Tennessee baseball’s starting roster is undergoing almost wholesale changes in 2023 after the MLB draft.
The Vols had a program record of 10 drafted players. Six of UT’s positional starters on its 57-win squad have been drafted, while another signed as a free agent and another could follow.
UT became the fourth SEC team in history to have 10 or more players chosen in the first 20 rounds of any MLB draft, joining Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. The Vols’ previous record was eight players selected in the 1992 draft, which had 50 rounds.
Here’s what to know about next season’s draft and roster.
No big surprises for Flights
Tennessee entered the draft ready to set a record for draft picks and did it easily. The Flights had nine players chosen in the first seven rounds. Shortstop Cortland Lawson made 10 picks when the Washington Nationals took him in the 14th round.
The entire UT infield leaves with Lawson, third baseman Trey Lipscomb (third round, Washington) and second baseman Jorel Ortega (sixth round, Minnesota Twins) being drafted. First baseman Luc Lipcius graduated. He could sign as a free agent.
Tennessee’s top three starting outfielders were chosen, including Drew Gilbert and Jordan Beck, who were first rounders. Gilbert was taken at No. 28 by the Houston Astros. Beck was picked No. 38 by the Colorado Rockies.
Seth Stephenson, who could have been UT’s starting center back next season, was a seventh-round pick by the Detroit Tigers.
Blade Tidwell, the New York Mets’ 52nd pick, was the lone starting loser, but the bullpen suffered three expected losses. Ben Joyce was picked No. 89 by the Los Angeles Angels, while Will Mabrey and Marc McLaughlin were picked in the sixth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks and in the seventh round by the Chicago White Sox, respectively.
Receiver Evan Russell signed with the Angels as a free agent.
Reggie Crawford gave Tennessee a major victory in the transfer portal, but was also considered one of the top 100 prospects in the MLB draft. He was picked No. 30 by the San Francisco Giants and will not join UT.
Crawford committed to UT as a transfer from UConn. He’s hitting .295 with 13 homers and leading 62 RBIs in the Big East in 2021. He also throws 100 mph as a left-handed pitcher. He had a 2.35 ERA in 7⅔ innings pitched in 2021.
TRACKER:Tennessee Baseball Transfer Tracker: Who’s Leaving, Joining Vols Via Portal?
Receiver Jack Alexander, a transfer graduate from Austin Peay, signed a free agent contract with the Kansas City Royals after the draft. He hit .346 with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs. He batted 31 times with 27 walks, posting a .425 on-base percentage.
UT does not have a proven receiver on its roster. Second student Charlie Taylor and outfielder Jared Dickey are options. Dickey entered the season as the third-string receiver behind Russell and Taylor.
Recruitment class intact after draft
The entire recruiting class from Tennessee will likely arrive in Knoxville. Caden Marcum, a right-handed pitcher from Paola, Kansas, was chosen in the 13th round by the Texas Rangers.
Outfielder Alex Stanwich was the top potential draft candidate in the Tennessee class. Pitchers Jake Bimbi, Dillon Orr and Hunter Sloop were not chosen.
Outfielders Reese Chapman and Dylan Dreiling are the first potential contributors to Tennessee after being drafted.
Who’s coming back for Tennessee?
Tennessee flips the backbone of its pitching team with the starting trio of Drew Beam, Chase Burns and Chase Dollander. The schedule will be radically different after the draft.
Dollander, a potential top 10 pick in 2023, is leading the way as the SEC’s reigning pitcher of the year. Beam and Burns had SEC freshman seasons. Wyatt Evans has shown promise as a rookie in the bullpen. Zander Sechrist was a midweek pitcher staple.
Seth Halvorsen did not start in 2022 after a preseason injury and a midseason setback.
First baseman Blake Burke and infielder Christian Moore lead the returning hitters after stellar freshman seasons. Outfielder Kyle Booker could be set for a key role with the return of the outfield. Outfielder Christian Scott shared on Instagram that he will be returning for a fifth year.
Outfielder/first baseman Kavares Tears wore a redshirt in 2022 but has a big bat and promise in fall practices. Utility player Logan Chambers arrived with high expectations but fell out of the player pool. It is expected to play a notable role. Utility player Ethan Payne could see more playing time in a reserve role.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will give you access to it all.