A pair of Magnolia State connections are on the roster of one of the teams in tonight’s Arizona Fall League championship game, one a familiar name, the other less so. Former Mississippi State star Justin Foscue, a first-round pick by Texas in 2020 and a top-rated prospect, is the second baseman for Surprise, which meets Mesa (6 p.m., MLB Network) for the fall league title. One of the Saguaros’ key bullpen arms is left-hander Jacques Pucheu, a Gulfport native and East Mississippi Community College alum who plays in the Cincinnati system. Foscue capped his first pro season with a good showing in the AFL, batting .257 with five homers and 15 RBIs. He is the Rangers’ No. 4 prospect (per MLB Pipeline) and could be in the big leagues very soon. Pucheu’s story is quite different. Undrafted out of Austin Peay in 2019, he played briefly in independent ball before the Reds signed him that summer. After the idle 2020 season, he worked at three levels in 2021, spending most of the season at High-A Dayton. Obviously, Reds brass liked what they saw and sent him to the AFL, where he fared quite well against more highly rated prospects, posting a 1.93 ERA in seven appearances, 14 innings. … Ex-Southern Miss standout Matt Wallner, a Minnesota prospect (No. 14), had an outstanding AFL campaign, hitting .303 with six homers and 18 RBIs for Scottsdale. The lefty-hitting outfielder played in High-A this season. P.S. Three state college products, all pitchers, were placed on 40-man protected rosters by MLB clubs on Friday: Ryan Rolison (Ole Miss) by Colorado, Konnor Pilkington (MSU) by Cleveland and James McArthur (Ole Miss) by Philadelphia. Rolison, a first-rounder in 2018, had an injury-dampened 2021 season (5.27 in 16 starts) but is the Rockies’ No. 3 prospect. … Former Mississippi Braves standout Ozzie Albies won MLB’s Heart and Hustle Award, which honors a player who best embodies the values, spirit and tradition of the game. A committee of former players makes the selection. “I don’t know anybody who has any more fun playing baseball than that kid,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker recently told mlb.com. East Central CC alum Tim Anderson (Chicago White Sox) and former MSU star Adam Frazier (San Diego) were among the 30 nominees. … The Braves’ new 40-man additions include Drew Waters, the 2019 Southern League MVP as an M-Braves outfielder, and two members of the 2021 M-Braves Double-A South championship team, pitchers Freddy Tarnok and Brooks Wilson.
Braxton Lee, the ex-Ole Miss standout from Picayune, has done quite a few noteworthy things in his eight-year pro career. Won a Southern League batting title. Played in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game. Played in the big leagues. On Wednesday night, the 28-year-old Lee did something entirely different: He pitched. Lee, an outfielder by trade, threw a scoreless eighth inning for Triple-A Louisville in a 12-3 loss at Memphis. A lefty hitter who throws righty, Lee didn’t allow a hit and walked just one in his mound debut. He went 1-for-3 as a hitter, lifting his average to .242 in 41 games with Cincinnati’s top minor league club. Lee played in eight games for the Miami Marlins in 2018 but has spent the past couple years bouncing around the minors. He was playing in the independent Atlantic League when the Reds signed him in June. He started the season with Chattanooga in the Double-A South. The Pearl River Community College product has a .262 career average in the minors over 676 games. P.S. Mississippi College alum Blaine Crim and Mississippi State product Justin Foscue went a combined 5-for-5 with four runs and six RBIs for Double-A Frisco on Wednesday. Both homered. Alas, the Texas Rangers affiliate lost 10-9 at Amarillo. Crim is batting .290 with eight bombs, and Foscue — a highly rated prospect — is at .247 with two homers, one in each of the last two games. Crim has 28 homers on the year at two levels, and Foscue, the 14th overall pick in 2020, has 17 at three levels.
Far from the MLB playoff races, where teams are looking to next year and players are seeking to make good impressions, the Chicago Cubs met the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on Wednesday. Justin Steele, the former George County High star, made one of those good impressions. The Cubs’ rookie left-hander threw five shutout innings for his first win since shifting from the bullpen to the rotation. Relying mainly on two different fastballs, Steele allowed one hit, walked three, hit a batter and fanned three in the 3-0 victory. “I thought the fastball looked electric, to be honest with you,” Cubs manager David Ross said in an mlb.com story. Steele, who has made four starts, is 3-2 with a 3.48 ERA overall in 15 games for the fourth-place Cubs. Drafted in 2014, the 26-year-old Steele logged over 300 innings in an injury-plagued minor league journey before making his big league debut on April 12. Meanwhile, for the last-place Twins, ex-Mississippi State star Brent Rooker was a bright spot, getting the club’s only two hits, both singles. Rooker, also looking to make an impression for 2022, is batting .201 with six homers in 38 games. Former Petal High standout Anthony Alford, hoping to secure a 2022 job with Pittsburgh, hit his second homer of the season in the last-place Pirates’ loss to the Chicago White Sox. The oft-injured Alford is batting .180 in 23 games. MSU product Nate Lowe, toiling for last-place Texas, went 1-for-3 in a loss to Colorado. Lowe is batting .321 over his last 15 games and .261 with 14 homers on the season, his first with the Rangers. P.S. Mississippi State alum Will Bednar, the first Mississippian picked in this year’s draft (14th overall), made his pro debut on Monday, working a 1-2-3 inning for San Francisco’s Arizona Complex League club. … The White Sox put shortstop Tim Anderson on the injured list Wednesday with a hamstring issue; the former East Central Community College star, an MVP candidate, had missed several games recently with sore legs.
