It’s been a long time coming, but we finally have Minor League Baseball back. After a lost season for many of the game’s top prospects, this will be a critical year for that development to see who can separate themselves. A lot of that separation happens at the Double-A level, and we’ll see plenty of top prospects come through Double-A throughout 2021. Those 2020 MLB Draft picks who would likely be in Double-A by now are sure to move up quickly after getting their feet wet in Single-A. So if your local Double-A team isn’t loaded with top prospects right now, just wait.
Here are the prospects to keep an eye on right now in Double-A South. We’ll be sure to update this list during the season.
Birmingham Barons (Chicago White Sox):
Micker Adolfo — The 24-year old outfielder has all the tools in the world with elite arm strength and raw power. The one aspect of his game that needs to improve in 2021 is pitch recognition. Right now he’s a free swinger, and good pitchers at the higher levels will expose him if he can’t learn to lay off pitches outside the zone.
Chattanooga Lookouts (Cincinnati Reds)
Nick Lodolo — The seventh overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, Lodolo had a very good start to pro ball with 30 strikeouts in 18.1 innings. If not for the lost 2020 season he could be pushing to make his big league debut already. He still might if the Reds find themselves in a playoff hunt. Either way, watch him while you can, I don’t expect him to be in Chattanooga past the All-Star break. This lefty has a very high ceiling.
Hunter Greene — The second overall pick in 2017, Greene looked like a surefire future ace for the Reds. He underwhelmed in his first two seasons (albeit a very small sample size) before needing Tommy John surgery. He’s already off to a good start this season and is still just 21 years old with elite stuff. If he can put it together and regains his velocity from before surgery, he’ll back up there among the top prospects in the game.
Jose Garcia — An international signee out of Cuba in 2017, the 23-year old made his big league debut in 2020 but hit just .194 in 67 at-bats with no extra-base hits. There’s no question about the glove, but if he’s going to be the starting shortstop of the future for the Reds he has to handle the bat much better and tap into his raw power.
Rocket City Trash Pandas (Los Angeles Angels)
Reid Detmers — The Angels took Detmers 10th overall in last year’s Draft and have been aggressive with the college arm starting him in Double-A. It’s been a rough start, but he has the stuff to be a top of the rotation arm. With the Angels pitching woes, they’re certainly hoping he’s someone that can move up the ladder quickly, but rushing his development could prove detrimental.
Tennessee Smokies (Chicago Cubs)
Brailyn Marquez — The Cubs signed this lefty pitcher as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. He’s steadily moved his way up the Cubs prospect ranks and now is considered the top prospect in the system by many. Marquez was forced too quickly into his big league debut last year and it didn’t go well. He’s also been delayed to start 2021 and has yet to pitch for the Smokies. This is obviously a huge year for the Cubs’ top pitching prospect.
Brennen Davis — While Marquez may be considered the top prospect in the system, Davis is certainly the darling everyone is raving about. A former second-round pick, the outfielder has plus tools all around the board. He’s also been delayed to start the year and hasn’t played yet. Davis has hit .303 through two pro ball seasons, but Double-A will be a big test for him.
Miguel Amaya — There were a lot of rumors this past offseason about the Chicago Cubs possibly shopping Willson Contreras. They can afford to do that because Amaya is just about ready to take over the primary catcher role. Still just 22, but he shows a lot of maturity at the plate and has grown significantly behind the plate since making his pro debut. If it doesn’t happen in 2021, Amaya will almost certainly start making that transition as the Cub’s new catcher in 2022.
Christopher Morel — And if Amaya is the replacement for Contreras, Morel could be the replacement for Kris Bryant. The 21-year-old third baseman has very big power potential and makes a lot of hard contact — he just has to make contact more often.
Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Miami Marlins)
JJ Bleday — The Marlins grabbed Bleday fourth overall in 2019 as a very advanced college bat coming out of Vanderbilt. The outfielder is slashing just .246/.316/.360 through his first 48 games of pro ball. Miami can’t miss on this one and need him to become a future middle-of-the-order bat.
Max Meyer — A third-overall pick last year, Meyer flew up draft boards late last year coming out of Minnesota. He got some mixed reviews with some falling in love with him and thinking he was the best college arm in the draft, and others — like myself — thinking the ceiling was a good bit lower. There is no doubt he can get hitters out with an upper 90s fastball and wipeout slide, but he’ll need to refine his change-up if he’s going to become that top of the rotation arm the Marlins are hoping he’ll be.
Montgomery Biscuits (Tampa Bay Rays)
Xavier Edwards — Edwards was traded to the Rays from the San Diego Padres a couple of offseasons ago and the now 21-year-old finds himself in a very deep group of middle infield prospects that includes Wander Franco and Vidal Brujan. I really love the bat of Edwards, and he’s hit .328 in 168 minor league games. He doesn’t figure to give you much power. It will be interesting to see what the Rays do with Edwards considering the guys in front of him.
Shane Baz — The 12th overall pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2017, Baz is part of one of the most lopsided trades of all time coming to Tampa Bay along with Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows for Chris Archer. The Rays know how to get the most out of their arms and have made some changes that have made Baz a top prospect again. He’s off to a great start in Montgomery in 2021 with that big fastball and slider.
Biloxi Shuckers (Milwaukee Brewers)
Brice Turang — The 21st overall pick in 2018, Turang is one of the better shortstop prospects in baseball at the age of 21. He turned a lot of heads this past Spring Training with his defense, making many believe he can stick at shortstop. Turang possesses a very good hit tool, the question is whether or not he’ll give you any power as he continues to grow.
Ethan Small — A promising lefty starter for the Brewers out of Mississippi State, Small throws three pitchers just above average and feels like a safe bet to be a middle of the rotation starter for a long time in the big leagues.
Mississippi Braves (Atlanta Braves)
Shea Langeliers — The 23-year-old catcher went ninth overall to the Braves in the 2019 MLB Draft. Knowns more for his work behind the plate, he’s surprised people with his bat in pro ball. The Braves future at catcher is a bit uncertain past 2021 — Langeliers might get a chance to prove he’s ready sooner rather than later.
Braden Shewmake — Shortstop is also another position of uncertainty in the coming years for the Braves and many think Shewmake could replace Dansby Swanson in a few years. The lefty hitter out of Texas A&M was jumped all the way up to Double-A in 2019 after a hot start in Single-A. But he’s struggled at this level and will need to make some improvements at the plate if he is to be the answer at shortstop in Atlanta.