Six VFLs Participating in MLB Instructional Leagues this Fall

UT Baseball / Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Six former Vols are set to participate in 2020 instruction leagues for their respective MLB organizations this fall.

Jay Charleston (Kansas City), Zach Daniels (Houston), Zach Linginfelter (Los Angeles Angels), Andre Lipcius (Detroit), Alerick Soularie (Minnesota) and Garrett Stallings (Los Angeles Angels) have all been invited to take part in their organizations’ mini camps.

These instructional leagues will provide minor league players the opportunity to take part in live game action for the first time this year after the 2020 minor league baseball season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

All six former UT standouts were selected in either the 2019 or 2020 drafts, and for the majority of them, this will be their first taste of professional baseball.

Charleston was picked by the Kansas City Royals with the 769th overall pick in the 26th round of the 2019 draft and appeared in 36 games for the Burlington Royals (Rookie Advanced) in 2019. The Longwood, Florida, native scored 24 runs and stole 16 bases in those 36 games.

Charleston led the SEC in steals during his senior season at Tennessee, finishing with 38 in the regular season and 41 total for the year, which is tied for ninth most in program history in a single season. He was the first SEC player since former Vol Chris Burke in 2001 (49) to steal 40 or more bases in a season. His 67 career stolen bases rank fifth all-time at Tennessee.

Daniels was the third UT player selected in the 2020 MLB Draft, going to the Astros in the fourth round (No. 131). The Stockbridge, Georgia, native was in the midst of a breakout year in 2020 prior to the season being cut short, and despite playing just 17 games, he had already set career highs in runs (20), hits (20), doubles (eight), RBI (18) and stolen bases (three).

Daniels was leading the team in batting average (.357), runs, doubles, RBI and slugging percentage (.750) before the season was canceled and was named the Round Rock Classic Most Valuable Player after helping lead the Big Orange to a perfect 3-0 weekend against some of the country’s top competition. During his three seasons on Rocky Top, Daniels combined to hit 13 home runs and drive in 44 runs. He also hit 11 doubles and scored 49 runs.

Linginfelter was the final Tennessee player taken in the 2019 draft. The junior right hander was selected with the 271st pick in the ninth round by the Angels. Linginfelter set new career highs with 16 games started, 68.2 innings pitched and six wins during his junior season while also tying a career best with 71 strikeouts. He was named SEC Pitcher of the Week on March 25 after throwing six shutout innings and striking out 13 batters in a win over Indiana. The Sevierville, Tennessee, native racked up 12 wins, five saves and 203 strikeouts while holding opponents to a .236 batting average during his three seasons in Knoxville.

Lipcius was the first Volunteer picked in the 2019 draft, going to the Detroit Tigers with the 83rd overall pick in the third round. At the time, he was the highest-drafted Tennessee player since current Cincinnati Reds’ outfielder Nick Senzel went No. 2 overall back in 2016 and was the 27th player in program history to be selected in the top three rounds. After being drafted, Lipcius played in 67 games for Detroit’s Single-A affiliate West Michigan Whitecaps, posting a .273 batting average with 32 runs scored, 16 doubles, two homers and 29 RBI.

The Williamsburg, Virginia, native started every game for the Vols at first base as a freshman before becoming the team’s starting shortstop as a sophomore. Lipcius started all 61 games for the Vols at third base in 2019 while setting career highs in runs (51), hits (73), doubles (15), home runs (17), RBI (58), slugging percentage (.586), walks (31), on-base percentage (.399) and stolen bases (10). Lipcius’ 16 regular-season home runs ranked second in the SEC while his 56 RBI and .600 slugging percentage both ranked seventh in the conference. For his career, Lipcius had a slash line of .300/.393/.483 and totaled 190 hits, 122 runs scored, 25 homers and 126 RBI.

Soularie was one of the most productive hitters in the SEC as a sophomore in 2019. The Houston, Texas, native led the Vols in batting average (.357), slugging percentage (.602), on-base percentage (.466) and runs scored (52) while ranking second on the team in hits (70), home runs (11), runs batted in (46) and total bases (118), placing him among the top five in the league in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. After his breakout sophomore season, Soularie earned numerous postseason honors, including first team All-SEC recognition as well as All-America honors from and Perfect Game.

Despite a slow start in 2020, Soularie was hitting his groove entering SEC play before the season was canceled. The preseason All-American led the team with five home runs and ranked second on the squad with 17 runs batted in during the shortened 2020 season. In UT’s final game of the year – a 17-5 victory over ETSU – Soularie had three hits, including a pair of home runs, and tied a career high with four RBI.

Stallings was the second Tennessee player off the board in the 2019 draft after being selected with the 151st overall pick in the fifth round by the Los Angeles Angels. At the time he was the highest-drafted UT pitcher since Bryan Morgado went in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. The junior right hander had a career year for the Big Orange in 2019, leading the team with 16 games started, eight wins, 102.2 innings pitched and 106 strikeouts, which were all career bests. Stallings was the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was also named the SEC Pitcher of the Week twice, becoming the first Tennessee player to accomplish that feat since James Adkins back in 2007.

At the conclusion of the 2019 regular season, Stallings was the SEC leader in innings pitched (92.1), strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.54) and walks allowed per nine innings (1.27). His 98 punchouts and eight victories also ranked sixth in the league at season’s end. The Chesapeake, Virginia, native had a career earned run average of 3.76 and posted a 16-14 overall record in 52 career appearances (35 starts). After recording just 76 strikeouts in his first two seasons, Stallings saw a massive increase with 106 punchouts as a junior and finished with 182 for his UT career.

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