23 Nov

new angel in outfield

The Los Angeles Angels’ 2023 quest to end their eight-year playoff drought will include Hunter Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State slugger whom they acquired in a trade Tuesday with Milwaukee. Renfroe, who hit 29 homers for the Brewers last season, joins an Angels lineup that features Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, and he’ll be working with new hitting coach Marcus Thames, the former East Central Community College star. Renfroe, 30, is a .240 career hitter with 157 homers since his 2016 MLB debut and is regarded as an excellent right fielder. “He’s got the total package,” Angels GM Perry Minasian told mlb.com. “We felt like he was a really good fit for us.” The Brewers receive three young pitchers in the trade. The Angels will be Renfroe’s fifth team in five seasons. He has been on two postseason clubs: 2020 Tampa Bay and ’21 Boston. The Crystal Springs native was the 13th overall pick out of Starkville in 2013. P.S. Southern Miss product Matt Wallner, who made his big league debut in September, is pegged by mlb.com as Minnesota’s best rookie of the year candidate for 2023. The left-handed hitting outfielder batted .228 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 18 games for the Twins. He put on a power show last year, blasting 27 homers between Double-A and Triple-A and homering in the All-Star Futures Game and in his first MLB game. … USA Today ranks former Meridian Community College standout Corey Dickerson No. 87 among the 87 best available free agents this off-season. The veteran outfielder, 33, had an inconsistent year with St. Louis, hitting .267 with six homers and 36 RBIs and missing a chunk of time with injury. … Kirk McCarty, ex-USM star from Hattiesburg, was released by Cleveland after being designated for assignment earlier this month. McCarty, a left-hander, made his MLB debut with the Guardians this past season (see previous post).

17 Nov

roster watch

Colby White, whose meteoric rise in the Tampa Bay system was derailed by an arm injury last spring, has made the Rays’ 40-man roster. White, a Hattiesburg native drafted out of Mississippi State in 2019, had Tommy John surgery last April and missed the 2022 season. In 2021, the right-handed reliever rose through four levels of the minors, never missing a beat. He had a 1.86 ERA at Triple-A Durham and earned a non-roster invite to spring training. In 58 pro games, he has a 1.76 ERA and 12 saves. Look for him to debut with Tampa Bay sometime in 2023. … J.P. France, another ex-State standout, was added to Houston’s 40-man list after putting up a 3.90 ERA as a swingman at Triple-A Sugar Land. France, a right-hander, was drafted in the 14th round in 2018. He’ll try to earn a spot in the world champion Astros’ loaded bullpen in the spring. … Former Southern Miss star Kirk McCarty was designated for assignment by Cleveland, meaning he’s off the 40-man and available as a waiver claim by other clubs. The diminutive lefty made his MLB debut for Cleveland last season and went 4-3, 4.54. He was 4-1, 3.38, at Triple-A Columbus, bouncing up and down during the season. The Guardians actually lost him on waivers to Baltimore last summer but reclaimed him shortly thereafter. … Ex-MSU standout Jake Mangum was left unprotected by the New York Mets, who could potentially lose the switch-hitting outfielder in next month’s Rule 5 draft. Mangum hit .306 last season between Double-A and Triple-A and is a .284 career hitter in three pro campaigns. … Among Atlanta’s 40-man additions is shortstop Braden Shewmake, who played for the 2021 Double-A South champion Mississippi Braves. Shewmake, who goes 6 feet 4, 190 pounds, batted just .228 with 12 homers for the M-Braves but had several hot streaks and plays a good shortstop. He hit .259 at Triple-A Gwinnett in 2022 before going down with a knee injury in August. He is the Braves’ No. 5 prospect (MLB Pipeline). P.S. Silver City native and Ole Miss alum Jack Reed, who got World Series rings with the New York Yankees in 1961 and ’62, died on Nov. 10. Reed hit .233 in 129 big league at-bats from 1961-63 and frequently was used as a defensive replacement/pinch runner for Mickey Mantle. Reed’s one homer was a game-winner in a 22-inning contest in 1962.

