The likely delayed start of spring training for most minor leaguers scuttles what might have been a cool scene this spring in Fort Myers, Fla., site of Boston’s spring training facility. Imagine a batting practice session that includes three big dudes from Mississippi, each a newcomer to the Red Sox, each with a well-earned reputation as a masher. Imagine Hunter Renfroe, Tyreque Reed and Blaze Jordan taking their hacks in a group. Wouldn’t that be something to see? Renfroe, 6 feet 1, 230 pounds, from Crystal Springs by way of Mississippi State, has 97 home runs over his four-plus big league seasons. The Red Sox signed him as a free agent in December. Reed is from Houlka and an Itawamba Community College product. The 6-1, 250-pound first baseman has hit 41 bombs in two-plus minor league seasons at the rookie and A-ball levels. The Red Sox took him from the Texas organization in December’s Rule 5 draft. Jordan, from prep powerhouse DeSoto Central, was drafted in the third round in 2020 and jumped in as the organization’s No. 15 prospect. The 6-2, 220 third baseman has yet to play a game above the high school level, but he has been making headlines as a slugger since he was a pre-teen. He won the high school home run derby at the 2019 MLB All-Star Game. Renfroe, Reed and Jordan, launching missiles into the Florida sky at JetBlue Park. Maybe next year. P.S. Baseball America has reported that Double-A and Class A level players won’t start spring training until after the big league and Triple-A clubs have left. That means a later start and finish to the season for the lower minors, including the Class AA Mississippi and Biloxi teams. Additionally, there will be no postseason at those levels. MLB, now running the streamlined minor leagues, has not released any schedules.
The Green Monster beckons for Hunter Renfroe. The former Mississippi State standout has signed as a free agent with Boston, where the iconic left-field wall has been an inviting target for many a right-handed slugger. Renfroe, 28, who reportedly got a 1-year deal worth $3 million-plus, hit two of his eight homers in 2020 at Fenway on Aug. 13 while playing for Tampa Bay. One of those bombs cleared the Monster. Renfroe has 97 homers in an MLB career that began in 2016. He hit just .156 for the Rays this season, dragging his career average down to .228. A good defender, he could be a fit in right or left field for Boston. The Red Sox actually drafted Renfroe in the 31st round in 2010 out of Copiah Academy, but he chose to go to State, where he became a first-rounder with San Diego in 2013.
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.
From all indications, San Diego wasn’t displeased with Mitch Moreland this season but declined to pick up his $3M option for 2021 just the same. The uncertainty over whether the DH will be used in the National League next year may have been the key factor. The former Mississippi State standout, 35, is sure to draw interest on the free agent market, possibly even from San Diego. “We may have some more conversations regarding Mitch going forward,” Padres GM A.J. Preller told mlb.com. Milwaukee is another club rumored to have interest, and there is always the possibility Moreland could return to Boston, where he had considerable success. Three different times since 2016 Moreland has signed as a free agent with the Red Sox. From 2017 to August of 2020, he called Fenway Park home and hit 66 homers during that period. He has 176 career homers over 11 MLB seasons, ranking sixth all-time among Mississippi natives. Traded from Boston to the Padres at the deadline this summer, Moreland batted .265 overall with 10 homers in 2020 and went 4-for-8 in the playoffs. He’s a standout first baseman and is also regarded as a good guy in the clubhouse.
Mitch Moreland is moving from the last-place Boston Red Sox to playoff-contender San Diego. The ex-Mississippi State standout from Amory was traded by the Red Sox for two prospects and joins a Padres team that stands second in the National League West and has the third-best record in the league at 20-15. Moreland, in his 11th MLB campaign, is batting .328 with eight homers and 21 RBIs this season. The Padres have lefty-hitting Eric Hosmer at first base, so Moreland, also a lefty, might be ticketed for duty as a DH.
There is no MLB award for Best Performance on a Lousy Team, but if there were, Mitch Moreland would be a top candidate. Moreland, the former Mississippi State standout from Amory, leads the Boston Red Sox in batting, slugging, homers and RBIs. The Red Sox, whose depleted pitching staff can’t get anybody out, are 7-18 after halting a nine-game losing skid today. Moreland, who went 2-for-3, is at .348, almost 100 points above his career average. The lefty hitter is even 3-for-8 vs. left-handers, whom he rarely faces. He has six homers and 14 RBIs in 16 games. An 11-year veteran at 34, Moreland is in his fourth year with Boston, having signed with the Red Sox three times as a free agent. He’ll be a free agent again after this season, which raises the possibility that he might be traded before the Aug. 31 deadline if the Red Sox look to add pieces for the future. “We understand this time of year that kind of stuff is a possibility, but we’ve got more things going on in the immediate future for us right now,” Moreland said in a recent Providence Journal story. “Just trying to get back to playing good baseball and getting back on track here.” He has played good baseball, very good. The team may be hopelessly lost.
Let the record show, the first home run by a Mississippian in this long-delayed major league season was struck Saturday by Mitch Moreland, the Amory native and ex-Mississippi State standout who went yard for Boston. His 167th career bomb was a wall-scraper to right field at Fenway Park, and it came in a 7-2 loss to Baltimore. Moreland did not play in the Red Sox’s opener, a 13-2 win on Friday. Let the record also show that the first game-winning homer by a Mississippian in 2020 also was struck on Saturday. Richton High product JaCoby Jones blasted a 400-footer in the top of the ninth inning at the Great American Ball Park, giving Detroit its margin of victory in a 6-4 takedown of Cincinnati. The backstory is a good one: Jones had been directed to bunt a runner over from first but fouled off two attempts. So, swinging away with a 2-2 count, he hit his 25th career homer, beating Reds closer Raisel Iglesias. “Screw bunting,” Jones reportedly, jokingly, told Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire after he reached the dugout. “Let me hit.” … Former Mississippi Braves star Phil Gosselin went deep twice for Philadelphia on Saturday and is currently tied for the MLB lead. But Gosselin wasn’t the first former M-Brave to homer in 2020. Rio Ruiz hit one out Friday for the Orioles.
