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2021 Double-A South Top 10 Prospects

Shea Langeliers Eddiekelly
Shea Langeliers (Photo by Eddie Kelly)

The Southern League dropped two franchises and became Double-A South but was otherwise the same hot, humid, pitcher-friendly league it has always been. No affiliated league saw fewer runs scored per game in 2021.

Dropped from the league were Jacksonville, which moved to Triple-A, and Jackson, which lost its affiliation. Mobile relocated to Rocket City in Madison, Ala., where the park played small. Just two Double-A parks saw more home runs.

The prospect depth in the league was below-average, even for an eight-team league, though a number of pitchers stood out to scouts. In particular, the crop of lefthanders was strong, led by the Reds’ Nick Lodolo, the Angels’ Reid Detmers and the Marlins’ Jake Eder. Braves catcher Shea Langeliers and Reds shortstop Jose Barrero have the type of up-the-middle upside to start for many seasons.

Among the first-round picks who played in the league long enough to qualify for this ranking, but who didn’t make the final cut were Marlins outfielder JJ Bleday, Braves shortstop Braden Shewmake and lefthander Ethan Small, shortstop Brice Turang and outfielder Garrett Mitchell, all three of the Brewers.

1. Shea Langeliers, C, Mississippi (Braves)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Baylor, 2019 (1st round).

Langeliers made a big impression on league managers with his combination of advanced catching ability and impact potential in the batter’s box.

He won the best power prospect, best defensive catcher and most exciting player categories in Best Tools voting.

His plus arm stands out most. His quick transfer and throwing accuracy contribute to consistent above-average pop times on throws to second base. He is a clean receiver and advanced game-caller to whom pitchers like to throw. He is a team leader who is working to improve his framing skill.

Langeliers showed off big power in the league’s biggest park in Mississippi. His swing is geared to do damage with plus power and the strike-zone management to get to that power regularly. He should hit near the MLB average and contribute 20-plus home runs with above-average defense behind the plate.

“He’s the type of guy where you could see anything in a given day,” Mississippi manager Dan Meyer said. “He could hit three home runs. He could make some ridiculous throws . . . Every throw seems to be spot on.”

Player, Pos, Team (Org)ABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOSBCSAVGOBPSLG
Shea Langeliers, C, Mississippi (Braves)32956851302252369710.258.338.498

2. Jose Barrero, SS, Chattanooga (Reds)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175. Signed Cuba, 2017.

The Reds’ shortstop of the future had his best season of the present in 2021.

After finishing strong in High-A in 2019 and then opening eyes at big league spring training and making his MLB debut in 2020, Barrero put together a strong top-to-bottom season at Double-A and Triple-A. He hit .303/.380/.539 with 19 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 85 games at the two levels, also seeing time in Cincinnati.

Barrero, who previously played as Jose Garcia, has a well-rounded skill set on both sides of the ball. He hits the ball to all fields and has cut his chase rate to unlock average offensive potential. His raw power is plus and he could begin to tap into it more as he matures. Barrero’s defensive instincts and agility elevate his average range and plus arm.

Player, Pos, Team (Org)ABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOSBCSAVGOBPSLG
Jose Barrero, SS, Chattanooga (Reds)160314891628164081.300.367.481

3. Nick Lodolo, LHP, Chattanooga (Reds)
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. HT: 6-6. WT: 202. Drafted: Texas Christian, 2019 (1st round).

The first pitcher drafted in 2019, Lodolo made a loud pro debut in 2019 that summer by striking out 30 and walking none in 18.1 innings. His encore had to wait until 2021 because of the pandemic, but he made the most of it by dominating Double-A and reaching Triple-A for three appearances before shutting down with shoulder fatigue.

Lodolo’s slider was described as “disgusting” by one league manager. He adds and subtracts from the pitch and has uncanny command of his slider, enabling him to throw the pitch to get back into counts. His slider darts under the bats of righthanded hitters, while lefthanders have almost no chance against the sweepier version. His wide arm slot adds deception. Lodolo’s fastball peaks in the mid 90s and is effective against hitters who have guard against his slider. He doesn’t throw a changeup much.

Lodolo also missed time with blisters on his pitching hand, limiting him to 50.2 total innings.

