Fall Report: Tennessee • D1Baseball

#3

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"An Original Noob"
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#3
Anyone have a D1 subscription to pass along the details?
Here is a paragraph from the article…….probably the most positive article I‘ve seen about the Vols!! Once some time goes by, I'll try and post a cliff note version of the article.....

However, these days in Knoxville the Vols don’t rebuild, they reload. Plenty of firepower returns with potential 1st rounders Blade Tidwell and Jordan Beck, along with another potential top three round prospect Drew Gilbert. They’ve also added a highly touted prep recruit in Chase Burns, the healthy return of arm cannon Ben Joyce, a couple of impact JUCO position players in Logan Chambers and Seth Stephenson and four-year transfers Chase Dollander and Seth Halvorsen. In short, there is no supply chain backup with this club.
 
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Here is the full article (minus the videos on Tidwell, Beck, and Joyce)

Fall Report: Tennessee

FALL REPORT David Seifert - November 3, 2021

MILLINGTON, Tenn. — After losing lefty Garrett Crochet (1st round- White Sox) and hitting star Alerick Soulaire (2nd round- Twins) to the professional ranks following the 2020 covid-cancelled season, the Volunteers won the SEC East in 2021 and returned to the College World Series for the first time since 2005. Following that recent run to Omaha, Tennessee entered this fall with more significant losses, including bulldog Chad Dallas (4th round- Blue Jays), its top three hitters; Pete Derkay, Liam Spence (5th round- Cubs), Jake Rucker (7th round- Twins), and other high round picks Max Ferguson (5th round- Padres) and Connor Pavolony (7th round- Orioles).

However, these days in Knoxville the Vols don’t rebuild, they reload. Plenty of firepower returns with potential 1st rounders Blade Tidwell and Jordan Beck, along with another potential top three round prospect Drew Gilbert. They’ve also added a highly touted prep recruit in Chase Burns, the healthy return of arm cannon Ben Joyce, a couple of impact JUCO position players in Logan Chambers and Seth Stephenson and four-year transfers Chase Dollander and Seth Halvorsen. In short, there is no supply chain backup with this club.

Staff ace Tidwell sat out the pre-Halloween scrimmage on October 30 against Louisiana Tech in Millington, as did Halvorsen. Yet, the Vols were still plenty impressive on the mound and in the batter’s box. Showing speed, power, hit ability and strong defense, here are some scouting observations from a Volunteer team loaded with impact position players, to go along with big velocity and many different looks on the mound.

HITTERS:

The 2022 talent hydrant starts at the top of the lineup with tooled-up athletes Kyle Booker and Lavictor Lipscomb. The left-handed hitting Booker is a plus runner once underway, but slower out of the box, running a 4.40 on a ground ball to second base. He hit .310 in a reserve role last season as a freshman and should easily top that production from the leadoff spot this spring. At the hot corner, the solid defense of Lipscomb and his plus-to-better arm strength were evident all day long. There’s some cleanup needed at the plate with a diving stride and length to his swing, but he found the barrel for a trio of base hits; a hard liner to right field for a single, another hard liner for a double down the right field line and a line drive double to left field when he hooked a changeup. The right-handed hitting Lipscomb also produced a .310 average in a reserve role last season and is the front-runner to win a starting spot at third this spring.

The high-octane offense continues with grad student Luc Lipcius (15 HR in 2021) in the three-hole. He returns for his sixth season after earning a degree in Aerospace Engineering this past May. The left-handed hitting first baseman struggled with his timing and offspeed pitches against Louisiana Tech, but he’s an experienced SEC bat with plus raw power, 21 career HR and a .994 career fielding percentage.

Clean-up man Jordan Beck is a well-known and accomplished power bat. No. 32 in our most recent Top 100 2022 prospect rankings, he showed plus raw power to all fields in batting practice, then dropped an oppo taco to right center field and a 400’+ blast to dead center during the game. Beck finished 4-for-4 with four RBIs. An above average runner underway, Beck ran a 4.27 down the line on a jailbreak from the right side. At this point, he’s considered more of a second-to-third round prospect by most clubs, but a reduction in his strikeout rate (20.8% in 2021) while maintaining his power production (15 HR/.523 SLG) will likely propel him higher next summer. Beck anchors right field, where he’s an average to slightly above defender with plus arm strength and improving accuracy. He profiles to remain in right field as a professional. The right-handed hitter reminds somewhat of a Hunter Renfroe (Mississippi State) type and could also jump to the first round, like Renfroe, who from his sophomore to junior seasons raised his average from .252 to .345 and home run totals from four to 16, while lowering his strikeout rate from 19.3% to 14.1%. Renfroe then went 13th overall to the Padres in 2013.

