10 Aug

coming attraction

Fluor Field at the West End in Greenville, S.C., is modeled after Boston’s Fenway Park, where the players on the roster of the High-Class A Greenville Drive aspire to play someday. Blaze Jordan made his Drive debut at Fluor Field on Tuesday, and Red Sox fans should be excited that the club’s No. 6 prospect looked very much at home. The 19-year-old former DeSoto Central High standout went 3-for-4 with two home runs, one over the mini-Green Monster in left field, the other to left-center. “I think it’s safe to say he likes hitting in this ballpark,” one of Greenville’s radio broadcasters said. Jordan, a third-round pick in 2020, hit .286 with eight homers and 57 RBIs at Low-A Salem this season before his promotion. Considered one of the top power hitters in the Red Sox’s system — “Jordan’s massive power has been good as advertised,” according to MLB Pipeline — he has 16 homers in 124 pro games. There will be more. … There was a lot of player movement in the minors on Tuesday. To wit: Mississippi State product Rowdey Jordan moved up to Double-A Binghamton in the New York Mets’ system and went 1-for-4 in his debut. Ex-Ole Miss star Will Ethridge was promoted to Double-A Hartford in the Colorado chain and worked four scoreless innings in his first appearance. Brandon Parker, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College alum from Saucier, was bumped up to High-A Rome by Atlanta; he hit .282 with 10 homers at Low-A Augusta. MSU product Logan Tanner, drafted in the second round by Cincinnati last month, was assigned to Low-A Daytona after one game in rookie ball; he went 0-for-3 in his Daytona debut. Several other 2022 draftees have been assigned to rookie clubs, including former Ole Miss star Tim Elko (0-for-3 in his Arizona Complex League debut for the Chicago White Sox) and high school draftees Emaarion Boyd (Philadelphia) and Spence Coffman (San Diego). The Double-A Mississippi Braves saw two key players moved to Triple-A Gwinnett: right-hander Darius Vines and catcher Hendrik Clementina. P.S. The injury-riddled White Sox have lost East Central CC alum Tim Anderson, their All-Star shortstop and leadoff batter, for 4-6 weeks with a finger ligament tear. It’s his second stint on the IL. The White Sox lost Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet (for the year) and ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn (for two months) in spring training. Lynn has been shaky (2-5, 5.88 ERA) since returning. … Shohei Ohtani joined Babe Ruth as the only players in MLB history to win at least 10 games and hit at least 10 homers in the same season. Two other players have won 10 and hit 10 in different seasons: Rick Ankiel and Jackson native Ewell Albert “Reb” Russell. Russell, a left-hander, won 23 games for the 1913 White Sox and posted three other double-digit win seasons before hurting his arm in 1918. He spent some time in the minors, came back to the big leagues in 1922 with Pittsburgh and belted 12 homers in 60 games.

04 Aug

look who’s no. 1

The flurry of recent trades that involved a ton of minor league prospects made for a major reshuffling of the organizational Top 30 charts by MLB Pipeline. Mississippi Braves shortstop Vaughn Grissom jumped up to the No. 1 spot in Atlanta’s list. He is raking at a .362 clip in 17 Double-A games. Nine other current M-Braves, including some on the injured list, are in the Top 30. No. 10 is Darius Vines, a right-handed starter slated to go tonight against Biloxi at Trustmark Park. Former Smithville High star Jared Johnson is No. 23 on the Braves’ list. The right-hander is on the IL (Tommy John surgery) at Low-Class A Augusta. … There are 18 other Mississippi products in the various Top 30s. (The lists will be redone again at some point to filter in the 2022 draft picks.) Former Mississippi State stars Will Bednar (No. 4, San Francisco) and Justin Foscue (No. 4, Texas) are the highest-rated. Others of note: MSU product Jordan Westburg is Baltimore’s fifth-rated prospect; ex-DeSoto Central High standout Blaze Jordan is Boston’s No. 6; Ole Miss alum Ryan Rolison is Colorado’s No. 7; Southern Miss product Matt Wallner is Minnesota’s No. 7; and former MSU star J.T. Ginn is Oakland’s No. 8. Wallner, who homered in last month’s All-Star Futures Game, has reached Triple-A. MSU product Ethan Small, Milwaukee’s No. 10, has made two big league pitching appearances this season. P.S. Lance Lynn, the veteran right-hander from Ole Miss, delivered a shot in the arm for the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. In what broadcaster Steve Stone described as a “wonderful” performance, Lynn threw six innings of one-run ball to beat Kansas City 4-1. It might have been the best of his 10 starts since coming off the injured list. Pitching around a rain delay, he allowed four hits and struck out eight. Lynn is 2-4 with a 5.87 ERA, not the numbers Chicago was hoping for from him. But Wednesday’s outing surely was encouraging. … Ex-UM star Thomas Dillard hit his ninth homer of the season, helping Biloxi complete a twinbill sweep of the M-Braves at the TeePee. … Mississippi College alum Blaine Crim, at Double-A Frisco in the Texas system, went 4-for-5 and hit a pair of homers. He is batting .277 with 15 bombs and 57 RBIs.

