Post Season Notes on Jacob Nottingham

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers-Workouts

Feb 21, 2016; Maryvale, AZ, USA; Jacob Nottingham works out in the bullpen during spring training camp at Maryvale Baseball Park. Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

We’re now well into the off-season, and each player is getting their turn at being rated and reviewed, sliced and diced, evaluated and ranked.  I’ll share what I’ve seen lately on our Jacob Nottingham.

First though, here are Nottingham’s official numbers for the year:  G-112 PA-456 AB-415 R-46 H-97 2B-14 3B-0 HR-11 RBI-37 SB-9 CS-2 BB-29 SO-138 BA-.234 OBP-.295 SLG-.347 OPS-.641 TB-144 GDP-10 HPB-8 SH-1 HF-3 IBB-1.

This BA/OBP/SLG/OPS line compares with the .267/.333/.416/.748 line he has compiled over his entire four-year minor league career.  Obviously a drop, so how do the “experts” see him?

Well,  John Sickels at SB Nation Minor League Ball is succinct but not encouraging.  He has Nottingham ranked at 36th on his list of the 50 top hitting prospects in the minors. Sickels gives him a grade of B+, but calls his season “very shaky”, and although he is still just 21, his stock is rated as “down”.  In Nottingham’s defense, let me point out that he wasn’t even on Sickels’ 2015 list.

On the other hand, Jonathan Powell at Outside Pitch Sports Network gives a more detailed review for Nottingham on the occasion of his participation in this year’s Arizona Fall League. Powell states that Nottingham’s blocking and receiving skills still need “considerable” development, pointing out the 19 and 21 passed balls he allowed in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Trying to find a positive note to his drop in offense, Powell notes that Nottingham did steal nine bases this year, which is the most he has stolen so far in his career.

Powell also wonders if Nottingham’s offensive drop is tied to the Shuckers’ poor production all around, as “the Shuckers produced the least amount of runs in the Southern League (471) by a large margin (next team up had 510) and also possessed the worst average (.235), on-base percentage (.304) and slugging (.338).”  Thanks for pointing that out, Jonathan.

Powell states that the Arizona Fall League should be good for Nottingham, and that seems to be coming true.  “So far through two games, Nottingham is hitting .333/.333/.667 with one RBI and two strikeouts.”

To end his report, Powell still sees potential for Nottingham to develop into the Brewers’ home-grown talent behind the plate.  “[H]e stands as the only catcher in the team’s top 30 prospects. Currently, the youngest catcher on the 40-man roster is Andrew Susac, who will be 27 by the time the 2017 season rolls around (Nottingham, by contrast, will be 22 next spring).”

I’ll be relaying more about our Shuckers in off-season reviews, as I catch them around the Web.


Heading Into Second Home Stand

As the Shuckers begin their second home stand, here are a few thoughts on their first home stand and road trip.

The spanking we put on Chattanooga helped take the bad taste out of the mouth from last year’s Southern League Championship Series. And I’ll say it one last time: We should have had home field advantage in that SLCS, since we had the league’s best overall record, and with home field advantage I betcha we could have taken that series, and completed the perfect Cinderella season.

Were we really that good this weekend in Mobile, or were the BayBears just that bad?  Boy did it seem they were flat, at the same time we were hitting on all cylinders.  I guess we’ll find out as we face this red hot Pensacola team.

It is great to see Tyrone Taylor on a tear.  This offensive production is what we have been hoping, and waiting, to see.  Whatever work they did with him over the off-season has obviously worked!

Brett Phillips is deservedly quickly becoming a fan favorite.  He seems to be quite a fine young man.

Jacob Nottingham is huge.

Pitching has impressed, from the starters down to the bull pen.

On the radio, the Shuckers have Thaddeus Krzus taking over the play-by-play from Chris Harris for the middle innings at home games.  Thaddeus does a serviceable job, in a lovable geeky way, but why do we have an intern calling games?  Is it a cost thing?  Now, I call Mr. Krzus an intern because that’s what his Twitter handle indicates, but on LinkenIn he lists Broadcast Assistant, so I don’t know.  If the Shuckers are looking for another person in the broadcast booth, how about kicking it up a notch, with someone local with major league experience, like maybe Barry Lyons?  Or what is Matt Lawton doing these days?

The SunHerald did a piece fretting about the attendance figures so far at our home games, but almost in the same breath they acknowledged kids are still in school, and there have been other big events competing for folks’ attention (Black Spring Break, the senior golf tournament, high school baseball, today’s Crawfish Festival., etc.).  I’m not worried, yet.