Providing Beck with protection is center fielder Drew Gilbert. A two-way contributor last season, tossing 8.1 shutout innings and batting .274 with 10 HR and 64 RBIs, Gilbert is also an above average defender in center field. He is sure-handed, gets good reads off the bat and runs precise routes to the ball. With all that stated, 70-grade arm strength is his top tool. At the plate he sets up with an open stance and has very good hand speed. With compact strength, he also has good pop to his pull side. As a 5-foot-10 left-handed hitter, think Kole Calhoun (D-Backs/Angels).

Converted outfielder Evan Russell is now the likely starting catcher for the Vols. With average arm strength, he popped a 2.03 during the game with a clean transfer and true ball flight to the bag. Most impressive was how he handled a variety of looks and pitches from the nine pitchers he caught during his time behind the dish. From the 100 mph heaters of Joyce and 96 mph sprays by Chase Burns to the nasty three-pitch arsenal of Kirby Connell, Russell handled every pitch. He even made a spectacular play on a foul popup against the backstop netting for an out. Offensively, the right handed hitter has swing/miss to his game due to late pitch recognition, but when he squares it up, it’s likely to leave the yard as his 14 HR last season attest. The fifth-year senior is the only player in program history to twice hit three home runs in a single game.

Adding length to an already loaded lineup are third-year infielder Cortland Lawson, JUCO transfers Logan Chambers and Seth Stephenson and fourth-year junior shortstop Logan Steenstra. Both Chambers with his hit ability, and Stephenson with his electric speed, were both as advertised from our Top 50 Impact JUCO Transfers rankings. The left-handed hitting Chambers was especially impressive with his plan at the plate and his ability to make adjustments pitch to pitch. After pulling off the first pitch and hitting it foul for strike one, he stayed on the next pitch, and drove an outer half fastball down the left field line off the fair pole for a home run. He’s likely to fill the Swiss army knife role for the Volunteers with his ability to move around the diamond, most likely seeing the greatest time in the outfield or at DH.

Stephenson is just flat out twitchy fast. An 80-grade runner underway, he cuts the bases like few others. He scored easily from first base on a double to left center field. At the plate, there is some length to his right-handed swing, as he wants to get big. At 5-foot-8, 160 pounds he would be much better served with a flatter swing path and a middle of the field approach. Defensively, he played some shortstop, but with fringe average arm strength he might be a better fit at second base, or long-term at the next level, center field.

Juniors Lawson or Steenstra are likely to take over for Liam Spence at shortstop. Steenstra, at 6-foot-5, 210-pounds, is athletic and long-levered. Fully recovered from TJ surgery two winters ago, he has plus arm strength and previously logged some innings on the mound in junior college. Defensively, he has smooth actions with soft hands and despite his height, he makes all the plays in the field. Offensively, he showed an improved swing since last fall, but is more of an early count ambush hitter who puts the ball in play. Although I did not see Joey Nathan, a long-limbed converted shortstop, in college (my first look at him was in high-A ball for San Jose in the California League), Steenstra reminds me of him way back in 1998.

Another athletic looking body type with plenty of tools, Lawson batted .357 in limited action last spring. On this look he reached base three times, including a line drive RBI single to left field in his last at-bat.

Other position players who appeared during the extra inning scrimmage against Louisiana Tech include Ethan Payne, Jared Dickey, Blake Burke, Jorel Ortega, Christian Moore, Hunter Ensley and Christian Scott. Scott struggled getting to the fastball during this contest, but is in competition with Booker for the everyday spot in left field where he showed average arm strength.

Most impressive of the group was the jump of the ball off the bat by the true freshman Burke. The physical, left-handed hitting slugger lopsided balls to all fields during batting practice. However, there is some length to his swing and it showed during game action as he struck out on a fastball. Dickey also showed some length to his swing, but saved his power for the game as he hammered a deep home run to left field and followed it up with a just missed fly out to right in his next at-bat. Junior infielder Payne added a pair of knocks with a hard ground ball single up the middle and a RBI double to left center.

PITCHERS:

The pitching staff headliner is no-doubt Blade Tidwell, a power-armed sophomore who is draft-eligible this July. Standing 6-foot-4, 205-pounds, Tidwell is an athletic bodied right-hander with wide shoulders. He did not pitch in Millington due to a limited workload this fall. At his best his fastball tops in the 96-97 range with more in the tank. His best breaking pitch is a plus, hard curveball at 80-83 mph with 11/5 rotation, finishing with late action and quick depth at the plate. Tidwell will also show the ability to manipulate his breaker into a more slider-shaped chase pitch at a similar velocity, as well as changing the shape vs right-handed hitters. As a third pitch, he can mix in a very low-spin changeup in the 1100-1200 rpm range due to big hands and a wide grip. More on Tidwell here- USA Baseball Insider Scouting the Pitchers.

