Top Tennessee 2020 MLB Draft Prospects

Image credit: Austin Martin (Peter Aiken/Getty)

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(Stars are listed on a 1 to 5 scale relative to what the state typically produces, with 1 being the weakest)

Nat Rank Player Pos School Ht Wt B-T Commit/Drafted
2 Austin Martin OF Vanderbilt 6-0 170 R-R Indians ’17 (37)
A first team All-American and Golden Spikes semifinalist after an outstanding sophomore season in which he hit .392/.486/.604 and was third in the country in hits, Martin has long been one of the favorites for the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. Martin has some of the best pure hitting ability in the class, with eye-popping bat speed, excellent contact ability and impressive plate discipline as well. Martin also appeared to be increasing his power production. He hit eight home runs as a sophomore after tallying just one in his freshman season. He hit three in 16 games in 2020 before the season was canceled, with the best isolated slugging percentage of his career (.286). Some people have thrown Dansby Swanson comparisons on Martin, as both are at the top of their respective classes and Vanderbilt products, but without spending any time at shortstop, it’s perhaps more misleading than accurate. There aren’t many 1-1 candidate prospects who made position changes during their draft-eligible seasons, so perhaps Ian Happ is a better comparison in terms of tools and defensive versatility, though Martin’s contact ability and presence in the box are superior to Happ’s at the time. After spending most of his time with Vanderbilt at third base, Martin moved to center field after a few games this spring. He also played center field with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, and while he doesn’t have elite speed or the best first step, he has the instincts and athleticism to handle the position. Martin is more of a plus runner than a true burner, and while teams would have liked to see him handle shortstop, it is concerning for his pro potential at the position considering he wasn’t the shortstop on his college team. Even if Martin doesn’t wind up at shortstop, he has the defensive ability to become an asset at a premium position, whether that’s in center field, third base or second. While there are questions about his future defensive home, Martin’s offensive resume is as impressive as any in the country, with the ability to hit for high average, draw plenty of walks, hit for extra bases and also be a disruptive runner on the bases. His profile is as complete as it gets in the 2020 class.
15 Garrett Crochet LHP Tennessee 6-6 218 L-L Brewers ’17 (34)
A 6-foot-6, 218-pound southpaw with a fastball that is regularly in the 96-100 mph range as well as a plus breaking ball, Crochet could have the best overall stuff in the class and he certainly has the best stuff of any lefthander. The abbreviated 2020 season hurts Crochet, who doesn’t have the track record of starting that many of the college arms around him do. For this reason, some scouts have compared him to Duke lefthander Graeme Stinson from the 2019 draft class, though Crochet has more starts under his belt at this time than Stinson did entering his junior season. Crochet split time as a starter and reliever during his freshman and sophomore seasons before entering his junior season with a full-time starting role. That was delayed, reportedly due to shoulder soreness, and Crochet made just one start against Wright State—when he threw 3.1 innings with six strikeouts—before the season ended. His stuff looked as loud as ever in that outing, with a fastball that sat between 93-98 mph range and touched 99, as well as a plus slider and above-average changeup. Crochet routinely creates uncomfortable at-bats against hitters, particularly lefties, with his length and the angle he creates in his delivery. His fastball explodes out of his hand and is a plus-plus pitch at the moment, giving him an elite two-pitch mix that gives him the fallback of a relief ace if starting doesn’t work out. His secondary offerings have been inconsistent in the past, but both have flashed above-average potential frequently enough to project that in the future. There aren’t any glaring reasons why Crochet couldn’t start, and his strike-throwing with Tennessee has been fine (3.37 walks per nine for his career), but teams are wary of the relative lack of track record in that role. If a team is willing to take a risk, Crochet’s pure stuff fits at the absolute top of the draft and while there’s a good deal of variance in his current profile, it’s difficult to find this stuff and size from a lefthander.
