Charlie Morton, the veteran Atlanta pitcher, gives an endearing assessment of Austin Riley, the DeSoto Central High alum and current Braves third baseman. “He’s easy to root for,” Morton said in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story. “He’s great in the clubhouse. Just an all-around really good dude.” Riley also has become an all-around really good player, a blossoming star, in fact. The 24-year-old, third-year big leaguer smacked two home runs, one a grand slam, and drove in six runs to power the Braves to a 12-5 win against the first-place New York Mets on Tuesday night at CitiField. The two homers went deep into the left-field seats and covered a combined 850 feet-plus. “The power’s unbelievable,” Braves manager Brian Snitker told The Associated Press. “He’s still figuring things out. … Still a lot of upside in this guy.” Riley is batting .288 with 19 homers and 56 RBIs. Over the last 15 days, mostly spent in the cleanup spot, Riley is batting .372 (second among all MLB third basemen) with 16 hits (first), a .791 slugging percentage (first), five homers (tied for the most) and 14 RBIs (first). And, he hasn’t made an error since June 20. P.S. Adam Frazier fit seamlessly into San Diego’s lineup on Tuesday, going 2-for-5 and scoring twice as the leadoff batter (and left fielder) in a 7-4 win over Oakland. The 2021 All-Star out of Mississippi State was traded on Monday from Pittsburgh. Frazier is hitting .325. … Former MSU standout Kendall Graveman, traded from Seattle to Houston in the midst of a series between the two American League West rivals, was in an Astros uniform but did not pitch in Tuesday’s game, an 8-6 Houston win. Graveman, a bit surprised by the trade, got visibly emotional in a TV interview discussing the move. The right-handed reliever is 4-0 with an 0.82 ERA and 10 saves. … Ex-State star Nate Lowe stuffed the stat sheet in helping Texas stop a 12-game losing streak with a 5-4 win against Arizona. Lowe, batting .251 with the Rangers, had two hits, a walk, two RBIs, a run and a stolen base. … And down in Double-A, the Mississippi Braves, powered by a club-record seven homers, stopped an eight-game skid with a resounding 9-3 win at Pensacola. Shea Langeliers, who could be Atlanta’s catcher next season, hit two bombs, raising his season total to 17.
Mississippi State product Justin Foscue, a first-round pick by Texas in the 2020 draft, homered in his eighth straight game on Sunday. (Note: The big league record is eight straight.) Foscue went deep for High-A Hickory in the completion of a game suspended last Friday. His streak began on July 9 when he was on a rehab assignment with the Arizona Complex League Rangers. He is batting .324 with 10 homers and 23 RBIs for Hickory. Foscue didn’t play in Sunday’s regularly scheduled game, but ex-Mississippi College star Blaine Crim did. And he homered in his second straight game and for the 12th time in July. Crim is batting .298 with 19 homers and 58 RBIs for Hickory. … The remains of the 2021 season will be a lot more interesting for Adam Frazier now that the ex-State standout has been traded from Pittsburgh to San Diego. The Pirates are mired in last place in their division. The Padres are in a heated battle with San Francisco and Los Angeles in the National League West. Frazier, 29, was a coveted trade piece, with several teams reportedly expressing interest. The All-Star second baseman is batting .324 and leads the big leagues in hits with 125. According to mlb.com, Frazier is only the third player in the modern era to be traded midseason while leading MLB in hits. The others: Willie McGee (1990) and Red Schoendienst (1957). Frazier is a left-handed hitter with some pop (39 career homers) who has played six different positions over his six seasons in the majors. … It wasn’t surprising that All-Stars Lance Lynn and Brandon Woodruff gave us quite the pitchers’ duel on Sunday night (see previous post). The surprise was that former Ole Miss star Lynn delivered the game’s biggest hit, a two-run single off MSU product Woodruff that propelled the Chicago White Sox to a 3-1 win over Milwaukee in a matchup of division leaders. Lynn’s second-inning hit, on an 0-2 fastball, was his first since 2017. It came in his first plate appearance in over two years. Woodruff, a good-hitting pitcher, also had a knock off Lynn but came up empty in a key at-bat in the fifth inning. Down 3-1 with a runner at second and one out, Woodruff took a called third strike on a 3-2 pitch.
