What to know about Tennessee baseball roster following the 2022 MLB Draft

Mike Wilson
Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee baseball's starting lineup is undergoing near-wholesale changes in 2023 after the MLB Draft.

The Vols had a program-record 10 players drafted. Six of UT's positional starters on its 57-win team were 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 featured 50 rounds. 

Here is what to know about the draft and next season's roster.

No major surprises for the Vols

Tennessee went into the draft primed to set a record for draft picks and it easily did so. The Vols had nine players picked in the first seven rounds. Shortstop Cortland Lawson made it 10 picks when the Washington Nationals took him in the 14th round.

UT's entire infield departs 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 three primary starting outfielders were picked, including Drew Gilbert and Jordan Beck, who were first-rounders. Gilbert was taken 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 fielder next season, was picked in the seventh round by the Detroit Tigers.

Blade Tidwell, the 52nd pick by the New York Mets, was the lone starting pitching loss, 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 taken in the sixth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks and the seven round by the Chicago White Sox, respectively.

Catcher Evan Russell signed with the Angels a free agent.

Transfers plucked away

Reggie Crawford gave Tennessee a major win in the transfer portal, but also was regarded as a top-100 MLB Draft prospect. He was picked No. 30 by the San Francisco Giants and is won't join UT.

Crawford committed to UT as a transfer from UConn. He hit .295 with a Big East-leading 13 homers and 62 RBIs 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 is leaving, joining Vols via portal?

Catcher Jack Alexander, a graduate transfer from Austin Peay, signed a free agent deal with the Kansas City Royals following the draft. He hit .346 with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs. He struck out 31 times with 27 walks, posting an on-base percentage of .425.

UT does not have a proven catcher on its roster. Sophomore Charlie Taylor and outfielder Jared Dickey are options. Dickey entered the season as the third-string catcher behind Russell and Taylor.

Recruiting class intact post-draft

Tennessee's entire recruiting class is likely to arrive in Knoxville. Caden Marcum, a right-handed pitcher from Paola, Kansas, was picked in the 13th round by the Texas Rangers. 

Outfielder Alex Stanwich was the top potential draft candidate going in from Tennessee's class. Pitchers Jake Bimbi, Dillon Orr and Hunter Sloop were not picked. 

Outfielders Reese Chapman and Dylan Dreiling are potential early contributors at Tennessee after going undrafted.

Who is returning for Tennessee?

Tennessee returns the backbone of its pitching staff with the starting trio of Drew Beam, Chase Burns and Chase Dollander. The lineup will look drastically different following the draft.

Dollander, who is a potential top-10 picks in 2023, leads the way as the reigning SEC pitcher of the year. Beam and Burns had SEC all-freshman seasons. Wyatt Evans showed promise as a freshman in the bullpen. Zander Sechrist was a midweek pitching staple.

Seth Halvorsen did not pitch in 2022 after a preseason injury and midseason setback. 

First baseman Blake Burke and infielder Christian Moore lead the returning hitters after standout freshman seasons. Outfielder Kyle Booker could be primed for a key role with the outfield turning over. Outfielder Christian Scott shared on Instagram that he will return for a fifth year.

Outfielder/first baseman Kavares Tears redshirted in 2022 but has a big bat and promise during fall practice. Utility player Logan Chambers came in with big expectations but fell out of the playing group. He 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 michael.wilson@knoxnews.com and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.