31 Mar

opening acts

One of the most disappointing MLB teams in 2022, the Chicago White Sox needed to get off to a good start this season. With the aid of Mississippi products Tim Anderson and Kendall Graveman, they did exactly that on Thursday, beating the world champion Houston Astros 3-2. Anderson, former East Central Community College star, went 2-for-4 with a walk and a run — both in a ninth-inning rally — and Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman earned the win after throwing a scoreless eighth inning. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, like Anderson and Graveman a star in the WBC, gets the start for the ChiSox today at Minute Maid Park. Elsewhere on Opening Day, MSU alum Adam Frazier, in his Baltimore debut, went 2-for-4 with three runs and a stolen base as the Orioles beat Boston 10-9. Ex-Bulldogs standout Nathaniel Lowe had a hit, an RBI and a run, all in a nine-run fourth inning that propelled Texas past Philadelphia 11-7. Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star, went 0-for-2 with three walks and an RBI in Atlanta’s 7-2 victory against Washington. Meridian CC product Corey Dickerson was 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter in his Nationals debut. Hunter Renfroe was 0-for-4 (with a nice catch in right field) for the Los Angeles Angels and fellow former State standout Brent Rooker 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter for Oakland in the A’s 2-1 surprising win. P.S. The exhibition game between the Double-A Mississippi Braves and Jackson State scheduled for April 5 has been cancelled, reportedly due to concerns about field conditions at Trustmark Park in Pearl. (Tuesday night’s Southern Miss-Ole Miss game was cancelled in the fourth inning because recently installed infield sod was not holding up, and Belhaven University’s weekend series against Covenant College has been moved to Holmes Community College’s field in Goodman.) The M-Braves-JSU game — billed as the Hank Aaron Tribute Game by the Hank Aaron Sports Academy — was originally slated for Smith-Wills Stadium, home of the Double-A Jackson Mets and Generals from 1975-99. It would have been the first such contest between JSU and a Jackson-area pro team since 1991, when the Generals — a Houston affiliate — beat Jackson State 6-3 in an April exhibition at Smith-Wills. The M-Braves, Atlanta’s Double-A club now in its 19th year at Trustmark Park, open their Southern League season April 7 at home against Biloxi. The Shuckers, Milwaukee’s Double-A club, have slated an exhibition vs. Pearl River Community College on April 5 at MGM Park.

29 Mar

mlb role-playing

Austin Riley is the 3-hole hitter and third baseman for Atlanta, picked by some experts as the 2023 World Series favorite. That’s a key role, perhaps the most important role held by any Mississippi product heading into the new MLB season that launches Thursday. Here are some others of note: Kendall Graveman, the ex-Mississippi State star, is penciled in as the closer for the Chicago White Sox, who are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2022 season. Graveman, replacing Liam Hendriks (cancer treatment) as the bullpen stopper, has a 4.04 career ERA with 16 saves in 28 opps since converting from starter to reliever in 2020. … Nathaniel Lowe, a former State standout, is the first baseman and a middle-of-the-order hitter for Texas, which has spent a lot of money of late and expects to contend for the postseason. Lowe had a breakout year in 2022 (.302, 27 homers, .850 OPS). … Louisville native and former East Central Community College slugger Marcus Thames is the new hitting coach for the Los Angeles Angels. With a lineup featuring Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout and MSU alum Hunter Renfroe, the Angels are fairly desperate to make the playoffs in Ohtani’s potential walk year. Thames worked with the New York Yankees previously, so he knows pressure. … Buck Showalter, the State star of yesteryear, is entering his second season as manager of the New York Mets, another big spender with World Series aspirations. Showalter won manager of the year honors in 2022 — his fourth such honor — but saw his club fall short — again — in the playoffs. … That brings us back to Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High standout and Mississippi Braves alumnus. He batted .273 with 38 homers and 93 RBIs last season — finishing sixth in MVP voting and winning All Mississippi Baseball’s Cool Papa Bell Award — and will be counted on for similar numbers this year. P.S. Roster news: Former MSU standout Brent Rooker has made Oakland’s opening day roster. The outfielder/DH, who has 10 MLB homers on his ledger, got very limited at-bats with San Diego and Kansas City last year. Cut from the A’s active roster was Ole Miss alum Chad Smith, who debuted with Colorado last season. Right-hander Smith, a 2016 draftee by Miami, posted a 7.50 ERA in 15 games for the Rockies in 2022. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton did not make the Chicago White Sox’s roster. The veteran outfielder was in spring camp as a minor league invitee. … Pitchers Taylor and Tyler Rogers of the San Francisco Giants are the 10th set of twins to play in the majors and may soon become the fourth set to play for the same team in the same game. They opposed each other in a game last April but are now teammates with the Giants. Among the 10 sets of twins to reach the majors are Jackson natives Stan and Stewart Cliburn. Stan, a catcher, played for the California Angels in 1980 and Stewart, a pitcher, was with the team in 1984-85 and ’88. Both were with the Angels’ Triple-A club in 1986-87, though Stewart was injured during that time. Their dream of becoming the first twins to serve as batterymates in the majors never materialized.

