A panel of “MLB experts” overlooked Austin Riley in a recent mlb.com poll regarding top MVP candidates; he didn’t get a single vote. Those who follow the Atlanta Braves closely are scratching their heads. Former DeSoto Central High star Riley has been a major player in the Braves’ drive to the top of the National League East this summer, and he was at it again on Monday night. The Braves’ slumbering offense finally broke out in an 11-4 win at Arizona. Riley, the cleanup batter, contributed three doubles and three RBIs. For the year, the 24-year-old third baseman is batting .300 with 30 doubles, 29 homers, 92 RBIs and 81 runs. Since the All-Star break, he has batted .333 with 15 homers and 50 RBIs. He has been outstanding on defense, as well. It hurts Riley’s MVP case that he plays on a team that also features, among others, Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and Adam Duvall, who’ve had many shining moments. The Braves have potentially crucial series looming against San Diego (Sept. 24-26) and Philadelphia (Sept. 28-30). Might be an opportunity for Riley to win over some voters. P.S. Tonight in Milwaukee, Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff (9-9, 2.55 ERA) gets his shot at stopping surging St. Louis, which has won nine straight to jump to second in the wild card race. … Ex-Ole Miss star Chris Ellis, who has found new life as a starter for Baltimore, won’t get a shot at the Phillies tonight because of arm fatigue. Ellis has been pushed back in the rotation because of a tired arm. He has a 2.82 ERA in five starts for the O’s. … Tampa Bay, running away with the American League East, sent Cody Reed to Triple-A Durham for a rehab appearance on Sunday, and the ex-Northwest Mississippi Community College star threw a scoreless inning. The left-hander might be due for a return to the big leagues.
At just the right time it would appear, Adam Frazier is heating up. The former Mississippi State star went 7-for-10 with three runs and two RBIs in San Diego’s last two games, big wins over San Francisco, the best team in the National League. The Padres, a half-game back of St. Louis in the battle for the second wild card, begin a three-game series with the Cardinals tonight at Busch Stadium. Frazier, who hit .324 as an All-Star with Pittsburgh to begin this season, started slowly with the Padres and even faded from regular playing time. In 42 games with the Padres, the lefty-hitting second baseman is batting .264 — but over his last 15, he’s at .349. Typically a leadoff batter in Pittsburgh, Frazier hit cleanup for the Padres on Thursday against Giants ace Kevin Gausman. He singled his first time up in the second inning and scored the game’s first run. He finished 3-for-5 with two runs as San Diego beat Gausman (14-6) and the Giants 7-4. The Padres are showing signs of life after a prolonged funk; they’ll meet a Cardinals team that has won five straight. … MSU product Dakota Hudson, coming back from Tommy John surgery, has an 0.66 ERA in four rehab appearances in the minors. He might be ready to help out in St. Louis’ bullpen. P.S. Cody Reed, the Northwest Mississippi Community College alum from Horn Lake, threw a scoreless inning Thursday in a rehab appearance for Tampa Bay’s Florida Complex League team. Reed, a lefty reliever, has been on the injured list since May and recently had shoulder surgery. There is speculation the Rays, top team in the American League, might activate Reed soon. He had a 3.72 ERA in 12 games before he went on the IL.
Brent Rooker came off the injured list on Tuesday and started both games of Minnesota’s twinbill at Oakland. It wasn’t a particularly enjoyable day for the ex-Mississippi State star. He went 0-for-6 and watched two homers by former Bulldogs standout Mitch Moreland sail over his head in right field as the Twins dropped both games to the streaking A’s. … Madison Central High product Spencer Turnbull, back from a bout with COVID-19, is slated for his 2021 debut today in Game 2 of Detroit’s doubleheader against Pittsburgh. (Snow is in the forecast.) Turnbull, 4-4 with a 3.97 ERA last season, made one tuneup start at the Tigers’ alternate site. His goal today? “Do what I expect of myself, pitch at the highest level I can and don’t worry too much about results,” Turnbull told the media on Tuesday. “Just go out there, compete and have fun.” … George County High alum Justin Steele has been sent to the Chicago Cubs’ alternate camp. The left-hander pitched well – no runs allowed in three appearances – in his first big league look. … Cody Reed, the former Northwest Mississippi Community College standout, went on the injured list for Tampa Bay on Tuesday. He joins Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn (White Sox), Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton (White Sox), Petal’s Demarcus Evans (Texas), State alum Jonathan Holder (Cubs), State alum Dakota Hudson (St. Louis) and UM product Bobby Wahl (Milwaukee) as Mississippians on the IL. Hudson presumably is out for year after Tommy John surgery.
