31 Jul

smooth moves

He didn’t want to leave Seattle, but Kendall Graveman made himself right at home in Houston’s bullpen on Friday night. In his Astros debut, the former Mississippi State standout retired all four batters he faced, striking out the side in the eighth inning, to help Houston beat San Francisco 9-6 in a clash of first-place teams. Graveman lowered his ERA to a ridiculous 0.79. He has yielded only 15 hits in 34 1/3 innings this season. He has four wins, 10 saves and five holds. MLB Network’s Tom Verducci called Houston’s acquisition of Graveman “a big-time move” and raved about his stuff, particularly the movement on his power sinker. Graveman was upset about leaving the Mariners, still a wild card contender in the American League, but with the Astros he’ll have a much more legitimate chance at making the World Series. P.S. A move up to Triple-A has gone smoothly for Ole Miss product Nick Fortes. A catcher now in his third pro season, Fortes is 5-for-11 with two home runs and five RBIs in three games at Jacksonville in Miami’s system. He was batting .251 with three homers in 57 games at Double-A Pensacola. … Bidding for a move up is ex-State star Justin Foscue, who hit his 11th home run Friday in 24 games at High-A Hickory. He was a 2020 draft pick by Texas. … Foscue’s former keystone partner in Starkville, Jordan Westburg, also homered Friday for High-A Aberdeen (Baltimore) and is batting .303 with seven bombs and 37 RBIs in 49 games. He began his first pro season in Low-A. … Ex-Bulldogs lefty Christian MacLeod has signed with Minnesota, becoming the last of the 12 2021 draft picks out of state schools to join a pro club. Former Jackson Prep star Will Warren, drafted by the New York Yankees out of Southeastern Louisiana, also has signed.

30 Jul

part of the plan?

From all indications, the Chicago Cubs are now in wait-till-next-year mode. Former George County High star Justin Steele is making a strong case to be part of the 2022 plan. Left-hander Steele threw five shutout innings for Triple-A Iowa on Thursday, yielding just four hits and fanning five in his fourth start since the Cubs decided to return him to that role. Steele has a 1.15 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings over those four starts. He posted a 2.03 ERA in 11 relief appearances in his long-awaited MLB debut this year – he was drafted in 2014 — before a hamstring injury put him on the injured list in late May. Steele reportedly improved his slider during his time in the Cubs’ alternate camp last summer and now features an impressive array of pitches, including a high-90s fastball. “I’m really starting to settle into my mechanics, really feeling smooth out there, been a while since I’ve felt so smooth,” Steele, 26, said in a bleachernation.com article last week following his third start for the I-Cubs. P.S. Jacob Waguespack, the Ole Miss alum, also picked up a win Thursday, his sixth of the year at Triple-A Buffalo in Toronto’s chain. Waguespack, who has big league time, was cut from the 40-man roster in March and sent to Buffalo, where he has gone 6-2 with a 2.87 ERA in 13 games (nine starts). … Wondering what Atlanta’s plan is for Drew Waters, the ex-Mississippi Braves standout and 2019 Southern League MVP? The switch-hitting outfielder had a four-hit game Thursday for Triple-A Gwinnett and is batting .262 with eight homers, 27 RBIs, 43 runs and 16 steals. He has power and speed and might be able to inject some life into the Braves’ frequently sleepy offense.

29 Jul

trade winds

The Chicago White Sox sent former Mississippi State star Konnor Pilkington to Cleveland today in a trade for veteran big league second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Pilkington, a Pascagoula native and East Central High alum, was 4-4 with a 3.48 ERA at Birmingham in the Double-A South. He’ll likely report to Double-A Akron. The third-year pro has a 4.13 career ERA over 47 games in the minors; Baseball America ranked him No. 17 on the ChiSox’s prospect chart early in 2020. … The trade deadline is 3 p.m. CDT Friday. Other Mississippi products involved in recent trades include Corey Dickerson (Miami to Toronto), Adam Frazier (Pittsburgh to San Diego) and Kendall Graveman (Seattle to Houston). P.S. Taylor Broadway, a 2021 draft pick by the White Sox out of Ole Miss, has signed, leaving only Christian MacLeod unsigned among the 12 picks from Mississippi this year, per mlb.com’s Draft Tracker. … Tanner Allen, SEC player of the year at MSU, made his pro debut today for Miami’s Florida Complex League team, going 0-for-3.

