Despite very restrictive measures surrounding the upcoming MLB draft, the Tennessee Volunteers should be well represented in this year’s selection process.
According to Vols coach Tony Vitello, Tennessee has two prospects that are “no doubt, top-5 rounders,” and “three or four more that are potential (draftees).” Vitello talked about the ramifications of this year’s unique process and how the change affects the Vols on The Drive back on May 28.
The pair of can’t miss prospects that Tony V referred to are juniors Garrett Crochet and Alerick Soularie. The former is a power lefty with a big frame who boasts a consistent fastball and a devastating slider. The latter is an athletic power-hitter who can play anywhere at the top of the lineup.
Crochet is currently ranked No.7 in D1Baseball’s Top 100 Prospect list, placing him as the third left-handed pitcher on the board. Texas A&M left-hander Asa Lacy is rated as the best pitcher and third overall prospect. Louisville’s Reid Detmers squeezes in between the two lefties, landing at No.8 in the composite.
Soularie comes in at No.46, according to D1. The Texas native had an immediate impact for the Vols in 2019 after transferring from San Jacinto College. He was an All-SEC selection after his first season in the conference and came into 2020 as a preseason All-American pick from multiple outlets. In just 16 games, the outfielder collected 17 RBI while driving in five home runs. Soularie also boasted a .925 slugging percentage.
As far as the others that have “potential” to be drafted, Zach Daniels and Jackson Leath headline this particular bunch. Daniels has been ranked as high as No. 48 by D1Baseball in terms of top overall prospects. He was the MVP of the 2020 Round Rock Classic, a 4-team tournament that Tennessee won after defeating all three teams, including then-No.1 Texas Tech. The junior from Stockbridge, Ga. made a career highlight reel versus Longwood back in March. Daniels tallied seven total bases, including a home run and a triple in the game. He also scored four runs against the Lancers.
Leath may be the surprise out of the group of Vol prospects. The 6’1 RHP is versatile with several pitches. He can eat up innings or expedite three outs. With a power sinker and a development of multiple off-speed pitches, Leath showed amazing prowess during his first season with the Vols. In 18.2 innings, the junior posted 29 SO to just five walks. He ended the brief 2020 season with a record of 4-0 and a 1.45 ERA. Like Soularie, Leath is also a junior college gem from Texas. The pitcher made D1Baseball’s list of “Sudden Impact JUCO Transfers,” a 2020 review comprised of 14 names from Division I that made the most out of such an abrupt season. The right-hander comes in at No. 99 on D1’s latest rankings.
Leath wasn’t the only Vol to have a surprise contribution. Many of Vitello’s crew were benefactors of a young and hungry team determined for success. Tennessee’s 15-2 record is a small picture of what could have been.
Regardless of what happens in next week’s draft, a couple of things are certain. A big portion of the Vols’ recent success will be reflected in MLB’s abbreviated selection process. And according to Vitello, the modification of 2020’s draft can help his players make a sound decision.
“The one benefit of this year’s draft is, the kids who get drafted are almost a definite sign. Because there’s no way you’re not going to sign if you get drafted,” the coach stated.
Vitello attributes the lack of rounds leading to less room for hard decisions. The 2020 draft is being condensed from 40 rounds to five. The maximum dollar amount available to prospects that don’t get drafted will be capped at $20,000. This limitation will force more players to wait a year before taking their talents to the next level. It will also help the Tennessee staff quickly evaluate things for next season.
“We’ll know that’s a done deal, as opposed to waiting it out to see if the kid is going to get the money he’s asking for,” the coach said. “And then from that point, we’ll be able to better assess the last few guys on our roster that are in limbo.”
The Vols will almost certainly have a few names selected in 2020, which would be an impressive representation considering six were drafted last year in a typical 40-round process. Those who don’t get selected have a chance to come back for at least a year and build on what has been a promising run for Vitello and The Boys.
The draft begins Wednesday at 7 p.m. as the first 37 picks will be selected. The rest of the process (123 picks) will conclude on Thursday.