Former Richton High standout JaCoby Jones has played a significant role in the Detroit Tigers’ surprising 2020 season. Unfortunately, he’ll only be able to watch how the rest of it plays out. Jones’ left hand was broken by a pitch on Tuesday, and he is done for the year. Playing regularly in center field, Jones was batting .268 with five home runs, 14 RBIs and 19 runs for a Tigers team that is 17-16 with six straight wins. The worst team in baseball in 2019 is in contention for a playoff spot. “I’ve been waiting on that for my whole career,” Jones, in his fifth MLB season, told mlb.com prior to Tuesday’s game against Milwaukee. “It’s going to be a lot of fun for our guys and I’m looking forward to it.” It’s the second straight year Jones’ season has been ended prematurely by a hand injury. He has endured more than his fair share of injuries the last few years, having been hit in the face by a pitch in 2017 and spent time on the injured list with back, shoulder and hamstring issues. The Tigers may never miss him more than this month. “He’s been the spark plug to this team all year — his hitting, his defense, his leadership in the dugout. It stinks to lose a guy like that,” Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer told mlb.com. P.S. On the bright side: Former Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman was activated from the IL by Seattle. He has been out since Aug. 4 with neck problems stemming from a benign tumor on his spine. The veteran right-hander reportedly will shift from starter to the bullpen. Graveman, 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA in two starts for the Mariners, is in his first season with the team as he comes back from Tommy John surgery that sidelined him most of last season. … Ke’Bryan Hayes told reporters that his father, Hattiesburg native and ex-big leaguer Charlie Hayes, couldn’t stop crying when informed his son was getting called to the big leagues. In his debut for Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the younger Hayes, a third baseman like his pops, went 2-for-5 with a homer that likely brought more tears. “Even when I was in the minor leagues and I hit a home run, my mom said he would cry,” Ke’Bryan Hayes said. “I thank him for everything.”
With a boatload of makeup games ahead for the St. Louis Cardinals in September, the durability of their pitchers will be tested as they try to make a playoff push. Ex-Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson gave them some length on Monday, working seven innings in a 7-5 win against Cincinnati that got the Cardinals to 13-13. The 25-year-old right-hander (1-2, 2.77 ERA in five starts) allowed just one earned run on four hits at the Reds’ so-called Great American Small Park. He struck out seven and walked none. While winning 16 games for St. Louis as a rookie in 2019, he led the majors in total walks (86 or 4.4 per nine innings), a stat that needs to improve. Through 26 innings in 2020, he has seven walks (2.4 per nine). He is reportedly throwing more curveballs and fewer sinkers this year. Hudson got a final swinging strike from three Reds batters on a different type of pitch in one inning. “It’s just me recognizing quality hitters that I’m facing and having a complete arsenal as a starter, rather than just being out there trying to overpower guys,” Hudson said in an mlb.com piece. P.S. Ke’Bryan Hayes, son of Hattiesburg native and longtime big leaguer Charlie Hayes, is slated for his big league debut tonight for Pittsburgh. The younger Hayes, one of the Pirates’ top prospects, is in the lineup at third base, batting seventh, against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park. … Tampa Bay has recalled ex-MSU standout Nate Lowe from its alternate camp. Lowe batted .263 with seven homers as a rookie for the Rays in 2019. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, a second-round pick out of IMG Academy in Florida last year, has been traded from Toronto to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The right-hander was in the Blue Jays’ alternate camp.
With the addition of Petal High product Anthony Alford, the pitiable Pittsburgh Pirates presently have a plethora of players with Mississippi ties populating their roster. Alford was picked up today as a waiver claim from Toronto. The 26-year-old outfielder joins McComb native Jarrod Dyson and Mississippi State products Adam Frazier and Chris Stratton on a Pirates team that has the worst record in baseball. Alford found playing time hard to come by in his long tenure in the Blue Jays’ system. He hit .155 in 71 at-bats over four MLB stints. Designated for assignment by the Jays, he might get more opportunity with Pittsburgh, which has made a flurry of moves this week and may be planning more. Dyson and Frazier have not been hitting, and Stratton has a 4.20 ERA.
