The key for Matt Wallner, as it is for many power-hitting prospects, is making enough contact for the power to play. The former Southern Miss standout made contact in three of his four at-bats on Wednesday night for High-A Cedar Rapids – and the results were very good. Wallner, Minnesota’s No. 13-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, went 3-for-4 with two home runs and a career-best six RBIs. He has 10 homers – and 82 strikeouts — over his 67-game pro career. The 6-foot-5, left-handed-hitting outfielder tied the USM single-season record for homers in 2019 with 23 and finished his three years in Hattiesburg with a school-record 58. … It was a big night for big flies among Mississippians in the minors. Mississippi State alum Brent Rooker, back in Triple-A for Minnesota, hit one out for St. Paul. The Twins’ No. 12 prospect is 3-for-29 with one homer in eight big league games this season. Ex-Ole Miss star Grae Kessinger homered for Double-A Corpus Christi in Houston’s system. Columbia High product Ti’Quan Forbes went deep for Birmingham (Chicago White Sox) in its season-opening win over Biloxi in the Double-A South. He also stole a base and committed an error at third base. And at the White Sox’s Low-A Kannapolis club, former Loyd Star standout James Beard, known more for his speed than his power, hit a grand slam. … Also of note: Ole Miss alum Nick Fortes, in his Double-A debut, had two hits for Pensacola (Miami Marlins) in its 2-1 win against Mississippi in the M-Braves’ home opener. Former Ole Miss standout Anthony Servideo and ex-State star Jordan Westburg made their pro debuts for Low-A Delmarva (Baltimore Orioles) in a doubleheader against Salem. Servideo was 1-for-5 with four walks, Westburg 2-for-8 with an RBI.
Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Oh, and sometimes you get a no-decision. That tells the tale of the three Mississippi products who started major league games on Saturday. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn got the W, ex-Madison Central star Spencer Turnbull took the L and former Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff didn’t factor in the decision of a game his team ultimately won. Turnbull was first up in a game featured on MLB Network. Facing the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, he gave up four runs in five innings as Detroit fell 6-4. The lanky right-hander is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts for a struggling Tigers team. Lynn returned from the injured list to work five innings, allowing three runs, for the Chicago White Sox in a 7-3 win against visiting Cleveland in FS1’s national game. Buoyed by East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson’s grand slam, Lynn improved to 2-1 with a 1.82 ERA. Woodruff took on the Los Angeles Dodgers in an MLB Network showcase game and allowed two runs — including Mookie Betts’ first-pitch leadoff homer — in six innings. It was 2-2 when Woodruff departed, and Milwaukee won the game 6-5 in 11 innings. He stands at 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA. He has allowed more than two runs just once in his six starts. P.S. There has been a flurry of movement recently involving Mississippians in MLB. In addition to Lynn leaving the IL, Nick Sandlin was called up by Cleveland (see previous post); Cody Reed came off the IL for Tampa Bay; Justin Steele was recalled by the Cubs; Brent Rooker was sent out by Minnesota; Garrett Crochet went on the IL for the White Sox; and Anthony Alford was assigned to the minors by Pittsburgh.
When you put the ball in play, something good might happen. Something did for Mitch Moreland and the Oakland A’s on Sunday. The Mississippi State product’s hard-hit liner in the bottom of the ninth got past Detroit’s third baseman and scored the game-winning run, notching the eighth straight win for the A’s, who began the season 1-7. Moreland hasn’t yet found his groove with the A’s, who signed the 12-year veteran as a free agent in the off-season. Used primarily as a DH, he is batting just .206 with five RBIs and has yet to homer or double. But A’s manager Bob Melvin felt confident in sending the left-handed hitter up as a pinch hitter against Tigers lefty Gregory Soto with the game on the line. “It was a little unorthodox with the left-on-left pinch hitter there, but Mitch has been around,” Melvin told mlb.com. “He’s smart in what he’s looking for. He was just trying to shoot it the other way where there were some holes open.” … Nate Lowe, another ex-State standout, got a walk-off hit for Texas in a 1-0, 10-inning win vs. Baltimore. It was the second walk-off RBI of Lowe’s career and gives him 16 RBIs, second in the American League. After a sizzling start, Lowe is hitting just .230 for the Rangers, who acquired him from Tampa Bay in the off-season. … East Central Community College product Tim Anderson hit the first pitch of the first game of a twinbill out of Fenway Park, propelling the Chicago White Sox to a 3-2 win over Boston. It was the ninth career leadoff homer for Anderson, who is batting .310.
