Comes a time for everyone, as the old scout says in “Moneyball,” when you’re told you can no longer play the children’s game. The time may have come for the likes of Mitch Moreland and Jarrod Dyson, veteran free agents in their late 30s with no team to suit up for. But as long as some team somewhere wants you, as long as you still dream of making the major leagues, you soldier on, as Ti’Quan Forbes is doing in 2022. Columbia native Forbes, a pro since 2014 without a big league look, became a minor league free agent last fall. The 25-year-old third baseman had signed with an independent club before the Arizona Diamondbacks came calling in mid-April. He is making good on this, perhaps final, opportunity, batting .283 with four homers and 18 RBIs for Double-A Amarillo. Forbes, who goes 6 feet 4, 225 pounds now, was drafted in the second round out of Columbia High by Texas and traded to the Chicago White Sox (for major league pitcher Miguel Gonzalez) after a productive 2017 season in High-A ball. He reached Triple-A Charlotte last summer but hit just .237 with two homers in 50 games. That trail ran out. He has picked up another. A player can still have an MLB breakthrough at Forbes’ age. Dyson didn’t make The Show until he was 27, and he played 12 big league seasons. Ex-Delta State star Trent Giambrone was 27 when he got the call last year in his sixth minor league season. Giambrone is back in the minors now, playing the children’s game, like Forbes. They haven’t been told they can’t. P.S. William Carey’s fine season ended Tuesday with a loss to Hope International in the NAIA Opening Round at Lawrenceville, Ga. The SSAC Tournament champion Crusaders (37-17) went 2-and-out in the regional.
On Tim Anderson Bobblehead Night at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, it was only fitting that the former East Central Community College standout would play a leading role in the White Sox’s walk-off 3-2 win against the New York Yankees. With the score knotted at 2-2 Saturday, Anderson got a one-out single in the ninth inning off Aroldis Chapman. Yankees broadcasters credited Anderson with distracting Chapman into walking the next batter and then falling behind 3-0 to Luis Robert. On a 3-1 pitch, Robert poked a single into right field and Anderson scored the winning run from second base just ahead of a throw by Aaron Judge. The bobblehead commemorated Anderson’s walk-off homer vs. the Yankees in the Field of Dreams Game last summer. The dynamic Anderson went 3-for-5 Saturday, boosting his average to .339, second in the American League. He was just the brightest star on a day filled with shining moments from Mississippians in the majors. To wit: In the ChiSox-Yankees game, Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman pitched two scoreless innings (the sixth and seventh) for Chicago, registered his eighth hold and trimmed his ERA to 1.56 in 15 games. … In Atlanta, a scuffling Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High star, went 3-for-4 and delivered the game-deciding run in the eighth inning of a crazy 6-5 victory over San Diego. … In St. Louis, MSU product Dakota Hudson blanked San Francisco over five innings, picking up the win — he is 3-2, 3.06 — as the Cardinals stopped the Giants’ six-game win streak 4-0. McComb native Corey Dickerson went 1-for-4 for the Cards. … Former Southern Miss standout Nick Sandlin picked up a win for Cleveland, working 1 1/3 scoreless innings (in the eighth and ninth) in the Guardians’ 3-2, 10-inning win against Minnesota. Sandlin is 3-1 with a 3.65 ERA in 12 games in middle relief. … Chris Stratton, the MSU product from Tupelo, struck out two batters in the eighth inning and got his fourth hold for Pittsburgh in a 3-1 win against Cincinnati. … Hunter Renfroe, the former State star from Crystal Springs, belted his ninth home run in Milwaukee’s 9-3 loss to Miami. He is tied for the National League lead in homers. … Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers, who has found his form in recent outings, worked a scoreless ninth inning for the Los Angeles Angels in their 9-1 win vs. Oakland in Game 2 of a twinbill.
