The 2021 MLB Draft concluded Tuesday with rounds 11-20, and two more Vols got the call. Senior righthanders Jackson Leath and Sean Hunley were drafted in the 12th and 19th round of the 2021 MLB Draft, respectively.
The Vols’ seven total picks are tied for the second most in a single draft in school history and are their most selections ever through 20 rounds of the draft. Chad Dallas, Liam Spence, Max Ferguson Connor Pavolony and Jake Rucker were all taken on Day 2.
Leath was selected at No. 334 overall by his home-state team the Texas Rangers. Leath, a native of Waxahachie, Texas, is the fourth Vol to be picked by the Rangers and the first since 2007.
Leath spent two years in JUCO at Blinn College before transferring to Tennessee before the 2020 season. The righthander made just five appearances (two starts) for the Vols before the season was cut short due to COVID-19.
Coming into 2021, Leath looked to be one of Tennessee’s top starters, but in his second outing of the year, he suffered a hamstring injury that ultimately shut him down for the remainder of the season. He recorded a 1.08 career ERA in seven appearances for UT.
Hunley was Tennessee’s final pick in the 2021 Draft, when the Tampa Bay Rays selected him 581st overall. Hunley becomes the third Vol taken by the Rays and the first since 2012.
Despite a fastball that sat in the upper 80s to low 90s, all Hunley did in 2021 was become Tennessee’s most dominant and trusted reliever. He set a program-record with 35 appearances while totaling a career-high in saves (9) and tying his career-high in wins (7). Hunley pitched to a 3.36 ERA and finished third on the Vols with 77 strikeouts, en route to a second team All-America honors from Baseball America.
The Mount Juliet, Tennessee native compiled a career 2.71 ERA in 76 appearances for the Vols from 2018-21. His 13 career saves are tied for third in program history.
Also of note for the Vols was that the Philadelphia Phillies selected Missouri transfer Seth Halvorsen in the 19th round with the 565th overall pick. Halvorsen struggled to a 4-3 record and a 6.00 ERA as Mizzou’s Friday night starter, but the righty has an electric arm and a chance to thrive under Tennessee’s pitching coach Frank Anderson. He committed to the Vols on June 17, and it seems likely that he will honor that commitment.
Current Vols that were not drafted include pitcher Camden Sewell, outfielder Evan Russell and first baseman Luc Lipcius, who could all still return to Knoxville in 2022.