Jackson (Mariners), 84-55 (.604)
|Most Valuable Player
Tyler O’Neill, of, Jackson (Mariners)
|Pitcher Of The Year
Ryan Yarbrough, lhp, Jackson (Mariners)
|Did Not Qualify
Edwin Diaz, rhp, Jackson (Mariners)
See Also: 2016 League Top 20 Index
See Also: League Top 20 Prospects Historical Index
A trio of promising middle infielders—two of them Braves farmhands—headlined this year’s Top 20 Prospects ranking for the Double-A Southern League.
The Mississippi double-play combination of shortstop Dansby Swanson and second baseman Ozzie Albies began the year not as teammates but as rivals for role of Braves shortstop of the future. Swanson took a clear and decisive lead in the race by manning shortstop for the five weeks in July and August that he and Albies were actually M-Braves teammates.
Few full-season leagues feature as little run-scoring as the SL, so pitchers tend to dominate, though this year’s ranking features an even split between position players and pitchers. Power lefthanders stood out among the pitchers, and southpaws occupy five of the top six spots given to pitchers, led by Biloxi’s Josh Hader and Mississippi’s Sean Newcomb, who both could be minor mechanical tweaks away from becoming frontline big league starters.
The Braves and Rays each placed five prospects in the top 20, and those clubs’ affiliates each advanced to the SL playoffs, Mississippi on the strength of its pitching (league-leading 3.10 ERA) and Montgomery on the strength of its offense (league-leading 4.59 runs per game). The M-Braves claimed a wild card and advanced to the SL finals, where they lost to Jackson, the Mariners affiliate that also bounced Montgomery in the first round of the playoffs.
1. Dansby Swanson, ss, Mississippi (Braves) |
The Diamondbacks made Swanson the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, only to trade him to the Braves for Shelby Miller five months later. While Miller fizzled in Arizona, Swanson moved in the opposite direction.
Swanson, who grew up in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, Ga., began the season at high Class A Carolina but quickly hit his way to Mississippi on April 30 and then to Atlanta on Aug. 17. He is a well-rounded player whose ability to hit, run and defend stand above his other tools. Swanson profiles as a first-division shortstop and probable No. 2 hitter.
Swanson produces hard contact to all fields and exercises the patience to draw walks, making him at least an above-average hitter. He drives most of his extra-base hits to his pull side and has average power. His plus speed will enhance his offensive value by helping him take extra bases, including the occasional steal. SL managers recognized Swanson as the circuit’s best defensive shortstop, lauding him for his above-average range and arm. He led all full-season minor league shortstops with a rate of 3.27 assists per game.
“He’s way more mature defensively than anybody else in the league at the position,” Biloxi manager Mike Guerrero said.