01 Aug

seize the day

Austin Riley wasn’t the only Mississippi product capping the month of July with a big day. In addition to DeSoto Central High alum Riley’s record-setting, walk-off double for Atlanta (see previous post), Corey Dickerson, Kirk McCarty, Hunter Renfroe, Kendall Graveman and Adam Frazier also earned some high-fives on Sunday. Dickerson, the ex-Meridian Community College star, produced the kind of game St. Louis was anticipating in his first season with the Cardinals: three hits, a homer (his fourth), two runs and three RBIs in a 5-0 win over Washington. Dickerson, who got off to a woeful start in 2022, is batting .226. McCarty, the rookie lefty out of Southern Miss, got his second MLB win, throwing 3 1/3 innings (one run) in middle relief for Cleveland in 5-3 victory against Tampa Bay. His first win came Tuesday at Boston. Mississippi State alum Renfroe, back in Boston with his new club Milwaukee, went 4-for-4 with his 19th homer in a 7-2 loss. He has six bombs in his last nine games and has raised his average to .254. Graveman, another ex-MSU standout, notched his 16th hold with a scoreless inning (the eighth) for the Chicago White Sox in a 4-1 defeat of Oakland. And MSU product Frazier, who had scuffled for many weeks with Seattle, went 2-for-4 with a run as the leadoff batter in a 3-2 loss to Houston. He is batting .353 in his last 19 games (.244 overall) for the resurgent Mariners. P.S. Former East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson continues to play for the White Sox while his three-game suspension from a Friday incident is under appeal. He is 3-for-8 in two wins. … The Los Angeles Dodgers have released ex-Ole Miss star Bobby Wahl, who had appeared in six games in Triple-A this year. He pitched in 17 big league games from 2017-20.

30 Jul

bring the wood

Since coming off the injured list in late June, Brandon Woodruff has been putting the hurt on opposing batters. The Mississippi State product from Wheeler, now working for the Milwaukee Brewers, beat Boston at Fenway Park on Friday night, his fourth win (against no losses) in six starts since his IL stint. Woodruff (9-3, 3.55 ERA, on the season) checked the Red Sox on four hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings, allowing one run and punching out nine in the 4-1 win that kept the first-place Brewers 3 games up on St. Louis in the National League Central. “If I can get ahead and mix it up a little bit …,” he told mlb.com in casually explaining his success. Over his last six starts, Woodruff has a 2.06 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and 48 strikeouts in 35 innings. “Very happy to hand him the ball every five days,” manager Craig Counsell told Sportsnaut before Friday’s game. Woodruff has matched his win total from a hard-luck 2021 and seems certain to surpass his career-high 11 wins in 2019. He was an All-Star in both of those seasons. The big right-hander was an 11th-round draft pick in 2014 after an uneven career at State; it might rank as one of Milwaukee’s shrewdest picks ever. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn, who started this season on the IL, allowed three homers in the Chicago White Sox’s 7-3 loss at home to Oakland. Lynn is 1-4, 6.42 ERA, in nine starts. He was an 11-game winner and an All-Star in 2021. The White Sox fell to 49-50 and might lose Tim Anderson to a suspension. The East Central Community College alum appeared to bump the home plate umpire in Friday’s game while arguing his ejection for protesting a strike call. … Former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley, who homered and doubled twice in Atlanta’s 5-2 win vs. Arizona, is batting .427 with 11 homers, 13 doubles, 21 runs and 24 RBIs in July. … Southern Miss left-hander Dalton Rogers, the third player picked from the state in this year’s draft (third round), has signed with Boston for a reported $447,500, according to mlb.com. USM pitcher Landon Harper (14th round) reportedly has signed with Atlanta.

