Though his projected big league debut is two years away, Mississippi State product Justin Foscue is a player to keep an eye on in 2021. Foscue, drafted 14th overall by Texas last summer, has been rated the No. 8 second base prospect in the game by MLB Pipeline. Shortly after the draft, the Rangers put Foscue on their 60-man roster and invited him to the alternate training camp. Not every 2020 draft pick got that chance. He is already at their spring training facility in Arizona and, per an interview last week on milb.com’s “The Show Before The Show” podcast, is brimming with confidence as his first actual pro season approaches. “They told me they believe in my abilities,” Foscue said. “They believe in me. I appreciated them telling me that.” He said he has devoted a lot of off-season work on his defense. “That’s where I can take the biggest jump,” he said on the podcast. Foscue, who turns 22 on March 2, is likely to spend the ’21 season in the minors – “unless something crazy happens,” he said. When he eventually encounters the bright lights, big crowds and electric moments of the major leagues, his time at State and Dudy Noble Field will have him well-prepared. As Foscue said during the podcast: “(Dudy Noble) is the best place to play in college baseball. The best. By far. Not even close. … I’m so happy I got the opportunity to play there.”
Change was in the wind for several Mississippi-connected players on Thursday. On the big league front, ex-Mississippi State star Nate Lowe was traded from Tampa Bay to Texas, which has an apparent affinity for first basemen from MSU. In the Rule 5 draft’s minor league phase, three Mississippi college products changed organizations, with Ole Miss’ Errol Robinson and Southern Miss’ Chuckie Robinson going to Cincinnati and Itawamba Community College’s Tyreque Reed to Boston. Lowe, a lefty slugger who hit 11 homers in 71 games for the Rays over the last two seasons, projects as Texas’ first baseman in 2021. “I told him to expect competition, but we made this deal anticipating he would win the job and be our first baseman,” Rangers GM Jon Daniels told mlb.com. Former State star Rafael Palmeiro spent 10 of his 20 MLB seasons with the Rangers, and Will Clark manned first base for Texas for five years (between Palmeiro’s two stints there). Mitch Moreland, currently a free agent, spent the first seven of his 11 MLB seasons with the Rangers. … Errol Robinson, a shortstop, went from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Reds in the first round of the Rule 5 Triple-A phase, and Chuckie Robinson (no relation), a catcher, moved from Houston to the Reds in the third round. Errol is a .262 career hitter in four pro seasons and has reached the Triple-A level. “He’s a really good athlete. He’s extremely versatile,” Rob Coughlin, Cincinnati’s director of pro scouting, told mlb.com. Chuckie is a .249 hitter over four pro seasons and played at the Class AA level in 2019. He has a 15-homer season on his ledger. Reed, a storied slugger at Houlka High and ICC, was plucked out of the Texas system by the Red Sox in the first round of the Triple-A phase. “(W)e really believe in the power potential, so we’re excited to bring him into the organization,” Boston’s VP of professional scouting Gus Quattlebaum told mlb.com. Reed, a first baseman, is a .281 hitter with 41 homers in three pro seasons. He played high-A ball in 2019.
Lance Lynn’s 104-71 career record is impressive, as is his 3.57 ERA. The ex-Ole Miss star has averaged 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings over a nine-year big league career. But perhaps the most impressive thing about the newest member of the Chicago White Sox’s rotation is his tenacity. He shows up for work and gives all he’s got. He made 13 starts for a last-place Texas team in the 60-game 2020 season, went 6-3 and averaged 6.5 innings per. On one memorable occasion, Aug. 14 at Colorado, the 33-year-old right-hander came into the Rangers’ dugout after the eighth inning, sitting at 98 pitches with a 3-2 lead, and proclaimed, “I’m finishing it.” He did, a complete-game two-hitter. From 2012-19, he made at least 29 starts each season, excepting 2016 which he missed after Tommy John surgery. Traded by the Rangers late Monday for two prospects, Lynn joins former East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson and Ocean Springs High alum Garrett Crochet on a White Sox team that could be scary good in 2021. P.S. Onetime Mississippi Braves outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. earned Korean Baseball Organization MVP honors for 2020. He hit .349 and led the league with 47 homers and 135 RBIs in 142 games for the KT Wiz. He fell five batting average points short of winning the Triple Crown. This was his fourth season in the KBO. He is reportedly looking for an MLB offer.