Lance Lynn and the Chicago White Sox could not have scripted it any better. In the team’s home opener, in the former Ole Miss star’s first start at Guaranteed Rate Field with his new club, Lynn threw a five-hit shutout, striking out 11 in a 6-0 win Thursday against Kansas City. He capped the performance with a punchout. “He was just nails,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said in an mlb.com story. It was the second career shutout and fourth complete game for the veteran right-hander, acquired by the White Sox from Texas in an off-season trade. The White Sox surely are thrilled with what they’ve seen from their No. 3 starter, who slots in behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. Lynn, now 105-71 in his career, has not allowed a run in 13 2/3 innings this season. P.S. The White Sox placed ex-Taylorsville High standout Billy Hamilton on the injured list with a hamstring injury. He joins East Central Community College product Tim Anderson (hammy) on the 10-day IL.
Excluding all the former Mississippi Braves in Atlanta, the most Mississippi-flavored team in the big leagues is the Chicago White Sox, a loaded club that will start the season with four familiar names on its roster. East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson is the blossoming star at shortstop, former Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn is in the starting rotation, ex-Ocean Springs High star Garrett Crochet is in the bullpen and former Taylorsville High standout Billy Hamilton has made the team as a reserve outfielder. Hamilton, now with his eighth club, is one of the fastest players in the game and factors in as a pinch runner and defensive replacement. Anderson, who won a batting title in 2019, is entrenched as the leadoff batter and unofficial team spokesman. Lynn, 33 and entering his 10th MLB campaign, was added in an off-season trade and brings a 3.57 career ERA and bulldog mentality. And then there’s Crochet, the 6-foot-6 left-hander who debuted last September just weeks after being drafted (11th overall out of Tennessee) and absolutely lit it up. He allowed three hits, one walk, no runs and fanned eight in six innings of work. Of his 85 pitches, 45 were 100 mph or faster. In nine frames this spring, he allowed two earned runs on six hits and four walks while striking out eight. Crochet’s velocity has been down a little this spring, but he says that’s of no real concern. “Everybody wants to see 100,” he told mlb.com last week. “I want to see 100, too, but my arm is feeling good. I’m competing out there as best as I can. Everything is feeling in sync. All my pitches are starting to get better every time I go out there.” Keep an eye on the ChiSox. P.S. In a bit of a surprise move, Minnesota assigned Mississippi State product Brent Rooker to its alternate site. The rookie outfielder had played well in camp, but the Twins have opted to go with 29-year-old journeyman Kyle Garlick on the 26-man roster. … Spencer Turnbull, the ex-Madison Central standout, will start the season on Detroit’s injured list. The right-hander is in COVID-19 protocol and has yet to be cleared to return. He reportedly is doing fine and eager to get back with the club, though it may be mid-April before that happens. … Other notable 40-man roster members currently on the IL: Jonathan Holder (Cubs), Bobby Wahl (Milwaukee), Dakota Hudson (St. Louis, out for the year) and Demarcus Evans (Texas).
Bobby Bradley, the former Harrison Central High standout, will not be on Cleveland’s opening day roster, the team announced. Bradley was competing at first base this spring with the more experienced Jake Bauers. Bradley is hitting .303 in the Cactus League to Bauer’s .200, but Bauers is out of minor league options. Bradley, who played briefly in the majors in 2019, is not. Bradley has big-time power and no doubt will get to Cleveland sometime this season. … Though Minnesota has not named a starting left fielder, signs point to Brent Rooker, the Mississippi State product whose 2020 debut was curtailed by an injury. Rooker, batting .286 with a home run this spring, was in the lineup, in left and batting fifth, for today’s Grapefruit League game against Atlanta. Rooker’s competition is 29-year-old journeyman Kyle Garlick, another right-handed hitter who has four homers this spring. Rooker’s defense still needs polish, but the Twins, who made him the 35th overall pick in the 2017 draft, seem to love the thunder in his bat. “You’re looking for ways to get a guy like that in the lineup because you know he can do damage, you know he can be a very productive major league offensive player,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said in an mlb.com piece. “That’s something that we can say with some certainty and feel good about it.” … Outfielder Eloy Jimenez’s injury surely increases the chances that Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton will make the Chicago White Sox’s 26-man roster. The speedy outfielder is in camp on a minor league deal. … Ex-State standout Jonathan Holder, battling for a bullpen role with the Chicago Cubs, is on the shelf with a “pec injury” and may be on the injured list when the season starts. He put up an 8.10 ERA in four games this spring. The veteran right-hander was signed in December after five seasons with the New York Yankees, for whom he posted a 4.38 ERA in 157 games. He reportedly still has minor league options remaining. … The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation is accepting applications through April 23 for the 10-week Charley Pride Fellowship Program, an internship designed to promote diversity. The Grammy-winning Pride, a Sledge native who played minor league ball, was a part-owner of the Rangers for a time and was often around the team. A field at the team’s spring training complex bears his name. Pride died in 2020. … Zack Shannon, the former Delta State slugger, recently was released by Arizona. He hit .289 with 26 home runs in two seasons in the low minors. He blasted 50 homers — a school and state record 31 as a senior — in two years at DSU.