Carrying an .083 average and having already struck out three times against Patrick Sandoval, Brent Rooker was a most unlikely candidate to spoil the Los Angeles Angels left-hander’s no-hit bid. But baseball is funny that way. Former Mississippi State star Rooker blooped an opposite-field double down the right-field line with one out in the ninth inning Saturday to end Sandoval’s bid for a no-no. Rooker, only recently recalled from Triple-A by Minnesota, said he was fooled on the pitch and called it a “lucky hit.” Rooker later scored, but the Angels held on for a 2-1 win. … Ex-State standout Kendall Graveman, a possible trade piece for Seattle, got the win and trimmed his ERA to 0.84 in the Mariners’ walk-off win against Oakland. Graveman, who has 10 saves, told mlb.com that it would be “a little bit discouraging” to be traded from a Mariners club that is still in the wild card hunt in the American League. … Harrison Central High product Bobby Bradley, mired in a slump, hit his 11th home run (in 39 games) in Cleveland’s loss to Tampa Bay. Bradley has just two hits in his last 21 at-bats and is at .211 for the year. … Down in Double-A, former Itawamba Community College star Tyreque Reed hit his first homer — a walk-off bomb, no less — since his promotion by Boston to Portland. Reed is batting .346 in seven Double-A games. He has 15 homers all told this season. … Southern Miss product Matt Wallner homered for the second time in four games since rejoining Minnesota’s High-A Cedar Rapids team. Wallner had missed almost two months with a wrist injury. The second-year pro is batting .337 with six homers and 16 RBIs in 21 games. … After a sluggish start to his pro career, ex-DeSoto Central slugger Blaze Jordan is heating up for Boston’s Florida Complex League team. Jordan, a 2020 draftee, has a six-game hit streak that includes two home runs and has boosted his average to .269 with 14 RBIs in 13 games at the rookie level. … The first five players picked from state schools in the 2021 draft have signed: Will Bednar, Gunnar Hoglund, Doug Nikhazy, Reed Trimble and Tanner Allen. Ryan Och, Brennon McNair, Rowdey Jordan and Hunter Stanley, the last four of the 12 picked, also have signed. Eric Cerantola, Christian MacLeod and Taylor Broadway remain unsigned. Walker Powell and Houston Harding have signed as undrafted free agents. (When Harding debuts for the Angels, he’ll be the fourth ICC alum in pro ball, joining Reed, Delvin Zinn and Steffon Moore.) … And finally, there is this: The Biloxi Shuckers, the worst team (by far) in the Double-A South, have beaten the league’s best team, the Mississippi Braves, five straight times at Trustmark Park in Pearl this week. Saturday’s score was 13-1. Game 6 of the series is today. Will order finally be restored to the universe? Who knows? Baseball is funny that way.
Mississippi native Norm Bass is one of the select few – roughly 70 – who have played both major league baseball and pro football. Born in Laurel in 1939 and raised in California, Bass spent parts of three seasons (1961-63) in the majors as a pitcher with the Kansas City A’s and then played defensive back in the AFL in 1964 with the Denver Broncos. But Bass did not stop there. Arthritis curtailed his ability to perform in baseball and football, so he turned to table tennis and became a prominent player on the international scene. He medaled in the 2000 Paralympics and is in the Table Tennis Hall of Fame. Bass, whose brother Dick was also a pro football player and Mississippi native, posted a 13-17 record with a 5.32 ERA in 65 MLB games. (He allowed one of Roger Maris’ 61 home runs in 1961.) In a wonderful profile on Bass in an online publication called Sports Stories, the writer says, “No athlete I can think of has had a career like Norm Bass.” A film about his life reportedly was in the works in 2020.