16 Robert Hassell OF Independence HS, Thompson’s Station, Tenn. 6-2 190 L-L Vanderbilt
Hassell is at the top of the list when it comes to the best hitters in the high school class. He was voted as the top pure hitter in the class by scouting directors, over outfielders like Austin Hendrick and Pete Crow-Armstrong and has few holes in a loose, lefthanded swing. Hassell was the most consistent hitter for USA Baseball’s 18U National Team last summer, leading the Americans in 10 offensive categories while posting a .514/.548/.886 slash line. For his efforts, he was named the World Baseball Softball Confederation’s 2019 International Player of the Year. Hassell has a lean frame with an exceptionally handsy swing that reminds some scouts of players like Jarred Kelenic and Riley Greene, in terms of hittingl potential. He brings a sound approach to the table and understands the strike zone, rarely swinging and missing no matter the stuff, using the entire field and showing an advanced ability to make adjustments. Hassell has a fairly lean frame at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, and scouts are mixed on his future power potential, with some wondering how much bigger he’ll get and others more optimistic about him developing average or 55-grade power. Defensively, Hassell has a chance to stick in center field. He’s an above-average runner with above-average arm strength, but his speed is better underway and he lacks the elite sort of footspeed that most major league center fielders possess. It’s more likely that he winds up in a corner, where he could be a good defender, though that will put more pressure on the Vanderbilt commit growing into more power. It’s rare for the top prep hitter in the class to fall out of the top half of the first round, but teams didn’t see Hassell much this spring and he’ll also be competing against a strong group of prep outfielders.
70 Jake Eder LHP Vanderbilt 6-4 210 L-L Mets ’17 (34)
Eder checked a lot of boxes out of high school in 2017 as a strong, 6-foot-4 lefthander with a starter’s frame, a fastball that bumped 95 and a curveball that flashed above-average potential. Three years later, Eder still checks a lot of those same boxes, but he is something of an enigma for scouts to figure out because of his inconsistency. Scouts still love the way his arm works and believe he has close to a perfect pitcher’s frame at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, but his command is spotty and his fastball velocity comes and goes. One day he’ll throw in the 90-93 mph range, the next he’ll sit 92-96 and another day he could be 89-92. Eder’s breaking ball is a plus pitch when it’s on but, like his fastball velocity, is inconsistent. He lands his curveball for more strikes than his fastball, and he also has a fringe-average changeup in the mix. Eder has struggled to repeat his delivery going back to his high school days, and if that’s the reason for his struggles then there could be cause for concern that he’ll be able to figure it out. Teams have seen him locked in enough to know he’s capable of putting everything together. Another question mark is his track record as a starter. Eder started nine games as a freshman, but transitioned to a full-time reliever role in 2019, when he posted a 2.97 ERA over 39.1 innings. He started four games in the shortened 2020 season, striking out 27 batters in 20 innings, but also walked nine batters (4.05 per nine). Despite his inconsistencies, Eder seems like a safe lock to go in the first five rounds, with modest upside if he improves his control.
98 Tyler Brown RHP Vanderbilt 6-4 242 R-R Reds ’17 (26)
Brown was a physically mature, hard-throwing high schooler back in 2017, getting up to 95-96 mph with his fastball at the time. Concerns about the effort to his delivery and a Tommy John surgery he’d already had let him get to campus at Vanderbilt, where he’s been a key piece of the program’s impressive pitching staff from day one. Almost all of his time in Nashville has been spent out of the bullpen. Brown has just two starts to his name in 47 appearances, with a 4.22 career ERA in 79 innings. After posting a 6.03 ERA in his freshman season, Brown improved to 2.59 in 41.2 innings in 2019 and posted a 2.53 ERA through seven games and 10.2 innings before the 2020 season ended due to coronavirus. Brown is a big, physical righty with a solid four-pitch mix. His fastball typically sits in the 92-94 mph range and he pairs it with an above-average slider, an average changeup and a curveball that’s more of a fringe-average, 45-grade offering. He’s always been a good strike-thrower at Vanderbilt, with a 2.16 walks per nine rate for his career. Because of that, some scouts think he could handle a starting role. With so many premium pro starting prospects on the current Vanderbilt roster, it wouldn’t be surprising if that were the case, though other scouts note that the track record of college relievers is spotty and also point to a delivery that’s more typical of a reliever. He has the makeup and mentality on the mound to succeed in either role, and with no real holes in his game, there’s a lot to like about the overall package and SEC track record.
