One of the ironies of Tampa Bay’s strong start – the Rays (12-8) just put up 42 runs in a four-game sweep at Boston – is that Hunter Renfroe, acquired for his power, hadn’t provided a whole lot before flexing some on Thursday. The former Mississippi State star hit two bombs in the 17-8 rout, his first homers since July 27. After going 4-for-11 in two starts at Fenway Park, Renfroe is batting .200 with four homers and 14 RBIs on the season. He picked up five of his RBIs in the Red Sox series. Both of Renfroe’s homers on Thursday were impressive, one to right-center, the other yanked way over the Green Monster in left. “It’s pretty cool,” Renfroe said, in an mlb.com story, about clearing the Monster. “Obviously this is a historic field and a beautiful field, just to kind of check that off my home run list of stadiums to hit one (in) is pretty cool.” He hit 89 homers in three-plus years with San Diego. He’s about due to go off. The Rays play Toronto in Buffalo this weekend. There were eight homers at Sahlen Field, the converted minor league facility, on Wednesday. P.S. Chad Smith, drafted by Miami out of Ole Miss in 2016, has been traded to Colorado and will move from the Marlins’ alternate training site to the Rockies’. He’s not going on the 40-man roster. Smith, a 6-foot-4 right-hander, went 4-4 with a 4.22 ERA in his one year in Oxford after transferring from an Alabama juco. He has a 4.46 ERA in four minor league seasons, reaching Double-A Jacksonville of the Southern League last year.
Three Mississippians, all left-handed pitchers, were added to MLB 60-man rosters on Tuesday. The Chicago White Sox invited 2020 first-round draftee Garrett Crochet of Ocean Springs and onetime big leaguer Jacob Lindgren of Biloxi to their satellite camp in Schaumberg, Ill. Justin Steele, a former George County High star from Lucedale, was added to the Chicago Cubs’ pool of 2020 eligible players and will report to their secondary camp in South Bend, Ind. Crochet, who signed for $4.5 million as the 11th overall pick out of Tennessee, isn’t likely to make his big league debut this summer, but nothing is out of the question in this most unusual season. “Garrett is a talented player, but the focus is truly just to get his foot in the door here and get around our guys, and we’ll go from there,” White Sox farm director Chris Getz told reporters. “With talented players like himself, I hate to rule anything out.” Lindgren, a former Mississippi State star, was a second-round pick in 2014 by the New York Yankees and reached the majors in 2015. He has battled arm injuries ever since, though he put up a 1.53 ERA in 12 games in high-A ball last season. Steele, a fifth-round pick by the Cubs in 2014 and a member of their 40-man roster, also has had arm troubles. He has a 3.62 career ERA but posted a 5.59 in 11 starts at Double-A in 2019. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Ryan Rolison, a 2018 first-rounder who is on Colorado’s 60-man list, drew praise from Rockies manager Bud Black after an outing in the main summer camp last weekend. “This guy knows how to pitch; he can change speeds,” Black told mlb.com. “He’s got two secondary pitches that I think will play in the big leagues, (and) he’s got enough fastball.” Rolison, a lefty, pitched in high-A last season.
There was a reference to Jermaine Van Buren in the wind of the internet today. ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, a seamhead of great renown, compiled an All-Presidential team in honor of a visit he made to the White House on this date in 2006. On a 25-man roster with the likes of Gary Carter, Homer Bush, Lou Clinton, Dan Ford and J.J. Hoover was – ta da — Jermaine Van Buren, the former Hattiesburg High star who pitched in 16 MLB games in 2005-06. Van Buren, no relation to the eighth president, Martin, was a dominant prep pitcher (21 strikeouts in one seven-inning game) and a second-round draft pick by Colorado in 1998. He stalled in the Rockies’ system, revived his career in the indy Central League and finally made the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs. He got his lone win with Boston in ’06, finishing up with a 9.00 ERA. Van Buren pitched in various leagues, including China, until 2010.
