Vol OF Jay Charleston Signs With Kansas City Royals

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(Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

Tennessee had six player selected in the 2019 MLB Draft last week. A handful of those players were taken in the later rounds of the draft, which means there isn’t a guarantee they’ll forgo their final seasons at UT to go pro. One of those players has made his decision, though.

Jay Charleston has signed with the Kansas City Royals after they drafted him with the 769th overall pick in the 26th round of last week’s MLB Draft.

The Tennessee centerfielder leaves Knoxville with the fifth-most stolen bases (67) in program history. Charleston totaled 95 runs, 128 hits, 51 RBI, and 67 steals during his three years as a Vol.

As a junior this past season, the Florida native led the SEC in stolen bases with 41, which was the ninth-most by a Vol in a single season. He was the first SEC player since former Vol Chris Burke in 2001 (49) to steal 40 or more bases in a season.

At the plate, Charleston hit .220 in 2019. He played in 61 games, starting 60 of them. Charleston scored 44 runs, hit nine doubles, drove in 22 runs, and drew 29 walks. In the field, he posted a fielding percentage of .993 and made several dazzling plays in center.

Charleston’s sophomore season was his best at the plate. In 56 games, he hit .285, clubbed four home runs, and drove in 26 runs. He also scored 42 runs and stole 21 bases.

As a freshman, Charleston hit .250 in 25 games. He started 12 games during Dave Serrano’s final season as UT’s head baseball coach.

Charleston graduated from Lake Brantley High School in Florida before joining the Vols. He helped lead Lake Brantley to back-to-back District Championships (2015, 2016) and a 20-5 record as a senior. As a junior, he hit .320, scored 20 runs, collected nine RBI, and stole 17 bases.

Coming out of high school, Charleston was ranked as the No. 28 second baseman and 202nd overall player in the state of Florida by Perfect Game.

Tennessee had six players drafted in the 2019 MLB Draft. Head coach Tony Vitello anticipates all six — as Charleston has done — will sign with the team in which they were drafted.

“Most to this point have agreed to terms,” Vitello told SportsTalk with John Wilkerson and Jimmy Hyams when asked on Monday. “I think it’s the right time for all of those guys to go do it.”

Charleston will leave the Vols without their best burner on the basepaths. Junior outfielder Justin Ammons will now be Tennessee’s leading returning base stealer, swiping 20 bases on 25 attempts in 2019.

Ben McKee
Ben McKee is a graduate from the University of Tennessee and has a degree in Journalism and Electronic Media. He grew up an Army brat and lived in Alabama for a bit, but he bleeds orange. He covers Tennessee football, basketball, baseball, and the Lady Vols for RTI, and he's also a co-host on the RTI Live Show and RTI Podcast. You can also hear Ben on the morning sports radio show "The Swain Event." He's the producer and co-host along with former Vol wide receiver Jayson Swain.