Dylan Dreiling develops confidence at Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Dylan Dreiling often felt puzzled during his first few weeks as a Tennessee Volunteer. And it wasn’t the opposing teams in the Southeastern Conference infiltrating his confidence. It was the performance of the members of his own team. But after a year and a half on campus and some influence from his peers, Dreiling is playing with a conviction that’s allowing him to blossom into a star prospect.

“It was unreal,” said Dreiling on The 920 Podcast. “I think one of my first at-bats was (Chase Dollander), and he struck me out on three pitches, maybe four. It was one of those at-bats where I (said to myself) ‘is this like everybody I’m going to see?’ If so, I don’t know if I can do it.”

The freshman continued to take in his surroundings during the fall of 2022, facing pitches from 2023 MLB draft picks Andrew Lindsey and Seth Halvorsen, which added to the Dollander effect. Chase Burns, a projected first-round pick for July’s draft, was also on the pitching staff.

The sights of Knoxville, Tennessee, can seem overwhelming, even for a talented freshman with a wholesome influence.

“My high school class in Hays was in a small town,” says Dreiling. “You don’t really see a lot of people go D-I in sports. But I was blessed with a really good class, and we just pushed each other all throughout high school. Not just in baseball but playing different sports.”

Dreiling played for his grandfather, Frank, at Hays (Kan.) High School. Frank has over 40 years of coaching experience and played a valuable role in his development.

Dreiling holds multiple program records at Hays, Kansas, despite the elimination of his 2020 season due to COVID-19 implications. To say the least, Dreiling was a standout in Kansas. He even played his senior year of high school with a bad hamstring and lingering elbow issues. Dreiling hit over .600 as a primary designated hitter that season.

Just a few months later, things looked a bit different for Dreiling. When the talented lefty stepped foot on Rocky Top, he knew he wasn’t in Kansas anymore. 

“Getting here as a freshman, the first week or so, it’s in the back of your head,” said Dreiling. “Do I belong here? Can I compete with guys like this? You see the Dollanders and Jared Dickeys walking around the facility all time. So, it’s in the back of your head always.”

A Helpful Hand

According to Dreiling, the most helpful teammate was a graduate transfer who joined the Vols during the same fall season. Griffin Merritt, the 2022 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, transferred from Cincinnati to Tennessee to play in the “limelight” of college baseball. 

According to Vols coach Tony Vitello, Merritt’s grit and leadership are why he performed well among so many talented players.

“I’m not so sure he doesn’t serve as a bonus coach,” Vitello said of Merritt in March 2023. “For us, especially when it comes to the outfielders, hitting or maybe some of the freshmen that just need to be pulled off to the side.”

And grabbing a wide-eyed freshman from Hays, Kansas, is exactly what Merritt did. 

“He helped me work through at-bats,” Dreiling said. “Just with the different guys I would face. Is it a ride or sink guy? Do I need to see the ball up or down?”

It was later that fall when Dreiling coupled his counterpart’s analysis with a boost of self-confidence.

“I felt like I gained a little confidence – that I could hit guys like this at this level,” said Dreiling. “And during (2023) carried it over. This year, so far, it’s been knowing what I did last year and knowing the work I put in since then and letting it just show.”

Dreiling made a significant impact in 95 at-bats in 2023 despite competing with a veteran group. The outfielder posted seven home runs and 20 RBIs. Dreiling also showed plate discipline with 24 walks to 20 strikeouts. He ended his freshman campaign with a .433 on-base percentage.

BPJ featured Dylan Dreiling as one of The Freshman Five after the 2023 season. The left-hander flashed a really good presence as a freshman and displayed the ability to hit to all fields with power. Those tools continued to grow in 2024.

Dreiling taking the next step this spring

As a full-time starter in 2024, Dreiling has hit in multiple spots in a deep Tennessee lineup, featuring Christian Moore at the top and hard-hitting Billy Amick in the heart of the order. No matter the spot in the lineup or the handedness of the pitcher, Dreiling seems even more comfortable during his sophomore season.

Dreiling came into a weekend slate versus Illinois – the team’s last series before conference play – slashing .370/.739/.491 through 46 at-bats. The lefty blasted two home runs in the series, including a 420-foot homer to dead-center on a full count against Illini southpaw Logan Tabeling. The sophomore ended the series by driving in four runs on four hits.

Dreiling continued his surge as Tennessee went on the road to open SEC play against Alabama, driving in seven runs on three hits. His highlights from the trip included a home run off of Ben Hess that left the bat with a 108 mph exit velocity and an opposite-field field double off of lefty Kade Snell. 

Dreiling finished the weekend with the team lead in RBIs (25). He also leads the club in on-base percentage (.481) and OPS (1.281) after the first weekend of SEC competition.

His success carried over into a mid-week game against Xavier on Tuesday night. After a double against Xavier in the Vols’ 10-2 victory, Dreiling now has an RBI in five straight games and seven of the last eight contests.

“The part that stands out more about Dylan is just the way he’s starting to walk around, move around and act,” Vitello said. “He acts like a pro, and he acts like a veteran. He’s got really good presence and it showed last Sunday. That at-bat he had that put us in a situation to tie the game was pretty incredible.”

Dreiling continues to impress scouts while improving on the tools that were in question coming into 2024. The lefty has had success against southpaws. As a full-time outfielder, he continues to show range and athleticism. According to Dreiling, his work with Quentin Eberhart, Director of Sports Performance for Tennessee, has made the biggest impact on his speed and body type. 

“I feel very comfortable in the outfield right now,” said Dreiling. “Over the fall, I gained quite a bit of speed with (Eberhart). It all started last summer. I didn’t play summer ball. I stayed here and worked with (Eberhart).”

Dreiling continues to bust through ceilings and defy labels surrounding his draft stock. Dreiling’s physical appearance is noticeable this season. His movement in the field appears fluid and comfortable despite a compact build. But the intangibles stick out when scouting The Pride of Hays

As a bat that’s proven to be tough and pesky, Dreiling maintains the poise for his tools to grow even louder as the 2024 MLB draft approaches. 

“Honestly, the most important part is just confidence,” said Dreiling. “Just believing in yourself in the box. The pressure is always on the pitcher. It’s not on you.”

Logan Quinton
Logan Quinton
Logan Quinton joined Baseball Prospect Journal in March 2023 as a College Baseball Writer focusing on the Tennessee Volunteers. Follow Quinton on Twitter @LDQsports.

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