28 Oct

more to come

Three Magnolia State college products pitched for Cleveland this season in its surprising run to the American League Central crown. And there are more Mississippi-groomed hurlers in the Guardians’ pipeline, one of whom is garnering attention in the high-profile Arizona Fall League. Hunter Stanley, a former Southern Miss standout, threw a dominant four innings for Peoria on Thursday night, notching his first AFL victory and trimming his ERA to 2.63 over four starts. Right-hander Stanley, described in scouting reports as a “command over stuff” pitcher, yielded no runs, one hit and no walks while fanning eight. He has 19 punchouts in 13 2/3 innings against the top prospects who populate the AFL lineups. Stanley was 13-6 with a 2.60 in his three seasons at USM and was All-C-USA and a second-team All-America pick after his junior year in 2021. He posted 127 K’s and 19 walks in 102 innings that year. Drafted in the 11th round by Cleveland, Stanley was not assigned to a team that summer. He debuted this season at High-Class A Lake County, where he was 2-1, 1.84, before being shut down with an injury in early May. He is making up for that lost time in the AFL. … Also in Cleveland’s minor league system is ex-Ole Miss star Doug Nikhazy, a left-hander drafted in the second round in ’21. He also debuted this season, went 4-4, 3.19, at Lake County and reached Double-A Akron, where his numbers were less impressive. He is the Guardians’ No. 26 prospect, according to MLP Pipeline. Cleveland took College World Series hero Dylan DeLucia out of Ole Miss in the sixth round of the ’22 draft; the right-hander has yet to make his pro debut. … Nick Sandlin (USM), Kirk McCarty (USM) and Konnor Pilkington (Mississippi State) pitched for the Guardians this season. P.S. Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith ranks among the AFL batting leaders with a .359 average in 13 games for Salt River. The lefty-hitting third baseman, a 2020 draftee, is Detroit’s No. 6 prospect.

27 Oct

reelin’ in the years

Hopping in the Wayback Machine for a trip to three World Series past, each celebrating an anniversary this fall and each featuring Mississippi connections. Going back 90 years to 1932, we have New York Yankees vs. Chicago Cubs, a contentious Series swept by the Yankees and made famous by the “Called Shot.” Babe Ruth hit that legendary home run in Game 3. Guy Bush, “The Mississippi Mudcat,” played a tangential role. Aberdeen native Bush, a 19-game winner for the Cubs in 1932, started Game 1 at Yankee Stadium and got shelled: eight runs in 5 1/3 innings. At Wrigley Field for Game 3, in the fifth inning with the score tied at 4-4, Ruth came to the plate. Players on the Cubs bench reportedly were riding Ruth hard; Bush was one of their most vociferous bench jockeys. Ruth made a gesture with a finger, possibly pointing toward center field, possibly pointing at the Cubs’ bench. Accounts differ, but not about what happened next. He homered to right-center field. New York won Game 3 7-5. Bush started again in Game 4. In the first inning, he gave up two hits, hit Ruth with a pitch, yielded a sac fly and walked the next batter. He was pulled. His ERA for the series: 14.29. Three years later, as fate would have it, Bush yielded the last two home runs of Ruth’s career, ensuring that the pair will be forever linked. … Sixty years ago, we have Yankees vs. San Francisco Giants, a seven-game classic that ended in OMG fashion. Jackson native Marshall Bridges, the “Sheriff,” was a relief pitcher for New York. Ex-Southern Miss star Jim “Peanut” Davenport played third base for the Giants. Neither had a great Series. Bridges posted a 4.91 ERA in two appearances, surrendering a grand slam to Chuck Hiller in a Game 4 loss. Davenport went 3-for-22 with one RBI. Both were watching when Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson snared Willie McCovey’s line drive to end Game 7, a 1-0 Yankees victory, with the winning run in scoring position. … Thirty years ago, in the 1992 Toronto-Atlanta Fall Classic, no Mississippi native or college alum saw the field. But a current Mississippi connection put on quite the show in a losing cause. It should come as no surprise perhaps that Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders, aka “Prime Time,” would thrive on the big stage for the Braves. Sanders played in four of the six games, going 8-for-15 with two walks, four runs, an RBI and five stolen bases. Oh, and he was also playing for the Atlanta Falcons that fall; he skipped a road football game (a 56-17 loss at San Francisco) to play for the Braves in Atlanta on Oct. 18, going 1-for-3 in the Game 2 loss. Strange but true. P.S. The Mississippi connection in this year’s World Series won’t take the field but will have a great view: Laurel native Bobby Dickerson is Philadelphia’s infield coach.

14 Oct

meanwhile, in arizona ….

