03 Apr

whatever happened to …

Colby White, the ex-Mississippi State standout from Hattiesburg, is pitching at Triple-A Durham in Tampa Bay’s system, presumably healthy after being stalled by arm issues the last two seasons. In two outings (two innings) for the Bulls, the 25-year-old right-hander has not allowed a run and has struck out four. His career ERA over parts of four pro seasons is 1.70. Drafted out of MSU in 2019, White blew through four levels of the minors in 2021, quite a feat. But in the spring of 2022, he had Tommy John surgery, missed all of that season and managed just 24 appearances in 2023. He finished last season at Double-A Montgomery, where he made eight scoreless appearances and registered five holds. White is on the Rays’ 40-man roster and surely will get a big league look this season when the Rays need some bullpen help.

17 Mar

time to shine

Though he has slipped off the Cleveland Guardians’ list of Top 30 prospects, ex-Ole Miss star Doug Nikhazy made the team’s Spring Breakout roster and got the starting nod in Saturday’s game. The 24-year-old left-hander pitched well, earning the win after throwing three innings against Cincinnati’s prospects. He gave up three hits, one earned run and struck out six as the minor league Guardians took a 6-2 victory. Nikhazy was a second-round pick by Cleveland in 2021 after a sterling junior year at Ole Miss, when he posted a 12-2 record with a 2.45 ERA. He made his pro debut in 2022 at High-Class A and spent 2023 at Double-A Akron. He was 4-8, 4.94, for the Rubber Ducks, struck out 128 batters in 102 innings but walked 73. He was the organization’s No. 30 prospect (by MLB Pipeline) entering the 2023 season. P.S. Mississippi State product Jake Mangum went 1-for-2 with a walk on Saturday and is now batting .417 (.517 OBP) as a non-roster outfielder in Tampa Bay’s big league camp. Minor league veteran Mangum, 28, has a homer and three doubles in 24 at-bats. … Former MSU standout J.P. France made his spring debut for Houston and threw 2 1/3 innings, yielding a home run but punching out four New York Mets. He had been dealing with a shoulder issue. “Everything felt good,” he said in a postgame TV interview. France was 11-6, 3.83, as a rookie for the Astros in 2023.

15 Mar

hit the reset

Hunter Renfroe, Tim Anderson and Dakota Hudson have several things in common. They attended Mississippi colleges, were picked in the first round of the MLB draft, enjoyed success in The Show — and now find themselves in spring training camps trying to re-establish their place in the game. Mississippi State product and Crystal Springs native Renfroe has 177 home runs in the big leagues but has bounced from team to team the last several years. In 2023, he was waived by the Los Angeles Angels, claimed and later released by Cincinnati in mid-September. He is in Kansas City’s camp on a one-year, $6.5 million contract, likely to be the lowly Royals’ right fielder. Anderson, a first-round pick by the Chicago White Sox out of East Central Community College in 2013 (same year Renfroe was drafted), was found wanting by the ChiSox after seven years as their regular shortstop and was cut loose after the season. Anderson had a poor year in 2023, with the bat and the glove, and has a flair for generating controversy. Miami recently signed Anderson, and he is expected to be the Marlins’ shortstop. He said in a recent MLB Network interview that he is “super-motivated, super-inspired and super-coachable” as well as “super-thankful and super-blessed” to have the opportunity. Hudson, another ex-MSU star, had a 38-20 career record and 3.84 ERA since 2018 with St. Louis. But he has had some recent injury issues, went 6-3, 4.98, in a bumpy 2023 and was non-tendered after the season. He signed with Colorado, where he’ll likely make the starting rotation for a club that sorely needs pitching. Spring training stats aren’t necessarily telling, but for what it’s worth, none of these three transplanted veterans has had a good camp. Renfroe is batting .118 with no homers in 17 at-bats. Anderson is hitting .182 in 22 ABs. Hudson is 1-1, 6.75, over 5 1/3 innings in three outings. P.S. Former Ole Miss pitcher Jacob Waguespack has made Tampa Bay’s team as a non-roster invitee and apparently will pitch in the rotation. He spent the last two years in Japan after posting a 5-5, 5.08, ledger in 2019-20 with Toronto.

08 Mar

spring flings

Making a major league club as a non-roster invitee to spring training is a tall order. Jake Mangum, the former Jackson Prep and Mississippi State star, is making a strong case in Tampa Bay’s camp. Now with his third organization in three years, Mangum is 6-for-12 with a homer, two RBIs and three steals in Grapefruit League play. The switch-hitting outfielder had a couple of hits in Thursday’s game against Philadelphia. Mangum, now 28 years old, hit .357 over four years at State and has hit .289 over four minor league campaigns. He is also an outstanding defensive player. But he hasn’t gotten the big league call. Yet. … Things have not gone as well this spring for several veteran Mississippi-connected pitchers in camp as NRIs with new clubs. Zac Houston, an MSU alum, has a 12.27 ERA in four games for Tampa Bay. The 29-year-old right-hander has been in pro ball since 2016 without an MLB look. Jonathan Holder, 30, another ex-Bulldogs star, is trying get back to The Show with Texas. He has an 11.57 in five Cactus League games. And 35-year-old Drew Pomeranz, the former Ole Miss standout who last pitched in the majors in 2021, has put up a 9.82 in four appearances with the Los Angeles Angels. … Ex-Southern Miss standout Chuckie Robinson, in the Chicago White Sox’s camp, is 1-for-9 in six games as a catcher. Petal High product Anthony Alford is 0-for-3 for Cincinnati as he attempts to get back in the big leagues after two years in Korea.

