10 Sep

another step back

After getting limited at-bats during a month with Kansas City, Brent Rooker was optioned back to Triple-A Omaha on Friday. The Mississippi State product went 4-for-25 with the Royals. Two of those hits came in his KC debut back on Aug. 13. Kansas City traded with San Diego to get Rooker, a 27-year-old outfielder, at the August deadline, and it was assumed he’d get more of an opportunity with the lowly Royals than he did with the Padres (seven at-bats). It didn’t happen. Rooker, the 35th overall pick by Minnesota in 2017 after an All-America career at State, has hit well in the minors but not so much in the big leagues. Including his two seasons with the Twins, he is batting .200 with 10 homers and 86 strikeouts in 81 MLB games. Between Triple-A El Paso and Omaha this year, he has slugged 22 homers and batted .286. He has a .267 career average in the minors with 96 bombs but has struck out in roughly a third of his ABs. Wonder if he’ll get another shot with the Royals? P.S. Former Ole Miss star Nick Fortes went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs to help Miami beat the New York Mets 6-3 on Friday — and to help streaking Atlanta move into first place in the National League East. The Braves blasted four home runs and won 6-4 at Seattle. … Biloxi clinched the season series (see previous post) against the Mississippi Braves with an 8-3 win at MGM Park. The Shuckers are 16-12 vs. their Double-A Southern League rival with two games remaining this weekend.

04 Sep

comfort zone

Shortly after he was drafted in July, former Ole Miss star Tim Elko said his experience against SEC competition and in NCAA Tournament play had prepared him well for pro ball. “I’ll feel pretty comfortable getting in there,” he told milb.com. He appears to have been right. Playing at Low-Class A Kannapolis in the Chicago White Sox’s system, the 23-year-old Elko has 10 hits in his last six games and boosted his average to .310 in 10 games there overall. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound first baseman, who set a single-season record with 24 homers for the national champion Rebels this season, started slowly in rookie ball, going 4-for-26 with 13 strikeouts, though three of the hits were homers. He moved up to Kannapolis on Aug. 23 and started to click against better quality pitching. He went 3-for-4 on Saturday, his second three-hit game for the Cannon Ballers. He has hit one homer, giving him four for the year. Elko cemented his place in Ole Miss lore when he returned from a serious knee injury in 2021 to help the Rebels’ drive to an NCAA Super Regional appearance. He was a team captain this season as a fifth-year senior, put on a stunning slugging performance in the Coral Cables Regional and made the College World Series All-Tournament team. The White Sox drafted Elko in the 10th round. “He’s got a chance to have a nice career in front of him,” Chicago scouting director Mike Shirley said at the time. P.S. DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley homered for the fourth straight game Saturday in Atlanta’s 2-1 win vs. Miami. He has 35 round-trippers on the year, third-most in MLB. Great comment in an mlb.com story from rookie Michael Harris II, like Riley a former Mississippi Braves star: “I tell him every time he hits a home run [that] I wanna be like him when I grow up. … I really look up to him, and he’s a big leader in this clubhouse.” … UM product Drew Pomeranz reportedly suffered a setback in his injury rehab, casting doubt on whether he’ll pitch for San Diego this season. He had arm surgery a year ago in August. … St. Louis has announced that ex-Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson will move to the bullpen. He is 7-7 with a 4.43 ERA as a starter this season.

27 Aug

whatever happened to …

Cody Reed, the ex-Northwest Mississippi Community College star from Horn Lake, is toiling in Double-A as he tries to make his way back to the big leagues with Tampa Bay. The 29-year-old left-hander, now in his 10th pro season, has a 3.00 ERA in four games for Montgomery, having struck out seven and walked one in six innings. Reed was an effective reliever for the Rays in 2021 with a 3.72 ERA and three holds in 12 appearances before an injury (and surgery) halted his season in late May. He made a handful of rehab appearances in the minors, became a free agent after the season, re-signed with the Rays and then got hurt again in the spring. He finally returned to duty in mid-July and has pitched in 10 games all told. Reed isn’t on Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster, but experienced lefties are always in demand, so it would not be a surprise to see him back in The Show in September for the playoff-hunting Rays. P.S. On the topic of lefties and comebacks, Ole Miss alum Drew Pomeranz, on San Diego’s injured list all season, has a 7.71 ERA in five rehab games spread over three levels. He is currently at Triple-A El Paso. When healthy and in form, Pomeranz, 33 and in his 13th pro season, can certainly help the Padres in their playoff push. He had a 1.75 ERA for San Diego in 2021 and a 1.45 in 2020 with a combined 22 holds and four saves.