Speculation about Hunter Renfroe’s next home has included the Chicago Cubs and Houston, two clubs that might be in the market for right-handed power. The ex-Mississippi State star was designated for assignment by Tampa Bay on Friday and is apparently bound for free agency. Renfroe hit eight homers – plus two more in the postseason – during his one year with the Rays but batted just .156 and struck out in roughly a third of his at-bats. The Rays added several minor leaguers to their 40-man roster last week and needed to clear space. Renfroe was deemed expendable. He was expected to command about $3 million in arbitration for 2021. He is a .228 career hitter with 97 homers since his first MLB season with San Diego in 2016. … MSU product Nate Lowe, still on the Rays’ roster, has left his Dominican Winter League club, reportedly because of concerns about COVID-19. He was 3-for-16 in five games. A lefty-hitting first baseman, he smacked four homers in a brief stint in the majors in 2020. … Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn is widely rumored to be on the trading block in Texas. The right-hander, 33, due to make about $9M in the last year of his contract, went 6-3 with a 3.32 ERA for a bad Rangers team last season. Starting pitching is an especially hot commodity this off-season.
Somewhat lost in the disappointment that has been the Los Angeles Angels’ 2020 season is the emergence of former Ole Miss star Mike Mayers as an effective bullpen arm. Mayers, in his first season with the Angels, threw two clean innings on Saturday night and picked up the win as his club, now 23-30, rallied past Texas 4-3. Mayers (2-0) now has a 1.80 ERA over 25 appearances; the 28-year-old right-hander has allowed just one earned run in his last 15 games. Mayers spent the first four years of his MLB career with St. Louis, which drafted him out of UM in the third round in 2013. His big league debut in 2016 was cringe-worthy — nine earned runs in 1 1/3 innings as a starter against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday Night Baseball — and he never found any consistency with the Cards. He had a 7.03 ERA in 73 games. But the Angels saw something they liked and claimed Mayers on waivers after last season. Working with new Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway, another ex-Rebels star, Mayers apparently has found something. … Coincidentally, Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn got the start for Texas in Saturday’s game and pitched well — again — only to see his team lose — again. Lynn’s excellent work — he is 6-2 with a 2.53 ERA in 12 starts — has been wasted on an 18-34 team.
Demarcus Evans and Garrett Crochet made their major league debuts on Friday night, but the two former Mississippi prep standouts took very different paths to The Show. Their results were a little different, too. Evans, a 25th-round draft pick out of Petal High by Texas in 2015, spent five years honing his craft in the minors; he posted a 0.90 ERA in 2019. First batter he faced on Friday: Albert Pujols. The Los Angeles Angels’ future Hall of Famer sent Evans’ second pitch — a 93-mph fastball — over the wall in Anaheim for his 662nd career home run. Evans plunked the next batter, Justin Upton, but the the 6-foot-5, 265-pound right-hander got out of his only inning with no further damage. Crochet, an Ocean Springs High alum who pitched at Tennessee the last three years, was drafted 11th overall in June by the Chicago White Sox. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound lefty became the first player since Brandon Finnegan with Kansas City in 2014 to make his MLB debut in the same year he was drafted. For Crochet, who has been working out in the White Sox’s alternate camp, this was his first professional game. First batter he faced: Brian Goodwin of Cincinnati. Crochet struck him out, then struck out the next batter and retired the third on a grounder to first base. He threw six of his 13 pitches at 100 mph or more, including two clocked at 101-plus, in his lone inning. “I felt like I was on top of the world and just truly living the dream,” he told mlb.com. It was surely a dream come true for Evans, as well, and he’ll have better days. Crochet has set his bar pretty high. It’s gonna be fun to see what they do next.
The long wait for the call to the big leagues came on Tuesday. Now Demarcus Evans waits, anxiously no doubt, for the call to the Texas bullpen that will signal his MLB debut. There’s a fair chance it’ll come tonight when the Rangers play the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Former Petal High star Evans, a 25th-round pick by the Rangers in 2015, is a 6-foot-5, 265-pound right-hander with tantalizing stuff: an exploding fastball and sharp-breaking curve. “He’s going to come at you with a pretty good fastball—probably one of the best fastballs I’ve seen,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said in a Sports Illustrated story. Evans reportedly has been throwing well in the alternate camp. He had an exceptional 2019 season, split between high-A and Double-A. In 60 innings, he struck out 100 batters (with 39 walks) and posted a 0.90 ERA. Baseball America named Evans the closer on its all-classification minor league All-Star team. Having switched from starter to reliever during the 2017 season, he has averaged almost 14 strikeouts per nine innings over his pro career. … Considering the offensive struggles Cleveland has been experiencing, it’s a wonder the Indians haven’t given Bobby Bradley a call. The former Harrison Central High standout, who is in their alternate camp in Eastlake, Ohio, could add some thunder to a club that ranks near the bottom of the majors in runs and home runs. The lefty-hitting first baseman/DH has 147 homers over six minor league campaigns and has hit 27 or more in a season four times. He hit 33 at Triple-A Columbus last year, plus another during his brief big league stint. Scouting reports say the 24-year-old Bradley has power to all fields. Sports Illustrated noted earlier this year that the Indians “need to know if they have an MLB-ready first baseman waiting in the wings” to replace Carlos Santana next year. What better time to get a clue. The Indians have lost seven in a row and entered play today in third place, 6 games out, in the American League Central, clinging to the second wild card.