02 Mar

present arms …

Justin Steele, the former George County High standout, won’t be resting on his laurels this spring. His first Cactus League outing on Friday was evidence of that. Steele worked three innings for the Chicago Cubs against the White Sox, throwing 46 pitches, 32 for strikes, and using his entire arsenal, per reports. The 28-year-old left-hander from Lucedale yielded two hits, a walk and two runs with two strikeouts. Steele went 16-5 with a 3.06 ERA in 2023, helping the Cubs stay in the playoff chase till the bitter end. He finished fifth in the Cy Young Award voting in the National League. “I gotta do it again, that’s how I’m looking at it,” he told mlb.com. The Cubs are counting on that. … Spencer Turnbull, the ex-Madison Central star, made his first appearance with his new club, throwing two clean innings with four punchouts for Philadelphia vs. Miami in the Grapefruit League. Turnbull was non-tendered by Detroit after battling injuries in 2023 and posting a 7.26 ERA in just seven games. the Phillies signed him as a free agent, a one-year, $2 million deal. “I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I am to have a new opportunity, a new situation here,” Turnbull told nbcsportsphiladelphia.com. He was 12-29 with a 4.55 ERA overall in five seasons with Detroit but was on a nice roll from 2020 into ’21 (8-6, 3.46) before being beset by injuries. … Southern Miss product Hunter Stanley, getting a look as a minor leaguer in Cleveland’s camp, struck out the only batter he faced against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In two Cactus League outings, Stanley has yielded one run in 1 1/3 innings. He has a 4.58 ERA over the minor league seasons, having made Double-A last year. … Minor league vet Zac Houston, a Mississippi State alum and non-roster invitee in Tampa Bay’s camp, had a rough outing, allowing four runs (including a three-run homer) in 2/3 of an inning against Pittsburgh. The 29-year-old Houston, in pro ball since 2016, has made three appearance for the Rays. … Hurston Waldrep, the ex-USM star now a top prospect with Atlanta, is from Thomasville, Ga., and — yes — grew up a huge Braves fan. The Braves drafted the right-hander in the first round out of Florida last summer. “The way it worked out, I really couldn’t ask for anything different,” he said in an MLB Network interview. Waldrep pitched at four levels in 2023, including a stint with the Double-A Mississippi Braves. He is in camp vying for a big league roster spot but has yet to debut in the Grapefruit League. Waldrep was 7-2 with a 3.22 ERA and three saves in two years in Hattiesburg before transferring to Florida and helping the Gators make the College World Series.

16 Jan

a lost season

Tough news out of Houston today. The shoulder discomfort that kept ex-Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman out of the postseason with the Astros last fall has been diagnosed as a shoulder injury requiring surgery. A veteran of nine big league campaigns, the 33-year-old Graveman will miss the 2024 season, the Astros announced. Right-hander Graveman has a 3.95 ERA in 280 career games; he put up a 2.42 in 23 games for Houston last year after being acquired from the Chicago White Sox at the trade deadline. He missed the 2019 season following elbow surgery but converted from starter to reliever and excelled over the next four years, registering 56 holds and 24 saves for three different clubs. He is slated to be a free agent after the ’24 season. P.S. Ole Miss product Jacob Waguespack has signed a minor league contract with Tampa Bay. The 30-year-old right-hander spent the last two years in Japan, winning a championship in 2022. Undrafted out of Ole Miss in 2015, he reached the big leagues in 2019 with Toronto and has appeared in 27 MLB games. … Samuel Richardson of Lewisburg High and Kevin Roberts Jr. of Jackson Prep took part in the DREAM Series camp sponsored by MLB and USA Baseball in Tucson over the MLK Jr. Day weekend.