A long layoff this year has done nothing to chill Colt Keith’s bat. The former Biloxi High star is hitting .353 with two doubles and three RBIs in six games for Salt River in the Arizona Fall League. Third baseman Keith, Detroit’s No. 6-rated prospect, was shut down in June because of a shoulder injury; he was batting .301 with nine homers and 31 RBIs at the time for High-Class A West Michigan in his second pro season. He reported to the AFL after many weeks of rehab and hasn’t missed a beat. “Strength staff and medical staff took really good care of me and I’m better than ever right now,” the 21-year-old Keith said in a story on the AFL website. The 6-foot-3 left-handed hitter has also bulked up quite a bit from his listed 211 pounds and has developed more power as a result. Also in the AFL: Ex-Southern Miss standout Hunter Stanley, a 2021 draftee by Cleveland, has a 1.35 ERA over 6 2/3 innings for Peoria; the right-hander tossed 3 2/3 shutout innings in a Thursday game. Stanley went 2-1, 1.84, at the High-A level this season in his pro debut. … Reed Trimble, another USM product and ’21 draftee by Baltimore, is batting .250 with four walks and three runs for Scottsdale. Trimble, coming back from shoulder surgery last fall, played 31 games in A-ball this season, batting .291. … Former Mississippi State star Will Bednar, a San Francisco prospect pitching for Scottsdale, allowed two runs in two innings Thursday and saw his ERA jump to 16.20 in two AFL outings. He also missed a chunk of time with injuries this season. … Ex-Bulldogs ace J.T. Ginn, now in Oakland’s system, has thrown two scoreless innings for Mesa. … Justyn-Henry Malloy, who made a big splash for the Double-A Mississippi Braves in 2022, is raking at a .370 clip for Scottsdale with four doubles and three RBIs in 29 at-bats. Malloy played at three levels in Atlanta’s system this past season. P.S. Fun facts: Dylan Moore, who had a big hit for Seattle in a losing cause vs. Houston on Thursday, is one of 12 former M-Braves shortstops to reach the majors. Dansby Swanson is the most notable of that group, Vaughn Grissom the most recent. … Houston infielder/outfielder Mauricio Dubon, who played for the Biloxi Shuckers in 2017 on his path to the big leagues, is the only native of Honduras to play in MLB.

12 Oct

range of emotions

The New York Yankees — and their fans — may be laughing about it now, having won Game 1 of the American League Division Series against Cleveland. But what happened in the bottom of the fifth inning Tuesday night with the score tied was cringe-worthy. First base coaches generally work in anonymity, but Travis Chapman, the ex-Mississippi State standout who handles that job for the Yankees, became a co-star in a moment that could have ranked as an all-time gaffe. Josh Donaldson thought he hit a home run and broke into a trot out of the box. Chapman also thought the ball was gone into the right-field bleachers at Yankee Stadium. He slapped hands with Donaldson as he approached the bag. But the ball hit the top of the wall and bounced back into play. Donaldson was cut down diving back into first. He saved face only because the Yankees won the game 4-1. … There had to be some disappointment for Southern Miss product Kirk McCarty, who was on the Guardians’ active roster for the Wild Card Series but was taken off before Tuesday’s game, joining the injured Nick Sandlin, another former Golden Eagles pitcher, on the sidelines. … There were a lot of frowns in Atlanta after the Braves’ 7-6 loss to Philadelphia, most notably on the faces of former Mississippi Braves Austin Riley (0-for-4, three strikeouts), Max Fried (six runs and a costly error in 3 1/3 innings), Dansby Swanson (1-for-5, four K’s) and Michael Harris II (0-for-4). Game 2 of the National League Division Series is today, with M-Braves alum and 21-game winner Kyle Wright starting for the Braves. … Ecstatic might best describe how former M-Braves pitcher Evan Phillips felt after escaping a two-on, no-out jam in the sixth inning, preserving Los Angeles’ two-run lead vs. San Diego. Phillips, an extremely effective reliever (7-2, 1.14 ERA, two saves) for the Dodgers this season, got a punchout and a double-play ball to register the hold. The Dodgers held on to win 5-3. … Crushed might best describe how ex-State star Adam Frazier felt in the ninth inning as he watched Yordan Alvarez’s three-run moon shot sail into the right-field seats at Minute Maid Park, delivering Houston an 8-7 win against Seattle. Frazier, the Mariners second baseman, went 1-for-4 with a run as his club built a 7-3 lead through seven innings. P.S. Mississippi native Lance Barksdale is part of the umpiring crew for the Dodgers-Padres series. He was in left field Tuesday.

