Demarcus Evans and Garrett Crochet made their major league debuts on Friday night, but the two former Mississippi prep standouts took very different paths to The Show. Their results were a little different, too. Evans, a 25th-round draft pick out of Petal High by Texas in 2015, spent five years honing his craft in the minors; he posted a 0.90 ERA in 2019. First batter he faced on Friday: Albert Pujols. The Los Angeles Angels’ future Hall of Famer sent Evans’ second pitch — a 93-mph fastball — over the wall in Anaheim for his 662nd career home run. Evans plunked the next batter, Justin Upton, but the the 6-foot-5, 265-pound right-hander got out of his only inning with no further damage. Crochet, an Ocean Springs High alum who pitched at Tennessee the last three years, was drafted 11th overall in June by the Chicago White Sox. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound lefty became the first player since Brandon Finnegan with Kansas City in 2014 to make his MLB debut in the same year he was drafted. For Crochet, who has been working out in the White Sox’s alternate camp, this was his first professional game. First batter he faced: Brian Goodwin of Cincinnati. Crochet struck him out, then struck out the next batter and retired the third on a grounder to first base. He threw six of his 13 pitches at 100 mph or more, including two clocked at 101-plus, in his lone inning. “I felt like I was on top of the world and just truly living the dream,” he told mlb.com. It was surely a dream come true for Evans, as well, and he’ll have better days. Crochet has set his bar pretty high. It’s gonna be fun to see what they do next.
Two teams – and several Mississippians — celebrated playoff-clinching victories on Thursday. The Chicago White Sox, with Magnolia State juco products Tim Anderson and Jarrod Dyson in the lineup, rallied past Minnesota, and Tampa Bay, getting big hits from Mississippi State alums Hunter Renfroe and Nate Lowe, completed a twinbill sweep of Baltimore. Anderson, out of East Central CC, was 0-for-4 Thursday but is batting .365. Ex-Southwest Mississippi CC star Dyson (.190) made a rare start and went 2-for-4, with a key steal and a game-tying run in the seventh inning of a 4-3 win. The Rays clinched with a 10-6 Game 2 win vs. the Orioles as Renfroe hit his eighth homer and Lowe went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run. Renfroe is batting just .163 but has 21 RBIs. Lowe, a recent call-up, is hitting .278 with three homers, nine RBIs and seven runs in 13 games. Northwest CC product Cody Reed, a lefty reliever, is on the Rays’ injured list (finger) and has been moved from the 10-day to the 60-day. … St. Louis’ playoff hopes took a double blow on Thursday as they lost to lowly Pittsburgh and saw former MSU standout Dakota Hudson depart his start early with an elbow problem that has landed him on the 10-day IL. Hudson, 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA, had won three straight starts. P.S. The White Sox summoned former Ocean Springs High standout Garret Crochet from their alternate camp today. The left-hander was the 11th overall pick in the June draft out of Tennessee.
The Chicago White Sox are on top of the heap in the American League. Having won eight of 10, they lead the AL Central with a 30-16 record, also best in the league. It’s no coincidence, really, that their leadoff batter, former East Central Community College star Tim Anderson, is leading MLB in batting with a .362 average, chasing a second straight batting crown. The White Sox have a stable of good hitters, from veterans Jose Abreu and James McCann to up-and-comers Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. But Anderson, the 27-year-old shortstop in his seventh big league season, is the one who stirs the drink, both with his on-field skills and his forceful personality. “They’ve got great hitters. It starts with their leadoff guy, one of the better players in this league at a young age,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire told mlb.com after Anderson’s four-hit game on Saturday. Anderson is tied for the AL lead (with Mike Trout) in runs with 39. He has seven homers, 17 RBIs and five steals in 36 games. He is also improving on defense. “He can beat you with his bat, he knew that. He can beat you with his legs, he knew that. But now he’s beating you with his glove and with his smarts, and that has stardom written all over it,” ChiSox broadcaster Steve Stone said during a game recently. Abreu is having a monster year with 15 homers and 48 RBIs and is generating MVP buzz. Anderson should be getting some, too. P.S. What are the odds that three Mississippians in the majors would suffer broken bones and hit the injured list within a 12-day span? Only in 2020. Mississippi State product Brent Rooker, off to a nice (.316) start in his MLB debut with Minnesota, went on the IL on Sunday with a broken forearm. He joins Richton High alum JaCoby Jones (wrist) of Detroit and ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford (elbow) of Pittsburgh on the sideline. All are expected to miss the rest of the season.
Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central Community College star, didn’t waste any time making an impact for the Chicago White Sox in his first game off the injured list. Anderson led off Tuesday’s game with a walk and came around to score the first run in the White Sox’s 8-4 win at Detroit. He got a hit and scored again later in the game as the White Sox, expected to bid for a playoff spot this season, improved to 9-9. The defending American League batting champ, who hit .335 last season, is at .324 in 34 at-bats in 2020. He had been out since July 31 with a groin injury and was no doubt eager to get back in the lineup. Anderson told reporters pregame that his plan for his return was simple: “Just have fun. We’ll have fun. We’ll bring fun back.” Anderson has scored nine runs in his limited duty but has just one homer and no stolen bases. He hit 18 bombs last year and stole 17 bases. In addition to fun, he’ll bring some power and speed back, too.
Having passed a physical on Thursday, Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made an appearance at San Francisco’s summer camp, but it appears unlikely he’ll be active for the Giants’ opener next week. “I don’t see that as a realistic expectation right now,” manager Gabe Kapler said in a San Jose Mercury News story. Hamilton, who could play a valuable role on defense and as a pinch runner, is with the Giants on a minor league deal. The veteran outfielder was placed on the injured list last week for undisclosed reasons. … The Boston Red Sox have formally signed DeSoto Central High product Blaze Jordan, their third-round draft pick. Jordan, 17, received a reported $1.75 million bonus, much higher than the slot value of $667,900 for the 89th pick. … If Freddie Freeman, currently on the COVID-19 injured list, is unable to answer the starting bell for Atlanta, ex-DeSoto Central star Austin Riley appears to be the leading candidate to man first base. Riley made six appearances (three starts) at first last season as a rookie, when he hit 18 homers in 80 games. … Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff has displayed lights-out stuff in Milwaukee’s camp. “I’ve had probably seven to eight at-bats against him,” Brewers outfielder Ben Gamel told mlb.com. “His fastball is just different. He’s got a different gear to him. And me, just playing behind him, his changeup’s filthy.” Woodruff struck out Christian Yelich three times in an intrasquad game this week. … Brent Rooker, another former State standout, saw a lot of duty behind Marwin Gonzalez at first base in Minnesota’s camp while Miguel Sano was in COVID-19 quarantine. Sano, transitioning from third to first this season, returned to camp Wednesday. Rooker, who has 54 homers in 259 minor league games, could make the 30-man active roster if Sano isn’t ready for opening day. … The Chicago White Sox reportedly are thrilled with Tim Anderson’s work at shortstop in summer camp. “Defensively, his jumps have been amazing getting off the ball,” coach Joe McEwing said of the former East Central Community College star in an mlb.com story. “We have been really focusing on keeping his head in there and staying through it and finishing his throws.” The American League batting champ led league shortstops in errors the last three years. … Ex-MSU standout Chris Stratton, vying for a role on Pittsburgh’s pitching staff, says he is well-equipped for the new three-batter minimum rule for pitchers. “I just think that I’m capable of getting multiple outs,” he told mlb.com. “If that’s at the beginning of the game, if it’s opening, if it’s starting, whatever, if it’s in the middle of the game, hopefully I can help the team as best as possible with the things that I have.”
Three Mississippians, all left-handed pitchers, were added to MLB 60-man rosters on Tuesday. The Chicago White Sox invited 2020 first-round draftee Garrett Crochet of Ocean Springs and onetime big leaguer Jacob Lindgren of Biloxi to their satellite camp in Schaumberg, Ill. Justin Steele, a former George County High star from Lucedale, was added to the Chicago Cubs’ pool of 2020 eligible players and will report to their secondary camp in South Bend, Ind. Crochet, who signed for $4.5 million as the 11th overall pick out of Tennessee, isn’t likely to make his big league debut this summer, but nothing is out of the question in this most unusual season. “Garrett is a talented player, but the focus is truly just to get his foot in the door here and get around our guys, and we’ll go from there,” White Sox farm director Chris Getz told reporters. “With talented players like himself, I hate to rule anything out.” Lindgren, a former Mississippi State star, was a second-round pick in 2014 by the New York Yankees and reached the majors in 2015. He has battled arm injuries ever since, though he put up a 1.53 ERA in 12 games in high-A ball last season. Steele, a fifth-round pick by the Cubs in 2014 and a member of their 40-man roster, also has had arm troubles. He has a 3.62 career ERA but posted a 5.59 in 11 starts at Double-A in 2019. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Ryan Rolison, a 2018 first-rounder who is on Colorado’s 60-man list, drew praise from Rockies manager Bud Black after an outing in the main summer camp last weekend. “This guy knows how to pitch; he can change speeds,” Black told mlb.com. “He’s got two secondary pitches that I think will play in the big leagues, (and) he’s got enough fastball.” Rolison, a lefty, pitched in high-A last season.