24 Dec

on your marks

While it’s anyone’s guess at this point who might become the next Mississippian to debut in the majors, mlb.com has offered up three players as top prospects to watch in 2024. Former Jackson Prep star Will Warren (New York Yankees), Biloxi High product Colt Keith (Detroit) and Southern Miss alumnus Hurston Waldrep (Atlanta) appear close to breaking through. Warren, a 2021 draftee out of Southeastern Louisiana, is the Yankees’ No. 8 prospect (by MLB Pipeline) after posting a 10-4 record with a 3.35 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2023. The right-hander throws hard and features a wipeout sweeper/slider, per reports. Keith, a 2020 draftee, is Detroit’s No. 2 prospect and could crack the Tigers’ lineup at second base this spring. He hit .306 with 27 home runs last season between Double-A and Triple-A and had a memorable 6-for-6 game with a cycle. Right-hander Waldrep was the Braves’ first-round pick (24th overall) out of Florida back in July and put up a 1.53 ERA while pitching at four minor league levels, including a brief stop with the Mississippi Braves. The Braves are not shy about promoting young arms. … Also worthy of keeping an eye on is Justin Foscue, the ex-Mississippi State standout who ranks as the No. 6 prospect in Texas’ system and made the organization’s minor league All-Star team at second base. He hit .266 with 18 homers in Triple-A and posted a .394 on-base average, walking more times than he struck out. P.S. Boston recently announced that former MSU star Jonathan Papelbon will be inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame next spring. He is Boston’s all-time saves leader (219) and won a World Series with the team in 2007. … Tampa Bay has signed Zac Houston, another State product, to a minor league deal. In the minors since 2016, the right-hander has a 3.18 career ERA in 230 games.

09 Dec

trade winds

Jake Mangum had an SEC record 383 hits (and a .357 career average) at Mississippi State and has 370 hits (.289 average) in four minor league seasons. But he is still pursuing major league hit — and at-bat — No. 1. The former Jackson Prep star will resume his quest to make the big leagues next spring with a third different pro organization, having been traded Friday from Miami to Tampa Bay to complete an earlier deal. Mangum, 27, said on X (Twitter) he is “excited for the opportunity … . I’ll give it all I got.” Originally drafted by the New York Mets in 2019, the switch-hitting outfielder was traded to Miami last year and batted .298 (.346 OBP) with five homers, 52 RBIs and 16 stolen bases at Triple-A Jacksonville. Mangum, considered an outstanding defensive player, likely will get an invitation as a minor leaguer to Tampa Bay’s big league camp in the spring. The Rays’ 40-man roster currently lists four outfielders: Randy Arozarena, Josh Lowe, Manuel Margot and Jose Siri.

20 Sep

party time

Dalton Rogers, former Southern Miss standout, and Colton Ledbetter, a Mississippi State product, celebrated minor league championships on Tuesday night. Northwest Rankin High alum Rogers, in his second year in Boston’s system, started and threw three innings of one-run ball to launch Greenville to a 7-3 win against Hudson Valley in the High-Class A South Atlantic League. Left-hander Rogers, rated the Red Sox’s No. 27 prospect (MLB Pipeline), went 2-6 with a 5.52 ERA for Greenville, with 102 strikeouts in 75 innings. He had 140 punchouts in 96 2/3 innings overall in 2023 at two levels. Ledbetter, a second-round draft pick by Tampa Bay in July and already slotted in as the No. 9 prospect, was 1-for-4 in Tuesday’s clincher for Charleston, which beat Down East 7-5 for the Low-A Carolina League crown. Ledbetter hit .254 with a homer and eight RBIs for Charleston, .274 with two homers overall in his pro debut. The outfielder played one year in Starkville after transferring from Samford. P.S. Happy 53rd birthday to former Ole Miss star and ex-big leaguer Chris Snopek. Snopek hit .234 with 13 homers in 215 MLB games between 1995-98. He had the distinction of getting a hit in his first big league at-bat and in his final one. Snopek now operates P360 Performance Sports and serves as an assistant coach at Madison-Ridgeland Academy.

18 Sep

testing, testing …

The Chicago White Sox kept testing Tim Elko this season. The ex-Ole Miss slugger passed each one. Elko hit a grand slam in Double-A Birmingham’s season finale on Sunday, giving him 28 home runs over three levels in his second pro season. He batted .295 overall and drove in 106 runs. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound first baseman, a 10th-round draftee in 2022, started the season at Low-Class A Kannapolis, where he hit .297 with 17 bombs in 66 games. Promoted to High-A Winston-Salem, he batted .319 with five homers in 31 games before moving up to Birmingham in the challenging Southern League, where hit .269 with six homers in 34 games. Elko, of course, hit a lot of big homers at Ole Miss: 46 over five seasons, including 24 for the 2022 national champions. P.S. Other big knocks from Mississippians on Sunday: In the big leagues, Mississippi State product Adam Frazier lashed a two-out, two-strike double down the left-field line in the ninth inning, driving in the tying run for Baltimore at Camden Yards. The Orioles beat Tampa Bay 5-4 in 11 innings to clinch an American League playoff berth. … In the Low-A Carolina League, ex-State standout Colton Ledbetter, a 2023 draftee, hit a two-run homer and picked up another RBI to power Charleston (a Tampa Bay affiliate) to 4-2 win over Down East in Game 1 of the league championship series. … In the independent Atlantic League, Southern Maryland sent out a message congratulating Ole Miss alum Braxton Lee on his 1,000th career hit, coming in the Blue Crabs’ season finale. Picayune native Lee, who batted .297 for the Blue Crabs, won a Southern League batting title in 2017 and has three MLB hits from 2018 on his ledger. The 1,000 hits includes 76 he got in one year at Ole Miss; the total doesn’t include Lee’s hits at Pearl River Community College.