Matt Wallner belted his first pro home run on Thursday. Many more are expected. Wallner, Southern Miss’ career home run leader, hit a solo shot for the rookie-level Elizabethton Twins against the Bristol Pirates in an Appalachian League game. Wallner is batting .320 (8-for-25) in six games. Minnesota drafted the Minnesota native with the 39th overall pick earlier this month; it’s the highest any Golden Eagles player has been picked. Power is Wallner’s game. The 6-foot-5 left-handed slugger tied the USM single-season record for homers this year with 23 and finished his three years in Hattiesburg with 58. The Twins drafted Wallner in the 32nd round out of high school in 2016, but Minnesota’s Mr. Baseball opted to attend North Dakota, which abruptly dropped its program. He landed at USM, where he won several national freshman of the year awards in 2017 and earned All-America nods as a sophomore and junior. A prototypical right fielder, Wallner also has a big arm. USM occasionally used him as a closer his first two years. P.S. Mississippi State product Brent Rooker, Minnesota’s No. 7 prospect and another power bat in that system, was named to the International League roster for the Triple-A All-Star Game, scheduled July 10. The former SEC Triple Crown winner is batting .277 with 12 homers and 38 RBIs for Rochester. … Ex-State standout Reid Humphreys is back on the injured list at Double-A Hartford in Colorado’s system. The right-handed closer came off the IL on June 7, allowed 11 hits and five runs in four appearances and went back on the shelf on June 21. He had 39 saves in his first three pro seasons. … George County High alum Walker Robbins, who batted .170 with two homers over his first three pro seasons, is now pitching full-time at rookie-level Johnson City in the St. Louis system. The 21-year-old lefty, a fifth-round pick in 2016, has a 2.70 ERA in three relief appearances.
Nick Sandlin has made a rapid ascent in the Cleveland organization. A second-round pick and the fourth player drafted out of Mississippi in 2018, the ex-Southern Miss ace was promoted to Triple-A last week and has made two relief appearances for the Columbus Clippers. He allowed two runs in his debut but worked a clean inning on Saturday. The 22-year-old right-hander posted a 1.56 ERA in 15 games at Double-A Akron this year. He climbed through four levels of the minors last summer, finishing with a 3.00 ERA and five saves. He has 67 strikeouts in 43 2/3 pro innings. Rated the No. 17 prospect in the Indians’ system by MLB Pipeline, Sandlin could make the big league team this season. … The first Mississippian chosen in 2018, Ole Miss alum Ryan Rolison, is now with Colorado’s advanced Class A Lancaster club. The lefty, the Rockies’ No. 3 prospect, is 2-2 with a 2.96 ERA in nine starts and has made the California League All-Star Game. … Forecast by many as a first-round draft pick in 2018, Mississippi State’s Konnor Pilkington slipped to the third round, where he was plucked by the Chicago White Sox. The East Central High alum, who moved from low-A Kannapolis to high-A Winston Salem in mid-May, is 1-1, 6.16 in four starts at the new level. He had a 1.62 ERA at the low-A level. … Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray, the top high school pick from the state last year who signed a pro contract (first-rounder J.T. Ginn of Brandon went to State), is already rated the No. 7 prospect in Milwaukee’s system though he has yet to play above the rookie level. The 2018 second-rounder hit .182 with two homers in 24 games in the Arizona League, playing through a bout of pneumonia. He’ll likely go to the Pioneer League this summer. “He has the tools, no doubt about it,” Rafael Neda, Gray’s manager last year, told Baseball America this spring. “He’s a really athletic kid with a high ceiling. We’ve started to see that.”
