07 May

what a relief

Emmanuel Clase is the headliner in the vaunted Cleveland Guardians bullpen. Nick Sandlin plays an “Also Starring” role — and plays it very well. The former Southern Miss standout got four outs in the sixth and seventh innings on Monday and picked up the win in a 2-1 victory against Detroit. Sandlin is 3-0 with a 2.04 ERA and a save in 19 appearances for the Guardians, who lead the American League Central with a 23-12 record. Clase (0.49 ERA) pitched the ninth for his 11th save. The side-arming Sandlin stranded a runner in the sixth inning on Monday and has allowed just two of 14 inherited runners to score. He has a 0.62 WHIP. A second-round pick by Cleveland in 2018 after a sensational career at USM, Sandlin has a 2.95 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP over 160 career MLB appearances. At USM, he had 20 saves over his first two seasons, moved into the rotation as a junior and went 10-0 with a 1.06, earning All-America honors and the state’s Ferriss Trophy. He went back to the bullpen in pro ball. … Filling in for regular closer James McArthur, ex-Mississippi State star Chris Stratton weathered a shaky ninth inning to notch his second save in Kansas City’s 3-2 win vs. Milwaukee. The surprising Royals are 21-15, tied for second in the AL Central. Stratton, in his first season with KC, is 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in 14 games; five of the nine earned runs he has yielded came in one appearance. McArthur, the Ole Miss alum who has seven saves this season, was down Monday, so Stratton — 14 career saves — got the call in the ninth. Aided by a double play, he got through the Brewers’ 3-6 hitters despite walking two. Stratton was also a Ferriss Trophy winner back in 2012, when he was the SEC’s pitcher of the year (as a starter) and later a first-round pick by San Francisco. … It’s “official” in Philadelphia: Former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull will move to the bullpen. In his first season with the Phillies, Turnbull is 2-0 with a 1.67 in six starts. But Philadelphia now has five other healthy starters, making a move necessary. Turnbull, who has started all but one game in his 67 career MLB appearances, reportedly would prefer to remain in the rotation. “He can do a lot of different things, because he gives you length, obviously,” Phils manager Rob Thomson told mlb.com. P.S. MSU product Brent Rooker won the AL player of the week award after batting .438 with three homers — two in one inning — and seven RBIs for Oakland in the week ending May 4. Rooker also won a POW award in 2023.

03 May

down the road

A couple of former Mississippi high school stars crossed paths — and showed out — in the Low-Class A Carolina League on Thursday night. Cooper Pratt is on the faster track, but there is still time for Brennon McNair to get rolling. Magnolia Heights product Pratt, Milwaukee’s No. 9 prospect, went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, two runs and two steals as the Carolina Mudcats blasted Columbia 16-2 at Five County Stadium in Zebulon, N.C. Having recently come off the injured list, Pratt, 19, is hitting .250 with 11 RBIs in 14 games. The 6-foot-4 shortstop was a sixth-round pick in 2023 — he got a big bonus to pass on his Ole Miss commitment — and batted .356 in rookie ball last summer. Pratt has impressive bloodlines. His dad played college ball and his mom played softball. Brother Ozzie is Southern Miss’ starting shortstop. Brewers manager Pat Murphy, who has raved about Cooper Pratt’s potential, coached one of his uncles at Arizona State. … McNair, a former Magee High star, went 2-for-3 Thursday with his first home run of the season for Columbia, a Kansas City affiliate. McNair was an 11th-round pick by the Royals in 2021 — the only prep player drafted from the Magnolia State that year — and passed on a South Alabama offer to sign. In addition to batting .527 with 11 homers as a shortstop at Magee his senior year, he was valedictorian and class president. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound McNair, who has played multiple positions in pro ball, has had some injury issues. He is hitting .244 in 14 games this season, .219 with 11 homers and 32 bags for his career. He is only 21, but this could be a pivotal year for him. P.S. Brandon Parker — former West Harrison High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star — put up his second straight two-hit game Thursday for the Mississippi Braves, helping USM alum Hurston Waldrep notch his first Double-A win. Waldrep went 5 2/3 innings, allowing no earned runs, in a 6-1 win against Pensacola at Trustmark Park. Parker, who homered Wednesday, has raised his average to .204.

