18 Sep

coming attraction

Former Jackson Prep standout Will Warren, now in the New York Yankees’ system, got some well-deserved recognition today from Baseball America in its daily Prospect Report. Warren threw five shutout innings Sunday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, yielding just two hits and striking out a career-high 10 batters. An eighth-round draft pick out of Southeastern Louisiana in 2021, Warren, 24, has allowed just one earned run over 23 2/3 innings in September. He has struck out 29, walked nine and limited opposing hitters to a .127 average. He is rated the Yankees’ No. 10 prospect by MLB Pipeline, which gives his estimated time of arrival in The Show as 2023. That may not happen, but he is close. The 6-foot-2 right-hander started this season in Double-A and went 3-0 with a 2.45 before moving up to S/W-B. He is 6-4 with a 3.71 in 20 games for the RailRiders. Warren features a mid-90s fastball and a wipeout slider, which MLB Pipeline calls his “best weapon.”

06 Jul

show of arms

Mississippi State alum J.P. France was at it again on Wednesday, producing a sixth straight quality start for Houston and picking up the win in the surging Astros’ 6-4 victory over Colorado. The rookie right-hander (4-3, 3.26 ERA in 11 starts) yielded three runs in six innings as Houston moved within 2 games of first-place Texas in the American League West. France led a parade of Magnolia State products who delivered outstanding pitching performances on Wednesday. All-Star Justin Steele, the former George County High star, gave up three runs in six innings but got a no-decision in a game the Chicago Cubs would win 4-3 at Milwaukee; Columbus native Michael Rucker got the win in relief. At Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, ex-Jackson Prep standout Will Warren tossed 5 2/3 shutout innings for the New Yankees’ top farm club and improved to 4-3, 4.37, in eight starts there. The Southeastern Louisiana alum — the Yankees’ No. 7 prospect — was 3-0 in Double-A this season. In Double-A, former Southern Miss standout Walker Powell surrendered three runs (three solo homers) in six innings and got a no-decision in a game Tennessee (Cubs) would win 4-3 in 10 over Birmingham. The 6-foot-8 Powell is 4-4, 4.16, in 14 games for the Smokies. Topping that performance in High-A was Tyler Stuart, another USM product, who allowed two runs over six innings for Brooklyn (New York Mets) in a 4-3 win against Wilmington. Stuart, a 2022 draftee, is 4-0 with a 1.55 in 14 starts for the Cyclones. P.S. Houston’s rookie catcher Yainer Diaz hit two homers on Wednesday. The last two rookie catchers with a multi-homer game for the Astros were former Jackson Generals Mitch Meluskey (2000) and Tony Eusebio (1994). … St. Louis recalled ex-MSU star Dakota Hudson from the minors, but his second MLB appearance this season did not go as well as his first (two runs, two hits, three walks in 2 2/3 early relief). .. Oakland has designated Ole Miss alum Chad Smith for assignment; he had a 6.75 ERA in nine games.

10 Jun

sudden impact

On this date in 2002, Marcus Thames, a New York Yankees rookie, stepped to the plate in Yankee Stadium for his first big league at-bat and, on the first pitch he saw, blasted a home run off Randy Johnson, then pitching for Arizona. It was the first of 115 homers for Thames, a Louisville native and ex-East Central Community College star who had a nice MLB career. It’s a cool memory, for sure, but Thames no doubt has other things on his mind today, namely the five-game win streak by the Los Angeles Angels that has pushed their record to 35-30, within 6.5 games of first place in the American League West. Thames is in his first year as the Angels’ hitting coach, and he has had a positive impact. The Angels’ offense was a mess in 2022, despite the presence of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. They went 73-89 and finished 26th in the majors in on-base percentage, 25th in runs and first (as in worst) in strikeouts. Under Thames’ direction, their OBP (.333) as well as batting average (.256) are up, and they are averaging more runs per game (4.8) and fewer strikeouts (8.7). Thames, widely regarded as a good coach, was the victim of staff purges by the Yankees and Miami the last two years. He quickly found work with Phil Nevin’s Angels and promised an “aggressive in the zone” approach. It appears to be working, much like it did for him on that memorable first AB 21 years ago. … Things are not going so well for Buck Showalter’s New York Mets, who have lost seven in a row and tumbled to 30-34, 9.5 games out in the National League East. They’ve also lost slugger Pete Alonso to the injured list. Showalter, the ex-Mississippi State star in his second season as manager of the Mets, is already rumored to be on the hot seat despite winning manager of the year honors with a playoff team in 2022. He said he remained proud of his current club after they blew late leads and lost three times to the archenemy Atlanta Braves. They then lost to the low-budget Pittsburgh Pirates 14-7 on Friday. (Ke’Bryan Hayes — son of Hattiesburg native Charlie — went 5-for-5 with four RBIs for the Bucs, who are 33-29.) The Mets have the largest payroll in baseball; owner Steve Cohen can’t be happy with what has happened this season.

