top of page

Checking in on Vols Newcomers Going into SEC Play

Tennessee 3B Billy Amick at the plate. Photo by Rocky Top Insider/Ric Butler.

Tennessee brought in a lot of impact transfers coming into 2023, partially because guys were leaving for the draft and partially because, despite making it to Omaha, the 2023 season was a bit of a letdown in Knoxville. Tony did a great job filling holes and addressing needs throughout his roster. Tennessee has finished their early season non-conference play and heads into a difficult SEC schedule on Friday. Going into conference play, let’s check in on the impact newcomers for the Vols to this point in the year.

  • Third baseman Billy Amick transferred from Clemson. Amick has had the biggest impact of any newcomer and arguably of any player on this talented roster. Amick is slashing .369/.440/.877 to pair with 9 home runs. He is tied for 5th nationally in home runs and is the team leader in homers, RBI, SLG, total bases, and hits (tied with Christian Moore). Amick’s offensive onslaught doesn’t come as much surprise given what he did at Clemson in 2023, but the middle of the order production has been better than expected and has truly been a catalyst for an offense that, so far, is comparable to the 2022 Tennessee offense. His fielding, which was his biggest question mark, has been stellar as well: he only has one error so far this season.

  • Right-handed pitcher, AJ Causey, transferred from Jacksonville State. He was the Friday night starter at Jax State last season and was brought to Knoxville to compete for the Sunday role and lengthen the pitching staff out of the bullpen. Causey started the year in the pen with a plan to pair him up behind AJ Russell on Friday nights. After Russell’s injury, Causey was bumped into the Friday night starting role the past two weeks. In his two starts he has pitched a combined 13 innings, allowed just 2 runs, and struck out 21 hitters to just 2 walks. To say he has been impressive would be an understatement. His full stat line on the year is 3-0, 20.2 IP, 1.31 ERA, 30 K, 3 BB, 0.73 WHIP, .164 BAA. 

  • Robin Villeneuve transferred from the junior college ranks where he was an NJCAA All-American at Weatherford College. The Canadian native came to Knoxville to compete for a starting job, but, with an already full corner infield and returning corner outfielders, it looked like a tough road to playing time for Villeneuve. The problem with Robin riding the bench is that his bat isn’t in the lineup, and anyone in their right mind would want his bat in the lineup. He has carved himself a nice role as the everyday DH with the versatility to play first base and the corner outfield spots when needed. Villeneuve is slashing .361/.531/.667 with 3 home runs and 15 RBI. He is the team leader in on-base percentage with help from an astounding 6 HBP in just 15 games played.

  • Freshman shortstop Dean Curley has made a huge impact already this year. The California native has made his short time in Knoxville worthwhile. Curley has appeared in just 13 of the team's 18 games, as he was dealing with an injury to start the season. Since coming back from that injury, he has done everything asked of him and more. Curley stands at 6’3” and 212 pounds, which makes him one of the bigger shortstops in college baseball. His defense needs some work, but the potential is there. The bat is already SEC-caliber. Curley is slashing .308/.408/.872 with 6 home runs and 20 RBI. Curley has not played enough games to hit the thresholds to qualify for batting average, yet he is already 2nd on the team in RBI and tied for 2nd on the team in home runs. Curley will be a staple in the Vols lineup through the 2026 season.

  • Sophomore Nate Snead has accounted for the third-most innings pitched for the Vols this season. Snead has strictly pitched out of the bullpen to this point, but he has been used in long relief behind what some may consider an opener at times. Snead’s 20 innings has resulted in a 1.80 ERA, 4 wins, and a save. He can run his fastball up to 101 mph, but still needs some work carrying that velocity over multiple innings. As his outings lengthen, he tends to lose both velocity and command, which is to be expected from someone who eclipsed the 50-pitch threshold only once last season. Snead has struggled with walks at times, but he has continually worked out of jams and is becoming more and more of a pitcher under Frank Anderson instead of just a thrower. 

  • North Carolina State transfer Cannon Peebles has started 13 games and appeared in 16 of the Vols' 18 games. Peebles has made his case to be the primary catcher in conference play, slashing a nice .304/.421/.413. The power that Peebles displayed during his freshman year at NC State has not quite lived up to expectations; however, he is also learning how to be an everyday catcher. Peebles was mainly a DH at NC State, so the transition back to playing catcher day-in and day-out and keeping your legs fresh enough to drive the baseball is a tough task. Vitello and staff expect Peebles to settle in with more and more playing time behind the plate. Even without the expected power output, Peebles has been a big upgrade at catcher from the rotating duo of Cal Stark and Charlie Taylor that started every game in 2023.

  • Dalton Bargo has played in spurts and has been a very nice bat off the bench as well as the occasional DH. Bargo has started 8 games, and his ability to play multiple positions should lend him a clearer path to playing time on a nightly basis. Having that type of utility player is something the Vols lacked in 2023 and was clearly an emphasis for Vitello in the offseason with the additions of Bargo and Villeneuve. Bargo was a freshman at Missouri last season and started 43 games, primarily at DH. Bargo is currently slashing .364/.488/.636 with 2 home runs in just 42 plate appearances. Bargo will look to contribute consistently off the bench and filling in to keep the regulars fresh as a nice left handed bat on this 2024 squad. He is exactly the kind of player you love to have at your disposal, since he could step in at multiple different positions should an injury occur. Going forward, Bargo would project to be a regular starter somewhere in the 2025 season and beyond.  

  • Left-handed pitcher Chris Stamos came to Knoxville as a graduate transfer from Cal. He was brought in mainly for depth in the bullpen, as he did struggle during his two seasons at Cal. However, Stamos has proved to be a valuable piece of Frank Anderson’s staff so far by posting a 2.35 ERA in his 7.2 IP. He has also struck out 7 hitters and allowed a .091 BAA. Stamos has always had good stuff out of the pen, but he struggled with command at Cal. So far this season, it would seem that Frank Anderson has unlocked something that has helped Stamos miss more bats and allow less hard contact.

There are plenty of returners that have made huge impacts this year as well. Christian Moore, Blake Burke, Drew Beam, and Kavares Tears are just a few returning names leading this Tennessee squad. The newcomers have all come in and seemingly slid into their roles seamlessly. Having that kind of chemistry, with so many new faces, is a very tough feat to accomplish and is a testament to the culture that Tony Vitello has built in Knoxville. As the Vols head into SEC play, they will continue to lean on the newcomers as well as the returning production to get them back to both the SEC Championship and, the ultimate goal, Omaha, where Vitello and the Vols want to dogpile for the first time in program history.

48 views0 comments


bottom of page