Given a new lease on his baseball life by Boston in the off-season, former Mississippi Braves star Jose Peraza showed his gratitude with a smashing debut on Friday night. Peraza, starting at second base, went 4-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs in the Red Sox’s 13-2 season-opening rout of Baltimore at Fenway Park. Cincinnati gave up on Peraza after the 2019 season — he was not offered a contract after a .239 campaign — and the Red Sox, looking for a replacement for Dustin Pedroia, signed the five-year veteran. M-Braves fans might recall that Peraza arrived in Pearl in mid-2014 as a hot-shot prospect who would play in the Futures Game that summer. Atlanta sent him, along with Alex Wood and Luis Avilan, to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015 in the infamous Hector Olivera trade. Peraza was traded again in 2016 to Cincinnati, where he had some good moments before slumping last season. A career .275 hitter with 77 steals, he looks like a good fit in Boston. P.S. William Contreras, a 2019 M-Braves catcher, made his MLB debut with Atlanta on Friday. At least 150 players have now advanced from Double-A Mississippi to The Show since Brian McCann first made the trip in 2005.
Having passed a physical on Thursday, Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made an appearance at San Francisco’s summer camp, but it appears unlikely he’ll be active for the Giants’ opener next week. “I don’t see that as a realistic expectation right now,” manager Gabe Kapler said in a San Jose Mercury News story. Hamilton, who could play a valuable role on defense and as a pinch runner, is with the Giants on a minor league deal. The veteran outfielder was placed on the injured list last week for undisclosed reasons. … The Boston Red Sox have formally signed DeSoto Central High product Blaze Jordan, their third-round draft pick. Jordan, 17, received a reported $1.75 million bonus, much higher than the slot value of $667,900 for the 89th pick. … If Freddie Freeman, currently on the COVID-19 injured list, is unable to answer the starting bell for Atlanta, ex-DeSoto Central star Austin Riley appears to be the leading candidate to man first base. Riley made six appearances (three starts) at first last season as a rookie, when he hit 18 homers in 80 games. … Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff has displayed lights-out stuff in Milwaukee’s camp. “I’ve had probably seven to eight at-bats against him,” Brewers outfielder Ben Gamel told mlb.com. “His fastball is just different. He’s got a different gear to him. And me, just playing behind him, his changeup’s filthy.” Woodruff struck out Christian Yelich three times in an intrasquad game this week. … Brent Rooker, another former State standout, saw a lot of duty behind Marwin Gonzalez at first base in Minnesota’s camp while Miguel Sano was in COVID-19 quarantine. Sano, transitioning from third to first this season, returned to camp Wednesday. Rooker, who has 54 homers in 259 minor league games, could make the 30-man active roster if Sano isn’t ready for opening day. … The Chicago White Sox reportedly are thrilled with Tim Anderson’s work at shortstop in summer camp. “Defensively, his jumps have been amazing getting off the ball,” coach Joe McEwing said of the former East Central Community College star in an mlb.com story. “We have been really focusing on keeping his head in there and staying through it and finishing his throws.” The American League batting champ led league shortstops in errors the last three years. … Ex-MSU standout Chris Stratton, vying for a role on Pittsburgh’s pitching staff, says he is well-equipped for the new three-batter minimum rule for pitchers. “I just think that I’m capable of getting multiple outs,” he told mlb.com. “If that’s at the beginning of the game, if it’s opening, if it’s starting, whatever, if it’s in the middle of the game, hopefully I can help the team as best as possible with the things that I have.”
Mitch Moreland earned the nickname “2-Bags” a couple of years ago during a stretch when he was banging out doubles at a high rate for the Boston Red Sox. As he enters his 11th major league season, Amory native Moreland is on the brink of a career doubles milestone. The Mississippi State alum has 199 2-baggers. Two hundred doubles is not an astounding total by MLB standards, but it is a milestone just the same. And tracking milestones is what baseball aficionados do. So, watch for Moreland’s 200th double this season; don’t be surprised if it comes in the Red Sox’s opener vs. Baltimore at Fenway Park on July 24. Other Mississippi-connected players in the majors have notable (if modest) milestones in their sights in this 60-game season, including:
600 hits – Jarrod Dyson, the former McComb High and Southwest Mississippi Community College standout, has 573.
400 hits – Adam Frazier, the Mississippi State alum, has 398.
400 RBIs – Corey Dickerson, the Meridian CC alum from McComb, enters 2020 with 370.
300 runs – Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central CC star, has scored 287.
300 steals – Billy Hamilton, the Taylorsville High product, is sitting on 299, already the most ever by a Mississippi native.
100 home runs – Hunter Renfroe, the former MSU star from Crystal Springs, has 89.
100 wins – Lance Lynn, the Ole Miss product, has piled up 98 over eight seasons.
20 wins – Both Brandon Woodruff, an MSU product from Wheeler, and Chris Stratton, a State alum from Tupelo, have 16 career W’s.
200 strikeouts – Spencer Turnbull, the ex-Madison Central High standout, has fanned 161 in 34 career outings.
500 innings – Kendall Graveman, former MSU star, sits at 446 as he tries to bounce back from arm surgery.