Tennessee Players to Watch in the 2020 MLB Draft

by -

(Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

While the college baseball season was canceled in March and Major League Baseball has yet to throw a single pitch in 2020, the 2020 MLB Draft is still a go.

MLB’s annual draft will be held on Wednesday (June 10) and Thursday (June 11) of this week. There are typically 40 rounds in an MLB Draft, but this year’s draft will be much different, as it has been cut to just five rounds due to COVID-19.

The first night of coverage will consist of the first 37 picks of the draft which covers the first round and the Competitive Balance Round A. It is set to begin at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN and the MLB Network. Thursday’s coverage will begin on both the MLB Network and ESPN2 at 5 p.m. ET. Day two of the draft will consist of rounds 2-5.

Tennessee baseball was 15-2 and ranked inside the top 25 of every major collegiate baseball poll when the season was called due to the Coronavirus. The Vols were dominant both on the mound and at the plate. As a result, multiple Vols could be drafted this year.

These Diamond Vols could have their names called this week.

Garrett Crochet, LHP

Crochet may very well become Tennessee’s highest drafted pitcher since R.A. Dickey was drafted No. 18 overall by the Texas Rangers in 1996, which is around where many mock drafts have Crochet going. Former Vol pitcher Luke Hochevar was selected No. 1 overall by the Kansas City Royals in 2006.

The Mississippi native was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 34th round coming out of high school as the top prep pitcher in Mississippi, but he decided to sign with the Vols and be part of Tony Vitello’s first recruiting class. At 6-foot-6, Crochet worked out of the bullpen for much of his freshman and sophomore seasons, though he did make six starts in each season.

Crochet was set to be the ace for the Vols this season after a tremendous fall practice in which he was touching triple-digits on the radar gun from the left side of the mound. Left shoulder issues caused him to miss the first three weeks of the season, however. Crochet made just one start this season for the Vols as a result.

He’ll need to continue to work on his command as he enters the professional ranks, but scouts like his delivery and arm action. Crochet’s velocity and prowess on the mound is what attracts pro organizations the most. He consistently works 96-100 with his fastball, and the break on his slider is as good as it gets for a college pitcher. Crochet will need to continue to develop his changeup as he enters a professional organization.

Vitello is set to secure his first first-round draft pick as a head coach on Monday night when Crochet comes off the board. Crochet played a big role in getting this program turned around in such a short amount of time, and he’ll likely be rewarded for his efforts.

Alerick Soularie, OF

Soularie is the second and final Vol that is all but guaranteed to be drafted this week and sign with the team that selects him.

The junior college product shined in his one full season at Tennessee in 2019. Soularie played in 60 games (54 starts) and led the team in batting (.357), slugging percentage (.602) and on-base percentage (.466). He finished second on the team with 70 hits and led the team in runs scored with 52. As a result of his breakout performance, Soularie earned All-SEC First Team honors.

Soularie entered the 2020 season as a Preseason All-American by multiple publications. He got off to a slow start, but he was just finding his stride at the plate when the season came to a close. In 17 games, he hit .267, clubbed five home runs, and drove in 17 runs.

His ability at the plate is what will likely get Soularie drafted within the first three rounds of this year’s draft. Soularie may be undersized and may not have a distinct position, but his quick hands and pop in his bat gives him a chance to be successful at the next level.

Jackson Leath, RHP

Leath is one of two X-factors for the Vols in this year’s draft. After signing with Tennessee out of junior college last offseason, the Texas native was dominant in his debut season with the Vols. Leath was 4-0 on the year with two saves in five appearances. In 18.2 innings of work, he allowed just three runs on 11 hits, struck out 29, and only surrendered five walks.

Tennessee used him in both a starting role and a long-relief role. Leath’s versatility and power arm is what attracts professional teams, as is his ability to pound the zone with a four-pitch arsenal.

The question surrounding Leath is in regards to which round will he be drafted. Leath has first round stuff, but he wasn’t able to prove it because he didn’t get to go through conference play. If he’s drafted later in this year’s draft, it would be extremely advantageous for him to come back for another season on Rocky Top and prove he’s a dominant pitcher against SEC competition. If he were to do that, he’s likely a first round pick in 2021.

It’s not a matter of if Leath will get drafted, but when.

Zach Daniels, OF

Daniels is the other X-factor for the Vols in this year’s draft. When the season was canceled, Daniels was hitting .357 with four home runs and 18 runs batted in. He was well on his way to an All-SEC season, but like Leath, he didn’t get the chance to prove his worth against the best of the best in conference play.

So, if you’re Daniels, do you take advantage of your stock now while it may be at an all-time high? Scouts love his athleticism and power. Or do you come back for another season, prove your worth against SEC competition, and catapult into the first round of next year’s draft?

Regardless, Daniels will likely get drafted this week, and it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him take advantage of his stock as it currently sits.

Chase Wallace, RHP

Wallace burst into the rotation this spring following a tremendous fall practice. The junior was 1-1 in four starts for Tennessee this season with an ERA of 3.50. He struck out 18, walked seven, and allowed seven runs on 13 hits.

Wallace left a lot to be desired despite a good start to the season. The coaching staff wanted him to be more consistent and display the confidence on the mound that he displayed in the fall. Still, he did enough to possibly hear his name called this week.

Keep checking in with Rocky Top Insider throughout the week as we’ll have continued coverage of the Vols in regards to the 2020 MLB Draft.

Ben McKee is a graduate from the University of Tennessee and has a degree in Journalism and Electronic Media. He covers Tennessee football, basketball, baseball, and the Lady Vols for RTI, and he's also the host of the 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.