The Southern League is stacked with top-100 prospects, as a whopping 11 of our Prospects Live top 100 will begin the season in the southeast with even more likely to reach the Southern League on their trek to the majors.
There are some elite prospects in the Southern League and the headliners are two top ten prospects in Jo Adell for Mobile and Alex Kirilloff for the Twins new affiliate in Pensacola. Some other interesting power/speed combinations to watch are Taylor Trammell for Chattanooga, Cristian Pache for Mississippi and Jazz Chisholm for Jackson and you can find them all within our Prospects Live top 40.
Top 100 Prospects:
#8 - Jo Adell, OF LAA - Mobile BayBears
#10 - Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B MIN - Pensacola Blue Wahoos
#19 - Taylor Trammell, OF CIN - Chattanooga Lookouts
#20 - Cristian Pache, OF ATL - Mississippi Braves
#38 - Jazz Chisholm, SS ARI - Jackson Generals
#41 - Jesus Sanchez, OF TB - Montgomery Biscuits
#42 - Ian Anderson, RHP ATL - Mississippi Braves* Guessing
#55 - Nico Hoerner, SS CHC - Tennessee Smokies
#61 - Brendan McKay, LHP/DH TB - Montgomery Biscuits
#65 - Drew Waters, OF CIN - Mississippi Braves
#74 - Brusdar Graterol, RHP MIN - Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Nico Hoerner, SS - Tennessee Smokies
2018 first round pick Nico Hoerner will begin his season with the Tennessee Smokies. After a strong showing in the Midwest League last season and the Arizona Fall League I don’t think Hoerner will be in Double-A very long. There’s a chance Hoerner reaches the bigs this year, and our own Jason Pennini has been all over Hoerner’s progress at Cubs instructs and Spring Training.
All-Prospect Team Pre-Season:
C - Daulton Varsho (Mobile)
1B - Alex Kirilloff (Pensacola)
2B - Jahmai Jones (Mobile)
SS - Jazz Chisholm (Jackson)
3B - CJ Alexander (Mississippi)
OF - Jo Adell (Mobile)
OF - Cristian Pache (Mississippi)
OF - Taylor Trammell (Chattanooga)
UTIL - Nico Hoerner (Tennessee)
P - Ian Anderson (Mississippi)
P - Brendan McKay (Montgomery)
P - Brusdar Graterol (Pensacola)
Team By Team STORY LINES
Biloxi Up in Arms
The headliner of the Brewers Double-A affiliate is the rotation, and it features a trio of interesting right-handers in Braden Webb, Trey Supak and Marcos Diplan. All three are inside the Brewers top 30, with Webb ranked 13th, Supak 14th, and Diplan 25th. Webb has the highest ceiling of the trio and projects as a mid-rotation arm. Supak is a future number four for me and Diplan’s live arm is a five starter or bullpen piece. Former first round pick Trent Grisham headlines the offense, and he’s looking to find that extra gear. He’s had positive walk rates throughout his pro career but hasn’t hit for average or power. Weston Wilson profiles as a future bench piece and saw a spike in his power output for 2018. He’s a bat to watch, especially if he can find even another level with the bat.
Birmingham Outfield is Deep
The Birmingham Barons will feature one of the best outfields in all of Minor League Baseball as they open the season with Micker Adolfo, Blake Rutherford, and Luis Gonzalez with Luis Alexander Basabe opening the season on the Injured List. Micker Adolfo has 70-raw power and is just focusing on staying healthy and getting at-bats. He’s already on the 40-man despite having less than 1,300 professional at bats to his name. He’s rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery and might be limited out of the gate. Blake Rutherford hit .293/.345/.436 last season after a disappointing 2017. The former Yankees first rounder has burgeoning power with 41 extra base hits and 15 stolen bases. Gonzalez is a tool shed. He’s one of the most underrated prospects in all of baseball. He hit .307/.368/.498 with 59 extra-base hits and plus defense in centerfield. Speaking of plus defense, Luis Alexander Basabe should bring just that after he returns from the IL. You saw Basabe flash his power, speed and arm during the Future’s Game.
Lookout for Chattanooga
The Lookouts roster is another deep group, with potential impact players on the mound and in the box. The big-bodied Tony Santillan can touch 95 with the fastball and has a plus slider which he uses to miss bats and get ground balls. Santillan is looking to develop a third pitch, specifically against lefties, and is looking to get that 11.5 SwStr% to translate in the strikeout numbers. He struck out less than a hitter per inning last season despite that swinging strike rate. He could take a big step forward in 2019. Former first rounder Tyler Stephenson is looking to put that plus power tool on display, I’m just hoping he can stay healthy and the below average hit tool can develop. The outfield on this roster can rival the Birmingham club, and is headlined by 19th ranked prospect Taylor Trammell. Trammell is a potential five tool athlete and is trying to get the power to flash more in games. Jose Siri is a fun, emotional player and a plus defender in centerfield. He can look like the best player at times, or the worst. Just ask your iPhone. TJ Friedl has an interesting background and is going to be a popular fourth outfielder. He can hit, run and field but doesn’t for enough power to profile in a corner.
