05 May

eye on …

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.

31 Aug

opportunity knocks

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.

26 Aug

pitching in

Talk about your daunting tasks. Ole Miss product Chris Ellis got the ball Wednesday for his first start for his new team, the Baltimore Orioles, who happened to have lost 19 straight games. The opposing pitcher was none other than the modern-day Babe Ruth, Shohei Ohtani, who was also batting leadoff for the visiting Los Angeles Angels. So, of course, the Orioles won 10-6 in a Camden Yards slugfest. Ellis, in just his third MLB appearance, held his own. In three-plus innings, he allowed three runs. He struck out Ohtani both times he faced him. Ohtani was lifted after five innings, having allowed a career-high three homers and four runs. The O’s rallied against the L.A. bullpen. The atmosphere in the winner’s clubhouse was described as “electric.” … The honor of best pitching performance of the night by a Mississippian has to go to Brandon Woodruff. The ex-Mississippi State standout threw six shutout innings, fanning 10 and walking none, in Milwaukee’s 4-1 win vs. Cincinnati. Woodruff, now 8-7, had not won since June 29, despite pitching relatively well for the first-place Brewers. “I would say that Woodruff right there, that’s about as good of stuff as you’re going to have,” Reds manager David Bell told mlb.com. … Worthy of a shout-out also is State alum Kendall Graveman, who worked a clean inning and notched a win for Houston in its 6-5, 10-inning defeat of Kansas City. In 40 games between Seattle and Houston, Graveman is 5-0 with four holds, 10 saves (in 12 opps) and a 1.02 ERA. P.S. Jonathan Holder, out all season with a shoulder issue, may be close to making his Chicago Cubs debut. The 28-year-old reliever out of MSU made a rehab appearance at Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday.

20 Aug

sagging in san diego

The lovely weather in San Diego notwithstanding, the Padres are in a gloomy place and the club’s Mississippi connections have faltered. Heading into a big series at Petco Park with fellow playoff contender Philadelphia, the Pads have lost seven of eight and are clinging to the second wild card in the National League. They are 12 games back in the NL West, 9.5 back of the first wild card with four teams hot on their heels. Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, who had been an effective reliever when healthy, is out for the season after arm surgery. Mississippi State product Adam Frazier, a 2021 All-Star added at the trade deadline, hasn’t produced as hoped. Frazier, hitting .324 for Pittsburgh, is at .241 in 20 games for San Diego. He is batting just .143 in his last seven games. He has two RBIs and 11 runs in a Padres uniform. After using Frazier in the 2-hole for a spate of games, manager Jayce Tingler put the lefty hitter back in his more familiar leadoff spot Tuesday and Wednesday. His old-school approach seems ideal for that role. “Don’t swing too hard, try to get a mistake pitch to hit and hit it,” he told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “It’s the way I’ve hit my whole life.” It didn’t help initially, but maybe the move up will get Frazier – and the team – out of the doldrums. P.S. Baltimore apparently was impressed with Chris Ellis, the ex-Ole Miss standout who threw four scoreless innings against the Orioles on Tuesday. The O’s have claimed Ellis off waivers from Tampa Bay. Ellis has two MLB appearances on his ledger.

