27 Apr

remember him?

There were times a few years back when Travis Demeritte looked like a budding star in the Atlanta system. Those who follow the Mississippi Braves would remember. With the Double-A M-Braves in 2017 and ’18, Demeritte belted 32 home runs, stole 11 bases and made a Southern League All-Star Game appearance. He was versatile enough to play second base, third and the outfield. But he was prone to slumps, struck out a lot and batted just .227 over those two seasons. In 2019, three years after he was acquired in a minor league trade with Texas, Demeritte was traded away to Detroit. In February of 2021, the Braves got him back as a waiver claim. On Tuesday night, in his third game for Atlanta, he finally took a star turn for the Braves. Demeritte homered — his first in the big leagues in three years — and made a great catch in right field, sliding into foul territory, as the Braves beat the visiting Chicago Cubs 3-1. Demeritte didn’t hit much in his 66 games with the Tigers in 2019 and ’20 but batted .282 with 21 homers at Triple-A Gwinnett last year and was swinging it well when Atlanta called him up last week. Once Ronald Acuna returns to the Braves’ active roster, Demeritte’s opportunities likely will diminish. But the former first-round pick — 30th overall by Texas out of Winder-Barrow High in Georgia in 2013 — showed what he is capable of on Tuesday night. It was good to see. P.S. For the current M-Braves, Drew Lugbauer hit his fifth homer — second-most in the SL — and Michael Harris II extended his on-base streak to 16 games (out of 16) in a 6-3 win at Montgomery.

23 Apr

denied

The anticipation was high. Kirk McCarty, the ex-Southern Miss star from Hattiesburg, was scheduled to make his big league debut today, starting on the bump against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. It’s not happening. Cal Quantrill has come off the COVID-19 list and will get the ball for Cleveland. McCarty, brought up from Triple-A earlier in the week, might still get in the game as a reliever, of course, but a start against Aaron Judge and Co. would have been so much cooler. (In Friday’s game, a Cleveland loss, Mississippi State alum Konnor Pilkington threw two scoreless innings in relief for the Guardians in his third big league game. He has yet to yield a run.) … In other MLB news: Former State standout Nathaniel Lowe extended his hit streak to eight games, raised his average to .412 — tops in the American League — and belted his first home run in Texas’ win against Oakland. … Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal, made his 2022 debut for Pittsburgh, coming off a rehab assignment, and went 0-for-3 as the leadoff batter at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The Pirates won the game over the Cubs 4-2, with ex-State star Chris Stratton getting the save. … Ex-East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson was handed a one-game suspension for flipping off the Cleveland crowd in a game on Wednesday. Anderson issued an apology, then appealed the suspension and played Friday. He went 0-for-4 and his eighth-inning throwing error — his sixth E in three games — proved costly in the Chicago White Sox’s 2-1 loss to Minnesota. MSU alum Kendall Graveman suffered the blown save and took the loss in that game.

21 Apr

play ball

It’s opening day in the independent Atlantic League, where Jackson native Stan Cliburn will manage his 3,570th minor league game when his Southern Maryland Blue Crabs meet Lexington. Cliburn’s club includes former Ole Miss star and onetime big leaguer Braxton Lee and Southern Miss product Bradley Roney. Cliburn, entering his 33rd season as a pro manager, was the Atlantic League’s manager of the year in 2021 when he steered the Blue Crabs to a 63-57 record and into the playoffs with a late surge. Forest Hill High alum Cliburn had a long playing career in pro ball and spent part of the 1980 season with the California Angels. Lee, a lefty-hitting outfielder from Picayune, played in the Cincinnati system in 2021, batting .224. A former Southern League batting champ, he got 17 at-bats with the Miami Marlins in 2018. Roney, a right-hander, pitched in the New York Mets’ system last season, finishing at Triple-A. Roney, who pitched for the Mississippi Braves in 2016, ’17 and ’19, has a 3.71 career ERA in pro ball. … Also in the ALPB is former East Mississippi Community College standout LeDarious Clark, an outfielder with Lancaster. P.S. Mississippi State product Nathaniel Lowe snagged a screaming line drive Wednesday night and started 3-6 triple play, the seventh in Texas Rangers history. Caught up in the tri-killing was ex-State star Adam Frazier, who redeemed himself quite nicely by going 3-for-4 with a walk and a run in Seattle’s 4-2 victory. Frazier is batting .294 as the Mariners’ new leadoff man.