02 Mar


Having played just 11 games in pro ball, Emaarion Boyd is already a hit with the folks who do the prospect ratings. The former South Panola High standout, an 11th-round pick by Philadelphia in the 2022 draft, is pegged as the Phillies’ No. 12 prospect in MLB Pipeline’s new Top 30 rankings for 2023. Boyd projects as a center fielder and “speedy table-setter.” A right-handed hitter and thrower, Boyd batted .361 with eight stolen bases and seven runs in his debut season, playing at the two lowest levels of the Philly system. At age 19, he lists at 6 feet 1, 177 pounds. He’s one of three 2022 draftees out of the state to appear in the prospect rankings to date. (Only the National League East and Central and American League East had been released as of Wednesday.) Ex-Mississippi State catcher Logan Tanner, a second-round pick, jumps into Cincinnati’s rankings at No. 19, and former Southern Miss left-hander Dalton Rogers is Boston’s 25th-best prospect. Jordan Westburg (MSU) is Baltimore’s No. 5; Blaze Jordan (DeSoto Central) Boston’s No. 11; Will Warren (Jackson Prep) the New York Yankees’ No. 9; Colby White (MSU) Tampa Bay’s No. 27; and Ethan Small (MSU) Milwaukee’s No. 14. White is on the Rays’ 40-man roster, and Small made his MLB debut last season. P.S. Mississippi College product Blaine Crim hit his first spring training home run for Texas against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday. Crim, who reached Triple-A in 2022 and has 61 career homers in three seasons, is in Texas’ camp as a non-roster invitee.

04 Jan

high praise

Though he hasn’t yet cracked the Texas Rangers’ Top 30 prospects chart, former Mississippi College star Blaine Crim isn’t being overlooked in the organization. “He’s what we call ‘a Rangers player,'” Texas player development director Josh Bonifay told milb.com. “He works extremely hard, he’s dedicated to his craft … .” Crim, a 19th-round pick in 2019, batted .293 with 24 home runs and 96 RBIs in 2022, playing at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. He was pegged by milb.com as the first baseman on the Rangers’ Organization All-Star team. Mississippi State alum Justin Foscue was named the second baseman on that team. Crim, now 25, has hit everywhere he has been. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound right-handed hitter batted .350 for his career at NCAA Division II MC and is a .305 hitter in pro ball. He won the batting title in Puerto Rico’s winter league after the 2021 season. He’s one to watch this year. … Foscue, the 14th overall pick in 2020, also drew praise from the Rangers’ farm director. “He knows who he is. And he executes his plan, man,” Bonifay told milb.com. Rated the Rangers’ No. 5 prospect, Foscue hit .288 with 15 homers and 81 RBIs at Double-A Frisco, helping the club win a Texas League championship.

18 Dec

transaction watch

News that ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton, Mississippi’s all-time MLB stolen base leader, has signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox rates some attention, but an under-the-radar signing of another South Mississippi product might be more intriguing. Petal High alumnus Demarcus Evans, a big man with a big fastball, was plucked off the minor league market by the New York Yankees. Evans pitched rather ineffectively (4.75 ERA) in the big leagues for Texas in 2020-21 (yielding a homer to Albert Pujols on the second pitch of his career) but had good numbers in the minors on his way up. He spent all of last season at Triple-A Round Rock and registered a 1.00 ERA with four saves over his last 18 games. The 6-foot-5 right-hander, only 26, became a six-year free agent after the season. Control is an issue for Evans, but if the Yankees can straighten him out, he might be a factor in their bullpen next season. He has been assigned to the Triple-A roster. … The well-traveled Hamilton, 32, played sparingly in 2022 for Miami and Minnesota but showed he can still run. With the White Sox in 2021, he hit .220 with nine bags in 71 games for a playoff team. He has 324 career stolen bases. P.S. Former Ole Miss slugger Thomas Dillard, who hit 12 homers (with a ton of strikeouts) at Double-A Biloxi last season, was released by Milwaukee. Pearl River Community College product Dexter Jordan, who played two seasons of rookie ball with Houston, also has been released.