02 Jun

the babe chronicles

On this date in 1935, Babe Ruth announced his retirement at age 40. He was the game’s preeminent slugger at the time — “the Sultan of Swat, The Colossus of Clout, the King of Crash” — with 714 home runs, a record that would stand for 39 years. By weird coincidence, a collection of Mississippi natives have significant links to Ruth’s big league career. To wit: When Ruth debuted as a 19-year-old pitcher for the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on July 11, 1914, the opposing starter was Pleasant Grove native Willie Mitchell of the Cleveland Naps. Mitchell struck out Ruth in his first at-bat, but Ruth won the game and Mitchell took the loss. After the 1919 season, his first as a full-time hitter, Ruth was famously traded by Boston to the New York Yankees, where he became the right fielder in 2020, displacing Batesville native Sammy Vick at that position. The two reportedly became fast friends, but Vick’s playing time decreased dramatically and he was traded after the season. In the 1932 World Series, when Ruth gestured and then smacked his legendary “Called Shot” home run at Wrigley Field, he was responding to abuse from the Chicago Cubs dugout, where Aberdeen native Guy Bush was among the most vocal bench jockeys. Three years later, on May 25, 1935, an aging Ruth, playing for the Boston Braves, hit the last three home runs of his career. Nos. 713 and 714, both massive clouts at Forbes Field, came against Bush, then pitching for Pittsburgh. Five days later, Ruth played his final game. At the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, in his lone at-bat in the top of the first inning, he was retired on a ground ball by Jackson native Jim Bivin, pitching in his one and only big league season. Ruth was then replaced in left field by Ludlow native Hal Lee, who would go on to bang out three hits that day. Ruth was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936.

26 May

the hot list

If Dalton Rogers was overshadowed a bit on Southern Miss’ outstanding pitching staff in 2022, that is not the case now that he is in the Boston Red Sox’s system. A third-round pick by Boston last year, Rogers was named one of the 30 “Hottest Pitching Prospects” this month by MLB Pipeline. The left-hander, a Northwest Rankin High alum, had a 2.49 ERA with 38 strikeouts and 13 walks in 21 1/3 innings over six starts at Low-Class A Salem when he was promoted on Wednesday. He went 4 1/3 for High-A Greenville in his debut that night, allowing three hits and one run (a homer) while fanning seven and walking four against Rome, Atlanta’s affiliate. (Greenville won the game 7-1 as ex-DeSoto Central High star Blaze Jordan homered and drove in four runs. Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product Brandon Parker struck out twice for the R-Braves against Rogers.) Rated the Red Sox’s No. 24 prospect on mlb.com, the 5-foot-11 Rogers has a “drop-and-drive delivery” that gives him “exceptional carry on his (low-90s) heater,” according to the scouting report. Rogers transferred to USM in 2022 from Jones College, where he was an All-MACCC pick in 2021. He had a 1.95 ERA and six saves in 23 games for a Golden Eagles team that featured Tanner Hall and Hurston Waldrep and was oh-so-close to a College World Series trip. … Also on the “Hottest Prospects” list is former Jackson Prep standout Will Warren, now in Triple-A with the New York Yankees. A third-year pro, Warren was 3-0 with a 2.45 in Double-A but has had a couple of bumpy outings since moving to the new level.

