Tennessee’s spark-plug CF, Drew Gilbert, was selected by the Houston Astros with the 28th pick in the first round of the 2022 MLB Draft.
Gilbert started to pop, literally and figuratively, in his sophomore season with the Vols when he slashed .274/.341/.437 with 10 home runs and 62 RBIs. He also showed a propensity to show up in big moments — this was Gilbert’s walk-off grand slam against Wright State in the opening round of the 2021 NCAA Baseball tournament.
DREW.— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) June 5, 2021
SLAM.@SportsCenter | @Vol_Baseball pic.twitter.com/CIKhZJzu3z
This season, Gilbert regularly hit in the clean-up spot and surely benefitted from hitting behind Jordan Beck and in front of SEC Player of the Year candidate Trey Lipscomb.
It’s hard to quantify exactly how much stock to put into that sort-of abstract component, but regardless, the numbers Gilbert put up are hard to ignore. His power and run production stayed relatively level to his sophomore year, but he bumped up his batting average nearly 100 points, he bumped up his OPB more than 100 points and he bumped up his slugging percentage more than 200 points.
Gilbert’s eye notably improved, too: he went from walking just 15 times and striking out 40 times in 270 at bats in 2021 to walking 33 times and striking out just 32 times in 199 appearances this year. Here’s Joe Doyle, the Prospects Live MLB Draft Director, on Gilbert’s overall potential:
Tennessee CF Drew Gilbert may surprise everyone and be a Top 15 pick this season. 99th percentile exit velocity flashes, a true CF with plus speed and a 55+ arm. 1:1 BB/K ratio. 80, 80, 80-grade competitor. Slashing .386/.480/.693 w/9 HRs and untapped SB potential. Pay the man. pic.twitter.com/9YHrsbdtSp— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) May 31, 2022
Gilbert came to Tennessee as a two-way standout from Stillwater, Minnesota who was rated the No. 10 overall leftie pitcher by Prep Baseball Report in 2019. He turned down a 35th-round selection from his hometown Twins in that year’s draft, which has likely turned out to be the correct decision. He remained a two-way guy during his freshman year with the Vols in the 2020, COVID-shortened season and more infrequently, into the 2021 season. Those roots as a pitcher proved vital to his transition to centerfield, as he’s got the arm to stay there in the majors. Defensively is also where we got a better look at his speed, which would be easy to overlook if one just based his wheels off his stolen-base numbers (just 16 career SB in three years at Tennessee).
I’m not gonna get really in-depth into Gilbert’s attitude — Vol fans have their opinions and most other folks have theirs, too — all I’ll say is that Gilbert’s teammates will love him. He won’t be outworked or out-competed. I don’t know if “out-competed,” is a word but I’m gonna use it anyway. “He’s got that dog in him,” as the kids say.
He doesn’t have the prototypical, professional athlete body — he’s listed at 5-foot-9 (generously), 185 pounds, but Tennessee Head Coach Tony Vitello regularly referred to Gilbert as the Vols’ best overall athlete. Gilbert, at times, will overswing, looking for the deep ball, but I figure as he finds his place in what I imagine will be higher up in MLB lineups, he’ll rely more on his contact and ability to put the ball in play.
One thing is absolutely certain: He’s ALWAYS gonna be fun to watch.