03 Aug

coming and going

On the injured list since June 15, and with a new organization since June 29, Corey Dickerson is expected to be activated by Toronto today and could make his Blue Jays debut against Cleveland. The veteran outfielder from McComb hit .260 with two homers in 62 games for Miami before suffering a foot injury. He was traded a couple weeks later. While rehabbing the injury in Florida, Dickerson was called home to Mississippi, where his father died on July 6. Dickerson also lost his grandfather in 2020. “These two years are probably the toughest two years of my life,” he told Sportsnet in an article published Monday. Dickerson, a .282 career hitter, batted .258 for the Marlins in 2020. Toronto, very much in the playoff chase, will be the sixth team he has played for in nine MLB campaigns. … Southern Miss product Cody Carroll has been released from Baltimore’s Triple-A Norfolk club. The 28-year-old Carroll had a 5.57 ERA in 22 games for the Tides, well above his career minor league number of 2.94. He has appeared in 18 MLB games over seven pro seasons. P.S. On the local front: The Tippah County Tribe, the third-place team in the regular season, won the Cotton States League North championship on Sunday, beating the Woodall Mountain Lookouts 7-4 in New Albany. Peeko Townsend, a Northwest Mississippi Community College alum, went 3-for-3 with a homer for the Tribe, and Josh Paul of New Albany drove in three runs with a pair of hits. Gavin Holloman of Columbus was the winning pitcher. The top two teams in the college summer league, the Tupelo Thunder and North Delta Dealers, were knocked out in earlier rounds of the weekend playoffs. … The Hattiesburg Black Sox semi-pro team won the American Amateur Baseball Congress’ Stan Musial World Series in Pueblo, Colo., last week. Former Hinds CC star Beau Wallace was the tournament MVP for the undefeated Black Sox, coached by Trey Aby. Other team captains included Trey “Doc” Jones, Eric Wilkes, J.T. Hall and Casey Echols.

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.

10 Jun

where are they now?

Of the Mississippians drafted in 2020, Garrett Crochet was the only one to make his pro debut last season, jumping right into the MLB fray with the Chicago White Sox. The Ocean Springs native, the 11th overall pick (out of Tennessee), has fared quite well: 0.37 ERA over 22 career games. Of those whose pro debuts were delayed until 2021, Jordan Westburg has had the best start. The ex-Mississippi State star, the 30th overall pick by Baltimore, already has earned a promotion to High-A ball. After batting .366 with three home runs and 24 RBIs in 20 games at Low-A Delmarva, Westburg was moved to Aberdeen on June 1. He is at .250 with six RBIs in six games there. Justin Foscue, the 14th overall selection out of MSU, is batting .182 with two homers and six RBIs in 12 games at High-A Hickory in the Texas’ system. He is currently on the injured list, as are the two players drafted out of Ole Miss last year. Third-rounder Anthony Servideo is at Low-A Delmarva (Orioles), where he is at .246 with seven RBIs in 20 games. Fourth-rounder Tyler Keenan is batting .163 with a homer and 12 RBIs with Seattle’s High-A Everett club. Former State star J.T. Ginn, drafted in the second round by the New York Mets, made his second career start on Wednesday, throwing four innings for Low-A St. Lucie. Coming off Tommy John surgery, Ginn has a 1.29 ERA in seven innings. Colt Keith, a fifth-round pick from Biloxi High, is 2-for-7 in two games for Low-A Lakeland (Detroit). Blaze Jordan, the highly publicized slugger picked in the third round out of DeSoto Central, has yet to debut in Boston’s system.

06 May

put it on the board

The key for Matt Wallner, as it is for many power-hitting prospects, is making enough contact for the power to play. The former Southern Miss standout made contact in three of his four at-bats on Wednesday night for High-A Cedar Rapids – and the results were very good. Wallner, Minnesota’s No. 13-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, went 3-for-4 with two home runs and a career-best six RBIs. He has 10 homers – and 82 strikeouts — over his 67-game pro career. The 6-foot-5, left-handed-hitting outfielder tied the USM single-season record for homers in 2019 with 23 and finished his three years in Hattiesburg with a school-record 58. … It was a big night for big flies among Mississippians in the minors. Mississippi State alum Brent Rooker, back in Triple-A for Minnesota, hit one out for St. Paul. The Twins’ No. 12 prospect is 3-for-29 with one homer in eight big league games this season. Ex-Ole Miss star Grae Kessinger homered for Double-A Corpus Christi in Houston’s system. Columbia High product Ti’Quan Forbes went deep for Birmingham (Chicago White Sox) in its season-opening win over Biloxi in the Double-A South. He also stole a base and committed an error at third base. And at the White Sox’s Low-A Kannapolis club, former Loyd Star standout James Beard, known more for his speed than his power, hit a grand slam. … Also of note: Ole Miss alum Nick Fortes, in his Double-A debut, had two hits for Pensacola (Miami Marlins) in its 2-1 win against Mississippi in the M-Braves’ home opener. Former Ole Miss standout Anthony Servideo and ex-State star Jordan Westburg made their pro debuts for Low-A Delmarva (Baltimore Orioles) in a doubleheader against Salem. Servideo was 1-for-5 with four walks, Westburg 2-for-8 with an RBI.