11 Oct

honor roll

Matt Wallner arrived this season, maybe a little ahead of schedule. An injury opened up a spot in the Minnesota outfield in mid-September and the ex-Southern Miss slugger got the call. He responded by hitting a home run in his first big league game and finished with two homers, a .228 average and 10 RBIs in 18 games. Staying in the big leagues can be tougher than getting there, but that’s Wallner’s mission for next season. For 2022, he certainly rates a spot as an outfielder on the Mississippi minor league All-Star squad. Wallner, a left-handed hitter, batted .277 with 27 homers and 95 RBIs at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. MLB Pipeline named him the Twins’ hitting prospect of the year. The picks for the other outfield spots are Mississippi State alum Jake Mangum and Meridian Community College product Davis Bradshaw. Mangum, a Jackson Prep grad, hit .306 with four homers, 35 RBIs, 43 runs and 14 steals in 72 games, finishing the year in Triple-A for the New York Mets. He missed a chunk of time with a back injury. McLaurin native Bradshaw, in the Miami system, batted .304 with 31 RBIs, 39 runs and 13 steals in 97 games between High-Class A and Double-A. At catcher, there’s Chuckie Robinson, a former USM star who also reached the big leagues this year with Cincinnati. A strong defensive backstop, Robinson batted .266 with five homers and 25 RBIs at the Double-A and Triple-A levels before finishing the season with the Reds. First base belongs to ex-Mississippi College standout Blaine Crim, who batted .293 with 24 homers and 96 RBIs, finishing the year in Triple-A for Texas. Another Rangers prospect, former State star Justin Foscue, is the second baseman of choice. He batted .288 with 15 homers and 81 RBIs in Double-A. At shortstop, there’s Jordan Westburg, who was named by Baltimore as its minor league player of the year, quite an honor considering the load of talent in that system. Westburg hit .265 with 27 homers, 106 RBIs and 12 bags between Double-A and Triple-A. Blaze Jordan, the young masher out of DeSoto Central, is the pick at third base after batting .289 with 12 homers and 68 RBIs at two levels of A-ball. Jordan, a 2020 draftee by Boston, is still only 19. At DH, there’s Brent Rooker, the former State star who has a fair amount of big league time on his resume. He hasn’t hit in The Show, but in Triple-A this year he blasted 28 homers and hit .289 with 87 RBIs. Traded twice last season, he is now in the Kansas City system. The best starting pitcher among Mississippians in the minors was Will Warren, a Jackson Prep product in the New York Yankees’ organization. Warren went 9-9 with a 3.91 ERA, finishing the year in Double-A and rising to No. 8 on their prospect chart. The top reliever was Tyler Samaniego, a Northeast Mississippi CC product. The lefty was 4-4 with a 2.45 ERA and 14 saves for Pittsburgh, finishing in Double-A. USM alum Walker Powell, a swingman in the Chicago Cubs’ system, posted an 11-2 record and 2.76 ERA over three levels. Former Ole Miss standout Wyatt Short, who also pitched in dual roles for the Cubs, went 7-2, 3.33, spending most of the season in Triple-A. Ex-Delta State star Dalton Moats put up a 3.60 ERA in 51 games as a middle reliever at Triple-A in the Tampa Bay chain. Also rating a mention is MSU product J.P. France, who went 3-4, 3.90, with four saves while climbing to Triple-A with Houston. … Five Mississippians made their MLB debut in 2022: Wallner, Robinson, USM alum Kirk McCarty (who is on Cleveland’s postseason roster), State product Konnor Pilkington and ex-Bulldogs ace Ethan Small.

09 Oct

all in a day

When the postseason starts, you can turn the page on the regular season. Adam Frazier did precisely that in Seattle’s Wild Card Series sweep against Toronto. Flushing a disappointing regular season, the former Mississippi State star capped a jaw-dropping comeback by the Mariners on Saturday with a go-ahead RBI double in the ninth inning. “Those are the kind of moments you picture yourself in in the backyard when you’re a kid,” Frazier told The Associated Press. The M’s 10-9 victory sends them into the American League Division Series against Houston. Frazier hit just .238 in his first year in Seattle. But one thing he has always done well is put the ball in play, something of a lost art. He struck out just 73 times in 541 at-bats in 2022, one of the best contact rates in MLB. In the Toronto series, he went 4-for-9, never fanning once. He was 3-for-5 with two runs in the clincher, helping Seattle overcome an 8-1 deficit. … Southern Miss alum Nick Sandlin was the fifth of eight pitchers Cleveland used in its 1-0, 15-inning, series-clinching win against Tampa Bay. The sidearming right-hander got two outs in 10th inning, then left with “upper arm tightness.” His status for the next round is unclear. Fellow former Golden Eagles star Kirk McCarty, a rookie, was the only non-starter left in the Guardians’ bullpen when the game ended. … Corey Dickerson’s season is over, but Bobby Dickerson (no relation) is making plans for the next round. Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson went 2-for-6 for St. Louis as the Cardinals were bounced from the National League playoffs by Philadelphia. Laurel native Bobby Dickerson is the Phillies’ highly regarded infield coach; he got a shout-out Saturday from the ESPN broadcasters for his work with third baseman Alec Bohm. Philadelphia moves on to face Atlanta in the NLDS. … Trent Grisham, who played for the Biloxi Shuckers in 2018-19, homered for the second straight game and scored all of San Diego’s runs in a 7-3 loss to the New York Mets that evened their series. Game 3 is tonight at CitiField. Grisham, a .184 hitter this season with 17 bombs, took Max Scherzer deep in Friday’s win and got Jacob deGrom on Saturday. … Mets manager Buck Showalter, the MSU alum who has managed five different teams, won more than 1,600 games, claimed three manager of the year awards and appeared in six postseasons, has a 10-15 playoff record. He has yet to reach the World Series.