Other candidates for the spring rotation include returning swingman Camden Sewell, true freshman Chase Burns and transfers Chase Dollander and Seth Halvorsen.

Halvorsen, a transfer from Missouri, tweaked his back a couple days previous to Millington, which meant his throwing schedule was altered, making it not line up to pitch against the Bulldogs. Reports are that his stuff (mid-90s fastball and plus slider) and control (57 BB in 72 IP last spring) have become more consistent this fall. Based upon past developments, pitching coach Frank Anderson should be able to bring out the best in Halvorsen, and if so, look out. A Tidwell-Halvorsen 1-2 punch would be a tall order for opposing offenses this spring.

Sewell made three starts last season and posted a 2.82 ERA in 51 IP. He’s a sinker/slider specialist with a three-quarter release point. Against La. Tech, he showed 88-91 with plus arm side life. Early in his one inning pitched he was around his slider for a wide break at 79-80 mph, but a dozen pitches later he found his release point and broke off consistently above average benders.

Burns, who touched 100 mph as a prep, “only” found 96-octane on this look. His arm swing is long and loose to a three-quarter release point. There’s some effort to his operation, but unless you are Ben Joyce, there is effort when approaching triple digits. Burns sat 94-96 with a fairly straight heater that spun in the 2300-2400 rpm range. He overthrew it often, leaving numerous fastballs up in the zone. His best pitch was a plus 82-83 hard curveball and he flashed an 89 mph cutter. Overall, it was an impressive mix of stuff, yet one that saw him work deep counts to the majority of batters he faced during his one inning or work.

A Georgia Southern transfer, Dollander looked strong in his one inning. His low effort delivery with a three-quarter release point produced 91-94 mph fastballs, plus low-80s late-biting sliders and a fringe-quality changeup. He filled the zone with three pitches, making quick work of the Bulldogs.

The Vol Pen will be anchored by ultimate warrior Kirby Connell with his deceptive stuff that plays up at least a grade from its velocity. His long relief role will likely be back-ended by the flame-thrower Joyce.

Connell absolutely destroys left-handed hitters, but is effective against both side bats with starter stuff and plus command. His low-spin fastball sits 86-88 and he repeats an average 73-74 mph curveball that plays up with his ability to change its shape. But his real difference maker is a plus, low-spin, sinking change-piece. He consistently fills the zone with three pitches and has big-time trust from coaches Vitello and Anderson, as three walks in 42 IP last season will tend to do.

The scrimmage was made even more enjoyable when Ben Joyce entered the ballgame and began soft-tossing 100 mph bullets to the plate. My gun peaked at 100 for his offerings, but a neighboring radar showed 102. Regardless of how hot it truly was, his heat quieted the crowd and entertained the many youth ballplayers in attendance. The Bulldogs did manage to square up his fastball with a pair of line drives to center field, scoring a run in the process. Amazingly, Joyce gives the Volunteers three 100 mph hurlers in the past three seasons (Andrew Schultz, Garrett Crochet).

Other potential bullpen pieces who appeared in Millington were Matt McLaughlin, a right-hander who worked real easy from a high three-quarter slot. His fastball sat 90-91, peaking at 93 with limited life. His top pitch looked to be a tight-spinning curveball (up to 2825 rpm) at 75-76 mph. With limited deception he worked his fastball to the top of the zone and his bender down.

Jake Fitzgibbons worked with effort and muscled the ball downhill at 90-91. He worked quickly and had deception to his delivery from a high three-quarter release point. The lefty repeated an average curveball at 73-75 mph for strikes with spin rates in the 2700s. He also mixed in a lower spin 78-79 mph changeup as a third pitch, but dropped his release point a bit, telegraphing the offering. Another lefty with a high three-quarter slot, Wyatt Evans, followed Fitzgibbons to the bump and tossed 88-90 mph fastballs, pairing them with a 74 mph curveball.

Sandwiched between Connell and Joyce, right-hander Hollis Fanning, pitched a scoreless inning with an 88-89 fastball, 79 slider and 72 curve from a three-quarter slot. Christian Delashmit followed Joyce to the mound. The 6-foot-3 right-hander fired a scoreless inning with a cross-fire delivery for good deception on his 86 mph fastball and 78 mph slider from a low three-quarter release point.

Finishing off the first nine innings for the Vols was left-hander William Mabrey who pitched with a 90-92 heater and 82-83 hard curveball. Zander Sechrist started off extra innings from the left side with a high effort delivery producing 86-87 mph fastballs, 72-75 breaking balls and a best pitch, 77 mph changeup.
 

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