29 Jul

soldiering on

Former Ole Miss standout David Parkinson, now a Philadelphia Phillies minor leaguer, got a major monkey off his back on Wednesday. The 25-year-old lefty worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs, and got the win as Lehigh Valley beat Rochester 5-3 in the Triple-A East. It was Parkinson’s first win since 2019. He is now 1-7 (with a 6.36 ERA) over 15 appearances in his first Triple-A campaign. A 12th-round draftee in 2017, he was the Phillies’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2018, going 11-1, 1.45 at two levels of A-ball. He wasn’t as sharp in Double-A in 2019 and didn’t pitch at all last year. Parkinson reportedly has a tendency to dwell on bad outings, of which he has had several in 2021. “One thing about Park is that he’s very cerebral, analytical,” LV pitching coach Aaron Fultz told The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., earlier this season. “The biggest advice I can give to him is that this game is very, very hard.” Wednesday’s win was a nice reward for his perseverance. … Also admirably soldiering on is Anthony Alford, the Columbia native and former Petal High two-sport star now in Triple-A in Pittsburgh’s system. Alford was 2-for-3 with his 10th homer of the season for Indianapolis on Wednesday. Alford’s latest big league trial ended on April 21, when Pittsburgh took him off its 40-man roster after a 2-for-24 start. He was assigned on May 1 to Indianapolis, where he struggled initially. Batting .175 on June 1, Alford is currently hitting .302, batting third and playing center field. He is 27 now – a long way from his days as a highly rated Toronto prospect — and owns a .150 career average in the big leagues. But he’s still wearing a uniform and trying to remain relevant.

26 Jul

very interesting …

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.

25 Jul

marquee event

Lance Lynn vs. Brandon Woodruff. Two All-Stars from rival Magnolia State schools pitching for division leaders in the ESPN Sunday night feature. This ought to be good. Lynn, the very intense Ole Miss product, is 9-3 with a 1.94 ERA for the Chicago White Sox, who lead the American League Central with a 58-40 record. Brandon Woodruff, the very intense Mississippi State product, is 7-4 with a 2.04 ERA for the host Milwaukee Brewers, 58-41 in the National League Central. Though their college careers did not intersect, surely one of the ESPN broadcasters will pick up on the Rebel vs. Bulldog theme. However, the depth of that rivalry probably isn’t known to them. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Yelich have a combined four homers against Lynn in 13 combined at-bats. Few of the White Sox have ever faced Woodruff. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton is 0-for-4. East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson hasn’t had the pleasure. P.S. Update: Eric Cerantola has signed a pro contract, leaving just two of the 12 picks from the state unsigned.

14 Jul

power grid

While the big league stars were out in Colorado on Tuesday, former Mississippi State star Brent Rooker generated some luminosity down in Triple-A. Rooker blasted three home runs and drove in a career-high seven runs to power St. Paul to a 19-1 win over Columbus. Rooker, who started this season in Minnesota but didn’t hit enough to stick, now has 17 homers on the season, tied for the most in the Triple-A East. The right-handed hitting outfielder/DH is batting .245 with 41 RBIs for the Saints as he awaits another big league shot. “(Y)ou have to just stay confident in yourself and make the right adjustments,” he told milb.com. “I believe in myself and know I can be successful (in the big leagues).” … In Double-A, Ole Miss alum Grae Kessinger hit his sixth homer for Houston’s Corpus Christi club. The infielder, in his second pro season, has lifted his average to .213 with a recent hot streak. … In High-A, ex-State star Justin Foscue and former Mississippi College standout Blaine Crim, hitting 2-3 in the Hickory lineup, produced long balls. Crim, who has been on a tear, has 13 homers and Foscue, a 2020 draftee, four for the Texas affiliate. (Foscue’s former Bulldogs teammate and 2020 draftee Jordan Westburg went 2-for-5 for Aberdeen (Baltimore) in that same game.) … In Low-A, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product Brandon Parker went yard for Augusta, an Atlanta farm club. Parker, in his second pro season, has six homers but is batting just .174. … And in the Florida Complex League on Monday, ex-DeSoto Central High star Blaze Jordan got his first pro homer. The storied slugger, 18, a third-round pick by Boston last year, is hitting .194 through eight games. P.S. Bobby Wahl, the former Ole Miss pitcher, has been released by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Wahl, 29, who has big league time, has an 11.12 ERA in 15 games this season for three minor league teams in the Milwaukee and L.A. systems.