12 May

have a year

Has any team in the state had a better year than William Carey University? Short answer: No. While some of the traditionally strong programs in the Magnolia State have had some struggles, Carey thrived in the Southern States Athletic Conference. Bobby Halford’s Crusaders are 44-9, won the SSAC regular season title with a 22-2 mark, climbed to No. 8 in the final NAIA coaches poll and earned a regional host role in the NAIA Tournament. The Crusaders swept the SSAC individual honors, with Halford — in his 38th season — winning coach of the year, R.J. Stinson player of the year and Andrew Shirah pitcher of the year. Three other Crusaders were named first-team all-conference. Carey fell short of winning the SSAC Tournament but has a chance to make amends in the five-team NAIA Opening Round tournament it will host at Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg starting Monday. The Crusaders will open Monday night against the winner of the Union (Ky.)–Houston-Victoria game earlier in the day. Hats off to Halford, a former Carey player and assistant who has had just one losing season in his long tenure as head coach. He is approaching 1,300 career wins — and has something else to shoot for. He took his 2017 team to the NAIA World Series in Idaho, where they finished third, the school’s best finish since winning the 1969 national championship. P.S. Will Warren, the former Jackson Prep (and Southeastern Louisiana) standout, got some recognition in Baseball America’s daily prospect report. A top pitching prospect in the New York Yankees’ organization, Warren threw six scoreless innings for Double-A Somerset on Thursday to run his record to 3-0 and trim his ERA to 2.45. “Warren may be one of the more underrated pitching prospects in the game,” BA reports.

27 Feb

spring fling

He is the top pitching prospect in the New York Yankees’ system, and on Sunday, in his big league spring debut, Will Warren gave Yankees brass and fans a sneak preview of what he might soon bring to The Show. The former Jackson Prep standout from Brandon threw two scoreless innings against Atlanta in a 7-0 victory at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. The Braves didn’t trot out their A-team on Sunday, but that really shouldn’t diminish Warren’s performance. The 23-year-old right-hander — the Yankees’ No. 8 prospect overall — yielded the only hit the Braves got but faced the minimum six batters, throwing 20 of 34 pitches for strikes. Drafted out of Southeastern Louisiana in 2021, Warren made his pro debut last summer and reached Double-A, winning seven games for Eastern League champ Somerset. Overall, he was 9-9 with a 3.91 ERA in 26 starts. Unveiling what has been called a “unicorn slider,” he posted 125 strikeouts and 42 walks in 129 innings. “My goals for next year are to keep having success,” Warren told nj.com last month. He isn’t on the 40-man roster, will work mainly in minor league games this spring and likely will begin 2023 back at Somerset. Sunday’s outing was a great kick-start to his year. … A bundle of Mississippians played in the opening weekend of spring training games. Notable performances from Sunday: Hunter Renfroe homered for the Los Angeles Angels; Dakota Hudson threw two scoreless innings for St. Louis; Corey Dickerson went 2-for-2 for Washington; Jordan Westburg had a hit and RBI for Baltimore; and Brent Rooker was 1-for-3 for Oakland.

18 Dec

transaction watch

News that ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton, Mississippi’s all-time MLB stolen base leader, has signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox rates some attention, but an under-the-radar signing of another South Mississippi product might be more intriguing. Petal High alumnus Demarcus Evans, a big man with a big fastball, was plucked off the minor league market by the New York Yankees. Evans pitched rather ineffectively (4.75 ERA) in the big leagues for Texas in 2020-21 (yielding a homer to Albert Pujols on the second pitch of his career) but had good numbers in the minors on his way up. He spent all of last season at Triple-A Round Rock and registered a 1.00 ERA with four saves over his last 18 games. The 6-foot-5 right-hander, only 26, became a six-year free agent after the season. Control is an issue for Evans, but if the Yankees can straighten him out, he might be a factor in their bullpen next season. He has been assigned to the Triple-A roster. … The well-traveled Hamilton, 32, played sparingly in 2022 for Miami and Minnesota but showed he can still run. With the White Sox in 2021, he hit .220 with nine bags in 71 games for a playoff team. He has 324 career stolen bases. P.S. Former Ole Miss slugger Thomas Dillard, who hit 12 homers (with a ton of strikeouts) at Double-A Biloxi last season, was released by Milwaukee. Pearl River Community College product Dexter Jordan, who played two seasons of rookie ball with Houston, also has been released.

