Tennessee Baseball Tied for 3rd-Most Top 100 MLB Draft Prospects

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(Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

Tennessee baseball is tied for the third-most Top 100 MLB Draft prospects among college and high school baseball programs according to MLB.com.

According to the publication, Tennessee junior left-handed pitcher Garrett Crochet is the No. 9 overall prospect in the upcoming 2020 MLB Draft. Vols junior outfielder Alerick Soularie was the second Vol named to the list, coming in as the No. 69 overall prospect.

Arizona State led the way with four Top 100 prospects, while Miami and Mississippi State tied for second with three prospects. Tennessee was tied for the third-most with two prospects along with American-Heritage High School, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Harvard-Westlake School, LSU, Louisville, and Vanderbilt.

In addition to MLB.com ranking Crochet as the No. 9 overall prospect, Jim Callis — MLB.com’s senior writer for MLB pipeline — projected the Seattle Mariners to draft Crochet No. 6 overall in June’s draft.

“Already considered a first-round talent, Crochet boosted his profile by adding velocity and throwing at 96-100 mph for most of fall practice,” Callis wrote. “He also possesses one of the better changeups in the Draft as well as a solid slider with good spin rates.”

In two seasons on Rocky Top, Crochet is 10-9 with a 4.76 ERA. The Ocean Springs, Mississippi native has recorded 143 strikeouts in 128.2 innings of work while allowing 135 hits and 48 walks. Coming out of high school, the 6-foot-6 lefty was drafted in the 34th round by the Milwaukee Brewers but chose to come to Tennessee.

On a scale of 80, MLB.com ranks Crochet’s fastball as a 65, his slider as a 55, his changeup as a 60, his control as a 50, and received a 50 overall. Here’s how they break down his game:

“Crochet rated as Mississippi’s best prep pitching prospect in 2017 but wasn’t quite ready for pro ball or particularly signable, so he fell to the Brewers in the 34th round. He bounced between Tennessee’s rotation and bullpen in his first two college seasons, earning the Volunteers’ first NCAA tournament victory since 2005 last June — just two weeks after a line drive fractured and dislocated his jaw. He was sensational in fall practice, vaulting him into top-10-pick consideration for 2020.

After working with a 91-95 mph fastball and topping out at 97 during the spring, Crochet dealt at 96-100 for most of the fall, and his heater already played better than its velocity because it has high spin rates. His 82-85 mph slider features above-average spin rates as well and his long arms create difficult angle on his breaking ball. He flashes a well above-average changeup at times, throwing it around 90 mph with deceptive arm speed.

For a 6-foot-6 pitcher, Crochet does a nice job of keeping his long levers in sync and providing strikes. Scouts like his delivery and arm action, though he still needs to refine his command to make the most of his overpowering stuff. If he can maintain his newfound velocity during the spring, he’ll surpass R.A. Dickey (18th overall, 1996) as the highest-drafted Volunteers pitcher ever.”

As for Soularie, the JUCO signee was named to the All-SEC First Team last season after hitting .357, 11 home runs, and driving in 46 RBI during his first season on Rocky Top. The Vols’ outfielder led the team in batting (.357), slugging (.602), and on-base percentage (.466). He also finished second on the team in hits (70) and led the team in runs scored (52).

Soularie was also named to D1Baseball.com’s All-America Third Team, Rawlings/Perfect Game All-America Honorable Mention, and ABCA/Rawlings South All-Region Second Team

On a scale of 80, MLB.com ranks Soularie’s hitting ability a 50, his power at the plate a 50, his running ability a 45, his arm strength a 40, his fielding ability a 50, and he received a grade of 45 overall.

Here’s a look at how MLB.com breaks down Soularie’s game:

“Scouts have admired Soularie’s bat for a while but have had a hard time fitting the rest of his game into a profile. He went undrafted as a Texas prepster in 2017 and went in the 29th round to the Cardinals a year later after hitting .402/.513/.745 with 10 homers and 23 steals at San Jacinto (Texas) JC. After verbally committing to Arkansas and then-recruiting coordinator Tony Vitello out of high school, he reunited with Vitello (now the head coach at Tennessee) in 2019 and finished second in the Southeastern Conference in on-base percentage (.466) and third in batting (.357) and slugging (.602).

Soularie has excellent feel for recognizing and barreling pitches, making consistent line-drive contact to all fields while controlling the strike zone. His right-handed swing isn’t geared for home runs, though he makes the most of his average to solid raw power, and his hitting ability could translate into 20 homers per year. While he possesses just fringy speed, he’s aggressive on the bases.

Though scouts have regarded Soularie as a tweener who lacks the quickness for center field and the power to start on a corner, his track record of production could land him in the top three rounds. A center field at San Jac, he played left field as a sophomore and his instincts enhanced his range. He has below-average arm strength but showed reliable hands when he took ground balls at second base in the fall.”

A year after Crochet and Soularie helped lead Tennessee to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2005, the duo will be back in action on Feb. 14th when the Vols begin their season with a three-game series with Western Illinois.