16 Aug

it’s a start

Making the New York-Penn League All-Star Game likely was not a major goal for Milton Smith II — who has expressed a much bigger dream — but it’s a nice feather in his cap. Smith, a former Meridian Community College and Starkville High star, was named to the short season Class A league’s showcase event on Thursday. The game is Aug. 21 at Staten Island, N.Y. A 22nd-round pick by Miami out of MCC in 2018, Smith is batting .319 (sixth in the NYPL) with 27 runs and 17 steals in 47 games for Batavia. He hit .362 last year, playing at the rookie level plus five games in high-A. That followed his sophomore season at Meridian when he batted .381 and swiped 24 bags in 40 games. Smith, a 5-foot-10, left-handed hitting outfielder, has what his former high school coach called “elite” speed. That’s a valuable tool, one that could help him stand out in a Marlins system that currently features 11 other outfielders among its Top 30 prospects. Smith also possesses a high level of confidence. Three years ago, at a ceremony when he signed with MCC, Smith told The Dispatch of Columbus/Starkville that his goal in baseball was not just to make the major leagues but to make it to Cooperstown, i.e., the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

11 Jul

down on farm

The Miami Marlins, headed for a 10th straight losing season, are counting on their farm system to get things turned around. At short season Class A Batavia, Milton Smith II is clamoring to be a part of that rebuilding process. Starkville native Smith is leading the New York-Penn League in hitting with a .416 average through 22 games. The lefty-hitting outfielder, a 22nd-round pick out of Meridian Community College in 2018, has 15 runs and four steals and recently rang up a five-hit game. He hit .362 in his debut season. Smith is one of several Mississippians playing in the low levels of the Marlins’ system. Also on that Batavia club is Dustin Skelton, an 18th-round pick from Mississippi State last month. The catcher is 4-for-17 since joining the Muckdogs. A step up at low Class A Clinton is former McLaurin High and MCC star Davis Bradshaw, an 11th-round pick in 2018 who batted .354 in his debut campaign. The lefty-hitting outfielder has found the going a bit tougher in the Midwest League, batting .222 in 29 games. At high-A Jupiter, former Southern Miss pitcher Taylor Braley, a sixth-rounder in 2017, has a 3.45 ERA in 15 appearances (and 3.96 in his career), and ex-Ole Miss catcher Nick Fortes, a fourth-round selection in 2018, is hitting .212 with two homers and 18 RBIs. … Blake Anderson, a first-round pick out of West Lauderdale High in 2014 who converted from catcher to pitcher in 2017, is not currently listed on a Marlins minor league roster.

10 Sep

celebrate, celebrate

Of the 93 hits Mitch Moreland has this season, No. 93 on Sunday night might have been one of the least well-struck. Still, it set off a mad celebration at Fenway Park. Mississippi State product Moreland sliced an opposite-field flare into left field, scoring a runner from second base with two outs in the ninth and giving Boston a 6-5 win over Houston in a battle of American League juggernauts. “Yeah, I mean, I’ll take it every time,” Moreland, who has been battling a slump, said in an mlb.com story. Moreland, an All-Star this summer, is hitting just .200 over his last 30 games. For the year, the lefty-hitting first baseman is at .251 with 15 homers and 67 RBIs. Nicknamed “2 Bags” last year for his knack of smacking doubles, Moreland has 40 extra-base hits and is slugging .450. The win was Boston’s 98th of the year, its seventh walk-off, and salvaged the third game of the series against the Astros. … Meanwhile, in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., another ex-Bulldogs star got mobbed on Sunday after registering a three-pitch save that secured the New York-Penn League championship. Jacob Billingsley, a 32nd-round pick out of State in June, closed out Tri-City’s 4-2 victory over Hudson Valley in the short-season Class A circuit. “That was fun. Man, that was fun,” Billingsley told milb.com. “It means everything to a lot of these guys.” Billingsley pitched in nine games for the Astros affiliate and posted a 5.63 ERA (inflated by one bad outing) with one save. The 24-year-old right-hander entered Sunday’s contest – Game 2 of the best-of-3 – in the 12th inning with the bases loaded and two outs. He induced a fly ball with his third pitch to set off the ValleyCats’ celebration.

16 Aug

minor matters

Don’t look now, but former Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn pitched in a game Monday night. Lynn, nine months out from Tommy John surgery, threw 27 pitches for St. Louis’ Class A Palm Beach club. He allowed a hit and fanned two in 1 2/3 innings. Lynn, who won 60 games for the Cardinals the previous four seasons, just might be able to return to the big leagues in September. St. Louis is battling for a wild card in the National League. … As expected, Cincinnati sent Northwest Mississippi Community College product Cody Reed, the struggling left-hander, down to Triple-A Louisville. … Nate Lowe and Chuckie Robinson, 2016 draftees out of Mississippi State and Southern Miss, respectively, are slated to play in tonight’s New York-Penn League All-Star Game. Lowe is batting .277 with two homers and 29 RBIs for Hudson Valley (Tampa Bay system), and Robinson is at .291 with a homer and 13 RBIs for Tri City (Houston). MSU product Gavin Collins, also picked in the June draft, is batting .295 at Mahoning Valley (Cleveland) in the NYPL but didn’t make the All-Star rosters. … Ex-Southern Miss star Mason Robbins produced his third three-hit game in his last four on Monday and raised his average to .326 at Class A Winston-Salem (Chicago White Sox). He has five homers and 55 RBIs. … Madison Central High product Spencer Turnbull, beset by injuries this year, threw five strong innings for Class A Lakeland (Detroit) on Saturday and has a 3.22 ERA in eight games this summer. A second-round pick out of Alabama in 2014, Turnbull went 11-3, 3.01 at low-A West Michigan last year and stamped himself as a prospect. … Also at Lakeland is Southwest Mississippi Community College (and LSU) alum Kade Scivicque, a rising prospect at catcher who is batting .282 with six homers and 41 RBIs. … Ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford, finally looking fully healthy at Class A Dunedin (Toronto), has four two-hit games among his last five and is up to .244 with eight homers, 38 RBIs and 14 steals. … USM product Bradley Roney has a 3.62 ERA and four saves at Triple-A Gwinnett. Considering the jaw-dropping number of pitchers Atlanta has run out there this year, you have to wonder when Roney might get a big league shot. … Former Ole Miss standout Alex Yarbrough, trying to get his career back on track, is batting .268 with four homers, 47 RBIs and 10 steals at Double-A Arkansas (Los Angeles Angels). Yarbrough, 25, is in his fifth pro season. … Pascagoula’s Joey Butler, who was designated for assignment by Cleveland on July 31, returned to Triple-A Columbus’ roster and is batting .236 with eight bombs.