27 Apr

right place, right time

Adam Frazier doesn’t always play right field, but when he does … well, on Friday, the former Mississippi State star made one of the best plays of the year in MLB. Starting in right for the first time this season for Kansas City, Frazier took a home run away from Detroit’s Parker Meadows with a leaping snag at the wall, stuck the landing and fired a throw to first base to double off a runner. It was a big momentum play in the third inning of the Royals’ 8-0 win at Comerica Park — and even drew raves (on X) from Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. “He wows me sometimes,” Frazier told mlb.com, “so to wow him, that’s pretty cool.” Frazier, batting just .207 this year, went 1-for-3 Friday with an RBI and two runs for the 17-10 Royals. Typically a second baseman, the 5-foot-10 Frazier was making just the 33rd start of his nine-year career in right field. P.S. The struggling Houston Astros (7-19) sent struggling MSU product J.P. France (0-3, 7.46) to the minors. France won 11 games for Houston in 2023. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Chris Ellis, who last pitched in the majors two years ago, has signed a minor league deal with Arizona. He had previously inked with the independent Long Island Ducks. … Ex-Mississippi College star Blaine Crim, playing at Triple-A Round Rock in the Texas system, smacked a double and two home runs, driving in seven runs for the Express on Friday night. Crim is batting .231 with five homers. … Blaze Jordan, the DeSoto Central High product, hit his second homer and extended his hitting streak to seven games for Double-A Portland (Boston). Jordan is batting .237. … Southern Miss alum Hurston Waldrep allowed just one run in six innings in his second straight quality start for the Double-A Mississippi Braves. After a rocky start this season, Waldrep has allowed just two runs in 12 innings with 10 strikeouts in his last two outings. The 2023 first-round pick by Atlanta is 0-3 with a 5.68 ERA. … In the college ranks: Rust will play an elimination game today (3:30 p.m.) in the GCAC Tournament at Smith-Wills Stadium. The Bearcats will meet the winner of an earlier elimination game between Wiley and Dillard. Unbeaten Talladega awaits in the championship round. Tougaloo was eliminated on Friday. … Millsaps College fell to top-seeded Centre (Ky.) 4-3 in the opener of their SAA best-of-3 playoff series. Majors ace Wil Wood let a 3-0 lead get away in the sixth and seventh innings; Will Norris took the loss.

25 Apr

closing it out

Making his entrance to the strains of “White Horse” by Chris Stapleton, ex-Ole Miss standout James McArthur rode to the rescue Wednesday night for the Kansas City Royals, pitching a scoreless ninth to save a 3-2 win against Toronto. “It brought a lot of energy for me,” McArthur told mlb.com, speaking of the choreographed entrance at Kauffman Stadium, which hasn’t seen a lot of excitement in recent years. It was the sixth save of the season for the 27-year-old right-hander, called “The General” by Royals broadcasters. The surprising Royals are 15-10, second in the American League Central. McArthur, acquired last year from Philadelphia, made his big league debut last June (after five years in the minors) and took over the closer role in September, going 4-for-4 in saves. In 11 appearances this year, the 6-foot-7 McArthur is 6-for-7 in saves with a 2.84 ERA. Mississippi State alum Chris Stratton, one of several off-season signees by KC, pitched a scoreless eighth on Wednesday and trimmed his ERA to 3.00. … Elsewhere on the bump: Spencer Turnbull, the former Madison Central High star, yielded a lone run and struck out eight batters in five innings for Philadelphia but was pulled with a 2-1 lead, which the Phillies’ bullpen squandered in a 7-4 loss to Cincinnati. Turnbull is 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA in five starts for Philly. … Garrett Crochet, the Ocean Springs High product, gave up five runs in four innings and fell to 1-4 with a 6.37 ERA for the woeful Chicago White Sox (3-21), who lost 6-3 to Minnesota. A converted reliever, Crochet had pitched well in his first couple of starts, not so much lately.

05 Apr

baserunners beware

Big league baserunners, or their coaches, still challenge Hunter Renfroe from time to time. More often than not, it seems, the veteran outfielder makes them regret the decision. The Mississippi State alum from Crystal Springs, now playing right field for Kansas City, threw out a runner at home on Thursday night in the Royals’ 10-1 win over the Chicago White Sox. On Wednesday night, he threw out a Baltimore runner at second base from the right-field corner — “an insane play,” according to a Royals broadcaster. Renfroe, perhaps best known for his power bat, has had his ups and downs as a hitter — he is currently batting .091 without a home run in 22 at-bats — but his right arm has been a consistent weapon since he reached the big leagues in 2016. He has 67 outfield assists all told, 66 since the start of 2017, which is eight more than any other outfielder, according to mlb.com. He has a season-high of 16, with Boston in 2021, and he gunned down 11 two years ago with Milwaukee. Outfield assists records are skewed toward players from the early 1900s, when baserunners were more aggressive, even reckless, and perhaps not as fast as modern-day players. The all-time mark for outfield assists, per baseballreference.com, is a ridiculous 449 (Tris Speaker, 1907-28). The active leader is Starling Marte with 100. Renfroe is seventh on that list and has played far fewer innings than the players ranked above him. The all-time leader among Mississippi natives is Dave Parker, who cut down 143 runners. The Royals are the seventh team Renfroe has played for in the the last six years, and they no doubt signed him for his power (177 career bombs), which hasn’t showed up yet in 2024. His arm might keep him in the lineup until it does.

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.

27 Jan

more cowbell?

