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.
Friday is the day MLB clubs set their 40-man rosters heading into the winter meetings. It’ll be interesting to see whether ex-Ole Miss star David Parkinson makes the grade with Philadelphia. As a 2017 draftee, the 24-year-old left-hander would be eligible to be chosen by another team in the Rule 5 draft if he isn’t protected on the big league roster. He was the Phillies’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2018 after posting a sparkling 11-1 record and 1.45 ERA as a starter at two levels of A-ball. But he had some struggles in 2019 in Double-A and then did not make the Phillies’ 60-man roster for the truncated 2020 season. He is currently rated the Phils’ No. 21 prospect by MLB Pipeline. After the 2019 season – when he posted a 4.08 ERA and .247 batting average against at Reading – Parkinson reportedly worked hard that off-season to get stronger. “I’m not saying it was all about seeking velo,” he told The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., in August, “but it was a big part. I wanted to change the perception of me being a crafty lefty to someone who can compete at the big-league level.” He threw harder in big league camp last spring but made just one official appearance before the shutdown. The lost season could significantly impact Parkinson’s chances of making the majors. Friday might tell a lot about where he stands. P.S. Former Southern Miss standout Bradley Roney signed as a minor league free agent with Arizona, and Mississippi State product Ben Bracewell re-signed as a minor leaguer with Oakland. Roney put up a 1.94 ERA coming back from injury in 2019, when he spent part of the season with the Double-A Mississippi Braves. Bracewell spent most of 2019 at Triple-A Las Vegas in the A’s system.
Just like the last time Tampa Bay was in the World Series, there is a Mississippi native and state college alum on the roster. Current Rays outfielder Hunter Renfroe is hoping for a better result than former Rays pitcher Chad Bradford witnessed in 2008. Bradford, a Hinds Community College and Southern Miss product from Byram, made two scoreless appearances in the ’08 Series, which the Rays lost to Philadelphia in five games. Bradford was a late-season acquisition from Baltimore who posted a 1.42 ERA in 21 games for Tampa Bay down the stretch in 2008, his next-to-last season in The Show. The submarine-style reliever, one of the key figures in “Moneyball,” was money in the postseason over his career, putting up a 0.39 ERA in 24 games spread over seven postseasons. He didn’t have a big impact in the ’08 Series. Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State star from Crystal Springs, might be in a position to do a bit more in his first postseason. Renfroe belted eight homers for the Rays during the year but has been relatively quiet at the plate in the postseason so far. He has one homer and six RBIs while going 3-for-15 with nine strikeouts. He did not play in Saturday’s Game 7 win. He figures to get some swings against left-handers in the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. … The last time Atlanta was in the World Series, there was a third baseman from Mississippi on the roster. Current Braves third sacker Austin Riley will have to wait at least another year to experience the Fall Classic as Howard Battle did in 1999. Ex-DeSoto Central High star Riley went 1-for-4 with an RBI – and a baserunning gaffe – as the Braves fell to the Dodgers on Sunday night in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. Riley hit a huge home run in Game 1 (see previous post) but ultimately batted just .143 in the NLCS and .178 in the postseason overall, striking out 18 times. Back in ’99, Battle, an Ocean Springs native and Mercy Cross High product, was on a Braves team that made it through a dramatic NLCS but was swept in the World Series by a New York Yankees juggernaut. In his 10th pro season in 1999, Battle was a late addition to the Braves’ roster, going 6-for-17 with a homer in September, and was a surprise addition to their postseason roster. He went 0-for-3 in the first two rounds and made just one “appearance” in the Fall Classic. He was announced as a pinch hitter in Game 1 and then lifted for another. He never appeared in another major league game. Riley, just a second-year big leaguer, will have more opportunities to chase a ring, though, after Sunday’s painful loss, he probably isn’t thinking about that just yet.
Cincinnati had high hopes for Cody Reed when the club acquired him from Kansas City in a July 2015 trade that involved Johnny Cueto. It now appears that if Reed blossoms as a big league pitcher, the former Northwest Mississippi Community College standout will do it with another club. Reed was designated for assignment on Monday. “We know how talented Cody is. It’s not an easy decision,” Reds manager David Bell told mlb.com. The 27-year-old left-hander from Horn Lake had a 5.79 ERA in nine appearances out of the bullpen in 2020. His career ERA over parts of five seasons: 5.44. A second-round pick by the Royals out of Northwest in 2013, Reed had outstanding minor league numbers as a starter but went 0-7, 7.36 in his 2016 MLB debut. He bounced from the Reds to the minors — and from starter to reliever — thereafter. As a lefty with versatility, he’ll likely get another shot somewhere. P.S. When a player is DFA’d, he is immediately removed from the 40-man roster and within seven days of the transaction can either be traded or placed on irrevocable outright waivers. If he clears waivers (unclaimed by another team), he could be released or assigned to a minor league roster. … Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss star who was DFA’d by the New York Mets on Aug. 16, was formally released on Sunday. … Anthony Alford, the Petal High product who was DFA’d by Toronto last Thursday, remains in seven-day limbo.