113 Landon Knack RHP East Tennessee State 6-2 220 L-R Never Drafted
Knack is the top-ranked senior in the class and a good bet to be the first member of that class selected in 2020. A 6-foot-2, 220-pound righthander, Knack spent two years at Walters State (Tenn) JC, where he showed solid strike-throwing ability and average stuff. The same was the case in 2019 at East Tennessee State, where Knack posted a 2.60 ERA over 15 starts and 97 innings. What changed from the last three seasons in 2020 is the pure stuff. Knack’s fastball velocity made a big jump, going from a pitch in the low 90s to a fastball that bumps 97-98 mph at his best and is 92-95 deep into his outings. His offspeed stuff is more fringy at this point, with all of his secondaries flashing average at times but not in that range consistently. His curveball is his best secondary pitch at the moment, again flashing average at times. There’s some effort in Knack’s delivery and it’s not the loosest or most fluid one you’ll see, but he repeats it well and has a lengthy track record of throwing strikes. His 2020 numbers in 25 innings and four starts are ridiculous, as he racked up 51 strikeouts (the most of any Division I arm) to just one walk. While Knack is right at the top of the list of priority senior signs, his age could limit how high he climbs in the draft. He should go off the board at some point in the third or fourth rounds.
152 Grayson Hitt LHP Houston HS, Germantown, Tenn. 6-3 170 R-L Alabama
A projectable 6-foot-3, 170-pound lefthander, Hitt was something of a helium prospect early this spring before the shortened 2020 season prevented teams from seeing him. After throwing a fastball in the 87-89 mph range last summer at East Coast Pro, Hitt’s velocity increased to the 89-93 mph range this spring. On top of that he showed an above-average curveball in the mid-to-upper-70s that has solid diving action and shape that varies. While Hitt’s control is below-average at the moment, scouts love his athleticism and the ease to his operation and believe he has plenty of room for refinement and added power thanks to his projectable frame. Also a talented wide receiver, Hitt had 1,101 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns for Houston High last fall. There was a reasonable amount of scouting heat on Hitt early this spring, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get taken in the top five rounds, but he has an Alabama commitment to fall back on as well.
161 Mason Hickman RHP Vanderbilt 6-6 230 R-R Never Drafted
It’s possible that Hickman isn’t even the second-most famous pitcher on Vanderbilt’s 2020 staff, with underclassmen righthanders Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter drawing so much attention. But while he’s not as flashy as his 2021 counterparts, Hickman is one of the most reliable starters in the nation and Vanderbilt’s Friday arm in 2020. His reliability goes back to his days as a high school pitcher. Hickman was a consistent performer on the summer showcase circuit back in 2017—when he punched out players like Mark Vientos and Drew Waters at Area Code Games—where he showed extremely advanced command despite middling pure stuff. That’s largely the pitcher Hickman is today. A 6-foot-6, 230-pound righthander, Hickman only touches 91 mph, and he more typically sits in the 88-90 mph range, but his ‘heater’ is an invisiball that frequently stymies hitters. Hickman also throws both a curveball and a slider and has shown the makings of a changeup as well, but all of his secondaries are fringey at best, to go along with well below-average fastball velocity. Despite his stuff, Hickman has a career 3.13 ERA at Vanderbilt over 29 starts and 189.2 innings, with 221 strikeouts (10.5 per nine) to 61 walks (2.9 per nine). Scouts say Hickman could have 60-grade command, which is extremely rare to put on amateur pitchers, but helps explain how he’s had the success he’s had in the SEC. A fun player to watch who grows on you the more you see him carve up lineups, scouts praise Hickman’s competitive nature and demeanor on the mound and believe his advanced feel for pitching will allow him to make the most out of his admittedly limited toolset.