Garrett Crochet, the only Mississippian ranked in MLB Pipeline’s new list of the Top 100 minor league prospects, provided a sneak preview of his potential last September. Not to get carried away, but it was a fairly jaw-dropping debut from the Chicago White Sox’s 2020 first-round pick. The 6-foot-6 left-hander from Ocean Springs by way of Tennessee pitched six scoreless innings over five appearances. He allowed three hits, struck out eight, walked none. He struck out the first batter he faced as a pro: a called third strike at 100 mph. But there’s so much more. To say Crochet throws hard sells him way short. According to a recent mlb.com article, there were 311 100 mph-plus pitches all told in 2020. Crochet threw 45 of those. And he only threw 85 pitches. “He’s already the hardest-throwing White Sox pitcher ever,” the mlb.com story said. He also throws a quality slider and a changeup. Crochet left his one postseason appearance with an arm injury that proved to be minor. There is great anticipation to see what he does this year for a strong White Sox team. Crochet likely will pitch out of the bullpen initially in 2021, but at some point he’ll move to the rotation, which was his role at UT. … Crochet is No. 56 on the top prospects list. (Obviously, it’s a tough crowd.) Former Mississippi Braves stars Cristian Pache (12), Ian Anderson (18) and Drew Waters (35) also made the list, as did Ke’Bryan Hayes (9), son of Hattiesburg native and ex-big leaguer Charlie. Pache, Anderson and Hayes had nice MLB debuts in 2020.
Lance Lynn’s 104-71 career record is impressive, as is his 3.57 ERA. The ex-Ole Miss star has averaged 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings over a nine-year big league career. But perhaps the most impressive thing about the newest member of the Chicago White Sox’s rotation is his tenacity. He shows up for work and gives all he’s got. He made 13 starts for a last-place Texas team in the 60-game 2020 season, went 6-3 and averaged 6.5 innings per. On one memorable occasion, Aug. 14 at Colorado, the 33-year-old right-hander came into the Rangers’ dugout after the eighth inning, sitting at 98 pitches with a 3-2 lead, and proclaimed, “I’m finishing it.” He did, a complete-game two-hitter. From 2012-19, he made at least 29 starts each season, excepting 2016 which he missed after Tommy John surgery. Traded by the Rangers late Monday for two prospects, Lynn joins former East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson and Ocean Springs High alum Garrett Crochet on a White Sox team that could be scary good in 2021. P.S. Onetime Mississippi Braves outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. earned Korean Baseball Organization MVP honors for 2020. He hit .349 and led the league with 47 homers and 135 RBIs in 142 games for the KT Wiz. He fell five batting average points short of winning the Triple Crown. This was his fourth season in the KBO. He is reportedly looking for an MLB offer.
He had one job to do. He nailed it. The Milwaukee Brewers needed a win on Saturday to keep their postseason hopes alive. Brandon Woodruff, the former Mississippi State star from Wheeler, went to the bump and delivered his best start of the season. “The story of this game was Woody,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell told mlb.com. Woodruff handcuffed the St. Louis Cardinals on two hits and a walk over eight shutout innings in a 3-0 victory. He struck out 10. He retired 19 in a row from the second inning into the eighth. Former Biloxi Shuckers star Josh Hader pitched the ninth for his 13th save. So now, the Brewers’ task for today’s season finale at Busch Stadium is simple: Win and they’re in the National League playoffs. Woodruff has had an uneven season. He’s 3-5 despite a 3.05 ERA. He had not won since Aug. 25 before Saturday’s pressure-packed gem. “I love throwing in these types of games,” he said. As a reward for Saturday’s win, he might get to throw in some more in October. … Meanwhile, at Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field on Saturday, another Mississippi native came up large in a big game. Former Ocean Springs High star Garrett Crochet, appearing in just his fifth MLB game, notched his first hold with two scoreless innings for the White Sox against the Cubs. Crochet worked the fifth and sixth innings after the Sox had rallied for a 7-5 lead in a game they’d win 9-5 to keep alive their hopes for an American League Central title. Crochet, a first-round draft pick out of Tennessee in June, has lit up the radar guns since his arrival in the big leagues, throwing 45 pitches of 100 mph or more. He has struck out eight batters in six innings and allowed just three hits and no runs. The 6-foot-6, 218-pound lefty said he never threw all that hard as a kid, so this new-found heat “is pretty cool.”
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.