22 Mar

big league chew

Billy Hamilton, the all-time leader in stolen bases among Mississippi natives in MLB, may get a chance to add to his impressive total in 2022, having signed a minor league contract with Seattle on Monday. The former Taylorsville High star, now 31, has played sparingly in recent seasons while bouncing from team to team to team. He doesn’t hit much (.240 career), but he can still run. He was 9-for-9 in steals for the Chicago White Sox last season and has 314 bags since his 2013 debut. And he can still go get it in the outfield; a diving catch he made in the rain last July was one of his all-time best. Don’t be surprised if Hamilton makes the roster with the Mariners, who have designs on the postseason this year. P.S. Corey Dickerson, the Meridian Community College native from McComb, made his St. Louis debut on Monday, going 1-for-2 with a walk as the DH and leadoff batter. Dickerson was a Mark McGwire fan growing up and is wearing Big Mac’s No. 25. The lefty hitter said in recent interviews that he plans to swing more for power this year. He hit just six homers in 336 at-bats in 2021 but has belted as many as 27 in a season (with Tampa Bay in 2017). … Texas beat Cleveland 25-12 Monday in a Cactus League game that lasted 4 hours, 17 minutes and “featured” 42 hits and 14 walks. Mississippi College alum Blaine Crim, playing for Texas, had one of the hits, ex-Mississippi State star Jack Kruger, also with the Rangers, drew one of the walks and Petal High product Demarcus Evans, one of the Rangers’ eight pitchers, allowed three walks and two runs.

18 Jan

off-season stuff

Bobby Abreu is among the most accomplished former Jackson Generals players. He hit .291 for his big league career with a .395 on-base average, 288 homers and 400 steals, one of just six players all-time in the 250/400 club. He was a two-time All-Star, won a Silver Slugger, a Gold Glove and a Home Run Derby. Abreu, a star right fielder for the 1994 Generals (Houston’s Double-A club), is on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot for the third time, and there is an interesting piece on mlb.com in which a panel of experts debate Abreu’s credentials. The consensus would seem to be that he won’t make the writers’ cut and likely would need to get in down the road via one of the veterans committees. Pitcher Billy Wagner, also still on the writers’ ballot, stands a much better chance of being the first ex-Gens star to be elected. … Jackson native and longtime big leaguer Chet Lemon is featured in the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s weekly e-newsletter. The Card Corner item, which includes a nice story, is Lemon’s 1988 Fleer card. Lemon batted .273 over 16 years in MLB before an illness ended his career in 1991. He was a three-time All-Star, won a ring with the 1984 Detroit Tigers and still holds the American League record of 512 putouts, set in 1977 with Chicago. Lemon’s son Marcus played for the Mississippi Braves in 2011. … Former Mississippi College standout Blaine Crim is playing for Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican (Roberto Clemente) League Championship Series, which is being televised on FS2. Game 4 is Wednesday night at 5 p.m. Crim, a Texas Rangers farmhand, batted .406 for Mayaguez this season after mashing 29 homers in the minors in 2021. … Mississippi State product Justin Foscue was named a Rangers Organization All-Star by milb.com after batting .275 with 17 homers at three levels in 2021. He also played well in the Arizona Fall League. But the second baseman’s big league path is currently blocked by Marcus Semien, who signed a huge free agent contract with Texas.

17 Dec

hits keep comin’

Blaine Crim keeps hammering home this fact: He can hit. The former Mississippi College star is leading the Puerto Rican (Roberto Clemente) Winter League in batting with a .400 average. Through 22 games, the 24-year-old Texas Rangers minor leaguer has two homers, eight doubles, 21 RBIs and 13 runs for Mayaguez. Crim, an Alabama native, hit .350 over four years at NCAA Division II MC, where he was the Gulf South Conference player of the year in 2019. Drafted in the 19th round by the Rangers, the right-handed hitting first baseman has a .314 average in two pro seasons. He was the rookie Northwest League MVP in 2019, when he hit .335 with eight homers in 53 games. Playing at the High-A and Double-A levels in 2021, Crim hit a combined .296 with 29 homers and 80 RBIs. He ought to get a look in the big league spring camp, whenever that might open.

20 Nov

watch for it

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.

16 Sep

something different

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.

02 Sep

resume building

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.

19 Aug

prospecting

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.