Kyle Serrano (Photo by Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics)

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Top 25 Breakdown: No. 25 Tennessee

Tennessee logo2014 Record: 31-23. RPI: 53.
Coach (Record at school): Dave Serrano (77-84, 3 years).
Postseason History: 9 regionals (last in 2005), 4 CWS trips (last in 2005), 0 national titles.

Tennessee's Projected Lineup

Pos.Name, Yr.AVG/OBP/SLGHRRBISB
CDavid Houser, Jr..229/.279/.2660141
1BNathaniel Maggio, So..239/.304/.2840184
2BNick Senzel, So..315/.419/.4200184
3BJeff Moberg, Jr..188/.333/.250050
SSA.J. Simcox, Jr..270/.342/.27501313
LFChristin Stewart, Jr..330/.386/.5415397
CFVincent Jackson, Jr..234/.311/.3252277
RFChris Hall, Jr.Tr.—Cumberland (Tenn.)
DHAndrew Lee, Jr..167/.444/.167000
Pos.Name, Yr.W-LERAIPSOBBSV
RHPHunter Martin, So.4-43.2563.243250
LHPDrake Owenby, Jr.2-33.2025.124205
RHPKyle Serrano, So.3-34.5559.140411
RPAndrew Lee, Jr.4-43.9057.245254


SEE ALSO: Five Questions With Tennessee’s Dave Serrano thebuzzpremium


Hitting: 55. Tennessee’s lineup is stocked with talented players who have yet to translate their ability into production, but it is built around a pair of proven run producers in Stewart and Senzel. Despite his free-swinging approach, Stewart led Team USA in hitting last summer and can drive the ball to all fields with authority. Coach Dave Serrano referred to Senzel as “just a beast of a player,” a righthanded hitter with strength in his line-drive stroke and a disciplined approach (30-25 K-BB mark last year). Hall, who hit .392 at NAIA Cumberland last year, is a scrappy table-setter who should get on base at near the top of the lineup, and the Vols expect Simcox to hit with some more authority this year after producing just one extra-base hit a year ago. Simcox is a skilled bat-handler who should fit well in the No. 2 hole. Moberg has a similar offensive profile, though he could be pushed for playing time by lanky freshman Brett Langhorne, who has more upside. Another freshman, C Benito Santiago Jr., has a shot to hit for average and drive the gaps if he can wrestle some playing time away from the veteran Houser behind the plate.

Nick Senzel (Photo by Andrew Bruckse/Tennessee Athletics)Nick Senzel (Photo by Andrew Bruckse/Tennessee Athletics)

Power: 60. Stewart is extremely physical and generates premier bat speed, giving him plus raw power from the left side. He is an intimidating presence in the middle of the lineup, and Senzel (who should increase his power output as a sophomore) offers good protection. Another talented sophomore, Maggio, brings tantalizing lefthanded pop and looks ready to live up to the significant expectations he carried out of high school. Like Maggio, Jackson and Lee stand 6-foot-5 and pack plus raw power from the left side into their imposing frames. Jackson missed much of the fall with a broken hamate bone, but he is healthy now, and the Vols need him to harness his potential. The upside with this group is huge, but only Stewart is a proven power hitter.

Speed: 60. Serrano and assistant Greg Bergeron love to push the action with an aggressive, uptempo offensive style, and they have the overall team speed to implement their philosophy. Jackson, Hall and Stewart are all solid-average to above-average runners in the outfield, and Jr. Derek Lance is a plus runner who should split time with Lee at DH. Simcox and Senzel also have good speed and are the team’s most accomplished basestealers (they combined for 27 steals in 35 tries last year).

Defense: 60. Tennessee was an average defensive team last year, fielding .971 (80th in the nation). But the Volunteers have one of the nation’s best defensive shortstops in Simcox, who has very good range, actions and instincts. Senzel has the range and plus arm to be a quality defender at second base, and Maggio is a standout at first base, where he brings a plus arm as a bonus. The versatile Moberg is quick enough to play either middle infield spot and brings rock-solid defense to the hot corner, while Houser is an outstanding defensive catcher with polished receiving skills and a good arm. The long-striding Jackson covers abundant ground in center, and Hall brings both speed and arm strength to right field. Stewart is a work in progress defensively in left.

Starting Pitching: 55. Dave Serrano describes his staff as having about six really good Saturday starters, but no true established Friday ace. His son Kyle has the raw ability to be that bona fide frontline starter, and he has worked hard to improve his command of his big-breaking curveball while adding a slider he can throw for a strike and refining his changeup. Martin had a poor fall, but he proved as a freshman to be a fierce competitor who can handle starting on weekends in the SEC; he works downhill with an 89-91 fastball and flashes a plus changeup and solid low-80s slider. Owenby has worked hard on his conditioning and put himself in position to handle the rigors of a starter’s workload. He has a starter’s four-pitch repertoire, highlighted by his sharp downer curveball. Tennessee’s best starter in the fall was Sr. RHP Bret Marks, a low three-quarters slinger who hammers the strike zone with a heavy sinker, a quality slider and a split-change. LHP Andy Cox, juco transfer RHP Stephen Kane and freshman Zach Warren are also in the mix.

Bullpen: 60. Two and a half years removed from Tommy John surgery, Lee’s stuff and command has improved to the point that he looks ready to anchor this deep bullpen. The 6-foot-5 righty works downhill with a 90-93 fastball and has greatly improved his sharp breaking ball and even his changeup. Sr. RHP Peter Lenstrohm might have the best pure stuff on the staff, with a lively 90-94 fastball from a deceptive three-quarters delivery and a wicked slider. Cox is an invaluable Swiss army knife for this staff, capable of pitching in any role. A three-quarters lefty, he has outstanding control with his 89-91 fastball and sharp low-80s slider, along with a good changeup. This staff is easily nine or 10 quality arms deep.

Experience/Intangibles: 55. Tennessee hasn’t made a regional in a decade, so the only player on this roster with meaningful postseason experience is Hall, who won an NAIA national championship last year at Cumberland. But the Volunteers have been building up to this year, putting their young players in position to gain valuable experience over the past two seasons so they enter 2015 as seasoned veterans who are hungry to get this program back to the postseason. This group of Vols is loaded with upperclassmen, and they are learning how to win. Dave Serrano said he saw more confidence and even some swagger from this team in the fall; now it’s time for the Vols to make their move in the SEC.

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