06 Oct

leading men

In what was a deflating season for his team, Nathaniel Lowe might draw some small consolation from the fact that he had a bust-out year. The Mississippi State product led all Mississippians in the majors in batting with a .302 average while hitting 27 homers and driving in 76 runs in his second full MLB campaign. Texas, which spent a lot of money in the off-season, finished 68-94 and saw its manager fired during the year. But the Rangers got plenty of bang for their buck ($700,000 in 2022) from Lowe, acquired from Tampa Bay prior to the 2021 season. In the other major offensive categories, DeSoto Central High alumnus Austin Riley of Atlanta topped all Mississippians with 38 homers, 93 RBIs and 90 runs. Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central Community College star, led in stolen bases with 13; he played only 79 games for the Chicago White Sox because of injuries. Brandon Woodruff, the former State standout from Wheeler, was the top pitcher from the state, posting 13 wins, a 3.05 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 190 strikeouts for Milwaukee. Woodruff, who spent some time on the injured list, pitched 153 1/3 innings, falling short of qualifying for the official MLB leaderboard. Kendall Graveman, another ex-Bulldogs star, posted six saves for the White Sox. Chris Stratton, a State alum from Tupelo, had two saves for Pittsburgh, none for St. Louis, where he finished the season. It’s worth noting that a number of Mississippi-connected pitchers were impacted by injuries in 2022, including Lance Lynn, Justin Steele, Chris Ellis, Spencer Turnbull, Garrett Crochet and Drew Pomeranz. P.S. The most interesting stats from a Mississippian in 2022 were produced by Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton. The 10-year vet went 1-for-20, striking out 12 times, but managed to score 13 runs and steal 10 bases. Playing for Miami and Minnesota, Hamilton was used primarily as a pinch runner.

29 Sep

it’s that time

The big league season is winding down, and Brandon Woodruff is ramping up. “This is my favorite time of year,” the former Wheeler High and Mississippi State standout told mlb.com on Wednesday. Woodruff had just thrown six shutout innings to beat St. Louis, setting a Milwaukee Brewers record by fanning 10 or more batters for the fourth straight outing. The Brewers’ 5-1 win against the National League Central champs moved them within a half-game of slumping Philadelphia for the third wild card in the NL. Woodruff, 13-4 on the season, is 4-0 with 42 strikeouts over 26 innings in his last four starts. He has 183 K’s in 147 1/3 innings on the year. One Brewers infielder jokingly remarked that it’s been no fun to play behind Woodruff because he strikes everybody out. Former MSU star Hunter Renfroe drove in the Brewers’ first run on Wednesday, boosting his season RBI total to 70. Milwaukee hosts Miami today, while Philadelphia, in a four-game skid, plays the Cubs in Chicago. P.S. In case anyone was wondering, two of Aaron Judge’s American League record-tying 61 home runs have come against Mississippi products. He got MSU alum Kendall Graveman for No. 15 and Ole Miss’ Mike Mayers for No. 51. … Minnesota has to be pleased with what it has seen from ex-Southern Miss star Matt Wallner in the first 12 games of his MLB career. The lefty slugger, who had two hits and three RBIs in a win on Wednesday, is batting .275 with two homers and nine RBIs. … MSU product Nathaniel Lowe continues to crank out hits for Texas, getting two more Wednesday to boost his average to .305, with 25 homers and 73 RBIs. He has 173 hits on the season — tied for seventh-most in the majors — and 39 knocks in his last 30 games (a .345 average).

