Just as the parent Arizona Diamondbacks have climbed into contention for a post-season berth in the major leagues, the Class AA franchise in Jackson continues to show the strength of the organization.
The Jackson Generals won the Southern League championship Sunday in Jackson, defeating Biloxi 6-2 in Game 5 of the best-of-five finals, marking the second straight season Jackson has won the league title.
Jackson had defeated Montgomery in the semifinal series before facing Biloxi in the final best-of-five series. Jackson was the only Tennessee team to make the four-team Southern League playoffs, which included Pensacola.
Three Jackson Generals — first baseman Pavin Smith, third baseman Drew Ellis and catcher Daulton Varsho — made the Southern League post-season all-star team this season, making Jackson one of only three teams with three players on the all-star squad. One other player who played much of the season in Jackson — shortstop Jazz Chisholm, who was traded to the Miami Marlins organization before the July trade deadline — also made the postseason SL All-Star team.
Smith, Ellis and Varsho all played a role in the playoff victory Sunday, and Varsho was voted the series’ most valuable player.
Smith led the Generals with 67 RBIs this season, batting .290 and hitting 12 home runs. Varsho, who batted .301, is one of only four players in the Southern League this season to bat .300 or better, mirroring the trend in baseball of lower batting averages overall. Ellis batted only .235 but hit 14 home runs and drove in 63 runs. Ellis has also been praised for his defense this season.
The Generals finished 3 1/2 games behind Montgomery in the second half of the season. Jackson defeated Montgomery in the semifinal series of the championship playoffs before facing Biloxi in the finals.
Of the three all-star Generals, Varsho is currently considered the best big-league prospect, according to MLB.com. He is ranked fifth among the Diamondback prospects and is ranked the ninth best catching prospect in all of baseball.
Varsho is the son of former major league player Gary Varsho. He is named for Darren Daulton, the former big-league catcher who was a teammate of Gary Varsho. Daulton Varsho played collegiately at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He was the 68th overall pick in the major league draft in 2017.
The MLB Pipeline’s current report on Varsho reads, “There is a lot to like in Varsho’s innate ability to impact the baseball. He has a short, strong stroke from the left side and knows the strike zone well, with a natural ability to backspin the ball that leads to plenty of power.”
In the pre-season, Baseball America ranked Smith the Diamondbacks’ 17th best prospect as a first baseman. It ranked Ellis as Arizona’s 21st best prospect. Chisholm had been the Diamondbacks’ top prospect and is currently ranked baseball’s 55th best prospect overall.