28 Jul

worth noting

Into each season, some lowlights must fall. Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman experienced one on Wednesday. On in the ninth inning to close out a win for the Chicago White Sox at Colorado, Graveman walked the first three batters and then yielded a two-run, walk-off single. He threw 17 pitches, only five for strikes in the 6-5 defeat. “I just didn’t get the job done,” he told mlb.com. “Obviously, that one’s on me … I’m better than that.” It was his fifth blown save in 10 chances and bumped his ERA to 2.89. He was the fifth reliever called on by manager Tony LaRussa; regular closer Liam Hendriks was down. There have been too many lowlights for the 2022 White Sox, the defending American League Central champs now stuck in third place at 49-49. … DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley saw his 18-game hitting streak end in Atlanta’s ugly 7-2 loss at Philadelphia. He went 0-for-4. The Braves put former Mississippi Braves star Michael Harris II in the leadoff spot for the first time, but the rookie sensation went 0-for-4. … In what apparently was Jacob deGrom’s last rehab start for the New York Mets, he was taken deep by former M-Braves standout Drew Waters, now with Triple-A Omaha in the Kansas City system. Waters, the Southern League batting champ in 2019, might be in line for his first call-up after the Royals’ trade of Andrew Benintendi to the New York Yankees. … Current M-Braves star Vaughn Grissom hit his second Double-A home run in a loss at Pensacola. Grissom is batting .370 in 11 games for Mississippi. … At Low-A Augusta in Atlanta’s system, ex-Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout Brandon Parker hit two bombs, giving him nine on the season. The outfielder is batting .288 in his second year at that level. … Add Ole Miss’ Brandon Johnson (Kansas City) and MSU’s Brad Cumbest (Colorado), Jackson Fristoe (Yankees) and Kamren James (Tampa Bay) to the list of MLB draft signees confirmed by mlb.com. Also, former Southern Miss (and Delta State) star Hunter Riggins has signed as an undrafted free agent with the Braves.

27 Jul

central casting

There is a three-team battle going on in the American League Central, and a bunch of Magnolia State products were on the frontlines Tuesday in three different skirmishes. Start in Boston, where former Southern Miss pitcher Kirk McCarty, making just his fourth big league appearance, delivered four shutout innings and got his first MLB win in Cleveland’s 8-3 victory at Fenway Park. “It’s special,” said McCarty, who in the last couple weeks was claimed on waivers by Baltimore and then reclaimed by the Guardians. The left-hander allowed just one hit and one walk while fanning four. He followed fellow former Golden Eagles star Nick Sandlin in what was a bullpen game for Cleveland. Sandlin, who has a 2.81 ERA, got the last two outs of the third inning. The Guardians (49-47) moved to within 2 1/2 games of first-place Minnesota (52-45) in the AL Central after the Twins lost at Milwaukee. The Brewers gave former Mississippi State star Ethan Small his second big league start, and it was a little rough, much like his first one back in May. Small yielded a leadoff home run to Byron Buxton, three more hits, four walks and two more runs in 3 2/3 innings. He has a 7.11 ERA in his two MLB games. However, the Brewers, the first-place team in the National League Central, rallied to win 7-6, aided by ex-State slugger Hunter Renfroe’s 17th home run. Meanwhile, the Chicago White Sox (49-48, 3 games back in the AL Central) kept pace with their third straight win, beating Colorado at Coors Field 2-1. Ex-State standout Kendall Graveman worked a scoreless eighth inning for Chicago, notching his 15th hold. East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson, the ChiSox’s All-Star shortstop, had a hand in all four of the double plays the team turned in that game. P.S. Props to former Mississippi Braves manager Brian Snitker for notching his 500th win with Atlanta on Tuesday. His club, the reigning World Series champion, has won four straight NL East titles. … South Panola High product Emaarion Boyd, one of the two prep players drafted (11th round) out of the state last week, reportedly has signed with Philadelphia. He is the seventh player of 23 drafted to sign, according to mlb.com (see previous posts).

24 Jul

a few atta boys

Austin Riley: The former DeSoto Central High star went 3-for-4 with his 28th home run, extending his hitting streak to 15 games, as Atlanta beat the Los Angeles Angels 7-2 on Saturday to pull within a half-game of the New York Mets in the National League East. “Hey, we’re coming for ’em,” Riley said with a grin in a postgame interview.
Brandon Woodruff: The Wheeler High and Mississippi State alum allowed one run on four hits with eight punchouts in six innings as NL Central leader Milwaukee beat Colorado 9-4. Woodruff is 8-3 with a 3.73 ERA.
Hunter Renfroe: The ex-State star from Crystal Springs homered for the second straight game, drove in three runs and scored twice in the Brewers’ win at toasty, enclosed American Family Field. “Good gosh it was hot, but we pulled it out. It was fun,” said Renfroe, who has 15 bombs on the season.
Lance Lynn: The Ole Miss product threw six shutout innings for the Chicago White Sox, yielding three hits and fanning six in a 5-4 win against Cleveland in an American League Central clash. Alas, Lynn got no decision because the bullpen blew a lead the ChiSox held when he departed.
Konnor Pilkington: The rookie from Pascagoula by way of MSU, facing off against Lynn in Game 2 of a twinbill, went five innings and allowed two runs, trimming his ERA to 4.17 in 12 games for the Guardians this season. He also got no decision.

