Toeing the line against LSU, the Vols have measured up impressively well, and depending on how the draft shakes out, there is strong reason to believe that this group ultimately earns the top spot on D1Baseball’s Newcomer Rankings. With a long track record as one of the sport’s top recruiters, head coach Tony Vitello might be even more impressive as an evaluator. Along with recruiting coordinator Josh Elander, pitching coach Frank Anderson, as well as the rest of the Vols’ support staff, Vitello put together a group of prospects who committed to Knoxville and only elevated their level of play in the time since.
Ten states are represented in this group and each of the players in the robust group are ranked inside the top-100 nationally. A trio of electric right-handers lead the bunch including No. 21 RHP Tegan Kuhns (Gettysburg HS, PA), No. 28 RHP Brayden Krenzel (Dublin Jerome HS, OH), and No. 40 Anson Seibert. Each is a Friday night starter in the making with electric arms which has quickly become an expectation under coach Anderson.
While those three are likely to generate the most buzz in the spring, No. 56 RHP Tate Strickland (Harrison HS, GA) and No. 73 RHP Nic Abraham (Franklin HS, CA) have the moxie and stuff to surpass them in the long run. Abraham, in particular, has built a strong pedigree on the west coast as a consummate winner whose starter profile would most definitely challenge for a weekend spot from day one.
The charisma from this group of position players is alluring. Neither No. 29 SS Ty Southisene (Basic HS, NV) nor No. 36 SS Jay Abernathy (North Cobb HS, GA) measures in above 6-foot, but both carry themselves as much larger presences on the diamond. Southisene has some of the surest, most dynamic hands in the class, and Abernathy’s ascension to the top of the Georgia prep ranks as a versatile left-handed hitter should have Rocky Top buzzing. Add to that No. 57 C Levi Clark (Walton HS, GA), one of the summer’s biggest winners as a run-producing right-handed slugger and quality defender who’s made of future team captain material, No. 69 IF Trey Snyder (Liberty North HS, MO) who is equal parts athlete and power presence, and No. 96 SS Manny Marin (Westminster Christian HS, FL) whose silky smooth glove is a game changer, and the Vols have more than enough weapons to generate considerable hype looking ahead 12 months.
But similar to LSU’s ability to collect quantity with quality, the Vols are a mirror image. RHP Andrew DuMont (St. Louis University HS, MO) and LHP Ryler Smart (Pearland HS, TX) are ranked just outside the top 100, but both hold considerable upside and arm talent. Few make it look easier than DuMont and Smart hails from a Texas power program, Pearland, where he is set to gain valuable high leverage experience even before getting to the SEC. Then there is do-it-all ballplayer, SS/C/OF Chris Newstrom (Chaparral HS, AZ), who might be the most integral piece of the class. Versatile positionally, Newstrom carries some it-factor and has a knack for showing up in big spots… along with having some strong tools.