Ocean Springs High alum Garrett Crochet, the 11th overall draft pick out of Tennessee by the Chicago White Sox, has signed for a $4.5 million bonus. The 6-foot-6 left-hander was 10-9 with a 4.64 ERA and 13 saves over three seasons with the Vols, though he made just one appearance this spring. He joins fellow Mississippians Justin Foscue and Colt Keith in an odd sort of limbo: All signed up with no place to go. Foscue, the former Mississippi State standout, signed a reported $3.25 million deal last Friday with Texas, which drafted the infielder 14th overall on June 10. With no pro camps open – and no minor league season underway – Crochet, Foscue and Keith are limited to working out on their own. “My mindset is to wait for somebody to tell me what to do and then I will do it. I am not worrying about it too much,” Foscue told mlb.com. Foscue, one of the first of the 29 first-round picks to sign, was batting .321 with two homers and 16 RBIs in 16 games for the Bulldogs when the 2020 season was halted in mid-March. Former Biloxi High star Keith, a fifth-round pick by Detroit, signed last week for a $500,000 bonus.
Demarcus Evans might not rank among the Texas Rangers’ top 30 prospects, but no prospect in the Rangers’ system has a better fastball than the former Petal High star, according to MLB Pipeline. Evans, 23, now on the 40-man roster and in big league camp, throws serious gas: In his five pro seasons, he has 369 strikeouts in 242 1/3 innings. If he improves his command, the 6-foot-4, 270-pound right-hander can be an impact arm out of the Texas bullpen. … Power is Bobby Bradley’s thing; the former Harrison Central High standout has said that he takes an assassin’s mentality to the plate: “I’m about to hit this ball as hard as possible. If you don’t have that certain kind of mentality, you’re already beat.” Rated by MLB Pipeline as the top power-hitting prospect in Cleveland’s system, Bradley, 23, has 147 homers over six minor league seasons and belted one during his 15-game MLB stint in 2019. … Mississippi State product Brent Rooker was given the nod as the top power prospect in Minnesota’s system. Rooker, who hit 36 homers in his three years in Starkville, has 54 in his three minor league campaigns, including 14 in Triple-A last year despite missing about half the season with injury. He smacked a monstrous homer for Team USA in Tokyo last fall that fans there may still be buzzing about. … As for the fastest running prospect in each organization, it came as no real surprise that James Beard topped the MLB Pipeline list for the Chicago White Sox. A fourth-round pick out of Loyd Star High last summer, Beard was considered the swiftest player available in the draft, drawing comparisons to Billy Hamilton. Beard, bigger than Hamilton at 5-10, 170, stole nine bases in 31 games at the rookie level in 2019.
After missing almost three full years because of two elbow surgeries, Biloxi native and onetime major leaguer Jacob Lindgren put up some good numbers in the low minors in 2019. The 26-year-old left-hander has been rewarded by the Chicago White Sox with a non-roster invitation to big league spring camp. ChiSox pitchers and catchers officially report Feb. 12. Lindgren was a second-round pick out of Mississippi State by the New York Yankees in 2014 after a junior season that saw him post a 0.81 ERA and average almost two strikeouts per inning. He made his MLB debut with the Yankees in 2015, appearing in seven games. But his career was detoured by injury the next year, when he had the first of his two Tommy John surgeries. He left the Yankees after the 2016 season, signed with Atlanta but didn’t pitch in an official game in the Braves’ system in 2017 or ’18, when he had his second surgery. The White Sox signed Lindgren as a minor league free agent last January. Once cleared to pitch, he worked at three levels and finished with a 2.83 ERA, 28 strikeouts and seven walks in 28 2/3 innings over 21 games. He’ll be a longshot to make the White Sox’s 26-man club this spring, but it must feel good just to have that opportunity. P.S. Other recent non-roster spring invitees include: Cooper Johnson (Ole Miss), Detroit; Henri Lartigue (Ole Miss), Philadelphia; Chuckie Robinson (Southern Miss), Houston; and Jacob Robson (State), Detroit.
As baseball has become awash in new-age statistics, batting average has somehow been devalued. Yet even in this era of WAR, OPS+, hard-hit rate, et al., there remains something special about a batting title. Tim Anderson, the former East Central Community College standout, won one this year in the American League, adding his name to a list that includes, just from this decade, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts and Josh Hamilton. Good company. Myriad Hall of Famers own batting titles: Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Rod Carew and Wade Boggs, to name a few. There is nothing fluky about batting average. Anderson hit .335 in 2019, becoming the first Mississippian (native or college alum) to earn a batting crown since Dave Parker won the second of his two in the National League in 1978. The only others to do it: Buddy Myer (1935) and Harry Walker (1947). Anderson, a shortstop in his fourth MLB season for the Chicago White Sox, also hit 18 home runs, drove in 56 runs, stole 17 bases and scored 81 runs. For the record, he posted a 4.0 WAR. It was the kind of season that deserves to be recognized with a Cool Papa Bell Award, given here for the most outstanding performance by a Mississippian in MLB. Previous winners of the award, which honors Negro Leagues legend Bell, the first Mississippi native to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, include Corey Dickerson (twice), Mitch Moreland, Brian Dozier (twice), Desmond Jennings, Lance Lynn, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Chris Coghlan.