VolQuest – Five takeaways from Tennessee’s 2022 MLB Draft

The 2022 MLB Draft has come to an end following three days of picks over the course of the 20-round draft.

Here’s five takeaways from how Tennessee was impacted by this year’s draft.

Major Win

All three days were a major win for Tennessee’s baseball program.

Whether it was Tony Vitello doing a terrific job on the MLB Network as an analyst during the first and second round on Sunday night, a program-record 10 Vols being drafted, or not losing a high school signee unexpectedly, it was a successful 2022 MLB Draft for the Vols.

Tennessee’s 10 selections were the most in the SEC. Only Oklahoma (11) had more in the entire country. The Vols are just the fourth SEC team to have 10 or more players chosen in the first 20 rounds of any MLB Draft, joining Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.

UT’s previous program-record was eight when it took place during the 1992 50-round MLB Draft. This year’s 10 draft picks are the most for the Vols through 20 rounds, breaking the previous mark of seven, which was set in last year’s draft.

The Vols have now had 27 players drafted since Tony Vitello took over in 2018. Since 2019, Tennessee’s 26 selections rank third-most in the SEC.

Vols lose out on Crawford

The only way this year’s draft could have been absolutely perfect for the Vols is if UConn transfer Reggie Crawford had not been drafted in the first round.

Crawford, who committed to Tennessee five days before the draft, went into the MLB Draft looking for first round money. That wish was granted when the San Francisco Giants drafted him with the No. 30 overall pick, the last of the first round, which has a slot value of $2.49 million.

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The left-handed pitcher’s fastball touches 100 mph and although he’ll likely focus on pitching in professional baseball, he would have also swung the bat as a first baseman in Knoxville.

It would have been fun to watch the pitching rotation of Crawford, Chase Dollander, Chase Burns and Drew Beam, but the two-way standout isn’t coming to school and the Vols will have to “settle” for Dollander, Burns and Beam.

Outfield U?

All three starting Tennessee outfielders were drafted. Centerfielder Drew Gilbert was the first Vol to be drafted when the Houston Astros took him in the first round with the No. 28 overall pick.

Jordan Beck went 10 picks later to the Colorado Rockies with the No. 38 overall pick, giving the Vols two first round picks although Beck was drafted during the Competitive Balance Round A portion of the opening round.

Left fielder Seth Stephenson completed the trifecta when he was drafted No. 207 overall by the Detroit Tigers in the seventh round. Stephenson is expected to sign and not return to school.

Looking back at the 2020 Tennessee baseball roster, four outfielders off of that year’s squad have now been drafted. Beck and Gilbert join Alerick Soularie, a second round rick, and Zach Daniels, a fourth round pick, each in the 2017 draft, respectively.

Other notable names turning pro

Tennessee will have a completely new lineup next season. In addition to this year’s starting outfield being drafted, the Vols will have to replace its whole infield as well.

With catcher Evan Russell and first baseman Luc Lipcius graduating, UT’s three other starting infielders were drafted over the last two days. Two of them are headed to the same organization.

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Third baseman Trey Lipscomb was the first Vol drafted on day two when the Washington Nationals drafted him with the No. 84 overall pick in the third round. Lipscomb hit a career-best 22 home runs this year for second-most in UT’s single-season history.

Second baseman Jorel Ortega was also taken on day two when the Minnesota Twins took him with the No. 174 overall pick in the sixth round. The Twins drafted Ortega a year after they took former Tennessee infielder Jake Rucker in the seventh round of the 2021 MLB Draft.

Shortstop Cortland Lawson will join Lipscomb in the Nationals’ organization, as Washington took Lawson on the final day of the draft with the No. 411 overall pick in the 14th round.

On the mound, the Vols will have to replace quite a bit of production despite returning Dollander, Burns and Beam.

Blade Tidwell was the first of Frank Anderson’s pitchers taken when the New York Mets took the right-hander with the No. 52 overall pick in the second round.

Ben Joyce was the second Tennessee pitcher drafted when the Los Angeles Angels took the hard-throwing right-hander with the No. 89 overall pick in the third round on day two.

Will Mabrey and Mark McLaughlin were also drafted on day two, bringing the total number of UT pitchers drafted to four. Mabrey was taken by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the No. 168 overall pick in the sixth round, while the Chicago White Sox drafted McLaughlin with the No. 221 overall pick in the seventh round, respectively.

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All 10 of Tennessee’s drafted players are expected to sign with the organizations that drafted them.

No high school signees lost

A key aspect to the MLB Draft unlike the NFL or NBA is that high school players can be drafted and sign with organizations. It makes for a stressful couple of days for college coaches as professional teams look to poach key recruits.

Vitello had a rather stress-free draft this year when it came to high school signees.

The only Tennessee signee that was drafted was Paola, Kansas right-handed pitcher Caden Marcum. The Texas Rangers took Marcum with the No. 379 overall pick in the 13th round, but Marcum isn’t expected to sign with the Rangers.

Tennessee only having one high school signee is no indication of Vitello’s 2023 signing class. Several Vol signees such as outfielders Alex Stanwich, Dylan Dreiling and Reese Chapman, as well as pitchers Dillon Orr, Hunter Sloop and Jacob Bimbi could have likely been drafted had they not entered the draft with their mind already set on coming to school.

Professional organizations want to draft high school players that are likely to sign. With practically Tennessee’s entire signing class set on coming to school, teams did not draft any of them in order to not risk being able to sign them.

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