23 Jul

a little rivalry

There’s a rivalry within the rivalry set for Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field tonight, a garnish to the main dish. When Cleveland takes on the White Sox in Game 2 of doubleheader between the American League Central foes, Mississippi State alum Konnor Pilkington will oppose Ole Miss product Lance Lynn as the starting pitchers. Talk about your studies in contrast. Pilkington is a rookie, 24, a left-hander making his 12th major league appearance with the Guardians. The White Sox’s Lynn is 33, a right-hander who has been in pro ball since 2008 and has pitched in 295 big league games, making two All-Star Game appearances and winning a World Series ring. Pilkington, who has been up-and-down from Triple-A all season with Cleveland, has a 4.02 career minor league ERA and has pitched relatively well for the Guardians: 1-2, 4.24. He went five innings against Chicago his last time out, on July 12, and allowed three earned runs in a loss. Lynn had knee surgery in the spring and has struggled at times since coming back. He is 1-3, 7.50, in seven starts. He has allowed 19 runs in his last three starts, eight in four innings in a loss against Cleveland on July 11. Normally a beast on the bump, Lynn is averaging just a shade over five innings per start. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Gunnar Hoglund, the 19th overall pick in the 2021 draft by Toronto, made his pro debut today with Oakland’s Arizona Complex League club. Hoglund, who had Tommy John surgery last year, worked two innings, allowing a hit and an unearned run with five strikeouts. The A’s acquired Hoglund from the Blue Jays in the Matt Chapman trade this spring.

18 Jul

full steam ahead

Tuning up for his first MLB All-Star Game start in a huge series at Minnesota, Tim Anderson went 6-for-19 with a homer, three RBIs and seven runs as the Chicago White Sox took three of four from the first-place Twins. Anderson, the former East Central Community College star, knocked in the first two runs of Sunday’s 11-0 win, which moved the third-place ChiSox to 46-46 and within 3 games of Minnesota in the American League Central. Anderson will take a .310 average, six homers, 24 RBIs, 11 steals and some good vibes into Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, where he’ll be the first White Sox shortstop to start the game since 1970. Anderson made the 2021 Midsummer Classic, his first trip, as a replacement. Anderson was drafted 17th overall in 2013, the highest a state juco player has ever been selected, and has lived up to expectations, batting .288 over seven seasons and winning a batting title in 2019. P.S. Mississippi State pitcher Landon Sims was the 34th overall pick by Arizona in Sunday night’s MLB draft, and Bulldogs catcher Logan Tanner went 55th overall to Cincinnati. Rounds 3-10 will be held today. … MSU’s Kellum Clark has been picked as a reserve for the Cape Cod League All-Star Game, set for July 23. Clark is batting .264 with six RBIs and 10 runs for Wareham in the college summer league. The former Brandon High standout hit .257 with 14 homers for the Bulldogs in 2022.

12 Jul

in other news

Yes, there were significant MLB games in places other than Atlanta on Monday night, and a couple of Mississippi products played significant roles in two of them. Corey Dickerson, the former Meridian Community College standout, gave St. Louis fans something to cheer about in a big win over Philadelphia. Ole Miss product Lance Lynn gave Chicago White Sox fans something to fret about in a tough loss at Cleveland. Dickerson, 0-for-6 in his first two games since coming off the injured list, went 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs in the Cardinals’ 6-1 victory. St. Louis is 2 games back of first-place Milwaukee in the National League Central. Third-place Philly fell 8 back of the New York Mets, who beat Atlanta 4-1, in the NL East. Dickerson, a career .280 hitter, hasn’t produced as expected in his first year with the Cardinals. He is now batting .196 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 41 games. Lynn, the 35-year-old vet coming off knee surgery, yielded eight runs in four-plus innings in the White Sox’s 8-4 loss to the Guardians, who moved 1 1/2 games ahead of Chicago in second place in the AL Central. A Cy Young Award finalist in 2021, Lynn fell to 1-2 with a 6.97 ERA in his seven starts. Though he reportedly wasn’t hit hard, he gave up five runs in the first inning and was charged with three more in the fifth. He faced 25 batters and 13 of them reached. The ChiSox, the defending division champs, are a disappointing 41-44. The Guardians are 42-42, 4 back of Minnesota. The White Sox and Guardians play a doubleheader today, with ex-Mississippi State standout Konnor Pilkington (1-1, 4.08) slated to start Game 2 for Cleveland. Southern Miss alum Nick Sandlin (3.32 ERA) figures to see duty out of the Guardians’ bullpen. P.S. Kudos to DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley, whose 24th homer was the lone run the Braves produced against Max Scherzer and the Mets, and to USM’s Tanner Hall, who threw four shutout innings with seven strikeouts in Team USA’s 2-0 win over Cuba in a tournament in The Netherlands.