Now, here are some my field notes on the food items at MGM Park:

The highly touted grilled triple cheese sandwich was just meh, but it was made for me during the national anthem, so I’ll reserve final judgement until I can try it again.

The shrimp roumoulade was mostly mayonnaise, with no detectable paprika or Creole mustard, or anything else. Maybe I got a batch that didn’t get the spices sufficiently mixed in. Maybe this was a problem with quality control. I kept the baseball cap it came in, and that is now on my desk at work, so that’s good.

The boudin-on-a-bun was very good. Grilled right in front of me, with freshly cooked veggies piled on.  Now that’s one I can recommend.

There’s so many intriguing food items to try at this ballpark, it’s almost a shame there’s a game going on to get in the way. Almost!

Finally, the Crawfish Boil Races are cute – a fine local adaptation of the famous Sausage Races in Milwaukee.  Are the Shuckers going to keep stats on the races, like the Brewers do?  I know one thing, don’t bet on The Potato.  He’s lame.  No, literally, he appears to be lame.

Biloxi Shuckers’ 194 Day Off-Season Coming To An End – What We’ve Learned

I am so psyched. Today’s exhibition game with the Milwaukee Brewers will bring the Biloxi Shuckers’ 194 day off-season finally to an end. After playing a game with the first Major League team to appear on the Coast in 78 years, and another exhibition game against Jackson State University on Monday, the Shuckers can turn their attention to their Opening Day rematch against the Chattanooga Lookouts.

After last September’s heart-breaking, Cinderella-story-destroying series loss to the Lookouts for the Southern League championship, the off-season seemed awfully, awfully long.  And I still maintain that with the League’s best overall record, we should have had home-field advantage for that series, and who knows if maybe that would have led to a different outcome?  The Southern League Championship was the only thing missing from a season already worthy of Cooperstown.

There were several very noteworthy things that we Shuckers fans learned during this long off-season.  Here are the Top Ten:

10. Immediately after our season came to an end, the Brewers called up six, count ’em six, Shuckers to play the last couple of weeks with the parent club.  Pitchers Yhonathan Barrios, Adrian Houser, Jorge Lopez, & Tyler Wagner, outfielder Michael Reed and infielder Yadiel Rivera were extended the honor, and Rivera was the first to get a hit.

9. The Biloxi Shuckers were recognized as the Minor League Team of the Year by Baseball America, and their thrilling 14-inning home opening victory on June 6, after two endless months on the road, was recognized by as the Minor League Game of the Year.

8. We had to say goodbye to manager Carlos Suberos and GM Buck Rogers, but said hello to new GM Chuck Arnold and manager Mike Guerrero.  Suberos was promoted by the parent club, and we’ll actually get to see him today as an infield coach for the Brewers.  Buck took his talents to the West Coast.  We will miss both, as they were an integral part of the Shuckers’ unforgettable first season.  Arnold’s last stint was as Vice President of Sales for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.  Here’s hoping a Sales guy is what the Shuckers need for their second season in a new market.

7. Our Jorge Lopez was declared the Milwaukee Brewers’ top pitching prospect, but his 2 1/2 year old son has unfortunately spent most of his life in hospitals fighting an autoimmune disorder. His will obviously be a special story this year.

6. MGM Park was number 21 on Southern Living magazine’s list of 50 Best Places in the South Now.

5. The Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks completed a 5-player trade that had major impacts on several Biloxi Shuckers.   The Brewers’ veteran Jean Segura was sent to the D-backs, and this seemingly cleared the path for our Orlando Arcia to become Milwaukee’s shortstop of the future.  Another Shucker, Yadiel Rivera, appears to be slated to hold down the shortstop position for the Brewers until Arcia is ready for The Show.   The Shuckers’ pitcher Tyler Wagner was also sent to the Diamondbacks.  From the D-backs the Brewers organization got another “highly regarded” shortstop, 19 year old Isan Diaz, who was MVP of the Pioneer League last year, so maybe we can look forward to seeing him here in Biloxi in the next few years.

4. Baseball America ranked the Milwaukee Brewers’ farm system as 9th best in baseball, up from 21st last year, and 29th two years ago. Biloxi Shuckers fans are extremely lucky to land a team just at the moment of that organization’s ascendancy. I hope for the long term viability of the franchise in this market that we don’t get spoiled!

3. Tim Bennett, co-owner of the Biloxi Shuckers, is a Libertarian.  Now, this blog is about baseball, not politics, and I usually couldn’t care less about the political views of players or management.  However, since libertarians are self-declared no-joke proponents of very limited government, and since government played a large role in providing the Shuckers a stadium in which to play their games, I would be very interested to hear how Mr. Bennett reconciles the two.  He was already fascinating to me, for being an African-American part owner of a Mississippi professional sports team, and for being buds with ex-NBA star and Biloxi Shuckers investor Tracy McGrady (“T-Mac”).