23 Aug

an ode to speed

The stolen base ain’t what it used to be, usurped by the home run at most levels of the game. Small ball generally has given way to the quest for power and the big inning. But speed can still be a valuable tool. And Mississippi has a long history of producing players who have it. From Cool Papa Bell — the Negro Leagues legend from Starkville who is credited with 285 official stolen bases — to Billy Hamilton — the Taylorsville product who has 321 career bags in MLB and once got a record 155 in a single season in the minors. Eight Mississippi natives, none currently active, have 150 or more steals in the majors, nine if you include Bell. Silento Sayles set a national high school record with 103 bags in 2013 at Port Gibson. Gulfport’s Marcus Lawton stole 111 bases in the minors in 1985, one of just a few to reach that milestone. Major league scouts still hunt speed, and it no doubt was a key factor in Philadelphia’s decision to draft South Panola High’s Emaarion Boyd in the 11th round of the 2022 draft. Boyd swiped two bases in a Florida Complex League game on Monday, giving him six in eight pro games. He is batting .333. Tishomingo County’s Spence Coffman, drafted in the 19th round by San Diego, also was rated as a plus-runner. He stole 17 bags as a prep senior but is 0-for-1 in four rookie-ball games. The current steals leader among Mississippians in the minors is James Beard, former Loyd Star standout, who has 25 bags at the Low-Class A level in the Chicago White Sox’s system. Beard was considered the fastest high school player available in the 2019 draft, and he went in the fourth round. Alas, he is hitting just .163 this year (.185 career), clouding his prospects for advancement. Jake Mangum, the ex-Mississippi State and Jackson prep star, was one of the fastest college players in the 2019 draft, and he went in the fourth round to the New York Mets, eight picks after Beard despite being a much more accomplished hitter. Mangum swiped 17 bases in 53 games in his pro debut and has 39 career bags. A .280 career hitter, he has reached Triple-A, knocking on the door to the big leagues. Speed is good, but without the hit tool, a player’s chances of advancement aren’t so good. To wit: Sayles, drafted by Cleveland, stole 36 bases in 200 minor league games but retired in A-ball with a .222 career average in 2017. Lawton, for all his speed, made it to the big leagues for just a cup of coffee (10 games in 1989) and finished with one career steal, 164 fewer than his brother Matt, not as fast but a better hitter. Wiggins native D.J. Davis, a first-round pick by Toronto in 2012, got 134 bags over seven seasons but never got past A-ball. Pontotoc’s Delvin Zinn stole 42 bases in A-ball last year but has seen his career stall in Double-A, currently batting .113 (with seven steals) at Tennessee in the Chicago Cubs’ system. Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray Jr., a second-rounder in 2018, has 17 steals in 110 games at the High-A level for Milwaukee but also has a .192 average. Pascagoula’s Willie Joe Garry stole 24 bases last year and has 12 this season in A-ball but is floundering around the .200 mark. Maybe someday, considering the radical changes MLB is making in the grand old game, there will be a designated runner, whose only job is to pinch run, ala Herb Washington, the Belzoni native who played such a role with the 1974-75 Oakland A’s. He stole 31 bases and never batted or played the field before being unceremoniously released.