Jackson Generals Command the Southern League
The defending Southern League champions bring a deep roster to the battlefield and are strong contenders to win the league again because of it. Jazz Chisholm is one of the most exciting players in the Minor Leagues as he hit .272/.329/.513 with 25 homers and 17 stolen bases. Jazz is an aggressive player which could also be his biggest downfall. It’s a delicate balance but he’s going to stick at short and can hit. He’s joined on the infield by Pavin Smith and Drew Ellis. Smith is looking to find that power stroke while Ellis has the power but is looking to make more consistent contact. It’s surprising that Taylor Widener is repeating the Southern League after striking out 176 batters in 137 innings here last year. The strikeout rate jumped in 2018, he cut the walks and the slider is a plus pitch. He’s working on a changeup and shouldn’t be here long. Emilio Vargas is an athletic arm looking to develop a third pitch. The Generals have the best catching duo in the league in Daulton Varsho and Dominic Miroglio. Varsho can hit, but is working on his defense behind the dish. Miroglio can hit and catch. He would’ve won the batting title in the Cal League if he qualified and is a future big league backstop. This might be the combo we see in Arizona in three years.
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp are Tooled Up
The pitching staff is led by two almost polar opposite arms in Jordan Yamamoto and Jorge Guzman. Yamamoto is the pitchability arm that uses sequencing and a plus breaking ball to make up for what he lacks with the fastball. Guzman has the fastball but not much else and is likely a future reliever. Bryson Brigman and Joe Dunand headline the infield. Brigman can pick it up the middle and can run. He puts the bat on the ball but features little to no power. Dunand has the power stroke but concerns about his slow bat and lack of a hit tool could slow him down. The Jacksonville outfield is where flyballs will go to die with rabbits all over in Magneuris Sierra, Brian Miller, Stone Garrett and Anfernee Seymour. All of these guys can fly. Miller and Sierra profile as plus defenders. This group probably won’t hit 15 homers between the four of them though. Worth noting that Sixto Sanchez will likely join this pitching staff when he is deemed ready to go. He’s beginning the season in extended spring training.
Mississippi Braves Full of Big Leaguers
It’s no surprise that the Braves have a talented roster. Ian Anderson is the best pitching prospect in the league but should move quick. If you blink you’ll miss him. Anderson will likely be promoted to Triple-A when the logjam and the question marks surrounding the big league rotation settle themselves. Anderson can miss bats with the best of them, and is just working on throwing more consistent strikes. He has the highest ceiling of any arm in the system which is a terrifying statement. He’s a future front of the rotation starter. He’s joined in the rotation by a trio of exciting lefties in Kyle Muller, Joey Wentz and Tucker Davidson. The outfield is nasty and is led by Cristian Pache and Drew Waters. Two five-tool studs. Pache might be the best defender in all of the minor leagues, and the bat is developing into an asset in itself. The power is growing, and he has a legitimate chance to finish the season ranked inside the top ten if the power growth continues. Drew Waters is buried a bit in a deep Braves system but he flashes all five tools. He’s a potential future 20-20 threat. CJ Alexander is at the hot corner. He’s an intriguing late round pick that has hit for power thus far.
Mobile Rolling in the Deep Even as They Wait to Say Hello to Adell
Jo Adell is the big name on this list but unfortunately he will begin the season on the shelf after that horrific leg injury this spring. He is due to return in a few weeks. He’s the most athletic and chiseled specimen in the minor leagues and is a future star. If you’re in the area make sure you see him before he goes to Salt Lake. He won’t be here long when healthy. He’s joined on offense by Jahmai Jones. Jones has some of the strongest hands in the minors and his power tool is stronger than what the numbers show. He should be more comfortable after the move to second base so I’m expecting the bat to take a step forward here. Brandon Marsh is also on this Mobile roster. When Adell returns it will be interesting to see how they deploy the outfield. Marsh is regarded as one of the best defensive outfielders in the minors, and he’s growing into his power as well. Marsh needs to develop the hit tool a bit more, but as of now profiles as a six or seven hitter that will flash big-time tools. Jack Kruger is also worth mentioning because he’s absolutely a big league catcher. Needs to hit a bit more to be a starter but his skill set and athleticism give him a backup floor. On the bump this team features one of my favorite under-the-radar arms in lefty Patrick Sandoval. He’s an advanced pitchability guy that can throw all four pitches for strikes.