28 Sep

put a ring on it

The 2022 season already had been a good one for Justin Foscue. It got better on Tuesday night when the former Mississippi State standout and his Frisco teammates won the Texas League championship by beating Wichita in the decisive third game of the series. Foscue, rated the No. 5 prospect in the Texas Rangers’ system, batted .288 with 15 homers and 81 RBIs in his second pro season. The second baseman was a first-round pick out of State in 2020. Mississippi College product Blaine Crim also played a big part in Frisco’s success this year, hitting .295 with 24 bombs and 91 RBIs, but he was promoted to Triple-A Round Rock earlier this month. … The Southern League pennant will be decided tonight between Pensacola and Tennessee at Kodak, Tenn. Former McLaurin High star Davis Bradshaw is an outfielder for the Blue Wahoos, a Miami affiliate; he batted .286 in 27 games after a well-earned promotion from A-ball. The host Smokies, a Chicago Cubs affiliate, have Pontotoc native and Itawamba Community College alum Delvin Zinn on their roster; the shortstop batted just .137 in limited at-bats this year but did steal 12 bases. … The Eastern League crown will go to either Erie or Somerset; they play their Game 3 tonight at Bridgewater Township, N.J. Former Jackson Prep standout Will Warren has been a solid starter (7-6, 4.02 ERA) for Somerset, a New York Yankees’ farm club. … The Triple-A Championship final four is set for Las Vegas: Durham and Nashville will play Saturday for the International League title with the winner to meet the Pacific Coast League champ, either El Paso or Reno, in Sunday’s finale. Delta State alum Dalton Moats (3.60 ERA) is a reliever for Durham (Tampa Bay), and ex-MSU standout Ethan Small (7-6, 4.50) pitches for Nashville (Milwaukee). P.S. In the big leagues, Mississippi college products Corey Dickerson, Dakota Hudson and Chris Stratton celebrated a National League Central title with the St. Louis Cardinals, who eliminated Milwaukee from that race with a 6-2 win on Tuesday. … Ex-Southern Miss standout Matt Wallner, a Minnesota native now with the Twins, hit his first Target Field home run on Tuesday; it came on the last pitch thrown by Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn. Wallner’s Twins beat Lynn and the Chicago White Sox 4-0. … The White Sox, essentially out of playoff contention, announced that former East Central Community College star Tim Anderson, their All-Star shortstop, is done for the season with a hand injury. He hit .301 in 79 games. … Ole Miss product Mike Mayers has been designated for assignment (for the second time in 2022) by the Los Angeles Angels. The 30-year-old right-hander had a 5.68 ERA this season.

27 Sep

whatever happened to …

Demarcus Evans, the former Petal High star, has turned his season around the last two months at Triple-A Round Rock in the Texas organization. In 18 games in August and September, the 6-foot-5, 265-pound right-handed reliever has put up a 1.00 ERA with a win and four saves, including one on Monday against Sugar Land. A 25th-round draft pick out of Petal in 2015, Evans pitched in the big leagues in 2020-21, posting a 4.75 ERA in 29 appearances. He was expected to contend for a bullpen role this season but was optioned to Round Rock during spring training and didn’t pitch in a game until late May. In late June, off to a rocky start, he was dropped from the 40-man roster and outrighted to Round Rock. His performance the past two months may have put him back on the MLB radar, if not for the Rangers then some other club. For the year, the 25-year-old Evans has a 3.82 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 33 innings over 32 games. P.S. Kudos to Bryce Elder, the Mississippi Braves alumnus who became the first Atlanta rookie in 32 years to throw a shutout. The right-hander beat Washington 8-0 with an impressively efficient six-hitter on Monday, improving to 2-3, 2.76, in nine MLB games this season. Elder, from Texas, went 7-1, 3.21 — with one complete game — for the Double-A South champion M-Braves last season. He was promoted to Triple-A before the postseason.

17 Sep

let the dogs out

Friday was a banner day for ex-Mississippi State stars in the big leagues and the minors. Start in Milwaukee, where Bulldogs alumnus Hunter Renfroe led off the ninth inning with a double and eventually scored the walk-off run in a 7-6 victory against the New York Yankees. (Garrett Mitchell, a rookie who spent most of this season at Double-A Biloxi, got the winning knock for the Brewers, clinging to hope in the National League wild card race.) Move to St. Louis, where Chris Stratton threw three pitches, got one key out and notched the win for the Cardinals, who are closing in on the NL Central title. Stratton got the final out of the seventh inning with two runners on base and St. Louis rallied in the bottom half to go ahead and ultimately beat Cincinnati 6-5. Stratton is 4-0 with a 3.06 ERA since he joined the Cards in August and has a 1.29 in his last seven appearances. At Tampa Bay, Nathaniel Lowe blasted his 25th homer to help also-ran Texas beat the wild card-chasing Rays 4-3. Tampa Bay is third in the American League wild card standings, behind Toronto and Seattle. … Down in the minors: Justin Foscue homered and drove in four runs as Frisco, Texas’ Double-A club, clinched the second-half title in the Texas League South; Jordan Westburg went 5-for-5 with his 17th homer for Triple-A Norfolk (Baltimore), his 26th overall this season; and Brent Rooker smacked his fifth homer for Triple-A Omaha (Kansas City), his 24th all told in the minors this season.