03 Aug

around the horn

The San Diego Padres, as you might have heard, made some big moves the past couple days. They also made some smaller ones of local interest: Former Mississippi State star Brent Rooker, playing in Triple-A, was traded to Kansas City for catcher Cam Gallagher. Outfielder Rooker, acquired from Minnesota just before the season, got only seven at-bats with the Padres. He was hitting .272 with 19 homers at El Paso; he has been assigned to Triple-A Omaha by the Royals. The Padres also sent ex-Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz on a rehab assignment to the Arizona Complex League. The veteran lefty, 33, has been on the injured list since Aug. 11, 2021, with an arm injury that required surgery. He posted a 1.75 ERA in 27 games last season. … MSU product Adam Frazier continued to provide spark to Seattle’s offense, going 2-for-3 with two walks, two runs and an RBI on Tuesday in the Mariners’ 8-6 win vs. the New York Yankees. Frazier is batting .345 in his last 15 games for an M’s club battling for a playoff spot. … MSU alum Chris Stratton, looking sharp in a St. Louis uniform, worked a scoreless ninth inning in his Cardinals debut, a 6-0 win against the Chicago Cubs. Stratton was acquired from Pittsburgh on Monday. … Davis Bradshaw, the ex-Meridian Community College and McLaurin High standout, has been promoted to Double-A Pensacola in the Miami system. He was batting .310 in A-ball this season and is a .301 career hitter in four pro seasons. … Former Mississippi Braves star Joey Meneses (2016-17), called up by Washington to replace Josh Bell at first base, homered in his MLB debut on Tuesday as the Nationals beat the New York Mets 5-1 in Jacob deGrom’s return to The Show. Meneses, a Mexico native, is a .281 hitter in a long minor league career. … A footnote, duly recognized in MLB Network’s touching tribute, on the brilliant career of Vin Scully: Mississippi native Red Barber, a legendary radio broadcaster in his own right, gave Scully his start with the Dodgers in Brooklyn in 1950 and mentored him in the early days of his career. Scully became the Dodgers’ primary voice when Barber left the team after the 1953 season, and he kept the job through 2016. So sad that he is gone.

14 Jul

twin streaks

Seattle stretched its win streak to 10 games on Wednesday with some major contributions from Mississippi State product Adam Frazier. Meanwhile, former George County High star Justin Steele, the Chicago Cubs’ starter on Wednesday, failed in his effort to halt Baltimore’s win streak, which also went to 10 games. In the opener of a doubleheader at Washington, Frazier went 2-for-4 with a home run and threw out a runner at the plate from right field in the Mariners’ 6-4 victory. In Game 2, Frazier went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a stolen base and had a hand in two double plays at second base in a 2-1 win. An All-Star in 2021, Frazier has not had a good first season with Seattle (.229, three homers, 23 RBIs) but is showing signs of heating up (.346 in his last seven games). At Wrigley Field, Steele, just off the paternity list, gave up three runs on four hits in the first inning and wound up allowing four runs all told in six innings against the Orioles. It was a bad omen when the first batter of the game, Cedric Mullins, lined a single off Steele’s left hip. The loss in the 7-1 game dropped Steele to 3-6, 4.15 ERA, on the year. He was 2-0 with a sub-3.00 ERA over his previous six starts before running into the suddenly red-hot O’s. P.S. Interesting stat: Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton does not have a hit or a walk in nine games for Miami but has scored six times and swiped three bags. He scored twice in the Marlins’ 5-4 comeback win against Pittsburgh. … Ex-MSU star Brent Rooker returned to Triple-A El Paso on Wednesday and promptly hit homers No. 15 and 16. He was 0-for-7 in his brief stay with San Diego. … Atlanta prospect Vaughn Grissom hit his first Double-A homer on Wednesday at Pearl’s Trustmark Park and is 6-for-10 in two games with the Mississippi Braves.

10 Jul

third time’s a …?

Finally, after call-up No. 3, Brent Rooker got in a game for San Diego. Former Mississippi State star Rooker made his Padres debut Saturday night but ran into a nasty Carlos Rodon of San Francisco and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in a 3-1 loss. Rooker, acquired by the Padres from Minnesota just before the season started, has spent most of 2022 at Triple-A El Paso, batting .279 with 14 homers and 43 RBIs. The 27-year-old outfielder was recalled by the Padres on June 3 and again on June 11 but didn’t get an at-bat either time before going back down. The Padres brought him up again on Friday. The 35th overall draft pick in 2017 by the Twins, after winning the SEC Triple Crown at State, Rooker has always hit well in the minors: .265, 88 homers in 370 games. But in 66 MLB games, he’s at .209 with 10 homers. P.S. Meridian Community College alumnus Corey Dickerson returned to the St. Louis lineup for the first time in over a month (calf injury) but went 0-for-3 with a walk in the Cardinals’ 1-0 loss to Philadelphia. Dickerson, a free agent acquisition in the off-season, is batting .188. The Cardinals wasted a great start by ex-State standout Dakota Hudson, who threw six innings allowing just two hits. … MSU product Brandon Woodruff also threw six shutout innings for Milwaukee, ran into some trouble in the seventh, left the game and watched Brad Boxberger give up a game-deciding two-run homer to Pittsburgh’s Ben Gamel. Woodruff was charged with three runs in the 4-3 defeat. … Ex-DeSoto Central High standout Austin Riley, bidding to be picked as an All-Star reserve, went 2-for-3 with his 22nd home run in Atlanta’s 4-3 win over Washington. Riley is batting .278 with 53 RBIs. The reserves and pitchers for the July 19 All-Star Game will be announced tonight on MLB Network.