There was a case of Bulldog on Rebel crime on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. Former Mississippi State star Adam Frazier belted a go-ahead, two-run home run off Ole Miss product Bobby Wahl in the eighth inning at PNC Park, lifting Pittsburgh to an 8-6 win against Milwaukee. It was the first homer – and just the third hit – of the season for Frazier, the Pirates’ leadoff batter. “First ball I’ve driven all year, so I kind of forgot what it felt like,” Frazier said in an mlb.com story. “It felt pretty good.” It was the second homer allowed in 2 1/3 innings this season by Wahl, who missed the 2019 season because of a torn ACL. For Frazier and Wahl, there may have been something familiar about their encounter. The two had never faced each other in an MLB game before, but they did cross paths during their college careers. Wahl left the field disappointed each time then, too. In 2011, when both were freshmen, Wahl took the loss in relief in a game won by the Bulldogs 7-6. Frazier struck out in his one appearance vs. Wahl. In 2012, State – and Chris Stratton, who pitched in relief for the Pirates on Tuesday – beat UM and Wahl 4-0. Frazier went 1-for-3 with a run against Wahl. And on May 12, 2013, in Oxford, Frazier and the Bulldogs rallied from an early six-run deficit to beat the Rebels 7-6. Frazier had a single and a walk against Wahl, who started but wasn’t in the game in the seventh when Frazier delivered a two-run single that put State ahead. Both were drafted that June, Wahl by Oakland in the fifth round, Frazier by the Pirates in the sixth. Both were in the New York-Penn League that summer as they began their climb to the majors, Frazier arriving in 2016, Wahl the next year. On Tuesday, they met up again, much to Wahl’s chagrin. P.S. Frazier will face a former State teammate tonight when Brewers ace Brandon Woodruff gets the start in Game 3 of the series between the National League Central rivals. Frazier is 4-for-10 career vs. Woodruff.
Having passed a physical on Thursday, Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made an appearance at San Francisco’s summer camp, but it appears unlikely he’ll be active for the Giants’ opener next week. “I don’t see that as a realistic expectation right now,” manager Gabe Kapler said in a San Jose Mercury News story. Hamilton, who could play a valuable role on defense and as a pinch runner, is with the Giants on a minor league deal. The veteran outfielder was placed on the injured list last week for undisclosed reasons. … The Boston Red Sox have formally signed DeSoto Central High product Blaze Jordan, their third-round draft pick. Jordan, 17, received a reported $1.75 million bonus, much higher than the slot value of $667,900 for the 89th pick. … If Freddie Freeman, currently on the COVID-19 injured list, is unable to answer the starting bell for Atlanta, ex-DeSoto Central star Austin Riley appears to be the leading candidate to man first base. Riley made six appearances (three starts) at first last season as a rookie, when he hit 18 homers in 80 games. … Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff has displayed lights-out stuff in Milwaukee’s camp. “I’ve had probably seven to eight at-bats against him,” Brewers outfielder Ben Gamel told mlb.com. “His fastball is just different. He’s got a different gear to him. And me, just playing behind him, his changeup’s filthy.” Woodruff struck out Christian Yelich three times in an intrasquad game this week. … Brent Rooker, another former State standout, saw a lot of duty behind Marwin Gonzalez at first base in Minnesota’s camp while Miguel Sano was in COVID-19 quarantine. Sano, transitioning from third to first this season, returned to camp Wednesday. Rooker, who has 54 homers in 259 minor league games, could make the 30-man active roster if Sano isn’t ready for opening day. … The Chicago White Sox reportedly are thrilled with Tim Anderson’s work at shortstop in summer camp. “Defensively, his jumps have been amazing getting off the ball,” coach Joe McEwing said of the former East Central Community College star in an mlb.com story. “We have been really focusing on keeping his head in there and staying through it and finishing his throws.” The American League batting champ led league shortstops in errors the last three years. … Ex-MSU standout Chris Stratton, vying for a role on Pittsburgh’s pitching staff, says he is well-equipped for the new three-batter minimum rule for pitchers. “I just think that I’m capable of getting multiple outs,” he told mlb.com. “If that’s at the beginning of the game, if it’s opening, if it’s starting, whatever, if it’s in the middle of the game, hopefully I can help the team as best as possible with the things that I have.”
Jarrod Dyson, who’s had to scrap for playing time over most of his 10-year big league career, may well begin the 2020 season as Pittsburgh’s starting center fielder. The Pirates reportedly have agreed to a contract with the McComb native, who spent last year with Arizona and batted .230 with 30 steals in a career-high 130 games and 400 at-bats. Dyson is 35 and has had some injury issues in recent seasons, but when healthy he brings plus-speed on the bases and in the field. He had a very productive 2019, setting career-highs for hits, runs, home runs and total bases. He’s a career .247 hitter (.319 on-base percentage) with 250 steals, second all-time (to Billy Hamilton’s 299) among Mississippi natives. A 50th-round draft pick out of Southwest Mississippi Community College by Kansas City in 2006, Dyson won a ring with the Royals in 2015.