15 Mar

staying focused

If Adam Frazier is still a candidate for a trade, the ex-Mississippi State star has done nothing this spring but make himself more attractive. After a 2-for-3 effort in the Grapefruit League today, Frazier is 10-for-15 (.667) for Pittsburgh. The Pirates, regarded as one of the worst teams in MLB, likely could get a nice return for the lefty-hitting second baseman. Trade rumblings obviously haven’t affected Frazier. “I’ll be where my feet are and try to get better each day,” he told mlb.com at the start of spring training. “I’m in a position now to try to lead these guys, so I’ll do my best to do that.” Frazier, 29, has a .273 career average with 35 homers over five seasons and twice has been a Gold Glove finalist. He hit just .230 in 2020 but smacked seven homers in 58 games. … Frazier is one of three Mississippians, not including Ke’Bryan Hayes (Charlie’s son), in the Pirates’ camp this spring. Chris Stratton, a teammate of Frazier’s at MSU, has made three scoreless appearances this spring as he vies for a bullpen spot. He also has been rumored to be trade bait. Outfielder Anthony Alford, the oft-injured ex-Petal High standout, suffered a wrist contusion on Saturday but isn’t expected to be down long. Aiming to win the center field job, he is batting .385 with two homers. P.S. In the Pirates’ loss to Baltimore today, State product Jordan Westburg – a 2020 draftee recently invited to the Orioles’ camp – got his first hit in a big league uniform.

30 Oct

detroit leaning

The Detroit Tigers added Colt Keith to a system already well-stocked with Mississippi connections when they drafted the former Biloxi High star in the fifth round in June. The left-handed hitting third baseman, one of three state products currently in the Tigers’ Instructional League camp in Florida, reportedly has made a good impression. “Colt is a big, strong athlete who can really impact the ball. We’re all glad to be able to have him here,” Tigers VP for player development Dave Littlefield told MLB Pipeline. Keith, 19, who moved to Biloxi in 2019, was the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year that season, batting .527 with eight homers while also pitching. He batted .269 in the curtailed 2020 season. Also in the Tigers’ fall camp is former Mississippi State standout Zac Houston and Ole Miss product Cooper Johnson. Right-hander Houston, 25, was drafted in 2016 and has 10 wins, 22 saves and a 2.42 ERA over 138 games in the minors. Johnson, one of five catchers in the fall camp, was a sixth-rounder in 2019 and batted .198 in 41 games in the low minors that year. “He has some power,” Littlefield told MLB Pipeline. “He looks like a major league catcher, so we just need to keep working on the bat.” The Tigers have Madison Central alum Spencer Turnbull and Richton High product JaCoby Jones on their major league roster and ex-State standout Jacob Robson and Southwest Mississippi Community College alum Kade Scivicque on their current Triple-A roster. … The Tigers named A.J. Hinch their new manager today. P.S. Jordan Westburg, a 2020 draftee out of MSU, has gotten some good reviews in Baltimore’s fall program. He and another draftee, Gunnar Henderson, were described as “two thoroughbred stallions” by farm director Matt Blood said in an mlb.com piece. “Both can play shortstop, both can hit and both can run. … It’s exciting what our player procurement staff has done bringing in talent.”