Justin Foscue is the lone Mississippian (native or school alum) in MLB Pipeline’s new list of the top 100 prospects in pro ball. The former Mississippi State star, currently playing in Double-A in the Texas system, is rated No. 90 overall. He is No. 4 on the Rangers’ new Top 30 chart. Foscue, a second baseman and a 2020 draftee, is batting .273 in six games at Frisco after batting .296 with 14 homers in High-A ball. … Current Mississippi Braves catcher Shea Langeliers is No. 75 overall, and former M-Braves Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, now at Triple-A Gwinnett, check in at 40 and 86. … MLB Pipeline’s new team rankings include 2021 draft picks. MSU product Will Bednar, first player chosen from the state, is San Francisco’s No. 7 and Ole Miss product Gunnar Hoglund, also a first-rounder, is Toronto’s No. 5. Bednar, who led the Bulldogs to the national championship, hasn’t debuted yet. Hoglund is recovering from arm surgery.
Jack Kruger, who caught half an inning in May in his first and so far only big league appearance, is playing for Triple-A Round Rock in the Texas organization. The ex-Mississippi State star was called up on May 6 by the Los Angeles Angels, got in the game that night, then was designated for assignment the next day. Kruger, who was in his sixth year in the Angels’ system, was claimed by the Rangers, who promptly DFA’d him and sent him to Round Rock. He is batting .198 with two homers in 25 games. A career .261 hitter in the minors, Kruger batted .305 at Double-A Mobile in the Southern League in 2018 and was a mid-season All-Star there in 2019. P.S. In other news: Chris Ellis’ long-awaited return to the big leagues was short-lived. After posting his first career win on Tuesday, Ellis was designated for assignment today, which means the Ole Miss product could be claimed by another team or returned to Triple-A Durham. … Drew Pomeranz was to have season-ending surgery today to repair a flexor tendon tear in his left arm. Done for 2021, the Ole Miss alum is signed through ’23 with San Diego. Pomeranz was a key piece in the Padres’ bullpen with a 1.75 ERA. … Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High standout, could be close to returning to the Chicago White Sox’s active roster, per comments from manager Tony LaRussa. Outfielder Hamilton (oblique) has been on the 10-day injured list since July 31. … If anyone was wondering, Mitch Moreland’s career ERA is 0.00 in three mop-up appearances spread over eight years. The Mississippi State alum, Oakland’s DH/first baseman, worked an inning of the A’s loss to the White Sox on Tuesday. Moreland pitched at Amory High and a limited amount at MSU.
Blaine Crim surely hated to see July come to an end, but the former Mississippi College standout can’t be disappointed in how August began. Crim, playing for High-A Hickory in the Texas Rangers’ organization, went 2-for-5 with his 20th homer and two RBIs on Sunday to power the Crawdads to a 12-7 win against Greenville. This comes on the heels of a July in which the 24-year-old first baseman hit .393 (.843 slugging percentage) with 12 home runs. Often hitting behind Mississippi State alum Justin Foscue in the Hickory lineup, Crim is batting .300 on the season with 61 RBIs. His 20 homers is tied for the High-A East lead. An Alabama native, Crim was the Gulf South Conference player of the year at MC in 2019 and was drafted in the 19th round by the Rangers that summer. He batted .373 for the Choctaws in ’19, leaving school as the career hits leader, and continued to mash in the minors, hitting .335 with eight homers at short-season Class A Spokane. Missing a full season of work in 2020 — when there was no minor league ball — doesn’t seem to have fazed Crim. P.S. Billy Hamilton’s running, diving, sliding catch in the rain back on July 6 was rated the No. 1 play for July by MLB Network. Alas, the Taylorsville High product, now with the Chicago White Sox, landed on the injured list Sunday with an oblique strain.
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.