2. We landed Jacob Nottingham in a trade with the A’s. called him “one of the best caching prospects in the minor leagues.”

And the most noteworthy thing we learned this off-season?  Well, of course it was the fact that

1. Brett Phillips has the best laugh in baseball.

I can’t wait.  My open-heart surgery last year is a distant memory now.  This year I have the energy and desire to really follow this team and keep up this blog.  Let’s play ball!

American Star Vodka Field at MGM Park

How did I miss this?  Did y’all know that back in June American Star Vodka purchased the naming rights for the field at MGM Park?  When I became aware of this fact, I just had to chuckle and slowly shake my head.  As I explained in my first post, I am from Mississippi – a sixth-generation Mississippian, thank-you very much – but from upstate, where attitudes can be a little different than on the Coast.  How different?  Well for one thing, I don’t believe an alcoholic beverage would stand a chance of purchasing naming rights to a sports stadium, no matter how much money they offered.

A little history, if I may.  I find that few people on the Mississippi Gulf Coast remember or ever knew that alcoholic prohibition lasted in Mississippi until 1966.  That means all alcohol – beer, wine, liquor, you name it – was illegal everywhere in this state before that date.  This was long after Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment in 1933, ended Prohibition for the rest of the country.  It took an upswell of protest from the hoi-poloi of the state after a famous raid of a country club in Jackson – with guys in suits and ladies in pearls being lead off to jail in handcuffs – for the legislature to meet and pass our first “local option” laws.  Local option meant jurisdictions were allowed to decide for themselves whether to legalize alcohol, which led to the patchwork of “wet” and “dry” counties and cities you see to this day across Mississippi.

And then there was the Coast…which was…different.  I have a friend whose father ran a bar on the Coast from shortly after World War II until he retired the 1980’s.  When I pointed out to my friend that until 1966, that bar was technically illegal in the state of Mississippi, he objected strenuously.  He said his dad’s bar operated openly, was very popular, and even paid taxes regularly.  My friend said a sheriff’s deputy would come by every Friday afternoon to collect a cash “tax” from the bar owner, and that made it legitimate.  Also, WLOX ran a story a few years ago celebrating the 60th anniversary of a local beer-distributing company, apparently unaware of (or overlooking) the fact that until 1966 that company was distributing an illegal product.

[As an aside I also remember travelling as a child to the Coast with my father on business, who worked for the newspaper in Jackson.  I remember seeing slot machines in the lobby of the Broadwater Hotel, even though gambling was illegal in Mississippi until 1990.]

I should say here no one from upstate *really* ever complained about the alcohol on the Coast; it was to be honest one of the allures to visiting, which my family did just about every summer.  I believe that by 1966 the hypocrisy was obvious and untenable to a majority of Mississippians.

A lot of these “dry” attitudes continue upstate.  When I moved down here in the late 1980’s, I was struck by the branded liquor stores.  Where I grew up, in the capital city Jackson, liquor stores where very understated, and did very little advertising.  In fact, they didn’t even call themselves “liquor stores”.  They were called “package stores”, I guess to denote package liquor, with usually a small sign by the door with just those words.  The airport outside Jackson, embarrassed that it was stranded in a “dry” county, and found itself unable to offer even a beer to trans-state passengers, had to appeal to the legislature to obtain a special “resort” status.

So you can see with that history, and the differences between upstate Mississippi and the Coast, why I found it amusing that the field the local baseball team plays on, is named for an evil alky-hol.

Back and Ready For the Playoffs

Well, the docs said it take six to eight weeks for me to recover from heart surgery, and damn if they weren’t right.  After six weeks, I was able to start back to work, but my boss was gracious to let me do half days at first.  That was much appreciated, as I would come home at lunch and just crash hard.  This week, seven weeks post-surgery, I was able to do full days, but still come home pretty worn out.  The trend is positive, though, and I feel really motivated this weekend to get active on this blog again, both because I believe I have the strength for it, and also we are headed into the Southern League playoffs.

When I headed off for surgery at the beginning of July, the Biloxi Shuckers had just won the first half of the season in a fairy tale manner worthy of Cooperstown.  Here in the second half they haven’t done as well, basically playing just .500 ball, but still surprisingly (mathematically at least) still in contention for the second-half crown.  I’m not holding my breath, and really I’m OK with us not grabbing the second-half, especially if it means conserving our players for the playoffs.  For example, not exhausting our bullpen, as might have been the temptation in last night’s blowout.

