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.

VandyBoys in the Pros: 2022 MLB Season

With the MLB season officially underway, The Hustler took a look at some notable Commodores in the pros and where Vanderbilt’s 2021 draftees ended up.
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Vanderbilt Athletics
Jack Leiter returned to the mound for a win on May 17, 2021. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

On April 7 after a long offseason due to a lockout, the 2022 MLB season officially got underway. Since head coach Tim Corbin revitalized Vanderbilt baseball beginning in 2003, numerous former Commodores have taken the field on Opening Day. This year, 13 VandyBoys alumni suited up in the big leagues with pro clubs while all five of Vanderbilt’s 2021 draftees found themselves new homes in the minor leagues. 

The Hustler took a look at some of the notable VandyBoys in the pros and checked in on where the draftees are suiting up this spring.

2021 MLB Draftees

Jack Leiter (2020-21) – Texas Rangers (Frisco RoughRiders)

After helping lead the Commodores to the College World Series championship in 2021, Jack Leiter entered last summer’s MLB Draft with just over a season of college experience. His career 2.08 ERA and 201 strikeouts in just 125 innings helped establish him as the clear top pitching prospect in the class, so there was little surprise when the Texas Rangers selected him second overall. Though he did not play any games for the organization in 2021, Leiter did receive an invitation to spring training this year, where he saw just 1 2/3 innings of work before being optioned to the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders. Just last week he made his debut for the club, throwing three innings and allowing just one hit and one run while striking out seven. While not as spectacular, the outing resurrected memories of his first SEC start for the Commodores when he no-hit the South Carolina Gamecocks. 

Luke Murphy (2019-21) – Los Angeles Angels (Rocket City Trash Pandas)

Following a three-year stint on West End, Luke Murphy was selected with the 110th overall pick by the Los Angeles Angels in the fourth round of the 2021 MLB Draft. After missing the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery, Murphy made the most of his opportunities with the Commodores in his sophomore and junior years. In 2021, he earned nine saves and a 2.40 ERA in 27 appearances and 41 1/3 innings pitched. After being drafted by the Angels, he was assigned to the Single-A Tri-City Dust Devils, based in Pasco, Washington. In his seven games for the Dust Devils, Murphy allowed seven hits, three runs and notched 15 strikeouts. Murphy was elevated to the Madison, Alabama-based Rocket City Trash Pandas during spring training this season. In Murphy’s one inning for the Angels’ Double-A affiliate, he allowed just one hit.

CJ Rodriguez (2020-21) – Oakland Athletics (Stockton Ports)

Having spent much of his Vanderbilt career catching pitches from some of the top pitching prospects in the nation, CJ Rodriguez finally had his chance to step into the spotlight when he was selected 158th overall by the Oakland Athletics last summer. He was quickly assigned to the Single-A Stockton Ports, where he struggled out of the gate, slashing .160/.198/.222 in 22 games. His defense impressed, however, as he committed just two errors and threw out 31% of base stealers. This season Rodriguez has enjoyed a better start, going 2-for-7 with three runs scored through two games with the Ports. 

Hugh Fisher (2018-21) – Arizona Diamondbacks (Hillsboro Hops)

After blossoming into a consistent reliever for the Commodores, Fisher was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the 288th pick after his senior season at Vanderbilt. Fisher’s senior season featured 16 appearances, where he posted an ERA of 2.45. He allowed five hits and five runs on his 49 batters faced. Fisher was assigned to the Single-A Visalia Rawhide upon being drafted and held a 4.73 ERA, allowing 11 runs in his 13 innings pitched last fall. On April 8, Fisher was elevated to play for the advanced Single-A Hillsboro Hops. In Fisher’s one inning thus far for the Hops, he allowed four runs on five batters faced. 

Jayson Gonzalez (2018-21) – Chicago White Sox (Kannapolis Cannon Ballers)

When Jayson Gonzalez suited up for the Commodores, he primarily played third base. The senior played well enough in his final season—especially in Vanderbilt’s College World Series run—to get drafted by the Chicago White Sox with the 515th pick of the 2021 MLB Draft. After being drafted, he was assigned to play for the Single-A Kannapolis Cannon Ballers. Gonzalez has struggled thus far with the Cannon Ballers, tallying only 12 hits and seven runs in his 69 at-bats. This spring, he will start the season in Kannapolis.

