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2013 MLB Draft Preview: Tennessee Volunteers

Most Intriguing Pre-Season 2013 MLB Draft Prospect(s) 

  1. JR RHP Nick Williams
  2. SR RHP Zack Godley

It doesn’t take a college baseball savant to see that the Tennessee program is still a few years away from making an impact in the SEC. One quick perusal of the Volunteers roster reveals the secret that backs up the prior statement: there are more true freshman on the roster than all other classes (sophomore, junior, senior) combined. As such, it isn’t easy finding worthwhile draft prospects to talk about. The best of the bunch of lot seems to be JR RHP Nick Williams. Williams isn’t without his flaws, most notably terribly inconsistent command and control that comes and goes, but he has a good fastball (up to 93) and the potential for two average or better offspeed pitches (curve and change). His build (6-1, 235 pounds) and command/control troubles point to the bullpen as his eventual professional home, though it wouldn’t stun me if it took another college season after this one to get to that point. That’s exactly what happened to Tennessee’s other draftable player, SR RHP Zack Godley. Godley, another pitcher who looks like he’ll eventually have to settle in as a reliever professionally, spurned the pros after his junior season to come back and try to boost his draft stock as a senior. I like Godley a lot as a college arm, and believe he has a future in pro ball in some capacity. Part of the reason for that is because I have a soft spot for righthanders who get by without big fastballs: he’ll hit 90/91 on occasion, but primarily lives in the mid- to upper-80s. Godley gets outs by mixing a deep repertoire (cutter/slider, softer curve, low-80s change) within the strike zone effectively. If you squint really hard you might see a little bit of Vance Worley there. Worley epitomizes the best case scenario for this command-oriented relatively soft throwing (Worley peaked at 93/94 at Long Beach, but many believed he’d be an upper-80s, 90/91 guy as a pro) college righthanded pitching prospect. In other words, don’t take the Godley/Worley thing as a direct comp per se. That’s what makes scouting and player development so difficult. In a given year, 25 pitchers may fit this basic description but only one emerges as a legitimate big league pitcher. Somebody smarter than me will someday make a lot of money finding a way to isolate whatever variables makes that one pitcher rise above the rest.

It is entirely possible I’m missing on another draftable Volunteer upperclassman, but, as of now, I’m sticking with Williams and Godley as the only two worth following. If I had to pick a third, I think I’d presently go with JR C Ethan Bennett. Bennett hit .179 last year with 30 strikeouts in 112 at bats. When that’s potentially your third most interesting draft-eligible prospect, things are going to take some time to get better. To be fair, Bennett did put up a solid freshman line of .254/.354/.476 in 126 at bats.

2014 MLB Draft Name(s) to Know 

  1. SO INF/OF Will Maddox

Maddox is a versatile defender who showed good speed and above-average patience in his first year of major college ball. He may never have the carrying tool that will get him regular time as a big league player, but his brand of makeup, defensive flexibility, and solid bat is exactly what scouts look for in bench guys.

SO LHP Brandon Zajac’s freshman year didn’t go quite as well, but he’s got good size (6-4, 220 pounds) and a loose arm. The 2015 class, led by big names like powerful FR OF/LHP Vincent Jackson and rangy FR SS AJ Simcox, should be a lot of fun to follow. We’re obviously a long way away from June 2015, but it wouldn’t shock me if both hitters work themselves into the first round mix by then.

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