While the Pittsburgh Pirates were sinking to the bottom of the National League Central last season, Chris Stratton may have kept his career afloat with his work out of the Bucs’ bullpen. The former Mississippi State star from Tupelo was traded twice in a two-month span in 2019, by San Francisco to the Los Angeles Angels during spring training and from the Angels to Pittsburgh in May. His numbers for the Angels weren’t good: an 8.59 ERA working primarily as a starter. He went straight to the bullpen in Pittsburgh and delivered a 3.66 ERA over 28 appearances with only a couple of truly bad outings. The 29-year-old right-hander would appear to have a good shot at winning a bullpen job in spring training. A Pirates-centric website, rumbunter.com, named Stratton a breakout candidate for 2020. A first-round pick by the Giants in 2012, Stratton’s stuff is reputed to be top drawer; the spin rates on his curveball and fastball are among the best in the game, according to rumbunter. But his career hasn’t taken off; he is 16-17, 4.88 in 83 MLB games dating to 2016. This might be the year. P.S. Billy Hamilton, the speedy center fielder from Taylorsville, is called “a perfect fit for Oracle Park,” by nbcsports.com/bayarea. First of all, Hamilton, signed to a minor league deal by San Francisco on Friday, will have to make the big league roster this spring. Hamilton doesn’t hit much but, at 29, is still a factor with his legs, glove and arm. The Giants are shrinking the outfield in Oracle Park — from 399 in center to 391 and from 421 to 415 in the right-center field alley — but speed in center field is still a priority. The team currently lists rising star Mike Yastrzemski as the starter there and also has speedy Steven Duggar as an option.
Pittsburgh reportedly is considering Billy Hamilton, among others, to fill its vacancy in center field after the trade of Starling Marte. Taylorsville’s Hamilton, a free agent, is coming off the worst of his six full big league seasons, but at age 29 can still fly. He batted .218 overall with 22 steals last season, .268 with four bags in 26 games for Atlanta, which used him primarily as a pinch runner and defensive replacement after grabbing him on waivers from Kansas City. Hamilton finished second in the National League rookie of the year voting in 2014 with Cincinnati but hasn’t progressed as a hitter. A switch-hitter, he has a woeful .297 career on-base percentage but also 299 steals and a .995 fielding percentage with 55 assists. Oddly enough, Hamilton has not won a Gold Glove or a stolen base crown.
Adam Frazier and Hunter Renfroe, former Mississippi State teammates who just completed their fourth major league season, have been named Gold Glove finalists in the National League. Neither has previously won the Rawlings-sponsored defensive award. The 18 winners, one at each position in both leagues, will be announced on Nov. 3. Frazier, who has played six different positions for Pittsburgh, took over as team’s regular second baseman in 2019. In 142 games, he made six errors and posted a .989 fielding percentage. Analytics credited him with six Defensive Runs Saved. Renfroe is a finalist in left field, though he actually spent more time in right for San Diego down the stretch. The former Copiah Academy standout played 127 games in the outfield and registered 13 assists with just two errors. He was credited with seven Defensive Runs Saved. For the record, Frazier batted .278 with 10 homers and 50 RBIs, Renfroe .216 with 33 bombs and 64 RBIs. … A Mississippian has won a Gold Glove in each of the last three seasons: Mitch Moreland in 2016, Brian Dozier in 2017 and Corey Dickerson last year.
Chicago Cubs fans might look back on the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park as the inning that finally put the fork in their 2019 season. It wasn’t surprising that Adam Frazier, the ex-Mississippi State standout, played a lead role for the Pirates in that pivotal frame, starting the seven-run inning with a double and capping it with an RBI single. The Pirates, shut out by Kyle Hendricks to that point, rolled to a 9-2 victory that snapped their nine-game losing streak and extended the Cubs’ losing skid to seven. One more Cubs loss or one more Milwaukee win will officially eliminate Chicago from playoff contention. “It just went away, brother. It went away,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who might be nearing the end of his tenure. Frazier, who took over as the Bucs’ regular second baseman this season, has been flourishing down the stretch for a team that long ago fell out of the playoff race. The lefty hitter, a sixth-round pick out of State by Pittsburgh in 2013, has batted .353 over his last 30 games with three homers, 16 RBIs and 18 runs. Frazier is batting .281 with 10 homers (matching his career-high) and 49 RBIs on the year. He has set career marks with 32 doubles, seven triples and 77 runs. He is eligible for arbitration after this season and should get a nice raise. P.S. Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss standout, enjoyed a celebration Tuesday with the Washington Nationals, who swept two from Philadelphia to capture a National League wild card berth. Dozier, who went 1-for-3 in Game 1, will be in the postseason for the third straight year and with a third different team (Minnesota, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Nats). He is hitting .233 with 19 homers this year.