Nate Lowe became, on Thursday, the latest in a long line of former Mississippi State sluggers to suit up for the Texas Rangers. Acquired in an off-season trade with Tampa Bay, the lefty-hitting first baseman/DH went 2-for-6 and drove in four runs in his Texas debut. Ex-Bulldogs Rafael Palmeiro, Will Clark, Jon Shave and Mitch Moreland also played in Texas. The Rangers-Mississippi connection goes way back — to the club’s second year in the Lone Star State. Donny Castle was the eighth overall pick in the 1968 MLB draft, taken out of Coldwater High by the Washington Senators, who moved to Arlington, Texas, in 1972. Castle, perhaps best known from his time as the coach at Northwest Mississippi Community College, was a Kokomo, Ind., native who grew up in Coldwater. He played pro ball for 11 years, getting a cup of coffee (four games) with the Rangers in 1973. A lefty-hitting first baseman/DH, Castle hit .268 with 115 homers in the minors. He coached at NWCC from 1998-2005, winning 271 games and a state title. P.S. The first hit by a Mississippian in 2021 was delivered by JaCoby Jones, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton High who stroked an RBI double in his first at-bat for Detroit. The first win by a Mississippian went to Ole Miss alumnus Mike Mayers, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Los Angeles Angels, who beat the Chicago White Sox. … A couple of former Mississippi State stars are closing in on significant milestones in their MLB careers. Hunter Renfroe, whose Boston debut was delayed by rain, needs three homers to reach 100. Moreland, who went 0-for-2 in his Oakland debut, needs 32 hits to reach 1,000.
Cody Reed, who was on the injured list during Tampa Bay’s run to the World Series last fall, is back on the bump this spring and looking sharp. The Northwest Mississippi Community College product from Horn Lake has retired all 12 batters faced over four appearances. “He looks totally healthy. He’s landing the breaking ball in the zone,” Rays manager Kevin Cash told mlb.com. Reed made only two appearances for the Rays after they acquired him from Cincinnati just before the trade deadline last year. The left-hander went on the IL with a finger injury. Reed was up and down from Triple-A to the Reds during his time (2015-20) in their system while also shuffling between starting and relieving. His career ERA is 5.33, but he’s better than that stat might suggest. He appears to be a lock for a spot in Tampa Bay’s bullpen. P.S. Former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull is on Detroit’s injured list and away from the team in accordance with COVID-19 protocols. Turnbull, 4-4 with a 3.97 ERA in 2020, was a candidate to be the Tigers’ opening day starter, but the Detroit Free Press reports that he may not be cleared by the beginning of the season on April 1. “It’s getting more and more unlikely that he’s going to be able to do much between now and then, as of right now,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We’ll see as we get toward the end of camp, if he’s available or not.” … Ole Miss alum Drew Pomeranz has been shut down by San Diego due to “left forearm tightness.” The left-handed reliever, who posted a 1.45 ERA in 20 appearances last season, is expected to return to action soon. … Justin Steele, the former George County standout, was optioned to the minors by the Chicago Cubs; the left-hander was briefly on the Cubs’ active roster last season but has not yet made his big league debut. … Arizona released Bradley Roney, the ex-Southern Miss star who had signed as a minor league free agent in the off-season.
Fourth-ranked Northwest Mississippi Community College takes on 2-0 East Mississippi today as conference play begins for the Mississippi junior colleges. Fourteen of the 15 schools are slated to meet in doubleheaders. Northwest, the highest ranked of five state jucos in the NJCAA Division II poll, is 2-0 after pounding Coahoma in a twinbill last Friday. Kelton Hall went 5-for-6 with a homer in the two games, and Peyton Puckett, a Mississippi State transfer, had a five-RBI game. The Rangers were 14-1 – best start in program history – in 2020 when the season was halted. East beat Itawamba and Northeast in a round-robin event in Booneville last weekend. Blayze Berry, another State transfer, had a big debut for the Lions, going 3-for-4 with a homer and getting the win in relief vs. ICC. No. 7 Pearl River hosts East Central today, No. 11 Northeast (1-1) is at Holmes (1-1) and 12th-ranked Jones welcomes Meridian. Hinds, No. 9 in the NJCAA poll, will open its season Saturday at Southwest.
Cincinnati had high hopes for Cody Reed when the club acquired him from Kansas City in a July 2015 trade that involved Johnny Cueto. It now appears that if Reed blossoms as a big league pitcher, the former Northwest Mississippi Community College standout will do it with another club. Reed was designated for assignment on Monday. “We know how talented Cody is. It’s not an easy decision,” Reds manager David Bell told mlb.com. The 27-year-old left-hander from Horn Lake had a 5.79 ERA in nine appearances out of the bullpen in 2020. His career ERA over parts of five seasons: 5.44. A second-round pick by the Royals out of Northwest in 2013, Reed had outstanding minor league numbers as a starter but went 0-7, 7.36 in his 2016 MLB debut. He bounced from the Reds to the minors — and from starter to reliever — thereafter. As a lefty with versatility, he’ll likely get another shot somewhere. P.S. When a player is DFA’d, he is immediately removed from the 40-man roster and within seven days of the transaction can either be traded or placed on irrevocable outright waivers. If he clears waivers (unclaimed by another team), he could be released or assigned to a minor league roster. … Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss star who was DFA’d by the New York Mets on Aug. 16, was formally released on Sunday. … Anthony Alford, the Petal High product who was DFA’d by Toronto last Thursday, remains in seven-day limbo.
