Kudos to Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star who became the first Atlanta third baseman since Chipper Jones 21 years ago to claim a Silver Slugger Award. Riley batted .303 with 33 homers, 107 RBIs and 91 runs for the world champion Braves. He posted a 6.1 WAR. Three other former Mississippi Braves also won Silver Sluggers: Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and Max Fried. Riley did not make the final three in the National League MVP voting but certainly garnered consideration from the baseball writers. Former Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn did make the final three in the American League Cy Young voting. … Four state college products have been outrighted to the minors after clearing waivers as major league clubs set their winter rosters. Mississippi State alum Jonathan Holder, who didn’t pitch in 2021, was moved by the Chicago Cubs, former Delta State star Trent Giambrone by the Cubs, UM alum Chris Ellis by Baltimore and Northwest Mississippi Community College product Cody Reed by Tampa Bay. … None of the Magnolia State products playing in the Arizona Fall League made the rosters for Saturday’s Fall Stars Game, though a couple have pretty solid credentials. Southern Miss alum Matt Wallner, a Minnesota prospect, is batting .273 with five homers (tied for the league lead) and 13 RBIs. Ex-UM standout Grae Kessinger, a Houston prospect, is hitting .276 with two homers and 10 RBIs. MSU product Justin Foscue (Texas) has scuffled (.204, three homers) after a hot start, and Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray, Jr., (Milwaukee) hasn’t gotten anything going (.077). … While Atlanta seeks to re-sign Freeman, a potential first baseman of the future is putting up nice numbers in the AFL. Drew Lugbauer, who belted 18 homers for the Double-A South champion M-Braves, is batting .405 with five homers and 13 RBIs in Arizona. … Four Mississippi players rank among the top 68 in prospectslive.com’s recently updated list of the top 200 MLB draft prospects for 2022. Mississippi State’s Landon Sims, closer for the national champs, is No. 25; his batterymate Logan Tanner is No. 34; Ole Miss catcher Hayden Dunhurst is No. 39; and Madison Central High catcher Ross Highfill is No. 68.
Though he came up short of a World Series ring, Hunter Renfroe has a chance to pick up a couple of other nice prizes this season. The ex-Mississippi State standout is a finalist for both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award following his outstanding first season with Boston. Renfroe, who tallied 16 outfield assists and hit 31 homers with 96 RBIs, is joined by Kyle Tucker and Joey Gallo among the American League Gold Glove candidates in right field. Renfroe had more assists but also more errors than either of the other two. Crystal Springs native Renfroe is among eight finalists for three AL outfield Silver Slugger awards. (Houston’s Tucker is also on that list.) Also making the cut for Silver Slugger honors were DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley, Atlanta’s third baseman, and ex-East Central Community College star Tim Anderson, shortstop for the Chicago White Sox. Gold Glove winners will be announced Nov. 7, the Silver Sluggers on Nov. 11.
All that glitters isn’t gold – sometimes it’s silver. Three former Mississippi Braves were awarded their first Silver Slugger awards on Thursday: Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies. Those three figure to represent the core of Atlanta’s lineup for years to come, something Braves fans, disappointed at how the 2019 season ended, can feel good about this winter. First baseman Freeman, 30, batted .295 with 38 homers, 121 RBIs and 113 runs, MVP-type numbers. (Hard to believe he hasn’t won a Silver Slugger before this.) Outfielder Acuna, at age 21, also had an MVP kind of season: .280, 41 homers, 101 RBIs, 127 runs and 37 steals. And all second baseman Albies, 22, did was bat .295 – leading the National League with 189 hits – with 43 doubles, 24 homers, 86 RBIs and 102 runs. … There may be more hardware coming for M-Braves alums. Mike Soroka, who went 13-4 for Atlanta this past season, is a finalist for NL rookie of the year honors, and Brian Snitker, manager of the inaugural M-Braves team in 2005, is a finalist for NL manager of the year, an award he won in 2018. The ROY winner will be announced on Nov. 11, the manager award on Nov. 12. … Cristian Pache, an M-Braves star last summer, has been pegged by mlb.com as the Braves’ best NL rookie of the year candidate for 2020. Pache, 20, a center fielder by trade, batted .278 with 11 homers and 53 RBIs in Mississippi before earning a promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett. Pache could have “Acuna-like impact in 2020” – if the Braves can find a spot for him, of course. … Love this quote (in an mlb.com story) from Chuck James, a soft-tossing former M-Braves ace who went 24-19 over five big league seasons: “I grew up in a small town and my college (Chattahoochee Valley Community College in Alabama) had a picket fence in the outfield. I had no expectations, because I didn’t know what to expect. But I got to be a kid longer than most, and it was everything they make it out to be.”