13 Jul

cape notes

Southern Miss’ Ben Ethridge, recently anointed a Freshman All-America by Baseball America, sparkled Monday in his first starting assignment in the Cape Cod League. The right-hander from Collinsville pitched four shutout innings in Bourne’s 6-3 win against Hyannis. It was the fourth straight scoreless outing for Ethridge, whose 5.40 ERA over 10 innings is a product of a rocky debut in the summer league. Ethridge, a second-year freshman, went 6-2, 3.25 for USM this season and was 3-0 in 2020. He was an All-State pitcher at West Lauderdale, where he went 26-4 in four years and won a state title in 2017. … Mississippi State’s Kamren James, a second-year freshman from Southaven, made his Cape debut Monday and took an 0-for-3 in Wareham’s 6-0 loss to Cotuit. Fellow Bulldogs standout Kellum Clark, a true freshman from Brandon, is also with Wareham; he is 1-for-11 in four games. … Ole Miss’ Peyton Chatagnier went 0-for-4 for Orleans on Monday, snapping a seven-game on-base streak. He is batting .276 with three homers, eight RBIs and four steals in his eight games.

12 Jul

day 2 draft stuff

Two more Mississippi college products were plucked early on Day 2 of the MLB draft, with Ole Miss left-hander Doug Nikhazy going to Cleveland in Round 2 (58th overall) and Southern Miss outfielder Reed Trimble, eligible as a second-year freshman, to Baltimore in the competitive balance round at No. 65 overall. Nikhazy went 12-2 with a 2.45 ERA and won a number of big games this year for the Rebels. Trimble, a Northwest Rankin alum, is a switch-hitter who batted .345 with 17 homers and 12 stolen bases in 2021. With Mississippi State’s Will Bednar and UM’s Gunnar Hoglund getting picked in Round 1 on Sunday, Mississippi schools produced four of the top 65 picks. Later on Day 2: State’s Tanner Allen – SEC player of the year and Ferriss Trophy winner – went in Round 4 to Miami; the Bulldogs’ Eric Cerantola and Christian MacLeod, the big lefties, both went in Round 5 to Kansas City and Minnesota, respectively; Ole Miss closer Taylor Broadway was pegged in Round 6 by the Chicago White Sox; Ryan Och, a shutdown reliever at USM this year, went in Round 7 to San Diego; right-hander Will Warren, a former Jackson Prep standout who pitched at Southeastern Louisiana, was picked in Round 8 by the New York Yankees.

12 Jul

minor matters

In his first game since the Chicago Cubs decided to return him to a starting role, Justin Steele threw the first 3 2/3 innings Sunday of a seven-inning no-hitter for Triple-A Iowa. Left-hander Steele, a George County High alum, struck out five and walked two in the 1-0 win against St. Paul. Former Delta State star Trent Giambrone drove in the game’s only run with a walk-off sac fly. Former Mississippi State star Brent Rooker went 0-for-3 for St. Paul, a Minnesota farm team. Steele, a starter most of his lengthy minor league career, made his long-awaited MLB debut this season and had a 2.03 ERA in 11 games for the Cubs before landing on the injured list. … MSU product Ethan Small gave up three hits and two runs but got the last two outs in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday. Small is now at Triple-A Nashville in Milwaukee’s system. … Ole Miss alum Thomas Dillard belted his 10th homer for High-A Wisconsin in the Brewers’ chain. Former Hattiesburg High star Joe Gray, Jr., was recently promoted to Wisconsin after batting .289 with 12 homers in Low-A ball. Gray is at .158 in six games at the new level. … Ex-Bulldogs standout Justin Foscue, recently back from the IL, put up a 3-for-4 that included his third homer for High-A Hickory in Texas’ system. Foscue, a 2020 draftee, is batting .237. … Ole Miss product Parker Caracci notched his sixth save for High-A Vancouver in the Toronto organization. The Jackson Prep alum has a 2-2 record and 1.50 ERA in 22 games in his second pro season. Toronto picked ex-UM star Gunnar Hoglund in the first round (19th overall) of Sunday’s MLB draft; his pro career will be delayed to 2022 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. … MSU’s Will Bednar, taken with the 14th overall pick by San Francisco, likely would start his pro career in the Arizona Complex League or at Low-A San Jose.