As the 2023 MLB draft approaches, Baseball Prospect Journal takes one last look at five freshmen from the Southeastern Conference that flashed as potential selections for future drafts. While there are plenty of young phenoms to get excited about across college baseball, these players stood out in the SEC. Each name has a one-word impression that reflects their skill set.
The redshirt freshman from Marietta, Georgia, immediately impacted the Georgia Bulldogs in 2023. You could argue Condon solely kept hope alive, as UGA narrowly made it into the SEC Tournament. He accounted for two runs, including a 423-foot solo shot off Tennessee’s Chase Dollander in a pivotal game in May, where the Bulldogs won 3-1. Without that Saturday victory against the Vols, Georgia would have finished the regular season with four consecutive losing series.
Speaking of impact, his swing is potent with a low-maintenance load. Condon finished third in the nation in home runs (25) and led conference play with 16 round-trippers. In 210 at-bats, he struck out 45 times while taking 33 walks. The slugger showed maturity at the plate and has a feel for hunting his pitch. At 6-foot-6, 211 pounds, Condon carries his frame well and can easily form into an above-average defender at first base. We’ll see a ton of buzz about Condon for the 2024 MLB draft.
One Word – Smooth
Probably the freshman that elicited a “wow” from me this year more than any other not wearing a Tennessee jersey.
This spring, the Mississippi State outfielder accounted for four RBIs during his trip to Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. He also saved multiple runs with his defense in left field that weekend. Jordan had a five-RBI game against LSU in May. He continued to flash his skills no matter the opponent. It’s the athleticism that jumps out the most when watching Jordan play.
The freshman from Jackson Academy (Miss.) hit .307 in his first college baseball season. Jordan collected 20 extra-base hits, with 10 being home runs. As an All-Freshman performer in the SEC, the outfielder fits right in with the best athletes in the conference. This is first-round material for 2024.
One Word – Athleticism
Of the names mentioned, Dreiling may have the most to gain in terms of draft stock for 2024.
The left-handed bat for Tennessee has played a significant role despite not being in the everyday lineup. The Hays, Kansas, product hit .304 in the regular season and showed impressive maturity at the plate. In 92 at-bats, Dreiling walked 23 times versus 19 strikeouts. The Vols’ freshman knocked seven home runs. And there wasn’t a bigger shot for the freshman than the game-tying homer Dreiling hit against Vanderbilt with Tennessee down to its last strike. The solo homer extended the contest and allowed the Volunteers to walk off the Commodores via a Griffin Merritt home run in the 12th inning.
Dreiling’s athleticism is undervalued. The outfielder showed the potential to cover gaps in the green pasture. He also offers a slightly strong, compact build. Even in the fall, his swing had noticeable power, and it’s evident that the lefty is very comfortable with his approach. Dreiling admits that he feels confident no matter the count.
“In high school, I really didn’t have an approach,” Dreiling said. “This year, I am learning in certain counts what to look for. (For example), if it’s an advantage count and (the pitcher) throws a fastball away, to not swing. Because that’s not a pitch that I can drive as well as something middle-in. So, I’ve learned a lot here (at Tennessee).”
Dreiling has shown the ability to get to all parts of the zone with good contact. Players and coaches rave about his raw traits and overall feel for being in the box.
“My whole life, I’ve been a pretty good two-strike hitter,” says Dreiling. “Honestly, I feel more comfortable with two strikes. I just tell myself to fight and battle as long as I can.”
One Word – Natural
Much like Condon, LaViolette is not bound by his measure.
His game is even bigger. It’s impressive to watch the Texas A&M true freshman run the base paths, as well as roam the outfield. The Katy, Texas, native stole 18 bases in his first year. LaViolette poses as a monster in the box at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds. He led the SEC in slugging (.835) in conference play. The lefty controls his swing really well through the zone and has power to all fields. LaViolette will be a 2025 darling.
“We just left him in there. He’s a great player. We’ve told him, and we’ll tell every recruit – the biggest jump you’ll have in your career is between high school baseball and elite Division I baseball, especially in the SEC,” Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle said on LaViolette. “But I told him I’m not taking you out. You’re going to have to figure out how to hit the lefties. As long as you’re healthy, you are playing. I think we are seeing the benefits of that.”
One Word – Projectability
This is the only freshman on the list that I did not get to see in person.
As the freshman SEC leader in RBI (72), Petry took the conference by storm during his freshman campaign. He was a catalyst for a South Carolina team that earned a birth in the NCAA Tournament as a regional host.
Petry hit .376 with a .468 on-base percentage. He flashed above-average power with 22 home runs and nine doubles.
The Cypress Creek (Fla.) native is listed at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds. His game may play even bigger as he progresses. This is a slugger that has two more years of college. The 2025 MLB draft won’t lack college power bats, and Petry will be one to watch. He was considered a top 300 prospect for the 2022 MLB draft, as he also has a pitching background. There’s a sneaky bit of athleticism here. The one-word attachment for Petry is applicable based on how simple he made things look for a freshman in the SEC.
One word – EASY