Since we’ve got an open week, I thought it might be a good time to update folks on how Tennessee’s recent run of MLB draft picks have been doing since they were drafted.
In Head Coach Tony Vitello’s six years as the Vols’ manager, he’s had 35 players drafted overall and four in the first round. Chase Dollander, who went into last season as the No. 1 pitching prospect in the country, didn’t have quite the season fans would’ve liked with an ERA at 4.75 and 120 Ks to 30 walks.
Still, Dollander became the highest draft pick in Vitello’s tenure when he went No. 9 to the Colorado Rockies in the 2023 MLB draft. Prior to that, Garrett Crochet had held the title of highest player taken, when the White Sox took him at No. 11 in the 2020 draft. Notably — Crochet was the first player since Mike Leake in 2010 to go straight from college onto the major league team without spending any time in a farm system.
Since Crochet went in the 2020 draft, the Vols’ have averaged six players drafted per-season, which leads the NCAA. Just last year, Tennessee had eight players taken and is tied for second-best in program history, just two behind the 10 players snatched up in the 2022 draft.
So this doesn’t end up being a thousand words, I figured we’d hit the high notes with maybe some blurbs at the end on a few other guys.
- Drew Gilbert snuck into the latter part of the first round, going 28th to the Houston Astros. After just three games, he was promoted to the Astros single-A team, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers. Overall, he hit .300 with nine hits in 36 plate appearances. He had one home run, one double, five RBIs and three walks to just two strikeouts.
In August of this year, Gilbert was the top prize in the Astros trade for Justin Verlander with the New York Mets. He went from high-A ball to double-A in about a month and split the season between the Texas League Corpus Christi Hook and the Eastern League Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Overall, Gilbert slashed .289/ .379/.487 and ended the year batting .289 with 130 hits, 19 home runs and 13 stolen bases.
He did strikeout 101 times to just 59 walks, but he’s currently considered the No. 2 overall prospect in the Mets’ farm system by MLB dot com.
Another former outfielder, Jordan Beck, was selected with the 38th overall pick by the Colorado Rockies. At the time, it seemed like a perfect fit in the high altitude and thin air of Coors Field. That same advantage for Beck could be a disadvantage for Dollander, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Neither player will likely see Coors Field for at least a couple years, but Beck’s 2023 season has him fourth on the Rockies list of pro prospects, right behind Dollander.
Beck spent around half the season with Colorado’s high-A affiliate, the Spokane Indians (76 games) and finished the season with the clubs double-A team, the Hartford Yard Goats.
Collectively, Beck hit just .271, but he finished the season with 132 hits, 34 doubles, two triples, 25 home runs and 91 RBIs. He also had a .867 OPS to go with 245 total bases. The 142 strikeouts stand out, but otherwise, 2023 was quite the season.
Blade Tidwell received a familiar face to the Mets organization when Gilbert was traded. Tidwell went 52nd overall in the 2022 draft. In 2023, 17 of Tidwell’s total 25 appearances came at the single-A level, where he started slow with three losses in five outings, but after that he railed off eight-straight wins with eight or more strikeouts six times. Once he got to double-A, he cooled off a bit, going just 3-3 in eight trips to the mound. He finished the year with opponents hitting just .210 off him with 153 Ks and 63 BBs.
Trey Lipscomb got snatched up in the third round with the 83rd pick to the Washington Nationals, based purely off his massive senior year with the Vols. He rates as the Nationals’ 13th prospect overall, and like the others on this list, spent his 2023 season advancing from A-ball to double-A. Lipscomb played just 49 (of his 129 total) games in A-ball before Washington bumped him up to double-A. From MLB dot com’s scouting report:
Lipscomb shows an advanced approach that helps him swing at pitches he can drive to all fields, even though a flat bat path may hinder him to just average power in the pros. Notably, 18 of his 22 homers came at a hitter-friendly environment in Tennessee’s Lindsey Nelson Stadium, so his collegiate numbers won’t be so easily reproduced. The Nats have pushed him to both High-A and Double-A in 2023, and he’s answered the bell at both stops, answering some of the questions that came with his bat.
He finished the year hitting .272 with 14 home runs, 72 RBIs, 10 SBs with 139 hits and 214 total bases.
Ben Joyce took the collegiate baseball world by storm in 2022 with the ridiculous heat coming from that golden right arm, and the LA Angels snagged him in the third round with the 89th overall pick. Joyce was the first of the 2022 picks to see Major League action, as he was called up by the Angels in May of this season.
Just over a year ago, Ben Joyce threw a 105.5 MPH pitch, the fastest pitch in college baseball history.— MLB Metrics (@MLBMetrics) May 28, 2023
Only Aroldis Chapman has thrown a harder pitch in a MLB game. Nobody has thrown a harder pitch since then.
He is being called up by the Angels today.
In his first game, just one day after being called up, Joyce threw 1 inning, gave up one hit and struck out two of the three batters he faced.
He finished the season 1-1 with four holds, striking out 10, walking nine with a 5.40 ERA. The Angels never let him pitch more than one inning, so they’re clearly being careful with their prized righty.
Alright, so we ended up around 1,000 words anyway, but perhaps we’ll catch up with some of the other recent picks in another story.