Good: OK, this was more like great. Lance Lynn, the veteran right-hander out of Ole Miss, threw a complete-game two-hitter — at Coors Field, no less — to pace Texas to a 3-2 win Friday night against Colorado. Lynn (3-0, 1.11 ERA) struck out the side in the eighth inning and reportedly told manager Chris Woodward as he arrived in the dugout, “I’m finishing it.” He got Trevor Story (fly out), Charlie Blackmon (ground out) and Nolan Arenado (fly out) to end it, notching just his third career complete game and first since 2014 with St. Louis. Lynn threw 110 pitches, walked none and fanned six.
Bad: Brandon Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State standout, was pulled in the fifth inning of Milwaukee’s game at Wrigley Field after allowing six straight batters to reach as Chicago bolted to a 3-1 lead. Woodruff took a no-hitter into the fifth but suddenly lost command, yielding four hits, two walks and the three runs in the inning. It was the second straight abbreviated outing for Woodruff, who saw his ERA rise to 3.16. He got a no-decision as the Brewers’ bullpen and a three-run bomb by Christian Yelich bailed him out in a 4-3 Milwaukee victory.
Ugly: Southern Miss product Cody Carroll was recalled from Baltimore’s alternate site on Friday and was called on for mop-up duty in the regularly scheduled half of the twinbill against Washington. He got five outs but gave up six runs in the 15-3 loss. His ERA now stands at 54.00 in three appearances; he didn’t record an out in his 2020 debut last month and was charged with four runs. Oh, and he was sent back to the alternate site today.
The competition is stiff for jobs in the New York Yankees’ bullpen, but Jonathan Holder is holding his own. Former Mississippi State and Gulfport High star Holder worked a clean inning against the Mets on Sunday night, his fifth scoreless appearance in exhibition play dating back to spring training. The 27-year-old right-hander has allowed two hits and no walks with six strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. This could be a pivotal year for Holder, now in his seventh pro season. After contributing solid stuff in the Bronx in 2017 and ’18, he took some lumps last year and wound up being shipped out to the minors in mid-summer. He returned and ultimately finished with a 6.31 ERA, roughly double his number from 2018. Holder would seem to be a safe bet to make the Yankees’ 30-man opening roster, filling a middle relief role. But jobs will be hard to keep when that roster gets trimmed, first to 28, then 26. P.S. Ex-Petal High standout Demarcus Evans was sent to Texas’ alternate training site on Sunday, meaning he won’t make the roster for the Rangers’ opener. Evans, 23, a 6-foot-5, 265-pound right-hander, pitched in high-A and Double-A ball in 2019, putting up a 0.90 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 60 innings. His big league debut can’t be far off. … Also, Ole Miss product Henri Lartigue, a catcher, was removed from Philadelphia’s 60-man list of eligible players and is no longer in camp.
In the Texas Rangers’ final game at their former stadium, Globe Life Park, Lance Lynn beat the New York Yankees with a fairly dominating performance. It seems appropriate that the former Ole Miss standout would be picked for the first start at the Rangers’ new stadium, Globe Life Field, when their 2020 season begins on July 24. In a rehearsal for that plum assignment on Tuesday, Lynn worked six shutout innings in an intrasquad game, recording eight strikeouts and no walks while yielding just two hits. “It gets me ready for what I want to do to be ready for Opening Day and be full-go with no restrictions,” he said in an mlb.com piece. “I am right where I want to be.” In his first year with Texas in 2019, the right-hander went 16-11 with a 3.67 ERA and finished fifth in the American League Cy Young voting. At 6 feet 5, 250 pounds, he is a hard-throwing horse. He worked over 200 innings for the Rangers last year and finished fourth in the AL with 246 punchouts. A first-round supplemental draft pick by St. Louis in 2008, he left Ole Miss as the school’s all-time strikeout leader. In an eight-season MLB career – during which he has won a World Series ring and made an All-Star Game – the 33-year-old Lynn is 98-68 with a 3.59 ERA. Lynn is expected to get a couple more intrasquad starts before the July 24 main event against Colorado. “He’s in a great spot to let him hit the ground running and let him go,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward told the Dallas Morning News.