Pitcher, Pos, Team (Org)WLERAGGSSVIPHRERHRBBSOAVG
Nick Lodolo, LHP, Chattanooga (Reds)211.84101004431991968.196

4. Reid Detmers, LHP, Rocket City (Angels)
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. HT: 6-2. WT: 210. Drafted: Louisville, 2020 (1st round).

The Angels pounced when Detmers, a polished college lefthander, fell to them with the 10th pick in the 2020 draft. He proved to be up for the challenge of pro ball, debuting at Double-A this season, reaching Triple-A for two starts in July and then Anaheim in August. Detmers’ MLB debut was interrupted in early September when he tested positive for Covid.

Detmers showed firmer than expected stuff in his debut, striking out 43% of batters he faced, more than any minor league starter with at least 60 innings. He pitches at 93 mph and tops near 98 but already has a modern pitch mix in which he works north-south and prioritizes his secondary weapons, particularly his breaking pitches. Detmers refined a mid-80s slider last year at the alternate site to complement his slow, big-breaking curveball in the low 70s that locks up opponents looking for fastballs up. Both his fastball and curve are plus pitches, while his slider and changeup grade near average.

Detmers has the ingredients to become a mid-rotation starter. All he needs is to harness command, get more early-count outs and improve feel for sequencing.

Pitcher, Pos, Team (Org)WLERAGGSSVIPHRERHRBBSOAVG
Reid Detmers, LHP, Rocket City (Angels)243.501212054452421101897.223

5. Hunter Greene, RHP, Chattanooga (Reds)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-4. WT: 215. Drafted: HS—Sherman Oaks, Calif., 2017 (1st round).

Greene had a lot to prove in 2021 and made good by dominating Double-A competition and quickly moving to Triple-A, where he spent most of the season. Drafted No. 2 overall in 2017, Greene had not advanced past Low-A when Tommy John surgery wiped out his 2019 season and the pandemic scuttled his 2020 comeback.

Greene’s elite velocity came all the way back, and managers regarded his fastball as the best in the league. He fires easy triple-digits heat with a peak of 103 mph from a smooth, athletic delivery. His fastball command can be scattered, which hurt him more at Triple-A than with Chattanooga.

The biggest positive development for Greene was getting more of a handle on his slider to upset opponents’ timing. It’s a bigger, sweepier pitch in the low-to-mid 80s that flashes plus and plays well when Greene locates his fastball up. He doesn’t throw much of a changeup, which could hinder his development as a starter but wouldn’t prevent him from becoming an elite closer.

Pitcher, Pos, Team (Org)WLERAGGSSVIPHRERHRBBSOAVG
Hunter Greene, RHP, Chattanooga (Reds)501.9877041279921460.186

reds-900x635

Jose Barrero: Reds 2021 Minor League Player Of The Year

The 23-year-old shortstop had his best season to date in 2021 as he prepares to be the Reds' shortstop of the future.

6. Brennen Davis, OF, Tennessee (Cubs)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 175. Drafted: HS—Chandler, Ariz., 2018 (2nd round).

After abbreviated seasons in 2018 and 2019 and the lost pandemic year of 2020, Davis gave the Cubs a long look this season. He played at three levels and reached Triple-A in September. Hit by pitch that broke his nose in spring training, Davis got a late start at High-A before moving quickly to Tennessee and finishing with a few weeks at Triple-A.

The highlight of Davis’ season was hitting two home runs in the Futures Game in Coors Field, including a 428-foot poke to center field that secured him MVP honors.

Davis was one of a handful of 21-year-old regulars in Double-A South and did damage when he connected, but he struggled to pick up spin, which led to a strikeout rate near 31%. Davis shows good barrel control and an all-fields approach when he’s going well, and his raw power is plus.

Davis plays center field now but profiles more as a corner outfielder for most scouts with average speed and arm strength. Better swing decisions will complete the package.

Player, Pos, Team (Org)ABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOSBCSAVGOBPSLG
Brennen Davis, OF, Tennessee (Cubs)26650672001336369764.252.367.474

7. Jake Eder, LHP, Pensacola (Marlins)
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. HT: 6-4. WT: 215. Drafted: Vanderbilt, 2020 (4th round).