Only one in-state player – Mississippi State’s Justin Foscue — is projected by mlb.com to get picked in Wednesday’s first round of the MLB draft. The junior second baseman is pegged to go to Minnesota as the No. 27 pick in the latest mock draft. Former Ocean Springs High star Garrett Crochet, a big left-hander now at Tennessee, is predicted to go 14th overall to Texas. ESPN’s latest mock draft has Crochet going to Texas at 14, Foscue to the New York Mets at 19 and State shortstop Jordan Westburg to the Los Angeles Dodgers at 29. … The highest any state college player has been picked is second: State’s Will Clark in 1985. The top high school pick is Ted Nicholson, taken third overall out of Laurel’s Oak Park in 1969. … Nine in-state players appear in mlb.com’s Top 200 draft prospects list, with DeSoto Central High’s Blaze Jordan the highest rated prep player at No. 42. All the attention given Jordan in recent years doesn’t seem to have gone to his head. In an interview published by Baseball America last summer, Jordan said he “would describe myself as being respectful to the game and just always hustling and playing hard. … Wearing my jersey right and making sure everything is done right.” Jordan said his favorite player is Miguel Cabrera, and he thinks his swing is similar to the former Triple Crown winner’s. Jordan, the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year and a Mississippi State signee, has prodigious power, ranking among the top 10 power hitters in the draft per MLB Pipeline. … Colt Keith, who played at Biloxi High the last two years after moving from Arizona, is considered one of the best two-way players in this year’s draft class. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Keith is a right-handed pitcher and a left-handed hitting shortstop/third baseman. He is an Arizona State signee. His approach to the game? “I think for me, and I encourage other baseball players too, always play like it’s your last game,” he told WXXV-TV of Gulfport. … Columbia Academy’s Slade Wilks and Brandon’s Kellum Clark are other possible high school picks in this year’s abbreviated five-round draft. … The lone state juco player in mlb.com’s Top 200 is lefty Dalton Fowler (No. 154), a sophomore at Northwest Mississippi CC in 2020. The 6-foot-6 Fowler, from Tennessee, was picked in the 27th round in 2019 by the New York Mets but didn’t sign. He was 4-0 with a 1.89 ERA this season and 6-2, 3.76 as a freshman.
As major league clubs begin to make cuts, there are a handful of Mississippians on 40-man rosters who are out of options, which essentially means they can’t be sent to the minors without passing through waivers and possibly being snatched by another club. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for the player. Of particular interest is the case of ex-Petal High standout Anthony Alford, a longtime outfield prospect in Toronto’s system. Alford, 25, who has had limited big league time (33 games from 2017-19), has been inconsistent and injured over much of his minor league career. He is batting .167 in 24 at-bats with four steals this spring. Per milb.com, “(H)is plus speed and ability to cover plenty of ground on defense would be assets to the back end of the Blue Jays roster.” Alford is competing with several others for a backup outfield job. Three veteran pitchers are also on the roster bubble: Former Mississippi State standout Chris Stratton (Pittsburgh), Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers (Los Angeles Angels) and Northwest Mississippi Community College product Cody Reed (Cincinnati). Mayers has been the most effective this spring, with a 4.76 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. … Former George County High star Justin Steele was optioned out by the Chicago Cubs last week. The oft-injured Steele, 24, had allowed six runs on two hits and six walks in 2 2/3 innings this spring. He was 0-6, 5.59 at Double-A Tennessee in 2019, his sixth pro season. Those numbers notwithstanding, the Cubs reportedly really like the left-hander’s upside.
Before the dust gets kicked up again in the MACJC, here’s how the teams stack up with roughly two weeks left in the regular season: Fourth-ranked Itawamba Community College (14-4) and No. 11 Northwest Mississippi (15-5), after their split on Tuesday, remain in a virtual tie for first in the standings. No. 6 Pearl River and No. 9 Jones County, both on extended winning streaks, are third at 12-6. Gulf Coast (11-7) and East Central (12-8) are in a virtual tie for fifth, and No. 10 Meridian and 14th-ranked Hinds are knotted in seventh at 10-7. Copiah-Lincoln sits at 9-9. Yes, it’s going to be a mad scramble to the finish and on into the playoffs. The big doubleheader this weekend is Saturday’s matchup of Northwest and Meridian in the Queen City. … Pitching – good pitching — has been a main storyline this season. MACJC schools occupy the Nos. 7 to 11 spots in the NJCAA Division II team stats for ERA. Itawamba, featuring ace Houston Harding, has a 3.28, Northwest a 3.29 and Pearl River a 3.34. Meridian’s Braden Forsyth, who has worked as a starter and reliever, has a 1.15, while Harding, 8-0 as a starter, is at 1.72. PRCC’s Miles Smith has 69 strikeouts, eighth in the nation. Jones County leads state schools in batting with a .337 average, led by Brandon Hale at .398. Pearl River has mashed 59 homers, second-most in the country. Dexter Jordan has 10, and Wiley Cleland and Kasey Donaldson nine apiece. Meridian’s Kace Garner leads the state with 12 bombs, and Gulf Coast’s Brandon Parker has 10.