173 Hugh Fisher LHP Vanderbilt 6-5 185 R-L Never Drafted
Fisher was a loose, projectable lefthander out of high school with a wiry body, but a frame and explosiveness that suggested he would throw much harder than the 88-92 mph fastball velocity he had at the time. Turns out, they were right. In a few years with Vanderbilt, Fisher has added some strength to a 6-foot-5, 185-pound frame and now throws a fastball that got into the upper 90s when healthy. However, he would have missed the entire 2020 season regardless of the coronavirus after undergoing Tommy John surgery and his health status could make him more difficult for teams to evaluate, particularly in a shorter draft. Most scouts believed Fisher was a straight relief arm at the next level thanks to below-average control and difficulty repeating his delivery. His secondary offerings have shown promise at times, but they are more of a work-in-progress at the moment, though a tough, low angle from the left side and a fastball that might get up to 100 one day isn’t a common attribute to find. In 30 games and 44 innings with Vanderbilt, Fisher has a 3.89 ERA with 54 strikeouts (11.0 per nine) and 27 walks (5.5 per nine).
175 Alerick Soularie OF Tennessee 5-11 185 R-R Cardinals ’18 (29)
Soularie was one of the best hitters on Tennessee’s team as a sophomore. He led full-time starters in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage (.357/.466/.602). He wasn’t as sharp in the Cape Cod League (.207/.303/.345) and his brief junior year was an up-and-down affair. He led the Volunteers with five home runs, but he also was dead last among the team’s regulars with a .267 batting average. He also walked 12 times compared to eight strikeouts. Soularie is more of a well-rounded prospect than one with particularly loud tools. He’s an average hitter with average power. He can catch up to almost any fastball, but he sometimes can get caught guessing. Soularie has tried second base and center field, but he’s likely an average left fielder in pro ball.
188 Ethan Smith RHP Vanderbilt 6-1 200 R-R Never Drafted
One of the more polished prep pitchers in Tennessee in 2018, Smith made an impact at Vanderbilt as a freshman, pitching effectively out of the Commodores bullpen. In 2019, he led the team with a .150 opponent batting average. This year he moved into a weekday starter role and was just as effective. He went 3-0, 1.42 in 19 innings with 23 strikeouts. Smith’s stuff isn’t all that much more advanced than it was in high school. But it’s effective enough—he sits 90-94 mph as a starter with an average three-pitch mix that includes a slider and changeup. His slider will flash sporadically better than average. His command and control are fringe-average and will need to continue to get better. Smith has shown he can touch 97 mph in shorter relief outings. As a relatively advanced pitcher who understands how to pitch, Smith could hear his name called in the fourth or fifth round. But as a draft-eligible sophomore he also could opt to head back to Vanderbilt for another year.
194 Ryan Hagenow RHP Farragut HS, Knoxville, Tenn. 6-5 208 R-R Kentucky
A projection righthander with a physical 6-foot-5, 208-pound frame, Hagenow has a lot of ingredients for scouts to like. He showed good progress from the summer into the fall with his fastball velocity, throwing an 87-90 mph heater at East Coast Pro before touching 93 later in the year at Jupiter. The pitch has some arm-side running action and he has a good feel to land it and his secondaries for strikes. The Kentucky commit also throws a slider and a changeup, both of which are more average offerings now but have shown flashes of above-average potential at times. His slider is in the 81-83 mph range with 10-to-4 movement and solid depth when he hits on it, while his changeup is in a similar velocity band with sinking action and good arm speed. He lacks any real plus tool to carry him at the moment, but he checks a lot of boxes as a long-term projection arm and could add strength and begin throwing harder in the not-too-distant future. Hagenow fits somewhere in the 3-6 round range for most teams if signable.