Eder helped Vanderbilt win the 2019 College World Series as a reliever and moved into the rotation as a junior in 2020 when the season was truncated by the pandemic. The Marlins liked what they saw and drafted Eder in the fourth round that year. The pick paid off when the lefthander made Pensacola’s Opening Day roster and thrived.

Eder pitched in the Futures Game and cracked the Top 100 Prospects, but his ride came to an end in late August when he had Tommy John surgery.

Eder sits 92 mph and reaches 95 with life on his fastball that helps the pitch play up. He backs it with two above-average secondaries: a mid-80s changeup and curveball with late bite. He showed feel to use all pitches in all situations.

As a three-pitch lefty who locates his stuff and attacks all zones, Eder has a high floor and, for scouts who like him, a No. 2 starter ceiling.

Pitcher, Pos, Team (Org)WLERAGGSSVIPHRERHRBBSOAVG
Jake Eder, LHP, Pensacola (Marlins)351.77151507143191432799.169

8. Max Meyer, RHP, Pensacola (Marlins)
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. HT: 6-0. WT: 196. Drafted: Minnesota, 2020 (1st round).

Meyer moved into the rotation for good as a college junior in 2020, just in time for the season to be shortened by the pandemic. The Marlins liked what they saw and drafted him third overall. Meyer shined at instructional league last fall and moved fast to Double-A to make his pro debut this season. His 2.38 ERA was lowest among the handful of league qualifiers.

Meyer stayed healthy and in the rotation all season, reaching Triple-A in late September when Pensacola’s season ended. His slider earned consistent plus grades for his ability to command it, if not necessarily wipeout, two-plane break. His low-90s fastball tended to play down when he missed his spots, and his changeup is merely functional.

Meyer battled the strike zone early and tended to nibble and lose his delivery, but his control sharpened later in the season.

Pitcher, Pos, Team (Org)WLERAGGSSVIPHRERHRBBSOAVG
Max Meyer, RHP, Pensacola (Marlins)632.4120200101843527740113.226

9. Peyton Burdick, OF, Pensacola (Marlins)
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Wright State, 2019 (3rd round).

Burdick has made a habit of exceeding expectations. The Marlins drafted the redshirt junior in the third round in 2019, and he tore up the Low-A Midwest League in his pro debut and then jumped to Double-A South this year after the lost 2020 season. He led the league with 23 home runs, 76 walks and 71 runs.

One scout referred to Burdick as the “sleeper of the league.” His bat came to life late in the season, and his 1.036 OPS in August and September was tops in the league. Burdick does everything well but lacks a true plus, aside from his outstanding hustle and competitive makeup. Burdick works deep counts, and while he needs to improve his two-strike approach to limit strikeouts, he hits for impact to all fields and takes walks. He is a capable center fielder who probably shifts to left field.

Burdick moved to Triple-A when Pensacola’s season ended, and Marlins general manager Kim Ng mentioned him as a candidate to be Miami’s center fielder of the future.

Player, Pos, Team (Org)ABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOSBCSAVGOBPSLG
Peyton Burdick, OF, Pensacola (Marlins)373718617223527613595.231.376.472

10. Jonathan Aranda, 1B/2B/3B, Montgomery (Rays)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 173. Signed Mexico, 2015.

Aranda entered the 2021 season having played just a handful of games above Low-A. He exited it as a bona fide prospect after wowing league managers and scouts with his hitting ability. Aranda led Double-A South in average (.325), on-base percentage (.410) and slugging (.540) and hit a career high 14 homers, counting his 21 games in High-A.

Aranda presaged his breakout by hitting .333 in the Mexican Pacific League last winter. He takes good at-bats and unleashes his short, compact lefthanded swing to frequently find the sweet spot on his bat. He hit the ball harder in 2021 and has sneaky pull power, but his strength is barreling the ball gap to gap. He’s a tough two-strike hitter who has learned to punish mistakes with improved bat speed and leverage.

Aranda’s defensive profile is a limiting factor, but not a disqualifying one. At 5-foot-10, he is on the short side for first base, his best position, and too heavy-footed to stand out at second or third base.

Player, Pos, Team (Org)ABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOSBCSAVGOBPSLG
Jonathan Aranda, 1B/2B/3B, Montgomery (Rays)27453891951058336342.325.410.540

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