Friday, January 28, 2011

Vanderbilt Baseball America's Preseason #4 Team in the Nation

Aaron Fitt (a truly fantastic baseball writer) breaks down BA's preseason Top 25.

Here's what he has to say about Tim Corbin's Commodores:
Hitting: 65. Vanderbilt returns its top five hitters from last year's super regional team, and seven everyday starters overall. The Commodores led the Southeastern Conference and ranked ninth nationally in doubles a year ago, demonstrating their ability to wear out the gaps. Westlake, who won the SEC batting title two years ago, and Esposito are two of the nation's best pure hitters. Gomez and Reynolds are pesky contact hitters and tough outs. Harrell and Yastrzemski—grandson of the majors' last Triple Crown winner—are talented hitters poised to break out as sophomores. Casali and Loftus have strength and experience.

Power: 55. Though the 'Dores rely more on line drives than long balls, they do return their top four home run hitters in Westlake, Esposito, Loftus and Casali, all of whom have enough strength to drive the ball over the fence even with the new bats. Gregor also adds lefthanded power potential and a disciplined approach for his age.

Speed: 55. Vanderbilt's athletic lineup features solid runners all over the diamond, but Fr. OF Tony Kemp—who was pushing for an everyday job with a strong fall—is the only true burner. Esposito runs very well for a third baseman and has excellent instincts on the basepaths.

Defense: 55. Vandy will miss the steady Brian Harris at shortstop, and Gomez must prove he can handle the transition across the keystone sack. Tommy John surgery has kept Casali from catching much in his college career, so he enters the season as a question mark behind the plate. But Esposito is the best defensive third baseman in the country aside from Anthony Rendon, with sure hands, quick feet and solid range. Reynolds and the outfielders are solid.

Starting Pitching: 70. No team in college baseball can match Vandy's four quality upperclassmen in the rotation. Gray is a dynamo with a lively 93-96 mph fastball, a mid-80s power curve that rates as the best in the country, a fierce competitive streak and ever-improving command. Garvin's feel for pitching and downward angle helped him carve up the Cape Cod League, where he earned pitcher of the year honors. The physical Armstrong has premium arm strength; he has flashed mid-90s heat and a good changeup in the past, but if he doesn't improve his breaking ball and command, Sr. RHP Taylor Hill could beat him out for the Sunday job. Hill is a strike-thrower with a solid three-pitch mix.

Bullpen: 65. By the end of the season, this unit has a chance to be exceptional, but it lacks experience heading into the year. Moore was a blue-chip prospect before Tommy John surgery sidetracked his career, but he showed off an explosive 93-96 fastball in the fall. Another Tommy John survivor, Sr. RHP Mark Lamm, jumped into the 90-94 range this fall. Fr. LHP Kevin Ziomek is a future ace in waiting, but for now he figures to take his stellar four-pitch mix to the bullpen. Lefthanders Sam Selman, Corey Williams and Steven Rice, plus righties T.J. Pecoraro, Will Clinard and Robert Hansen make this one of the deeper bullpens around.

Experience/Intangibles: 60. Vanderbilt is loaded with experienced players and is consistently regarded by scouts as one of the best-coached, hardest-working teams in college baseball. Coming off a super regional trip, all that's left is to get over the hump to Omaha.

Baseball America OFP: 65. This is Vandy's best chance to break through to the CWS since its 2007 team, which was upset in regionals as the No. 1 national seed. Even a national title could be within Vanderbilt's reach.

Get excited, the Commodores season starts February 18th in San Diego (which is German for...). Season tickets are still available.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Baseball America is in my opinion the only respectable college baseball coverage. Over the past 5 years they have seemed to give Vandy a bit more love than we deserve, but in general their information is reliable since they actually converse with the coaches.

I think this write-up provides a thorough and accurate depiction of where the team stands right now, and it got me pretty excited about the upcoming season.