They labor in a sort of netherworld, an alternate universe, so to speak. Every major league club has an alternate camp, where 30 or so players are working out and scrimmaging, mostly out of the view of media. News from these camps is sparse, but the transactions page on mlb.com is always humming. Players come and go from the active big league roster to the alternate camp on a fairly regular basis. “Our job is to just be ready to go whenever we’re called upon,” Mississippi State alum Brent Rooker, who is in Minnesota’s alternate camp in St. Paul, Minn., told the Columbus Commercial-Dispatch last month. “With this being a shortened season we kind of know anything can happen and we’re all just trying to stay ready to go.” Rooker, a first baseman/outfielder, hasn’t yet gotten the call for what would be his MLB debut. Former George County High star Justin Steele, also anticipating his first big league game, was summoned by the Chicago Cubs earlier this month, but the left-hander was sent back to their South Bend, Ind., camp a couple of days later. Southern Miss product Cody Carroll (Baltimore) and ex-Ole Miss standout Bobby Wahl (Milwaukee) were playing real games to start the season but are now in the alternate universe, where a bundle of other Mississippians work and wait. UM alum Jacob Waguespack was sent to Toronto’s alternate camp on Friday. Former State star Nate Lowe had an impact with Tampa Bay as a rookie in 2019, batting .263 with seven homers in 50 games, but the lefty-hitting first baseman hasn’t gotten a call from the Rays this summer. Ditto for Bobby Bradley, the Harrison Central High product who made his MLB debut last year with Cleveland and is no doubt itching for another crack. That would also be true for Jacob Lindgren, the injury-plagued former State ace who is in the Chicago White Sox’s alternate camp. His last MLB appearance was in 2015. Ex-Petal High standout Demarcus Evans, a hard-throwing reliever, appears to be on the cusp of his first call-up with Texas but for now is honing his command at Globe Life Park, the Rangers’ former home and current alternate camp. MSU product Ethan Small, Milwaukee’s first-round pick in 2019, is among a handful of inexperienced prospects who have been in alternate camp primarily to get specialized work. That group would include Southern Miss alum Nick Sandlin (Cleveland) and two 2020 draftees, former Ocean Springs High star Garrett Crochet (White Sox) and ex-Ole Miss star Tyler Keenan (Seattle). Justin Foscue, the 14th overall pick out of MSU by Texas in June, was just added to the Rangers’ 60-man pool and assigned to the alternate camp on Thursday. Crochet, who pitched at Tennessee, recently told the Chicago Tribune he would welcome a big league shot this year but is focused on other things in Schaumburg, Ill. “I feel as each side (session) has passed, I’m getting more and more comfortable in the environment and with the coaching staff,” he said. “I’m trusting the little tidbits of information they are feeding me. … I definitely would say each bullpen has progressed, but I’ve got a ways to go.” Still, in 2020, anything can happen. He might have to go fast.
Pitching on 20 days “rest,” Mississippi State product Dakota Hudson went four innings for St. Louis on Sunday and allowed just two hits and a lone run. Hudson had last pitched on July 26; St. Louis’ season was interrupted three days later by COVID-19 issues. Hudson (0-2, 5.40 ERA) was the tough-luck loser as the Cardinals fell to the Chicago White Sox 7-2 in their third game back from the hiatus. Hudson’s replacement, rookie Roel Ramirez, gave up the record-tying four straight home runs in the fifth inning. … If anyone was wondering, no Mississippi-connected hitters have been involved in any of the 10 occurrences of the back-to-back-to-back-to-back blasts. But … on June 8, 1961, when the Milwaukee Braves became the first team to do it, Jackson native Marshall Bridges, pitching for Cincinnati, yielded the last two homers to Joe Adcock and Frank Thomas. (Bridges actually had a nice MLB career: 23 wins, 25 saves, a 3.75 ERA and a World Series ring over seven seasons.) … Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz already has a career-best four saves for San Diego and may get even more opportunities now that Kirby Yates, the erstwhile closer, has gone on the injured list with an ailing elbow. Pomeranz has not allowed a run in nine appearances (7 2/3 innings) entering Monday’s play. … Former Petal High standout Anthony Alford hit his second career homer on Sunday in a rare start for Toronto. He is 2-for-10 this season. Alford’s first career homer was a memorable walk-off bomb last year. … Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson went on the bereavement list on Saturday, which means he’ll miss a minimum of three games for Miami. He is batting .208 in his first year with the Marlins. … Wondering what’s next for Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss star who was designated for assignment by the New York Mets on Sunday. The veteran second baseman, who got only 15 at-bats with the Mets after joining the club on July 30, could be traded or claimed on waivers by another club, but it seems more likely he’ll become a free agent — again. Over a two-year span, the one-time All-Star has been with five different teams. He batted .238 with 20 homers for Washington last season.