238 Jackson Leath RHP Tennessee 6-1 181 R-R Never Drafted
Leath spent two years at Blinn (Texas) JC before transferring to Tennessee for what might have been a breakout junior campaign in the SEC, but the coronavirus wiped out his opportunity to perform on a bigger stage. Leath had interest from MLB teams after posting a 2.93 ERA over 10 starts and earning XIV All-Conference honors during his sophomore season but opted to head join the Volunteers. A 6-foot-1, 181-pound righthander, Leath has a reliever profile thanks to a mature body and effortful delivery, but he has impressive stuff. His fastball sits in the 92-96 mph range and is complemented by a slider that looks like a wipeout offering at its best, but other times is just average. Most scouts peg it as a 55-grade pitch on the whole, and Leath has also worked with a cutter and fringy changeup as well. Leath was used as a starter and a reliever this spring, when he posted a 1.45 ERA over 18.2 innings and struck out 29 batters while walking five.
318 Ben Joyce RHP Walters State (Tenn.) JC 6-6 225 R-R Tennessee
A 6-foot-6, 225-pound righthander with an electric fastball, Joyce was talked about frequently last fall after scouts saw him run his fastball up to 97 mph. A redshirt freshman at Walters State (Tenn.) JC, Joyce is committed to Tennessee, along with his twin brother Zach, who’s rehabbing from injury. Joyce’s stuff is impressive, but his lack of performance and scatter-shot control could allow him to end up on campus in Knoxville. In five starts and 20.2 innings this spring, Joyce posted a 4.79 ERA and struck out 35 batters (15.2 per nine) but also walked 14 (six per nine). That control leads scouts to see Joyce as a reliever, with an impact fastball that some saw as high as 98 mph. Joyce shows an above-average curveball at times, though it’s inconsistent, and an average changeup.
359 Blake Money RHP Summit HS, Spring Hill, Tenn. 6-7 245 R-R Louisiana State
One of the bigger prep pitching prospects in the 2020 class, Money is listed at 6-foot-7, 245 pounds. Despite his size, Money has solid athleticism that allows him to pound the zone consistently with a fastball in the 90-93 mph range. The pitch has a tick of arm-side running action and he pairs it with a slider in the mid-80s, a changeup in the 82-84 mph range and a 12-to-6 curveball. Over the summer Money’s changeup was ahead of his slider, as the breaking ball backed up at times, but scouts thought he made progress with his breaking ball during the fall. Some scouts give his curveball a chance to be an average pitch. Money is committed to Louisiana State and with his frame and three average pitches, has a chance to provide an immediate impact in some capacity if he makes it to campus.
362 Gage Bradley RHP Rossview HS, Clarksville, Tenn. 6-2 182 R-R Vanderbilt
A projection righthander, Bradley showed some upside potential last summer with a good frame and solid feel for pitching. He pitched mostly in the 89-93 range over the summer, but scouts weren’t able to see him frequently this spring to see if he had taken a jump. Bradley has also shown solid feel for a mid-70s curveball and a changeup in a similar velocity range. It might be hard to select Bradley based on his present stuff in a five-round draft, but scouts believe he has the projectable frame—he’s listed at 6-foot-2, 182-pounds—to make a jump in college at Vanderbilt with added strength. He has a chance to throw hard in the future, but brings some reliever risk due to the funk in his delivery and some questions about his strike throwing.
366 Zach Daniels OF Tennessee 6-1 210 R-R Never Drafted
A toolsy outfielder with plus-plus raw power and plus running ability, Daniels was off to a hot start in the shortened 2020 season, hitting .357/.478/.750 with four home runs and eight doubles. If he continued hitting at that level over the course of the season, he would have undoubtedly raised his draft stock significantly, because scouts were concerned about his feel for hitting entering the season. Even with his gaudy 17-game start to 2020 included, Daniels is a .225/.357/.474 hitter in his Tennessee career, with a 37 percent strikeout rate. Daniels also struggled last summer in the Cape Cod League for Orleans, where he hit .169/.217/.247 in 35 games, with 37 strikeouts to just five walks. Defensively, Daniels has shown an ability to play all three outfield spots with average arm strength, though he spent a decent amount of time this spring as the team’s designated hitter. Scouts had Daniels evaluated as an early day three prospect in a typical draft year somewhere in the 11-15 round range, or a few rounds higher if the team was optimistic about his hitting progress.