Will Bednar, one of the heroes of Mississippi State’s national title run last year, has made a smooth transition to pro ball. The right-hander, the 14th overall pick in the July draft, threw five no-hit innings Wednesday night for San Jose in the San Francisco system. “I don’t try to get too high or too low, but it’s definitely a confidence booster …,” he told milb.com after Wednesday’s outing. Bednar has yet to get a win in four starts for the Low-Class A club but has a 1.62 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 16 2/3 innings. He was limited to seven innings last summer after signing with the Giants as the top draft pick from the state. Among the other 2021 draftees: Gunnar Hoglund — taken 19th overall by Oakland out of Ole Miss — is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. … Ole Miss product Doug Nikhazy is 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA in three starts for High-A Lake County in the Cleveland system. … Reed Trimble, taken by Baltimore out of Southern Miss, is on the injured list (shoulder surgery) and has yet to play this season. He batted .200 in 22 games in his pro debut lat season. … Tanner Allen, SEC player of the year and Ferriss Trophy winner at MSU, is batting .255 with a homer and seven RBIs for Miami’s High-A Beloit team. … Eric Cerantola, MSU alum, is 1-1, 4.76 at Low-A Columbia in the Kansas City organization. … Ex-Bulldogs standout Christian MacLeod, a Minnesota draftee, is on the 60-day injured list at Low-A Fort Myers and hasn’t pitched in 2022. … Taylor Broadway, Ole Miss’ closer in 2021, is pitching at Double-A Birmingham, where he has made three appearances after a recent promotion. He has a 9.45 ERA overall in six outings. … USM product Ryan Och has worked nine innings and yielded one run for San Diego’s High-A Fort Wayne club. … Will Warren, a Jackson Prep alum drafted out of Southeastern Louisiana, is 1-1, 2.65 in four starts at High-A Hudson Valley in the New York Yankees’ chain. P.S. Former State standout Kendall Graveman got his first save for the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, working two perfect innings as the ChiSox stopped an eight-game skid with a 7-3 win against Kansas City. Graveman, primarily a set-up reliever, has a 1.74 ERA in nine games. … Recent transactions of note: Chris Ellis went on the 10-day IL in Baltimore, Pittsburgh designated Anthony Alford for assignment, and Cleveland demoted both Konnor Pilkington and Kirk McCarty to Triple-A.
The anticipation was high. Kirk McCarty, the ex-Southern Miss star from Hattiesburg, was scheduled to make his big league debut today, starting on the bump against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. It’s not happening. Cal Quantrill has come off the COVID-19 list and will get the ball for Cleveland. McCarty, brought up from Triple-A earlier in the week, might still get in the game as a reliever, of course, but a start against Aaron Judge and Co. would have been so much cooler. (In Friday’s game, a Cleveland loss, Mississippi State alum Konnor Pilkington threw two scoreless innings in relief for the Guardians in his third big league game. He has yet to yield a run.) … In other MLB news: Former State standout Nathaniel Lowe extended his hit streak to eight games, raised his average to .412 — tops in the American League — and belted his first home run in Texas’ win against Oakland. … Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal, made his 2022 debut for Pittsburgh, coming off a rehab assignment, and went 0-for-3 as the leadoff batter at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The Pirates won the game over the Cubs 4-2, with ex-State star Chris Stratton getting the save. … Ex-East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson was handed a one-game suspension for flipping off the Cleveland crowd in a game on Wednesday. Anderson issued an apology, then appealed the suspension and played Friday. He went 0-for-4 and his eighth-inning throwing error — his sixth E in three games — proved costly in the Chicago White Sox’s 2-1 loss to Minnesota. MSU alum Kendall Graveman suffered the blown save and took the loss in that game.
The lengthy list of Mississippi natives to play in the big leagues grew over the weekend when Konnor Pilkington debuted for Cleveland. The tall left-hander, a Pascagoula native who played high school ball at East Central, showed some staying power. He made his first appearance for the Guardians last Friday with a scoreless inning of work and pitched again on Sunday, tossing two perfect innings against San Francisco in an 8-1 loss. Pilkington is one of those players who seemed destined to make The Show. He was an All-American in high school, tossing an 18-strikeout no-hitter on one occasion. He signed with Mississippi State, where his stuff was better than his numbers (14-12 with a 3.47 ERA) over three years. He also pitched for the Collegiate National Team while in Starkville. The Chicago White Sox picked him in the third round in 2018, and he made steady progress in their system before being traded to Cleveland last July for big league second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Pilkington made the Guardians’ 40-man roster in the off-season and got into some big league spring games, pitching well enough to make the expanded opening day roster. He was optioned to Triple-A briefly before being recalled on Friday. He walked the first batter he faced — the Giants’ Brandon Belt — but got a strikeout, a ground out and a fly ball to end the inning. Pilkington was 12-16, 3.84 in the minors working primarily as a starter; he throws four pitches and has demonstrated durability. He can have an impact for Cleveland.
Suddenly, the local flavor of the Chicago White Sox has been seriously diluted. Craig Kimbrel, the former Mississippi Braves star, was traded; Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet is lost for the season with Tommy John surgery; and Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn will be out four weeks and probably more with a knee injury. On top of that, ex-East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson will miss the first two games of the season while serving a suspension. (Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, who was with the team last year, became a free agent and signed with Seattle.) The loss of Lynn, a Cy Young Award contender in 2021, is a big blow to the rotation of a team with postseason aspirations. Losing Kimbrel and Crochet from the bullpen likely means an enhanced role for Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman, who signed a 3-year, $24 million contract as a free agent after a standout 2021 with Seattle and Houston. The right-hander was 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA, 11 holds and 10 saves between those two clubs and helped the Astros reach the World Series. He has not allowed a run in four appearances this spring.