Good: OK, this was more like great. Lance Lynn, the veteran right-hander out of Ole Miss, threw a complete-game two-hitter — at Coors Field, no less — to pace Texas to a 3-2 win Friday night against Colorado. Lynn (3-0, 1.11 ERA) struck out the side in the eighth inning and reportedly told manager Chris Woodward as he arrived in the dugout, “I’m finishing it.” He got Trevor Story (fly out), Charlie Blackmon (ground out) and Nolan Arenado (fly out) to end it, notching just his third career complete game and first since 2014 with St. Louis. Lynn threw 110 pitches, walked none and fanned six.
Bad: Brandon Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State standout, was pulled in the fifth inning of Milwaukee’s game at Wrigley Field after allowing six straight batters to reach as Chicago bolted to a 3-1 lead. Woodruff took a no-hitter into the fifth but suddenly lost command, yielding four hits, two walks and the three runs in the inning. It was the second straight abbreviated outing for Woodruff, who saw his ERA rise to 3.16. He got a no-decision as the Brewers’ bullpen and a three-run bomb by Christian Yelich bailed him out in a 4-3 Milwaukee victory.
Ugly: Southern Miss product Cody Carroll was recalled from Baltimore’s alternate site on Friday and was called on for mop-up duty in the regularly scheduled half of the twinbill against Washington. He got five outs but gave up six runs in the 15-3 loss. His ERA now stands at 54.00 in three appearances; he didn’t record an out in his 2020 debut last month and was charged with four runs. Oh, and he was sent back to the alternate site today.
The season is young. But it’s also short. And several Mississippians in the majors are off to chilly starts at the plate that have to be concerning. For Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High standout, there was a glimmer of positivity on Monday in an otherwise dreadful day for Atlanta. Riley went 2-for-4 with a home run in the Braves’ 13-8 loss at Philadelphia. His homer, No. 3 on the year, came during the Braves’ seven-run “rally” in the ninth inning. Riley is batting .167 and has struck out 17 times in 42 at-bats, frequently flailing at breaking balls out of the zone. Pitch recognition is something he has reportedly worked on since last year. As a rookie in 2019, Riley came out hot and then faded dramatically. Given the opportunity to take the regular third base job this season, he hasn’t stepped up. And, yes, there are others who have yet to step up. McComb’s Jarrod Dyson has scuffled in his first season with Pittsburgh, hitting .118 in 13 games. Note: He is 35. Teammate Adam Frazier, a Mississippi State product, is at .177 with five runs in 15 games as the Pirates’ leadoff batter. Crystal Springs native Hunter Renfroe, in a new uniform in 2020, is batting .159 for Tampa Bay with two homers and nine RBIs. His two homers were on July 27. He has just two RBIs in August. Corey Dickerson, a career .285 hitter, is at .229 through 10 games with his new club, Miami, and has just one RBI. Fulton’s Brian Dozier and Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, recent additions to the New York Mets’ active roster, haven’t seen a lot of action or produced much. Dozier is 2-for-15, Hamilton 0-for-10. P.S. Hot-hitting JaCoby Jones, the Richton High alum, smacked an inside-the-park homer on Monday for Detroit and now has five round-trippers, one shy of ex-State star Mitch Moreland for the all-Mississippi home run lead. Moreland hit two for Boston on Sunday, including a walk-off blast over the Green Monster, but was out of the lineup Monday.