22 Jun

not done yet

Another opportunity has arisen for Billy Hamilton, the 31-year-old former Taylorsville High standout who signed a minor league contract on Tuesday with Miami. He was assigned to Triple-A Jacksonville. This is the definition of peripatetic: Since 2018, his last season with Cincinnati, his original club, Hamilton has hooked up with nine different major league organizations. Hamilton, the all-time stolen bases leader (314) among Mississippians in the majors, is no longer an everyday player but still has value as a pinch runner and defensive replacement in the outfield. A .240 career hitter in 869 MLB games, Hamilton finished 2021 with the Chicago White Sox, signed a minor league deal with Seattle in the spring and hit .168 at Triple-A Tacoma before opting for free agency on June 1. P.S. Brent Rooker, the ex-Mississippi State star, keeps banging away at Triple-A El Paso, hoping for another big league shot with San Diego. After a 3-for-5 game on Tuesday, Rooker is batting .274 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs. Twice the Padres have recalled the outfielder only to option him back to El Paso without giving him an at-bat. He hit .212 with 10 homers in 2020-21 with Minnesota. … Southern Miss product Matt Wallner, hitting leadoff Tuesday for Double-A Wichita in the Twins’ system, had two homers among his three hits and now has 15 on the year to go with a .278 average and 47 RBIs. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound outfielder hit 15 homers in A-ball last year, his second as a pro. … Props to Drew Lugbauer, whose 15th homer of 2022 made him the Mississippi Braves’ career leader with 33 bombs. The lefty-hitting first baseman, in his second Double-A tour, broke a tie with Travis Demeritte and Connor Lein.

11 May

whatever happened to …

Brent Rooker, after a lengthy layoff because of a shoulder injury, homered Tuesday night in his first game back with Triple-A El Paso in the San Diego organization. The former Mississippi State star had not played since April 17. Rooker, the 35th overall pick in the 2017 draft by Minnesota, was found wanting by the Twins (.212 in 208 MLB at-bats) and was traded in early April to the Padres in the Chris Paddack deal. In eight games for El Paso, he is batting .222 with three homers and 14 strikeouts in 27 ABs. Rooker won the SEC Triple Crown — and the Ferriss Trophy — in his last season at State but hasn’t hit consistently in pro ball (.262, 77 homers, 407 K’s in 329 games in the minors). The 6-foot-4, 225-pound outfielder/first baseman is on the Padres’ 40-man roster, can hit the long ball and may well get a call-up if a need arises. P.S. On this date in 2003, another ex-Bulldogs slugger and SEC Triple Crown winner, Rafael Palmeiro, hit his 500th career homer, becoming the 19th big leaguer to reach that milestone. Palmeiro finished with 569 bombs, far and away the most by a Mississippi college alum or state native.

28 Nov

greener grass?

Perhaps the move to Seattle will work out better for Adam Frazier than the move to San Diego last summer. Former Mississippi State standout Frazier was acquired by the Mariners from the Padres on Saturday for two minor leaguers. A 2021 All-Star second baseman with Pittsburgh, Frazier hit .305 with five homers, 43 RBIs and 10 steals on the season, the final two months of which were spent with San Diego. The Padres, vying for a playoff spot at the time they dealt for Frazier, faded dramatically down the stretch. Frazier did not play as well with them as he did with the Pirates, batting .267 and falling out of the lineup for a time. Seattle also made a playoff push last season and is aiming to do so again. The Mariners reportedly tried to acquire Frazier last summer. He’ll likely be their regular second baseman. “I’m excited to be joining and they’re excited to have me. I’m ready to go to work,” he told mlb.com. A lefty hitter who can play multiple positions, Frazier has a .281 career average over six MLB seasons. He’ll be a free agent after the 2022 season.