It certainly looks as if Bobby Bradley will open the season as Cleveland’s first baseman. How long he’ll hold the job isn’t so certain. Bradley, the former Harrison Central High star, had a poor second half in 2021 and has not perked up in spring training. “He’s not swinging the bat very well,” Guardians manager Terry Francona told cleveland.com in a story published Thursday, before Bradley got a couple of hits against Seattle in a Cactus League contest. “I don’t know (if) that means he won’t.” Bradley, 25, is batting .200 with no homers or RBIs this spring. He hit .208 with 16 homers and 99 strikeouts in 245 at-bats last season, his second stint in the majors. His minor league power numbers were impressive; the strikeout totals not so much. “It’s too early to give up on Bradley,” writes Terry Pluto for cleveland.com. But that time may come if things don’t change. … In that same Thursday game in Peoria, Ariz., Mississippi State alum Adam Frazier banged out two more hits as the Mariners’ new leadoff batter. Acquired from San Diego in the off-season, the All-Star second baseman is batting .474 this spring. Frazier is optimistic that Seattle’s 20-year postseason drought will end in 2022. “Take care of business each day and I think we’ll be there at the end,” he told seattlesports.com. P.S. After punching out the only batter he faced, Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet left a Chicago White Sox game Thursday with an apparent arm injury. The flame-throwing lefty reliever has a 2.08 ERA this spring and registered 14 holds with a 2.82 as a key bullpen piece for the ChiSox last season. … Hunter Renfroe, the ex-State star from Crystal Springs, is getting work at first base with Milwaukee, his new team. Renfroe had 16 outfield assists with Boston in 2021. … Former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz, a lefty reliever recovering from elbow surgery, will start the season on the 60-day injured list for San Diego.
Heads up, Biloxi Shuckers fans. A home-grown player appears headed that way next month. Joe Gray Jr., the ex-Hattiesburg High star, said in an mlb.com article that Double-A Biloxi is where he’s aiming to launch his 2022 season and build on the big year he had in A-ball. “That’s going to mean a lot,” Gray said of not just reaching the game’s pivotal level in his fourth pro season but playing close to home. Beset by illness and injuries in his first two seasons and shelved by the pandemic in 2020, Milwaukee’s second-round pick from 2018 broke out in 2021, batting .252 with 20 homers, 90 RBIs and 23 steals at two levels of A-ball. He also got an Arizona Fall League assignment. “So long as I’m on the field, stuff is going to happen,” Gray told mlb.com in a very interesting interview that covers his childhood on a farm in Carson (outside of Hattiesburg), why he chose baseball over football and his difficult bout with pneumonia in 2018. Minor league roster decisions are a long way off, but there is a strong chance the 21-year-old Gray, the Brewers’ No. 9 prospect, will be in center field when the Shuckers open April 8 at Pensacola. The team’s first game at MGM Park is set for April 12 against the Mississippi Braves. P.S. Madison Central alum Spencer Turnbull is throwing again and is optimistic he’ll pitch for Detroit sometime in 2022, according to a Detroit News report. Turnbull had Tommy John surgery last summer. The right-hander, 29, went 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA and tossed a no-hitter on May 18 last year. … Former Loyd Star standout James Beard was named the best defensive prospect in the Chicago White Sox system by MLB Pipeline. The speedy Beard, a center fielder, was a fourth-round pick in 2019. His bat is still a work in progress; he hit .192 with five homers and nine steals at Low-A Kannapolis in 2021. Mississippi State and Jackson Prep alum Jake Mangum (see previous post) was pegged as the top defensive prospect in the New York Mets organization.
A strong 2021 season has paid off for Kendall Graveman, the ex-Mississippi State star who reportedly has agreed to a 3-year, $24 million contract with the Chicago White Sox. Graveman put up a 1.77 ERA over 53 games last year split between Seattle and Houston. He allowed just two runs in 11 postseason innings for the Astros, who reached the World Series. Graveman, 31, converted from starter to reliever with the Mariners in 2020 after missing the 2019 season with Tommy John surgery. Drafted in the eighth round out of Starkville in 2013 by Toronto, he is a seven-year MLB vet. He’ll join a White Sox team that won the American League Central in 2021 and features Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn and Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet on its pitching staff along with All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson, a former East Central Community College standout. USA Today Sports Weekly rates Graveman 29th among the available free agents this off-season. Also in the top 106 are Mississippians Corey Dickerson (64) and Mitch Moreland (104).
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.