Former George County High standout Justin Steele’s major league debut will have to wait. Added to the Chicago Cubs’ 30-man active roster on Sunday, the left-hander – drafted in 2014 — was sent back to the alternate camp today, when rosters were cut to 28. Also shipped out was Ole Miss product Jacob Waguespack, who had not allowed an earned run in three relief appearances for Toronto. Former Ole Miss star Bobby Wahl and Southern Miss alumnus Cody Carroll had previously been sent out by Milwaukee and Baltimore, respectively. Also missing from Opening Day rosters: East Central Community College product Tim Anderson, the 2019 American League batting champ, is on the injured list (groin injury) for the Chicago White Sox, where he was joined this week by Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman (neck), who scuffled in his first two starts for Seattle this season as he returns from 2018 Tommy John surgery. In other news: Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made his New York Mets debut on Wednesday, going 0-for-4 as the center fielder. … Former Mississippi Braves catcher Joe Odom made his big league debut for Seattle on July 28, then went back to the alternate camp on Aug. 2. … Southern Miss’ Chandler Best finished 2-2 with a 1.99 ERA for the Acadiana Cane Cutters, a Texas Collegiate League team that featured several Mississippi connections. A rising sophomore left-hander, Best ranked second in the college summer league with 33 strikeouts. Fellow USM pitcher Mathew Adams had a 5.78 ERA in 12 appearances; Ole Miss’ Drew McDaniel a 7.36 in five games; and Belhaven’s Reed Vincent a 4.62 in eight games. Trace Henry, a former Jones Junior College star from Mooreville, was one of the league’s top hitters at .341. USM’s Billy Garrity hit .213 in limited at-bats. … Ole Miss’ Gunnar Hoglund, a right-hander with mid-90s stuff, is rated the No. 14 draft prospect for 2021 by MLB Pipeline. He was a first-round supplemental pick out of a Florida high school in 2018. … The Hattiesburg Black Sox rebounded from a tough loss to win their second game in the National Baseball Congress World Series, the double-elimination event in Kansas. The Black Sox, the state’s semi-pro champs, play the Hutchinson Monarchs tonight. Pablo Lanzarote, a former Hinds Community College star, homered for the second straight game to help the Black Sox beat the Denver Cougars 9-4. Marcus Ragan, an East Mississippi CC alum, and Jamal Washington drove in two runs each for Hattiesburg, and Austin Sanders, another Hinds CC product, picked up the win.
Fast starts have been deemed vital in this truncated, long-delayed MLB season. A check of the stat sheets reveals a handful of Mississippi-connected players who have come out with their engine running hot. To wit: JaCoby Jones, the ex-Richton High standout, is hitting .421 after a 3-for-3 performance for Detroit on Wednesday and is tied for the big league lead with three home runs, two of which have been game-winners. … Mitch Moreland, the Mississippi State product from Amory, is batting .357 after a 2-for-4, two-RBI effort for Boston on Wednesday that included his 200th career double. … Brandon Woodruff, the MSU alum from Wheeler, allowed two baserunners and punched out 10 batters in 6 1/3 innings for Milwaukee on Wednesday, retiring 17 straight at one point. … And Lance Lynn, the ex-Ole Miss star, yielded one hit and two walks with eight K’s in six innings for Texas on Wednesday and remains unscored upon in 2020. Details, details: Jones was starting to put things together last summer when he was hit by a pitch and suffered a broken wrist, ending his year. He was hit in the faceguard of his helmet by a Kansas City pitcher on Tuesday night, a scene scarily reminiscent of April 2017, when he was hit in the face by a pitch and went on the injured list for a long spell. He bounced back with a vengeance on Wednesday with a homer and two doubles. “I’m just trying to be smooth, nice and easy, just letting my hands work. It’s paid off,” Jones told mlb.com. He’s also made some big plays in center field. … The veteran Moreland, 34, who also missed a chunk of the 2019 season with injuries, has two home runs and five RBIs for a scuffling Red Sox team that was 1-4 entering Wednesday’s game against Jacob deGrom and the New York Mets at CitiField. Moreland’s fourth-inning double ended deGrom’s 31-inning scoreless streak. Moreland picked up another RBI in the eighth on an infield hit, helping Boston rally to a 6-5 win. … Woodruff, mixing a fastball that hit 99 mph and a devastating changeup against Pittsburgh, got 20 swings-and-misses. The one hit he yielded was an infield dribbler. Said Brewers manager Craig Counsell in an mlb.com piece: “Overpowering, I think, is probably the word that best describes it.” Woodruff is 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA, 15 K’s (tied for fourth-most in MLB) and two walks in 11 1/3 innings on the season. … Lynn actually has been more dominant than Woodruff. His 0.00 ERA is tied for the majors lead, and he’s the only pitcher with two starts at that number. His 17 strikeouts rank third in MLB, and he has allowed just three hits in 12 innings of work. Lynn (1-0) is stuck on 99 career wins after taking a no-decision on Wednesday against Arizona, though the Rangers won the game late. “(I)f you give your team a chance to win every day, that’s what I’m about. So far I’ve done that,” Lynn told the Dallas Morning News. P.S. Ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier, making his New York Mets debut tonight, has now been with five MLB teams in three years: Minnesota, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington, San Diego and now the Mets. The 33-year-old second baseman has been an All-Star, won a Gold Glove and earned a World Series ring. … USM product Cody Carroll and UM alum Bobby Wahl have been sent to the alternate camp by Baltimore and Milwaukee, respectively.