Here’s what we know: Two months from today, the Mississippi Braves will open their 2021 season at home as part of the new Double-A South. What we don’t yet know is who the players will be — or who will manage them. Just guessing, there could be as many as six of Atlanta’s top 20 prospects stationed in Pearl come May 4. Catcher Shea Langeliers (rated No. 4 in the system by mlb.com), shortstop Braden Shewmake (No. 5), pitcher Freddie Tarnok (No. 11), outfielder Trey Harris (No. 13), third baseman C.J. Alexander (No. 18) and first baseman/outfielder Greyson Jenista (No. 20) appear to be at the Double-A stage of development. Shewmake, Harris, Alexander and Jenista all spent time with the M-Braves in 2019, when minor league teams last played. Langeliers and Shewmake were first-round picks out of major colleges in 2019 and look to be on the big league fast track. Langeliers, who played in low-A ball in 2019, is said to have the best arm among all catchers in the Braves’ system; he could be Atlanta’s regular catcher next year. Shewmake, long, lean and athletic, is projected to make the majors this season. Both are in big league camp as non-roster invitees, along with Tarnok, Harris and Alexander. Minor league camps haven’t yet opened. The 2021 season will be the M-Braves’ 16th at Trustmark Park. They’ve cranked out a lot of big leaguers but have won just one league championship, in 2008, Season 4. They would seem due for another. … Biloxi, also in the reconfigured Double-A South, also opens on May 4, at Birmingham. The Shuckers have announced the return of manager Mike Guerrero for his fifth season. It would not be a surprise to see ex-Mississippi State star Ethan Small, a top Milwaukee prospect, begin 2021 at Biloxi.
Intrastate competition was on the college menu Wednesday night, with Mississippi State topping Southern Miss 4-1 in Pearl and Ole Miss whipping Jackson State 12-1 in Oxford. It would be folly to draw too many conclusions based solely on these games, but some observations are in order: 1) USM needs to start putting the bat on the ball. 2) The hype about State’s pitching depth appears justified. 3) Ole Miss’ “slump” appears to be over. 4) JSU should be focused on its SWAC opener this weekend. … USM (4-4) managed three hits and struck out 20 times against State. The Golden Eagles are batting .179 as a team with 83 strikeouts in 240 at-bats. That really needs to change. … State (6-2 and a consensus top 10 team) got a great start from Houston Harding, who fanned nine in five innings, and brilliant relief work from three others, including Preston Johnson, a Hinds Community College transfer who punched out six in two innings in his D-I debut. Bulldogs pitchers have a 3.00 ERA and 111 K’s over 72 innings. … After scoring just 10 runs in losing a three-game set to Central Florida, Ole Miss (7-2 and a consensus top 10) scored 28 in back-to-back wins against Memphis and JSU. The Rebels put up seven in the first inning vs. JSU’s rattled starter Brandon Valentin. Tim Elko, who hit three homers in 14 games in 2020, homered for the second straight day. … JSU, 0-8 all-time vs. UM, may be outmanned against SEC competition but should still be a force in the SWAC. The Tigers (3-5) visit Alabama State this weekend. Keep an eye on Chandler Dillard, a former Germantown High star and Copiah-Lincoln CC transfer who is batting .333 with nine RBIs. He hit .426 in 2020.