The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt baseball A-Z season guide

Alec Myszka
All Vanderbilt athletics will be suspended until March 30, per an email from Interim Chancellor Susan Wente.


A: All-Americans

Jeren Kendall and Kyle Wright were both tabbed preseason All Americans just a few weeks ago after outstanding seasons last year. Kendall hit .332 with 9 home runs and a team best 59 RBIs, while Wright went 8-4 with a 3.09 ERA and 107 strikeouts. Both players are projected top ten picks in the 2017 MLB Draft. – Josh Hamburger, Editor in Chief

B: Bleday

A freshman from formal favorite Panama City Beach, Florida, JJ Bleday will likely start in right field when Vanderbilt takes the field against San Diego for its opener. Bleday was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 39th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, but he’ll now spend at least three years on West End developing under Corbin. Given Bleday’s pedigree and the fact that he’ll play immediately for Corbin, he could become next in line among Vanderbilt’s long list of high MLB draft picks. – Robbie Weinstein, Sports Editor

C: Chandler Day

Wherever he ends up, Chandler Day will play an important role in this pitching staff that lost two early round draft picks in the offseason. He’s likely to step into the third starting role on a staff that has limited starting experience. Last year, he went 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA in 10 games, including three starts. Three starts are the third most for any returning pitched, behind only ace Kyle Wright and number two pitcher Patrick Raby. – Josh Hamburger, Editor in Chief

D: Dozen

Vanderbilt has made eleven straight appearances in the NCAA tournament, and has an opportunity to make it a dozen in a row this year. This streak is by far the longest Vanderbilt baseball has ever achieved, and it has all been under current head coach Tim Corbin. Last year’s early exit in the tourney didn’t quite live up to the previous two years that ended in Omaha, so expect to see a team hungry to return to the College World Series. – Steve Sherk, Sports Reporter


As a team last season, Vanderbilt finished No. 25 overall in team ERA at 3.25, which was also second best in the entire SEC. Kyle Wright, Maddux Conger, Matt Ruppenthal, Collin Snider and Patrick Raby all finished below that mark last season and will likely all pick up increased inning loads this year. Dominant pitching has been a hallmark for the team over the past several years and was a key reason for runs deep into the CWS in 2014 and 2015. – Josh Hamburger, Editor in Chief

F: Florida Gators

Like always, the University of Florida will be the team to beat in the SEC East and likely the entire conference. They enter the season as the No. 2 team nationally after being the lone SEC team to make the College World Series last year. The Commodores take on the Gators at home in mid-April for what could potentially be the most important series of the season. – Josh Hamburger, Editor in Chief

G: Growth

Last year, several freshmen, including Alonzo Jones, Ethan Paul and Patrick Raby, saw significant playing time. These freshmen came in to school as a part of the top ranked recruiting class in the country backed up the ranking with solid play on the field. With a year of experience under their belts, look for the sophomore class to make strides and grow into greater roles this year. – Steve Sherk, Sports Reporter

H: Hawkins Field

The home for Commodore baseball is in the midst of some renovations that will be completed in full by next year. Some notable changes this year though are an enhanced scoreboard and the shell of a building complex that has replaced the tall wall in left field, which could be a factor for balls hit off of it during games. – Josh Hamburger, Editor in Chief

I: Infield Defense

Vanderbilt could face some defensive disparity between the right and left sides of the infield. On the left side, third baseman Will Toffey and shortstop Connor Kaiser are known quantities and should provide excellent range and consistency. On the right, however, likely second baseman Ethan Paul and likely first baseman Julian Infante don’t have the same sterling track records. Similarly, utility man Alonzo Jones was up and down last year at second base. Since the starting pitcher group lacks depth, getting consistent defense from the right side of the infield will be critical to the Commodores’ success. – Robbie Weinstein, Sports Editor

J: Jason Delay

After being drafted at the end of last season, Jason Delay is back in Nashville to continue serving as the team’s primary catcher. Karl Ellison, who he split time with over the past three years, transferred during the offseason, making Delay the clear primary backstop. The roster currently lists four other catchers, including Joey Abraham, Ty Duvall, Stephen Scott and Justin Wilson, although none have playing time at the position at this level. – Josh Hamburger, Editor in Chief

K: K:BB, K/9

As noted, the Commodores have performed well on the mound in recent years, and part of that is their ability to strike out batters. They finished last season No. 15 in K:BB ratio at 2.81, while averaging 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings, third best in the country. Once again though, the Florida Gators finished ahead of them in both of these categories, just like in ERA. – Josh Hamburger, Editor in Chief

L: LSU Tigers

While the Gators may be the team to beat in the East, expect the LSU Tigers to compete for the SEC and a chance at the CWS. They begin the season as the No. 3 team in the country. However, Vanderbilt will not face them during the regular season and would only be able to play them in the SEC Tournament or postseason play. – Josh Hamburger, Editor in Chief

M: Mid-inning Stretches

Vanderbilt baseball has become infamous for its unique stretches in the break between innings. Generally, all the players on the bench will head into the outfield to show off their well choreographed stretches that at times look more like a dance or celebration than anything else. Notable routines include pretending to play football and performing swimming strokes. – Josh Hamburger, Editor in Chief

N: Newcomers

Vanderbilt returns seven starters this year, but their roster is augmented by yet another top recruiting class.  Bleday figures to see time in the lineup early, and freshman pitcher Jackson Gillis should see opportunities out of the bullpen.  Expect to see production out of transfers too, as juniors Paxton Stover and Reed Hayes are coming off excellent sophomore campaigns and look to translate those talents to Hawkins field this season. – Max Schneider, Sports Reporter

