, who led the Bulldogs to the national championship, hasn’t debuted yet. Hoglund is recovering from arm surgery.
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.
Milwaukee doesn’t appear to need a lot of help in its starting rotation at the moment, but should a need arise, Ethan Small is showing signs of being ready for the call. The ex-Mississippi State standout threw seven shutout innings — his longest career outing — in Double-A Biloxi’s 13-1 victory against Rocket City on Friday night. Small (2-2, 1.96 ERA) allowed three hits, one walk and fanned nine in his eighth start for the Shuckers. A 6-foot-4, 215-pound left-hander, he has struck out 67 batters in 41 1/3 innings, including a 12-K performance last week against the Mississippi Braves. Small was the SEC’s pitcher of the year at State in 2019 and Milwaukee’s first-round pick that summer. He threw just 21 innings in the low minors in 2019 and spent last season in the Brewers’ alternate camp. MLB Pipeline rates Small the No. 4 prospect in the Milwaukee system and projects his MLB arrival as 2021. That’s looking like a real possibility.
You wouldn’t necessarily go to a Mississippi Braves game to watch Shea Langeliers play catcher, but you’d probably come away impressed. Take Wednesday night’s game, for instance. Langeliers, Atlanta’s No. 3-rated prospect, threw out two would-be base stealers in the Double-A team’s 2-1 win against Birmingham at Trustmark Park. (For the record, before throwing out Laz Rivera for the second time, Langeliers appeared to pick him off first base; the umpire called Rivera safe.) Langeliers has thrown out 17 of 29 attempted base thieves. That’s 59 percent. A 30-percent rate is considered good. The 2019 first-round pick has just two passed balls and two errors over 29 games. From MLB Pipeline’s scouting report: “His athleticism and agility allow him to be a plus blocker and receiver and he perhaps has the best arm of any catcher in the Minor Leagues, one that allowed him to throw out 41 percent of potential basestealers in 2019.” Oh, and he is also the M-Braves’ best hitter. … No. 4 prospect Braden Shewmake, hitting just .127, did drive in one of the M-Braves’ runs, his 11th RBI. No. 25 prospect Justin Dean (.242) picked up the other, his 14th RBI. Elsewhere in the Atlanta system: No. 5 prospect Kyle Muller became the latest M-Braves alum to advance to the big leagues, working an inning for the Braves in their 10-8 loss to Boston. Muller allowed four hits and two runs in relief of former M-Braves star Ian Anderson, who gave up four runs in four innings. All of that was before M-Braves alum A.J. Minter yielded a game-turning grand slam to Christian Arroyo. Such is the state of the big Braves’ pitching staff. … At Triple-A Gwinnett, No. 1 prospect – and erstwhile Atlanta center fielder – Cristian Pache is hitting .300 since being sent down on May 29. No. 2 prospect Drew Waters, the 2019 Southern League MVP who has yet to get a big league look, is batting .279 with three homers and eight steals. … At High-A Rome, No. 6 prospect Jared Shuster threw four shutout innings Wednesday in a 5-0 win. The left-hander out of Wake Forest is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in five games. … At Low-A Augusta, two Mississippi products, both 2019 draft picks, are feeling their way in pro ball. Brandon Parker, a Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout from Saucier, is batting .160 with five bombs and 19 RBIs in 30 games. Right-hander Jared Johnson, the No. 29 prospect out of Smithville High, allowed three runs with four strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings in his only appearance to date.
The Mississippi Braves have scratched out a 6-9 record despite being last in the Double-A South in runs, batting and on-base percentage. As fans of “Bull Durham” might ask, How’d they ever win six? One reason would be the play of Justin Dean, the diminutive leadoff batter. Dean has reached base in each of the 14 games he has played; his OBP of .426 ranks fifth in the league. He is batting .262 and has scored nine runs, driven in four and stolen five bases. Speed is the prime tool for the 24-year-old center fielder, who goes 5 feet 6, 185 pounds. He swiped 47 bases (with nine triples) at Class A Rome in 2019 and earned league All-Star honors and a trip to the Arizona Fall League. A 17th-round pick out of NCAA Division II Lenoir-Rhyne in 2018, he is batting .283 over his three pro seasons. MLB Pipeline ranks Dean 26th among Atlanta’s prospects, noting that “he has the chance to be a table-setter type, perhaps with a career as a fourth outfielder the most likely.” Dean will look to set the table tonight when the M-Braves play Chattanooga in the fourth game of a six-game set at Trustmark Park. P.S. On Chattanooga’s roster is a pair of former Southern Miss stars: Pitcher J.C. Keys, drafted by Cincinnati in 2019, and Chuckie Robinson, a catcher who was plucked by the Reds from Houston in the Rule 5 draft in December. Keys took the loss in relief on Wednesday but has a 1.69 ERA in four games. Robinson is 4-for-16 in five games this season and is a .249 career hitter over five pro seasons. Notably, he has caught two of Nick Lodolo’s starts and Hunter Greene’s last one, a 10-strikeout gem. Those are two top prospects in Cincy’s system. … There are several other Mississippi products scattered around the Double-A South. Ex-Columbia High standout Ti’Quan Forbes and Mississippi State alum Konnor Pilkington are with Birmingham, former State star Ethan Small is at Biloxi, ex-Ole Miss standout Wyatt Short is with Tennessee, UM product Nick Fortes plays for Pensacola and former Delta State star Dalton Moats is at Montgomery.