Taylorsville High’s Aiden Moffett is the lone Mississippian on the roster for tonight’s High School All-American Game, which will unofficially launch MLB’s All-Star Game festivities in Denver. The high school game, featuring players from the class of 2022, will be livestreamed on mlb.com at 6 p.m. CDT. Moffett, 6 feet 2, 185, is listed as a right-handed pitcher on the roster and has signed as a pitcher with LSU. He was 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA for the state Class 2A champion Tartars in 2021. He was also a .300 hitter. … The All-Star Futures Game is Sunday — former Mississippi Braves star Drew Waters is slated to play — followed by the first round of the MLB draft. Ole Miss’ Gunnar Hoglund and Doug Nikhazy, Mississippi State’s Will Bednar and Madison Central High’s Braden Montgomery are potential first-rounders. All are ranked in the top 66 by mlb.com. (Atlanta picks 24th, Milwaukee 15th.) The draft continues on Monday and Tuesday, when the Home Run Derby and MLB All-Star Game are scheduled at Coors Field. … Montgomery, the state’s Gatorade player of the year, is the lone prep player ranked among the top 250 in the mlb.com draft chart, but there are always surprise picks. A few to watch out for: Terry pitcher Darious Anderson, Jackson Prep/Oxford shortstop Kelly Crumpton, Tupelo left-hander Hunter Elliott, Madison Central third baseman Hunter Hines and Lewisburg pitcher Brady Tygart. … Worth noting: Jerrion Ealy, the ex-Jackson Prep star and current Ole Miss running back, is eligible for the draft again. An outfielder, he was the top high school player in the state in 2019 but was firmly committed to UM. Arizona took a flyer on him in the 31st round.
There may be no hotter team in pro ball than the Mississippi Braves, who won two games on Thursday at Trustmark Park, extending their win streak to four, and have won 31 of their last 45. At 35-22 overall (22-11 at home), the M-Braves have the best record in the Double-A South. (And, yes, there will be a postseason to crown a champion in September.) Atlanta prospects Shea Langeliers and Braden Shewmake stood out on Thursday. Langeliers hit his 14th homer, tied for the league lead, and Shewmake homered, his sixth, and extended his hit streak to 11 games. The M-Braves play Pensacola again tonight (6:35) at the TeePee in Pearl.
Jake Mangum hit his fourth homer for Binghamton, the 16th extra-base hit for the former Mississippi State standout in 36 games for the New York Mets’ Double-A team. Mangum, batting .275, is slugging .450. He slugged just .297 in A-ball in 2019.
Former Mississippi College standout Blaine Crim hit his fourth home run in three games for High-A Hickory in the Texas system. Crim, in his second pro season, is batting .275 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs.
Pascagoula High product Willie Joe Garry, Jr., went 3-for-5 with his third triple of the season for Low-A Fort Myers in Minnesota’s chain. Garry, 21, in his third pro season, is batting .196 with two homers, 12 RBIs, 19 runs and 13 steals.
The scuffling Chicago Cubs are returning Justin Steele, the ex-George County High standout, to a starting role at Triple-A Iowa. Steele, a starter his first six seasons in pro ball, worked in relief for the Cubs as a rookie this season, posting a 2.03 ERA in 11 games before landing on the injured list. “We’re going to try to put him in a role where he can face the lineup a couple times, and there’s no reason he can’t do it,” Cubs president Jed Hoyer said in an nbcchicago.com report. The left-hander will start for Iowa on Sunday and likely will be in the Cubs’ rotation soon.
Bobby Bradley hit his first home run since June 30 in Cleveland’s win over Kansas City on Thursday. The Harrison Central High alum now has nine bombs on the season in just 97 big league at-bats. He had nine in 97 at-bats at Triple-A Columbus when he was called up to the big club on June 5.
Ex-Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman, now Seattle’s closer, was in the middle of a conflict between the Mariners and New York Yankees on Thursday. Graveman, on in the ninth to close out a 4-0 M’s win, brushed D.J. LeMahieu’s jersey with an inside pitch. LeMahieu barked at Graveman, who stared him down. More shouting and posturing ensued at game’s end involving multiple players. LeMahieu brushed it all off in a comment to nj.com: “He threw one in on Rougned (Odor) and the next one in on me. It looked suspicious, but it’s just baseball.”
Mississippians in the majors produced highlights aplenty on an eventful Wednesday in which more than 200 runs were scored. To wit: Mississippi State alum Hunter Renfroe, making a late push for All-Star reserve consideration, hit his 12th homer in Boston’s 50th win. He is hitting .272 with 43 RBIs. … Bulldogs product Adam Frazier, who leads the voting at second base for the National League All-Star team, went 2-for-5 for Pittsburgh, boosting his average to .327. … DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley had three hits and three RBIs in Atlanta’s 20-2 romp over the New York Mets. … Ex-State star Kendall Graveman pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings, trimming his ERA to 1.11, and got the win in Seattle’s extra-inning victory. … Harrison Central High product Bobby Bradley hit homers Nos. 7 and 8 (over 21 games) for Cleveland. … Former Ole Miss standout Mike Mayers got the win in relief for the Los Angeles Angels, benefitting from the team’s seven-run ninth-inning rally at Yankee Stadium. P.S. UM alum Bobby Wahl was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers (from Milwaukee) and optioned to their Triple-A club. … Ex-Rebels star Drew Pomeranz and Taylorsville High product Billy Hamilton have come off the injured list for San Diego and the Chicago White Sox, respectively. … The latest mock draft on mlb.com has State’s Will Bednar, so dominant in the deciding game of the College World Series, going No. 11 overall to Washington. He has jumped up the boards from a rating of No. 41 back in December.