O: Outfielders

There will be some changes to the outfield this year, as Bryan Reynolds, arguably the team’s most consistent player, left for the MLB Draft. Expect Jeren Kendall and Ro Coleman to be mainstays in the outfield for most of the season. Kendall, in center field, is the team’s best hitter and will be the leader of this unit, as he transitions from left field. Right field could be more up for grabs as freshman JJ Bleday may get significant playing time, along with Walker Grisanti, who played extremely well in his freshman year, especially towards the end of the year. – Josh Hamburger, Editor in Chief

P: Penn Murfee

Previously a utility player, redshirt junior Penn Murfee will transition to the pitcher’s mound this year as a righty reliever. While Murfee’s exact role in the bullpen is somewhat unclear, he is expected to be a part of Corbin’s plans. With a fastball between 88 and 90 miles per hour, Murfee isn’t one of Vanderbilt’s power arms. His accuracy and his use of a high 70s miles per hour curveball will be key if he is to assert himself as one of the Commodores’ key relievers. – Robbie Weinstein, Sports Editor

Q: Question Marks in the Rotation

Wright and Raby look like they’ll start the season in the rotation, but it’s unclear who the third starter will be. Vanderbilt will probably end up rotating a number of players through the third spot in order to see who the best options are, but juniors Matt Ruppenthal and Collin Snider could be on that list. What’s more, the lack of a proven third starter means the Commodores could be hard-pressed to find good mid-week options, as well. Considering how tough the SEC schedule always is, Vanderbilt can’t afford to drop many mid-week games to subpar competition. – Robbie Weinstein, Sports Editor

R: Raby

The Commodores will rely on sophomore Patrick Raby as the team’s No. 2 starter, as head coach Tim Corbin and pitching coach Scott Brown search for the best option at No. 3. Raby was named a Freshman All-American last year after posting a 2.61 ERA in 58.2 innings, including 10 starts. A 3.72 ERA in 19.2 innings of Cape Cod League play over the summer may not have been ideal, and Raby is later in his offseason progression after not throwing much in the fall. It will be difficult for Vanderbilt to contend to host a Super Regional without at least two solid starting pitchers, so Corbin needs Raby to deliver. – Robbie Weinstein, Sports Editor

S: San Diego

Vanderbilt will open up the 2017 season on the west coast versus San Diego. The first game of the three game series begins on Friday at 8 p.m. Last year, Vanderbilt also started the season against San Diego, who they swept by a combined score of 38-11 at home. – Josh Hamburger, Editor in Chief

T: Triples

The Commodore lineup has been able to balance power and speed well from their hitters, allowing them to rack up 26 triples last year, which was eighth best in the country and top in the SEC. Jeren Kendall accounted for eight of those and every primary starter but Delay had at least one. – Josh Hamburger, Editor in Chief

U: Utility Players

Last year, utility players like Ethan Paul, Alonzo Jones and Tyler Campbell helped provide production in support of stars Jeren Kendall and Bryan Reynolds. With Campbell having graduated, Connor Kaiser will take over full-time at shortstop while Paul and Jones alternate between designated hitter and second base. Ro Coleman could also see time at a few different positions, including designated hitter, as Corbin could rotate in sophomore outfielders Walker Grisanti and Stephen Scott. A number of pitchers have ability at the plate as pinch hitters as well, including Penn Murfee, Justin Wilson and Reed Hayes. – Robbie Weinstein, Sports Editor

V: Visiting Teams

Unlike most years, Vanderbilt will welcome only two high-profile visiting teams to Hawkins Field this year. Fans will have to wait a while for the home slate to pick up, as no preseason top-25 teams come to town until Texas A&M from March 24-26. However, an April 13-15 series against SEC favorite and preseason No. 2 Florida could go a long way toward deciding the SEC East’s order of finish. – Robbie Weinstein, Sports Editor

W: Walks

Will Toffey ranked among the SEC’s leaders last season in walks, notching 51 of them. However, with the loss of Bryan Reynolds and his 49 free passes, the Commodores’ next highest returning walk-er is Kendall, who had 25. Kendall’s 62 strikeouts last year led the team, and MLB scouts surely would like to see him improve his plate discipline. If Kendall can improve his approach at the plate and team with Toffey atop the SEC walks leaderboard, Vanderbilt’s offense could get a significant boost. – Robbie Weinstein, Sports Editor

X: X-Men

Which of these players, both with the letter X in their first name, will have the better season? Conger played in just 11.1 innings, but had a 0.79 ERA and an impressive 12 strikeouts. Meanwhile, Stover transferred from junior college after going 9-0, posting a 3.08 ERA and striking out 110 batters in just 84.2 innings. Regardless of who has the stronger year, expect them to punch out hitters regularly. – Josh Hamburger, Editor in Chief

Y: Yard

Vanderbilt saw a significant decline in balls that went yard (aka home runs) last year compared to 2015, when Dansby Swanson, Rhett Wiseman and Zander Wiel all belted 15 each. Last year, nobody touched that mark and only Bryan Reynolds made it to double digits. Jeren Kendall will likely lead the team this year, as Ethan Paul and Julian Infante also provide some pop in the lineup. In 2015, Vanderbilt hit 69 homers. Last year, that number dropped to 43. – Josh Hamburger, Editor in Chief

Z: Zoom

In terms of both effective and aggressive baserunning, Vanderbilt put up great numbers last season. Alluding back to the matchup last year against Auburn, Vandy baseball pulled off the infamous triple steal. On the season, Vanderbilt attempted 125 stolen bases and was successful in 88 of those attempts, which comes out to a highly impressive 70 percent success rate. To put this in perspective, opponents attempted only 52 steals and were successful in only 25 of those attempts. Outfielder Jeren Kendall led the team with 28 steals on the season and will continue to look to “Zoom” on the bases this upcoming spring. – Henry Lewis, Sports Reporter

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