16 Dec

back in the dugout

Barry Lyons, former Delta State star and major league catcher, has been named manager of the Lexington Legends of the independent Atlantic League. Lyons, 62, who has been involved with the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers in an off-field role since the team’s inception, has managerial experience, having worked in the Cincinnati system in the late 1990s. Biloxi native Lyons is a recent inductee into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. After an All-America career at DSU, he was drafted by the New York Mets and played for Double-A Jackson in 1985 en route to the big leagues, where he spent parts of seven seasons. He won a World Series ring with the ’86 Mets. Lyons’ nephew, Nathan, is the owner of the Lexington club. “Barry’s experiences in baseball have equipped him with a unique understanding of all aspects of the game, and we can’t wait to see what he does with the team on the field,” Nathan Lyons said in a team release. … Jackson native and ex-big leaguer Stan Cliburn is the manager of the Atlantic League’s Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. P.S. Mississippi State product Zac Houston has signed a minor league deal with the New York Yankees and been assigned to the Double-A Somerset roster. Houston, a 6-foot-5 right-hander, went 2-7 with a 5.47 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in the Detroit system in 2022. He missed much of the ’21 season with an injury. Drafted by the Tigers in 2016, Houston has a 2.98 career ERA in the minors.

17 Nov

roster watch

Colby White, whose meteoric rise in the Tampa Bay system was derailed by an arm injury last spring, has made the Rays’ 40-man roster. White, a Hattiesburg native drafted out of Mississippi State in 2019, had Tommy John surgery last April and missed the 2022 season. In 2021, the right-handed reliever rose through four levels of the minors, never missing a beat. He had a 1.86 ERA at Triple-A Durham and earned a non-roster invite to spring training. In 58 pro games, he has a 1.76 ERA and 12 saves. Look for him to debut with Tampa Bay sometime in 2023. … J.P. France, another ex-State standout, was added to Houston’s 40-man list after putting up a 3.90 ERA as a swingman at Triple-A Sugar Land. France, a right-hander, was drafted in the 14th round in 2018. He’ll try to earn a spot in the world champion Astros’ loaded bullpen in the spring. … Former Southern Miss star Kirk McCarty was designated for assignment by Cleveland, meaning he’s off the 40-man and available as a waiver claim by other clubs. The diminutive lefty made his MLB debut for Cleveland last season and went 4-3, 4.54. He was 4-1, 3.38, at Triple-A Columbus, bouncing up and down during the season. The Guardians actually lost him on waivers to Baltimore last summer but reclaimed him shortly thereafter. … Ex-MSU standout Jake Mangum was left unprotected by the New York Mets, who could potentially lose the switch-hitting outfielder in next month’s Rule 5 draft. Mangum hit .306 last season between Double-A and Triple-A and is a .284 career hitter in three pro campaigns. … Among Atlanta’s 40-man additions is shortstop Braden Shewmake, who played for the 2021 Double-A South champion Mississippi Braves. Shewmake, who goes 6 feet 4, 190 pounds, batted just .228 with 12 homers for the M-Braves but had several hot streaks and plays a good shortstop. He hit .259 at Triple-A Gwinnett in 2022 before going down with a knee injury in August. He is the Braves’ No. 5 prospect (MLB Pipeline). P.S. Silver City native and Ole Miss alum Jack Reed, who got World Series rings with the New York Yankees in 1961 and ’62, died on Nov. 10. Reed hit .233 in 129 big league at-bats from 1961-63 and frequently was used as a defensive replacement/pinch runner for Mickey Mantle. Reed’s one homer was a game-winner in a 22-inning contest in 1962.