I really wish for the playoffs we could get back a few of the guys we’ve sent to Triple-A.  What’s it been, seven, eight guys? Pitchers Hiram Burgos, Jaye Chapman, Austin Ross and Brent Suter, and position players Brandon Macias, Michael Reed and Kyle Wren. [I miss anybody?] The Sky Sox aren’t going anywhere, so they would be free.  Aside from Hiram Burgos, none seem to be liable for a September call up by the parent club Brewers. Don’t you know we’d be unbeatable if we had any group of them back, in addition to the firepower and arms we still have?

Not that we’re lacking much as it is.  I mean, we have the Southern League Manager of the Year (Carlos Subero) and Most Outstanding Pitcher (Jorge Lopez). *AND* Lopez and Orlando Arcia have been named to the Southern League All-Star Team. And we’ve added the scorching hot Garrett Cooper.  Just need for these guys to get into playoff mode, and I think we have a great opportunity to have the perfect finish to a magical season.

As we head to the climax of the season, let’s see if I can update this blog at least daily.  There’s a lot to cover!

As always, comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Not Yet

Recovery from open-heart surgery is tougher than I thought!  I thought with all this time off from work, I’d have plenty of time to write about the topics I’ve been wanting to address here, like Military Discounts, Barry Lyons (Finally), and the recent trades and roster changes. But damn, if I’m not still down for the count, here three and a half weeks after the surgery.  I just don’t have the energy or focus to write like I want to.  I promise to get back to the blog as soon as I am able, so thanks for your forbearance.

MGM Park West Paws

Way back in high school, when people used the term “south paw”, I thought they were saying “south pa”, without the “w”.  The only way that made sense to me at the time was if “pa” was the abbreviation for Pennsylvania, so in using that phrase they were saying that someone was from southern Pennsylvania, like maybe from the greater Philadelphia area.  I dunno.  Who knew?

I cannot recall now if the clarification some time later of the phrase’s true meaning – a left-hander – came with public or with only private humiliation.

With that personal history, I now make it a point to educate any youngsters that are with me watching a baseball game of the phrase, it’s meaning, and it’s history related to left-handed pitchers in traditionally laid out baseball fields.

And then along comes MGM Park.  When I first saw plans for the stadium, with home plate at the northwest corner of the lot, instead of the southwest, I honestly thought it was a mistake.  Certainly we would lay out our stadium in a traditional orientation, wouldn’t we?  Why would we not?

I am a baseball purist.  I believe the American League – with its God-forsaken designated hitter – plays a game which should not be referred to as baseball.  I pine for a 154 game schedule. (Could its return be possible?)  I can accept pitch clocks, because I believe a baseball game is traditionally a 2 to 2 1/2 hours long, not 4 hours long.

When the stadium construction cam finally made it clear it was being aligned to the northwest, my baseball purist anger swelled.  How can this be?  Lefty pitchers won’t be south paws, they’ll be…west paws!  What an outrage!  We should do…or say…something!


Brent Suter, a Biloxi Shuckers West Paw.

So I fumed. Just ask my wife, who eventually had to assure me the world would continue to turn regardless what direction a double-A minor league baseball stadium was aligned.  All through the lead up to the season, and during the long opening road trip, I steamed.  Even more than the team name “Shuckers”, which I was slowly warming to, this layout thing bugged me.  How could a team starting from scratch be so by-the-book on everything else, and yet screw this up?

And then came opening night.  We were there with everyone else, and saw for ourselves first hand the stadium layout.  And then it made sense.  Of course a stadium named “MGM Park” would want to have the Beau Rivage casino and hotel in prominent view.  With home plate at the northwest corner, most fans get a clear view of the people that had a large hand in making our team a reality.  Fans also see a few of the other buildings in Biloxi’s “skyline”, like the Hard Rock casino (including the guitar), and the hospital.  I guess I am OK with that.

Also, I realized any other layout wouldn’t have as good a view. Home plate at the southwest corner wouldn’t give fans a view of much of anything, maybe the hospital, and at the southeast corner fans would’ve had a great view of…the highway.

Winds I’m not so sure about.  In the existing layout, the (what turns out to be) prevailing southerly breeze flows in from around the Beau Rivage, over the right field foul area, and out over the left field fence.  I can live with that.  What if home plate were at the southeast corner?  Would the stands largely block those southerlies?  Or would they still find a way in and out over the outfield?  That I don’t know.

So, MGM Park has a quirk, and I am at peace with that.  You can now amaze (annoy) your guests with this fascinating tidbit of “west paw” trivia.