Charlie Morton, the veteran Atlanta pitcher, gives an endearing assessment of Austin Riley, the DeSoto Central High alum and current Braves third baseman. “He’s easy to root for,” Morton said in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story. “He’s great in the clubhouse. Just an all-around really good dude.” Riley also has become an all-around really good player, a blossoming star, in fact. The 24-year-old, third-year big leaguer smacked two home runs, one a grand slam, and drove in six runs to power the Braves to a 12-5 win against the first-place New York Mets on Tuesday night at CitiField. The two homers went deep into the left-field seats and covered a combined 850 feet-plus. “The power’s unbelievable,” Braves manager Brian Snitker told The Associated Press. “He’s still figuring things out. … Still a lot of upside in this guy.” Riley is batting .288 with 19 homers and 56 RBIs. Over the last 15 days, mostly spent in the cleanup spot, Riley is batting .372 (second among all MLB third basemen) with 16 hits (first), a .791 slugging percentage (first), five homers (tied for the most) and 14 RBIs (first). And, he hasn’t made an error since June 20. P.S. Adam Frazier fit seamlessly into San Diego’s lineup on Tuesday, going 2-for-5 and scoring twice as the leadoff batter (and left fielder) in a 7-4 win over Oakland. The 2021 All-Star out of Mississippi State was traded on Monday from Pittsburgh. Frazier is hitting .325. … Former MSU standout Kendall Graveman, traded from Seattle to Houston in the midst of a series between the two American League West rivals, was in an Astros uniform but did not pitch in Tuesday’s game, an 8-6 Houston win. Graveman, a bit surprised by the trade, got visibly emotional in a TV interview discussing the move. The right-handed reliever is 4-0 with an 0.82 ERA and 10 saves. … Ex-State star Nate Lowe stuffed the stat sheet in helping Texas stop a 12-game losing streak with a 5-4 win against Arizona. Lowe, batting .251 with the Rangers, had two hits, a walk, two RBIs, a run and a stolen base. … And down in Double-A, the Mississippi Braves, powered by a club-record seven homers, stopped an eight-game skid with a resounding 9-3 win at Pensacola. Shea Langeliers, who could be Atlanta’s catcher next season, hit two bombs, raising his season total to 17.
Mississippi State product Justin Foscue, a first-round pick by Texas in the 2020 draft, homered in his eighth straight game on Sunday. (Note: The big league record is eight straight.) Foscue went deep for High-A Hickory in the completion of a game suspended last Friday. His streak began on July 9 when he was on a rehab assignment with the Arizona Complex League Rangers. He is batting .324 with 10 homers and 23 RBIs for Hickory. Foscue didn’t play in Sunday’s regularly scheduled game, but ex-Mississippi College star Blaine Crim did. And he homered in his second straight game and for the 12th time in July. Crim is batting .298 with 19 homers and 58 RBIs for Hickory. … The remains of the 2021 season will be a lot more interesting for Adam Frazier now that the ex-State standout has been traded from Pittsburgh to San Diego. The Pirates are mired in last place in their division. The Padres are in a heated battle with San Francisco and Los Angeles in the National League West. Frazier, 29, was a coveted trade piece, with several teams reportedly expressing interest. The All-Star second baseman is batting .324 and leads the big leagues in hits with 125. According to mlb.com, Frazier is only the third player in the modern era to be traded midseason while leading MLB in hits. The others: Willie McGee (1990) and Red Schoendienst (1957). Frazier is a left-handed hitter with some pop (39 career homers) who has played six different positions over his six seasons in the majors. … It wasn’t surprising that All-Stars Lance Lynn and Brandon Woodruff gave us quite the pitchers’ duel on Sunday night (see previous post). The surprise was that former Ole Miss star Lynn delivered the game’s biggest hit, a two-run single off MSU product Woodruff that propelled the Chicago White Sox to a 3-1 win over Milwaukee in a matchup of division leaders. Lynn’s second-inning hit, on an 0-2 fastball, was his first since 2017. It came in his first plate appearance in over two years. Woodruff, a good-hitting pitcher, also had a knock off Lynn but came up empty in a key at-bat in the fifth inning. Down 3-1 with a runner at second and one out, Woodruff took a called third strike on a 3-2 pitch.
Tim Anderson was playing like an All-Star before he was named as a late addition to the American League squad. Nothing has changed since. The East Central Community College product went into the break on a 12-game hit streak that started before he was named to the team for the first time. As if he needed to validate his selection, he has hit safely in all four games he has played since the break and has homered in three straight for the first-place Chicago White Sox. “(He) is one of the big reasons why we are where we are,” manager Tony LaRussa told The Associated Press. Anderson has 12 hits in his last seven games, 28 during his 16-game streak and is batting .394 over that stretch. For the year, Anderson, in his sixth season as the White Sox’s regular shortstop, is batting .314 with nine homers, 36 RBIs, 61 runs and 14 stolen bases. Anderson will look to extend his streak when Chicago hosts Minnesota today. The club record for a hitting streak is 28, held by Carlos Lee (2004). P.S. Petal’s Demarcus Evans was recalled by Texas on Sunday, threw two scoreless innings, then was optioned back to Triple-A Monday. Thanks for playing.