Image credit: Eloy Jimenez (Photo by Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images)
The Southern League sees less offense than any Double-A or Triple-A circuit and features the lowest batting average (.246) in full-season ball. Thus it is a league where pitchers tend to excel at the expense of batters.
That’s what makes the performances by Birmingham outfielder Eloy Jimenez and Biloxi second baseman Keston Hiura so impressive. These talented hitters rank as the top prospects in the SL and should see improved results as they continue to advance, especially in terms of batting average and power production.
Birmingham (White Sox) and Montgomery (Rays) each placed four prospects on this top 20 ranking. The Barons nearly had a fifth in the form of 22-year-old outfielder Luis Basabe, but he just missed the cut. The Biscuits made the playoffs but lost in the first round.
League champion Jackson, led by top manager prospect Shelley Duncan, succeeded on the strength of its pitching staff by leading the SL in strikeouts and opponent average (.229). Diamondbacks pitching prospects Taylor Widener and Jon Duplantier helped lead the Generals to the title. They were joined by California League pitcher of the year Emilio Vargas in the second half and playoffs, but he didn’t pitch enough innings to qualify for the SL ranking.