With the signing of Adam Frazier, Kansas City has now collected three former Mississippi State players in free agency, all three having been teammates on the 2012 Bulldogs team that won the SEC Tournament. That might be a good vibe for a Royals team that could use it. Frazier joins Chris Stratton and Hunter Renfroe on the Royals’ 40-man roster, which also includes ex-Ole Miss standout James McArthur. Frazier, 32, a lefty-hitting second baseman who played in Baltimore in 2023, reportedly has a one-year deal with the Royals, who’ll become his fifth team since 2021, when he was an All-Star with Pittsburgh. He hit .240 with 13 homers and 11 steals for the playoff-bound Orioles last season and is a career .269 hitter over eight MLB campaigns. Stratton, a right-hander, was on Texas’ World Series-winning team last year, and Renfroe, an outfielder, played for the Los Angeles Angels and Cincinnati before being released in September. KC was 56-106 last year, missing the postseason for the eighth straight year since winning the 2015 World Series. Incidentally, another player from the 2012 State roster is a current free agent: right-hander Brandon Woodruff, who is expected to miss the 2024 season after arm surgery. (Future big leaguers Kendall Graveman, Jonathan Holder and Jacob Lindgren were also on the Bulldogs’ roster in 2012.) P.S. Kudos to ex-State standout Brad Freeman, an NFL referee who has been selected to work the Super Bowl next month. Freeman was a seventh-round pick by St. Louis in 1998 and played two seasons in the Cardinals’ minor league system.

18 Dec

tagging up

Kudos to Austin Riley, the DeSoto Central High product, for making the All-MLB first team for the second time in three years. Atlanta third baseman Riley is joined on the first team by fellow former Mississippi Braves Ronald Acuna Jr. (also recently named the Hank Aaron Award winner), Freddie Freeman and Spencer Strider (who should have gotten stronger Cy Young Award consideration). M-Braves alum Ozzie Albies was a second-team selection, as was Biloxi Shuckers product Devin Williams. … Luke Waddell, Jesse Franklin V, Luis De Avila, AJ Smith-Shawver and Drake Baldwin — 2023 M-Braves alums — were selected by milb.com as Atlanta Organization All-Stars. David McCabe, Ignacio Alvarez and Keyshawn Ogans — stars at High-Class A Rome — also made that team and likely will make it to Mississippi in 2024 (see previous post). … With the addition of free agent Hunter Renfroe, the Kansas City organization is practically overflowing with Mississippi connections. Former Mississippi State standout Renfroe, the veteran outfielder, joins fellow Bulldogs alum Chris Stratton, another recent signee, and Ole Miss product James McArthur, a 2023 rookie, on the Royals’ big league roster. Stratton and McArthur are both relievers. KC added ex-Hattiesburg High star Joe Gray Jr., an outfielder, to its farm system in the Rule 5 draft, plucking the once-highly touted outfielder from Milwaukee. Also in the minors are recent draft picks Dustin Dickerson (Southern Miss), Eric Cerantola (MSU), Hayden Dunhurst (UM), Brandon Johnson (UM) and Brennon McNair (Magee). … Good to see that former USM standout Chuckie Robinson has signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox. A catcher who has some MLB experience, Robinson hit .290 with 13 homers in Triple-A for Cincinnati this past season and had been playing in the Dominican Winter League.

12 Dec

sounds like a plan

Kansas City, which hasn’t had a winning season in eight years, is stockpiling bullpen arms for 2024 and has added free agent Chris Stratton, the ex-Mississippi State ace from Tupelo, to that mix. Veteran right-hander Stratton, 33, reportedly has signed a two-year deal with the Royals: $3.5 million in 2024 with a player option for $4.5M in ’25. Stratton had a 3.94 ERA between St. Louis and Texas last season, earning his first World Series ring with the Rangers. In 302 career big league games, most of them as a reliever, he has a 4.34 ERA, a 37-24 record and 12 saves. The Royals tied for the fewest saves in MLB last year with 28 (in 53 opportunities) and posted a staff ERA of 5.17 while going 56-106. In addition to Stratton, the club recently signed Seth Lugo and Will Smith and traded for Nick Anderson in an effort to improve its relief corps. Former Ole Miss star James McArthur emerged as a potential closer last season, putting up a 0.00 ERA and four saves in 12 games in September and October as a 26-year-old rookie. The Royals won the World Series in 2015 but have not sniffed the postseason since.

06 Dec

changing course

Having stalled in the low minors in Milwaukee’s system, ex-Hattiesburg High star Joe Gray Jr. will get a fresh start in 2024 with Kansas City. The 23-year-old outfielder was the first pick in the minor league phase of today’s Rule 5 draft. A second-round pick in MLB’s amateur draft in 2018 and a top 10 prospect with the Brewers as recently as 2022, Gray has batted .218 with 51 home runs and 66 steals in five pro seasons, only briefly reaching Double-A. Promoted to Biloxi in May of this past season, Gray went 2-for-37 with 17 strikeouts and one walk in 10 games before being sent back to A-ball. Gray is listed on Kansas City’s Triple-A Omaha roster but is likely to be tested at Double-A Northwest Arkansas in the Texas League next season. … Former Southern Miss star Dustin Dickerson and Magee High product Brennon McNair played in A-ball in the Kansas City chain in 2023. P.S. Former Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout Tony Sipp is among the ex-major leaguers already committed to play in The East-West Classic: A Tribute to the Negro Leagues All-Star Game in Cooperstown, N.Y., next May 25. Scott and Jerry Hairston Jr., grandsons of Crawford native and former Negro Leagues star Sam Hairston, also are on the initial rosters. The National Baseball Hall of Fame will open “The Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball” exhibit on Memorial Day weekend.