370 Jack O’Dowd SS Lipscomb Academy, Nashville, Tenn. 6-2 190 L-R Vanderbilt
The son of former Rockies general manager and current MLB Network analyst Dan O’Dowd, Jack stands out for his baseball savvy and feel for the game. His older brother Chris caught in the minors for the Padres, Rockies, Braves and White Sox organizations, giving Jack plenty of experience with the ins and outs of the game. O’Dowd doesn’t have standout raw tools, and is a hit over power lefthanded bat, but he’s a player who scouts think will get the most out of his ability. He’s a fine defender in the infield at a variety of positions, but some evaluators think he might be best served behind the dish like his brother, thanks to a lack of elite foot speed. O’Dowd is committed to Vanderbilt.
408 Blade Tidwell RHP Loretto (Tenn.) HS 6-4 200 R-R Tennessee
A projection righthander listed at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Tidwell hails from the same Loretto high school in Tennessee as 2018 Padres first-rounder Ryan Weathers. Tidwell is committed to Tennessee and has a chance to get there given the shortened 2020 season and five-round draft, with scouts not getting to see him much this spring. Over the summer, Tidwell showed a fastball that sat in the upper 80s and topped out in the 91-92 mph range, with a curveball that ranged from 71-78 with three-quarter shape. The breaking ball showed potential, but Tidwell struggled to consistently get on top of the offering, which he’ll need to improve moving forward. Tidwell has already started to fill out his frame and has room for more strength in the future.
414 Cooper Davis OF Vanderbilt 5-10 185 L-R Blue Jays ’17 (25)
Davis was a standout prospect out of Canada coming out of high school, where he showed solid bat-to-ball skills and above-average running ability. After a freshman season where Davis played in just nine games, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound outfielder showed solid hitting ability in his sophomore season, when he hit .331/.441/.421 in 35 games. He’s mostly a singles hitter which will hurt his profile, as scouts don’t believe he’s going to stick in the middle of the outfield at the next level. He lacks the power to profile in a corner, which puts him in a tweener role and he doesn’t have much physical projection to add a significant amount of strength in the future. Coaches and scouts alike praise his energy and aggressive way of playing the game, and he’s been a solid base runner at Vanderbilt, stealing 12 bags in 13 attempts over his three-year career.
440 Chase Wallace RHP Tennessee 6-2 195 R-R Never Drafted
A 6-foot-2, 195-pound righthander, Wallace had success out of the bullpen with Tennessee over his first two years with the program, but after a dominant fall transitioned into the team’s starting rotation. Through four starts this spring, Wallace posted a 3.50 ERA in 18 innings while striking out 18 batters and walking seven. Wallace throws from a lower arm slot and has plenty of sinking life on an 89-92 mph fastball, and pairs it with an average slider and developing changeup. Wallace also had success last summer in the Cape Cod League, where he posted a 2.74 ERA as a reliever in 23 innings with 26 strikeouts. Wallace will need more to come from his changeup to have a chance to start in pro ball, but he was trending in the right direction across the board before the 2020 season ended.
441 Harrison Ray 2B Vanderbilt 5-11 190 R-R Never Drafted
A 5-foot-11, 190-pound infielder, Ray would have gotten plenty of attention as a senior sign in the 5-10 round range in a typical draft year thanks to his versatility and raw tools. While Ray has struggled to put up consistent offensive numbers over his Vanderbilt career and strikes out too much—24.8 percent whiff rate for his career—he can play every infield position and has good arm strength, average raw power and above-average running ability. He’s more of a fringy defender at shortstop who could fill in at the position in a pinch, and he has never gotten his power to translate to games consistently. Because of his question marks, a utility role in some capacity is Ray’s most likely fit at the next level, but there’s some interesting upside that could be unlocked if a team can get more out of Ray’s bat.

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