05 Oct

into the wild

Nine hits, two walks, seven runs in 2 2/3 innings — not what ex-Mississippi State standout Dakota Hudson was looking for in his last regular season outing for St. Louis. It remains to be seen what role Hudson might have in the Cardinals’ postseason, which begins Friday in the Wild Card Series against Philadelphia at Busch Stadium. But Tuesday’s outing against lowly Pittsburgh didn’t help his cause. Hudson had pitched quite well in his previous two outings after a stint in the minors. He now sits at 8-7 with a 4.45 ERA in 27 appearances. The Cardinals, National League Central champs, did rally to win Tuesday’s game, 8-7 in 10 innings. Chris Stratton, another former State star, pitched the final two innings and got the win. He has been outstanding as a middle reliever for the Cardinals, going 5-0 with a 2.78 since joining the club at the trade deadline. St. Louis also has Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson, a lefty-hitting outfielder, on its roster heading into the postseason. In fact, there is a Mississippi connection in each of the four best-of-3 Wild Card Series, which were officially set after Tuesday’s games. In the other NL series, New York Mets manager Buck Showalter, a former State standout, leads his club against visiting San Diego. In the American League, Cleveland, which hosts Tampa Bay, has former Southern Miss pitchers Nick Sandlin and Kirk McCarty on its current roster and MSU alum Konnor Pilkington in reserve. And Seattle, which travels to Toronto, suits up ex-Bulldogs standout Adam Frazier, a second baseman. P.S. Atlanta — and DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley — won its fifth straight NL East title on Tuesday and awaits the winner of Philadelphia-St. Louis. … USM alum Chuckie Robinson hit the second home run of his career for Cincinnati. Robinson, a catcher, is batting .136 in 25 games.

04 Oct

around the horn

Hunter Renfroe would not go down without a fight on Monday night. The former Mississippi State standout from Crystal Springs homered as part of a three-run rally in the ninth inning, then drove in the game-winning run with a 10th-inning single, sparking a celebration by his Milwaukee teammates. The good feeling didn’t last. A short time later, Philadelphia beat Houston and eliminated the Brewers from postseason contention. Milwaukee, which had made the playoffs four straight years, led the National League Central into the summer before swooning and getting run down by St. Louis. Acquired from Boston in the off-season, Renfroe has been productive, batting .257. His homer Monday against Arizona was his 29th and the game-winning RBI his 72nd. Fellow MSU product Brandon Woodruff delivered a quality start (six innings, two runs) against the Diamondbacks; he was 4-1 with a 2.42 ERA in his last seven starts. It wasn’t enough. … Atlanta, needing a win to clinch the NL East, went down with a whimper at Miami, losing 4-0 while striking out 14 times. DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley wore a golden sombrero, fanning four times in four at-bats and stranding four baserunners. … Former Mississippi Braves star Drew Waters hit a game-deciding three-run homer for Kansas City, taking Southern Miss alum Kirk McCarty deep in the 10th inning at Cleveland. Waters, the 2019 Southern League MVP traded away by Atlanta this summer for a draft pick, is batting .261 with five homers and 18 RBIs since being called up by the Royals. … Ex-Biloxi High standout Colt Keith went 2-for-4 with an RBI for Salt River on opening day in the Arizona Fall League. The Detroit Tigers prospect hit .301 with nine homers in an injury-curtailed season at the High-Class A level. Also debuting in the AFL Monday was 2022 M-Braves outfielder Justyn-Henry Malloy, who went 0-for-2 with three walks for Scottsdale. Malloy hit 17 homers over three levels this past season, six for the M-Braves and one (in his first game) at Triple-A Gwinnett. … Trivia time: When Tony LaRussa began his Hall of Fame managerial career with the Chicago White Sox in August of 1979, who did he replace? Answer: Don Kessinger, the former Ole Miss standout, was player-manager for the ChiSox for the first 106 games of the 1979 season, resigning on Aug. 2 with a 46-60 record. That was the last of Kessinger’s 16 seasons as a player. LaRussa, on leave from the White Sox since late August with medical issues, retired on Monday.