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Tennessee Baseball Guide To The MLB Draft

The 20-round MLB Draft begins at 7 p.m. ET Sunday night and it’s poised to be a big three days for Tennessee baseball.

Tennessee could tie or even break its record — eight — for most draft picks in the history of the MLB Draft. It would be quite the achievement for the 2022 Tennessee baseball team considering the MLB Draft used to be 40 rounds instead of its current 20.

The first two rounds are on Sunday night with ESPN broadcasting round one and Tony Vitello joining the MLB Network broadcast for rounds one and two. Rounds three through 10 are Monday beginning at 2 p.m. ET and rounds 11 through 20 are Tuesday beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

Here’s everything Tennessee related you need to look out for in the 2022 MLB Draft.

Professional Baseball Locks

Tennessee outfielder Jordan Beck and Drew Gilbert are poised to be the Vols’ first opening round selections since the White Sox took Garrett Crochet with the 11th pick in the 2020 MLB Draft.

The outfield duo were centerpieces in Tennessee’s emergences as one of the Southeastern Conference’s best programs over the last three years.

Beck hit .298 as a junior and combined for 33 home runs in his sophomore and junior seasons while possessing a rocket arm in right field. Gilbert was the heart-and-soul of the Tennessee program and one of the conference’s best players as a junior, hitting .362 with 11 home runs, 21 doubles and 70 RBIs.

Right-handed pitcher Blade Tidwell could hear his name late in the first round and is a near lock to be selected on night number one of the draft. A rare draft eligible sophomore, Tidwell was inconsistent in an injury riddled sophomore season but still possesses a high-90s fastball and a high ceiling.

Flame throwing reliever Ben Joyce and All-SEC third baseman Trey Lipscomb could hear their names in the second round or fall early into the second day of the draft. Either way, the four-year college players are locks to forego their final seasons in Knoxville for professional baseball.

Lipscomb was one of the SEC’s top players, hitting .355 with a team-high 22 home runs and 84 RBIs a season ago. Joyce is a fascinating MLB Draft case study. College relievers typically don’t go high in the draft, but Joyce’s fastball lives north of 100 mph and could develop into a professional starter.

Super-seniors Evan Russell and Luc Lipcius won’t be selected early in the MLB Draft, but they are out of eligibility and could contribute to a record MLB Draft for the Tennessee baseball program.

Likely Gone But Could Return

Second baseman Jorel Ortega leads the way for Tennessee players likely bound for professional baseball but could return to school if the draft/signing bonuses don’t go their way.

An All-SEC snub, Ortega hit .323 with 18 home runs and 61 RBIs in his lone season as a starter in Knoxville. Ortega projects as a second day draft selection.

Ortega’s middle infield counterpart Cortland Lawson isn’t expected to go as high as Ortega but will hear his name called over the three day draft. Lawson was strong defensively in his lone season as a starter and showed more pop than expected, hitting 12 home runs.

Tennessee recruited like Lawson is going professional this offseason, adding All-Big 12 shortstop Maui Ahuna from Kansas.

Left-handed reliever Will Mabrey is the most likely player to return to school from this group, but is still more likely to go pro than return to Tennessee for his senior season.

Mabrey developed into Tennessee’s best relievers in his junior year, posting a 2.63 ERA in 41 innings.

More From RTI: Where Five UT Players Are Projected To Be Selected

Could Stay, Could Go

Tennessee’s top end pitching is set with Blade Tidwell gone and Chase Burns, Chase Dollander and Drew Beam all ineligible for the MLB Draft.

However, there are a number of bullpen arms — including Mabrey — that could go pro or come back to Knoxville.

RHP Mark McLaughlin has a mid-90s fastball and steadily improved in his junior year on his way to posting a 2.01 ERA in 31.1 innings pitched. The Georgia native projects as a day three draft pick.

Tennessee’s most used bullpen arm from a season ago, Camden Sewell, doesn’t project as high as his on the mound production would indicate. Boasting a moving low-90s fastball, Sewell posted a 7-1 record and 2.52 ERA during his senior season.

The NCAA’s COVID-19 eligibility relief gives Sewell a fifth-year of eligibility that he could potentially us. It would be a massive win for Viello and pitching coach Frank Anderson to get the Cleveland, Tennessee native back.

Outfielder Seth Stephenson hit .339 while gaining the starting left field spot in his first season in Knoxville. The junior college transfer will likely be drafted on the third day of the event, but could fall out.

Even if selected, Stephenson could improve his draft stock with a strong senior season in Knoxville. The junior college transfer could replace Gilbert as Tennessee’s starting center fielder next season.

Incoming Players To Watch Out For

Baseball recruiting is an inexact science with high school players and some transfers eligible for the MLB Draft.

That starts with UConn transfer Reggie Crawford who could go on day one or fall as an early day two selection. Most of Crawford’s collegiate success came as a power hitting first baseman, but his potential is sky-high as a power throwing left-handed reliever.

Crawford committed to Tennessee earlier this week and would be a major coup for Vitello’s staff if he makes it to campus.

Alabama infield transfer Zane Denton is eligible for the draft and will likely hear his name called at some point. It’s most likely to be called on the third day, however, and the Vols’ should get the Brentwood native to Knoxville for his final college season.

A number of Tennessee prep signees could hear their name called, but Illinois outfielder Alex Stanwich is the biggest threat to jump straight to professional baseball.

Stanwich isn’t the only Tennessee outfield signee that could hear his name over the three day draft. Colorado outfielder Reese Chapman as well as Kansas outfielder Dylan Dreiling are draft prospects. Chapman starred in the MLB All-Star week high school All-American game a season ago.

Arizona right-handed pitcher Dillon Orr is the most likely Vol pitching signee to be taken in the 2o22 MLB Draft. The 6-foot-4 pitcher boasts a mid-90s fastball and could carve out a role as a freshman in Knoxville.

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