Ole Miss alum Ryan Rolison, the first player from Mississippi chosen in the 2018 MLB draft, had an impressive pro debut in rookie ball in Colorado’s system. He started this season at low Class A Asheville and impressed there, too, earning a quick promotion to high-A Lancaster. The left-hander made his California League debut on Tuesday night and was – as you might’ve guessed – impressive. Rolison threw six shutout innings, yielding two hits and no walks with seven strikeouts at Lake Elsinore, which won the game in 10 innings. Rolison, 21, the No. 22 overall pick in 2018 and already rated the Rockies’ No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline, posted a 1.86 ERA in 29 innings at the rookie level last season and was even better this year at Asheville, going 2-1, 0.61. He seemed totally unfazed by the new challenge he faced Tuesday. “Really, it just comes down to me challenging with my stuff and just pitching my game, not worrying about the other things, attacking and going right at them,” he told milb.com. P.S. Kudos to Spencer Turnbull, the former Madison Central High standout who notched his first big league win for Detroit on Tuesday. He worked five shutout innings and beat the world champion Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. As he said in an mlb.com story: “Such a historic place. To get my first win here is pretty cool.” The rookie right-hander is 1-2, 2.77 in five starts this season.
Ole Miss product Chris Ellis, coming off a good 2018 minor league campaign, is getting some off-season work in the Dominican Winter League. The right-hander threw seven shutout innings to get a win on Wednesday and has yet to allow an earned run in three starts (17 2/3 innings) for Escogido. Ellis went 10-4, 3.93 at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in the St. Louis system in 2018. This was the fifth year in pro ball for Ellis, 26, a former third-round draftee (by the Los Angeles Angels) who starred for the Mississippi Braves in 2016. … Louis Coleman, the former Pillow Academy star from Greenwood, and Southwest Mississippi Community College alum Kade Scivicque have re-signed with Detroit on minor league deals. Veteran big leaguer Coleman, a right-handed reliever, had a 3.51 ERA in 51 games with the Tigers last season. Scivicque, a catcher, played in Triple-A in 2018. … Jackson Prep’s Jerrion Ealy and Southern Miss’ Matt Wallner, both outfielders, made mlb.com’s latest list of the top 50 2019 draft prospects. Ealy, a two-sport star and Ole Miss commit, is ranked No. 18, while Wallner, who has 35 homers in his two seasons in Hattiesburg, is No. 26. Ealy’s skill set is compared to that of Kyler Murray, the Oklahoma quarterback who has signed to play pro baseball with Oakland. … Former Mississippi State standout Hunter Stovall didn’t impress just with his bat during his pro debut this summer. He also played five different positions at rookie-level Grand Junction in the Colorado system, and he may add a sixth to his resume in 2019. Stovall, a catcher in high school before shifting to the infield at State, brushed up on his catching skills in Instructional League this fall. “He’s got a chance to be a true super-utility (player),” Rockies farm director Zach Wilson told Baseball America. The 5-foot-7, 170-pound Stovall, a 21st-round pick last June, homered in his first two at-bats for Grand Junction and wound up at .296 with 10 bombs and 41 RBIs in 49 games. He played primarily second base. … Charlie Hayes, the Hattiesburg native and ex-Forrest County AHS star, was a good big league third baseman for a long time. He batted .262 with 144 homers over 14 seasons and won a World Series ring with the 1996 New York Yankees. That’s a tough act for son Ke’Bryan to follow – but there are those who think he’s up to the task. Ke’Bryan Hayes, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first-round pick out of a Texas high school in 2015, was the organization’s minor league player of the year in 2018. He batted .293 with seven homers, seven triples, 31 doubles and 12 stolen bases in the Double-A Eastern League. He also won a Gold Glove and played in the All-Star Futures Game. “I think we’re looking at him long term to be the anchor in our infield and our lineup in Pittsburgh at some point,” farm director Larry Broadway told milb.com. That point could come in 2019.