Montgomery Biscuits are led by McKay and Sanchez
The main focus on the Montgomery roster will be on Brendan McKay and what McKay does now that he is no longer playing first base. The two-way aspect to his game is still very much alive, but he’s going to strictly DH when he isn’t pitching which should make the workload more manageable. It’s a good move and one that is necessary for him if he’s going to play both ways in my opinion. McKay proved to be too advanced on the mound in the Florida State League last year, and should hit Triple-A after a few turns in Montgomery. The buttery smooth actions of Lucius Fox at shortstop are a joy to watch, and he’s on the shortlist of best defenders at the six in the minor leagues. The bat though...well at least we get to watch him play shortstop. He can run though, so when he gets on he’s a threat to steal a bag. Jesus Sanchez is the big bat in this lineup and can hit .280 with 25-30 homers at his peak. He needs to work on being more consistent as sometimes the swing can get long and he will fly open at times. If he can stay within himself he’s a middle of the lineup bat.
Pensacola Blue Wahoos Have a Pair of Top Prospects
Alex Kirilloff is the big name here, but like Adell he will also begin the season on the injured list. Kirilloff has been moved to first base this season by the Twins, so we should expect to see that upon his return. There’s a chance you’re looking at the best non-Vlad hit tool in the upper minors and he can win batting titles in the future. Brusdar Graterol has easy velocity and will just abuse hitters with his 70-grade fastball, change and slider. This will be his second season removed from Tommy John surgery so I’m expecting big things from the stocky righty. Graterol is a future number two starter if his quality of strikes improves like we think it should.
Hoerner and Full Rotation Lead the Smokies
Nico Hoerner will begin his first professional season in Double-A after drawing rave reviews in the AFL, instructs, and spring training. Hoerner has shed some of the concerns with the Stanford swing and has begun to drive the ball since getting drafted. He’s going to stick up the middle and there’s a non-zero chance he’s playing in Wrigley this summer. I expect him to move quickly. The rotation for this Double-A squad is sneaky good with Keegan Thompson, Thomas Hatch, Tyson Miller, Cory Abbott and Justin Steele all profiling as future big league arms for me. This is my pick for best overall pitching staff in the league, non-Mississippi Braves division of course.
Prospect Stock Down: Tyler Jay, P - Pensacola
A former first-round pick, Jay has been a disappointment thus far for the Twins. A starting pitcher to begin his career in pro ball, Jay is now a full time reliever, but one that doesn’t miss enough bats. He’s beginning his fourth straight season in which he will touch Double-A for the Twins.
Royce Lewis, SS (#1 on our Twins Top-30) - Lewis is beginning the 2019 season in the Florida State League with the Ft. Myers club. He won’t be there long and will join fellow top ten prospect Alex Kirilloff in the Pensacola infield in about a month or so. His elite bat speed and athleticism immediately stand out.
Sixto Sanchez, P (#1 on our Marlins Top-30) - Sixto had an arm injury late last season that also scrapped the Phillies plans to send him to the Arizona Fall League. He’s supposedly healthy now, and did pass a physical but the Marlins are correctly taking the passive approach here and starting off Sixto in extended spring training. There’s a lot riding on this arm, and if he’s healthy, he has top of the rotation stuff. He will report to Jacksonville once he’s deemed game ready.
Vidal Brujan, 2B (#7 in our Rays Top-30) - For what Brujan lacks in size he makes up for with his athleticism and explosiveness. The second baseman is an aggressive hitter, but one with power and top of the scale speed which make him an exciting player. Brujan will need to tone down the aggressiveness a bit, and if he can fine tune the hit tool while playing in High-A he should move to Double-A very quickly.
Luis Robert, OF (#3 on our White Sox Top-30) - We are blessed enough to get new Cuban import Victor Victor Mesa in the Southern League so why not Luis Robert? The White Sox are sending Robert back to the Carolina League least year where he hit .244 over 32 games after coming back from a thumb injury. Since he’s repeating the league, Robert could be up in the first month if he hits. Robert is a plus athlete, and a physical specimen but needs that strength to translate into more game power as we’re still waiting for his first stateside affiliated homer.
Nick Madrigal, SS (#4 on our White Sox Top-30) - The Oregon State product is an advanced hitter and is projected to reach the big leagues as soon as next year, so it only makes sense to have him hit Birmingham this season. He excels at putting the bat on the ball, defensively and running the bases. The only real deficiency in his game is the lack of home run pop, but he has the type of barrel control and contact oriented approach that he could end up surprising people with the power.