The 2021 season has taken another twist for Corey Dickerson, the McComb native and former Meridian Community College standout. Currently in a walking boot with a foot injury, and in the midst of a slump, veteran outfielder Dickerson reportedly has been traded (along with pitcher Adam Cimber) from Miami to Toronto. The nine-year big leaguer was batting .208 over his last 30 games for Miami when he hurt his left foot and landed on the 10-day injured list on June 15. He was not expected back on the field until after the All-Star break in mid-July. In his first year with the Marlins in 2020, Dickerson helped a young team make a surprising run to a playoff berth. The current Marlins team was in last place when Dickerson went on the IL, and he had not been very impactful. He is hitting .260 with just two homers, 14 RBIs and 27 runs over 62 games. His average with runners in scoring position is under .200. Much more was expected in the last year of his two-year, $17.5M contract. He was an All-Star just four years ago with Tampa Bay, when he batted .282 with 27 homers. And he won a Gold Glove the next season in Pittsburgh. If he’s healthy, he might still have something left to help the Blue Jays in the competitive American League East. P.S. Injury updates: Former George County High star Justin Steele (hamstring) is on a rehab assignment for the Chicago Cubs. Mississippi State alum Jonathan Holder (shoulder) remains on the Cubs’ 60-day IL with no projected return date. Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz (lat strain) reportedly is close to returning to San Diego’s active roster. Spencer Turnbull (forearm), the Madison Central product, is expected back with Detroit in early July. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton (oblique) reportedly is close to getting back to the Chicago White Sox. Northwest CC product Cody Reed (thumb), with Tampa Bay, had surgery on June 2 and is done for the season. MSU alum Dakota Hudson (2020 Tommy John surgery) might return to St. Louis in September.
The first phase of fan voting for the All-Star Game ended today with Adam Frazier looking like the lone Mississippi product on track to make Phase 2. Per the last update on the results, former Mississippi State standout Frazier was second in the voting for National League second baseman (behind Ozzie Albies); the top three advance in the voting process. The finalists for Phase 2 will be announced on Sunday. Frazier is among the league leaders with a .324 average for Pittsburgh. Ex-East Central Community College star Tim Anderson, having an All-Star type year for the Chicago White Sox, stood fourth at American League shortstop. Xander Bogaerts, Bo Bichette and Carlos Correa led that pack. Anderson, batting .297 with six homers, 41 runs and 13 steals, might still get picked as a reserve. A recent slump may have cost Austin Riley a shot at making the NL team at third base; he was fourth in the latest release. The DeSoto Central High product, who had a great month of May, is hitting .276 with 12 homers. Former State standout Brandon Woodruff (6-3, 1.89 ERA) and Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn (7-3, 2.14) would appear to be solid candidates as pitchers, which are chosen by player ballot and the Commissioner’s Office.
Luke Easter, slugging long homers well before the Statcast era, hit a bunch of bombs that are the stuff of legend. One of those came on June 23, 1950. The Jonestown native, who was the first black Mississippian to play in the major leagues, hit a ball over the auxiliary scoreboard in Cleveland’s old Municipal Stadium and into the second deck of seats. It was estimated at 477 feet and is regarded as the longest homer ever hit at the ballpark the Indians called home until 1994. The only other player reported to have hit one over that scoreboard was Mickey Mantle, who did it 10 years later. Easter, already 34 years old in 1950, hit 28 homers for the Indians that season and finished his brief MLB career with 93. He also hit 10 official Negro League homers. … For the record, the longest Statcast-measured bomb by a Mississippi product in 2021 is Mississippi State alum Nate Lowe’s 465-footer. Hunter Renfroe hit one 453, Mitch Moreland 444 and Austin Riley and Corey Dickerson both 432.