Ex-Ole Miss star Ryan Rolison, the first Mississippi product picked — 22nd overall — in the June draft, pitched two innings on Tuesday in his debut for Grand Junction, the Colorado Rockies’ rookie club. The left-hander, who threw 28 pitches, allowed one hit (a home run) and struck out two. He has spent a lot of time since he signed working with former major leaguer Doug Jones, the Grand Junction pitching coach, on improving his changeup. “I’m excited for the challenge,” Rolison told The (Grand Junction) Daily Sentinel when he first arrived there. “It’s challenging being in Colorado because the air’s so thin and the ball flies. Every day we work on drills to locate our fastballs down, keeping them at the knees, and also just developing my changeup into a key pitch for me along with my slider.” Because he threw almost 100 innings for Ole Miss this past season, the Rockies reportedly will limit his work at Grand Junction. P.S. Cody Satterwhite, the former Hillcrest Christian and Ole Miss standout, is pitching in the Mexican League, still chasing the big league dream 10 years after he was first drafted. Satterwhite, 31, has made three appearances this month for the Mexico City Red Devils. He signed there after being released in late May from the Triple-A Syracuse roster in Washington’s system. Drafted in the second round by Detroit in 2008, Satterwhite has endured several injuries and passed through several organizations over the years. His numbers are actually good: 3.47 ERA, 33 saves, 16 wins in 231 minor league games.
Never regarded as a power hitter at Mississippi State, Hunter Stovall stepped to the plate for his first professional at-bat on Saturday night and — you guessed it — hit one out. He apparently enjoyed it so much, he hit another home run in his second at-bat for the Grand Junction Rockies of the rookie Pioneer League. A 21st-round pick by Colorado last month, Stovall finished 3-for-4 in his first game, driving in four runs all told. He hit .321 for the Bulldogs in 2018, helping fuel their run to the College World Series. But he hit just four homers in his three-year career at State. The ball does fly in Colorado, where Grand Junction is located, but still, it was an impressive debut. “You’re here for a reason, don’t worry about the numbers, just go out and play,” Grand Junction manager Zack Osborne told milb.com after the game. On base for both of Stovall’s homers was Will Golsan, the Ole Miss product who was drafted in the 26th round this year. He also went 3-for-4 on Saturday and is at .311 in 17 games. Golsan, playing left field, and Stovall, a second baseman, hit 1-2 in the order. Also on the Grand Junction roster is ex-Ole Miss pitcher Ryan Rolison, who was the 22nd overall pick by the Rockies this year. He has yet to make his pro debut. How’d so many Mississippi products wind up on this one club? It is no coincidence that Mississippian Damon Ianelli, a former Southern Miss assistant under Hill Denson, is a longtime Colorado scout.
Ryan Rolison, the first player picked – 22nd overall by Colorado — from Mississippi in this month’s MLB draft, is on the roster of the Grand Junction Rockies but has yet to pitch in the rookie-level Pioneer League. Will Golsan, Rolison’s former Ole Miss teammate and a 26th-round selection by the Rockies, has played for Grand Junction and has some good numbers. The Columbus native is 6-for-13 with a homer and two RBIs. … Nick Sandlin, drafted by Cleveland in the second round out of Southern Miss, made his pro debut on June 18 and threw a scoreless inning for the Arizona League Indians. Sandlin won a national pitcher of the year award as well taking C-USA top pitcher honors and the Ferriss Trophy. … USM alum Luke Reynolds, C-USA player of the year and a 10th-round pick by the Chicago Cubs, has not yet made his debut. … Former Delta State star Zack Shannon, whose 31 homers in 2018 set an all-division state record, is 2-for-10 with no extra base hits in three games for the AZL Diamondbacks. … Ole Miss product Brady Feigl (fifth round by Oakland) pitched for the Vermont Lake Monsters (New York-Penn League) on Thursday night and yielded two runs in an inning of work. … UM alum Nick Fortes (fourth round, Miami) is 1-for-4 with two RBIs in one appearance, on June 16, for Batavia in the NYP League. … On the Marlins’ Gulf Coast League team are former Meridian Community College teammates Davis (Will) Bradshaw and Milton Smith Jr. Bradshaw is 0-for-7 in two games, Smith 1-for-9. … James McArthur, another Ole Miss alum (12th round, Philadelphia), is on the roster of the GCL Phillies West but has not pitched. … Pascagoula High product Willie Joe Garry Jr. made his debut for the GCL Twins on June 19 and went 0-for-4. … Of note: Former Ole Miss standout and erstwhile big leaguer Chris Coghlan is also playing in the AZL, with a Chicago Cubs affiliate. Coghlan, getting his game back in shape after many months off, is 1-for-7 in two games.