Notable ‘Dores in the Big Leagues

Walker Buehler (2013-15) – Los Angeles Dodgers 

Walker Buehler concluded his three years at Vanderbilt with an ERA of 2.91. One of his most spectacular moments as a Commodore came at the end of his final season. On April 10, 2015, he tallied 13 strikeouts in eight innings pitched against Ole Miss. Buehler’s success with the VandyBoys led him to be selected with the second overall pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2015 MLB Draft. Bueheler was called up to play for the Dodgers in 2017, and quickly grew into an MLB superstar. The two-time All-Star holds a career record of 41-13 and an ERA of 2.91. In 2020, he made crucial starts that helped the Dodgers win a World Series. 

Sonny Gray (2009-11) – Minnesota Twins

Sonny Gray enjoyed a fantastic junior season at Vanderbilt, posting a 2.45 ERA while leading the school to its first-ever College World Series berth. The righty was later drafted 18th overall by the Oakland Athletics in 2011. He spent two years in the minor leagues before being promoted to the A’s roster, where he played 4 1/2 impressive seasons including a 2015 campaign in which he finished third in Cy Young voting. He was traded to the New York Yankees prior to the 2017 trade deadline before being sent to the Cincinnati Reds during the 2019 offseason. Gray saw a resurgence of form in Cincinnati, posting a sub-3.50 ERA in three seasons with the club until he was traded to the Twins this past offseason. In his first start this year, he went 4 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and striking out four. 

Kyle Wright (2015-17) – Atlanta Braves

Kyle Wright played three seasons for the Commodores, pitching primarily out of the bullpen as a first-year and serving as a key member of the starting rotation as both a sophomore and junior. Since being drafted by the Atlanta Braves with the fifth pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, he has spent most of his time at Triple-A Gwinnett, unable to find steady footing at the MLB level. In his 76 innings with the Braves, he has posted a 6.04 ERA, allowing 49 walks and 72 hits. However, he performed admirably after being called up for the postseason last year, throwing 5 2/3 innings in the World Series and allowing just one run. His strong form continued into his first start of 2022, when he threw six shutout innings against the Reds.

David Price (2005-07) – Los Angeles Dodgers

David Price will always be a legend on West End, as one of the premier players responsible for putting Commodore baseball in the national spotlight. During his three-year stint at Vanderbilt, he notched 441 strikeouts, which remains a school record. In 2007, he was named the SEC Male Athlete of the Year, the SEC Pitcher of the Year and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays with the No. 1 pick. After playing for the Rays from 2008-14, the Tennessee native spent two seasons with the Detroit Tigers, a season for the Toronto Blue Jays and four seasons with the Boston Red Sox. Price was then traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2020 offseason. The MLB veteran and five-time All-Star holds an admirable 155-82 career record. The 36-year-old pitcher will be a part of the Dodgers forceful bullpen this season.

Dansby Swanson (2013-15) – Atlanta Braves

Swanson’s Vanderbilt career was nothing short of spectacular. In his three seasons, he tallied a .330 batting average with 99 RBIs. His role on the 2014 Vanderbilt roster was crucial in giving the Commodores their first College World Series win. He elevated his performance in the 2015 season and was named a First-Team All-American. In the 2015 MLB Draft, the Arizona Diamondbacks selected Swanson with the first overall pick. Just a few months lateron Dec. 9, 2015he was traded to the Atlanta Braves. After spending over six months in the minors, Swanson was called up to play for the Braves. Swanson proved over the next few seasons that he is one of the better shortstops in the MLB. He had at least 110 hits in each season from 2017-2019. In 2021, he helped the Braves win their first MLB World Series since 1995.

Tony Kemp (2011-13) – Oakland Athletics

Tony Kemp dominated at Vanderbilt, notching a batting average of .391 in his junior campaign. In addition to posting a spectacular batting average in his junior year, Kemp was named the 2013 SEC Player of the Year. His impressive accolades at Vanderbilt led to his selection by the Houston Astros in the fifth round of the 2013 MLB Draft. Kemp spent a few seasons in the minor leagues, but was activated to play for the Astros in 2016. He played three seasons with the Astros before being traded to the Chicago Cubs. After a one-year stint in Chicago, Kemp was shipped to the Oakland Athletics on Jan. 13, 2020. Last season—in 2021—he slashed .279/.382/.418 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs in 131 games. He started at second base for the Athletics on Opening Day.

Curt Casali (2008-11) – San Francisco Giants

One of the few players on this list to have spent four years with Vanderbilt, Curt Casali was a rock-solid presence in the Commodore lineup during his time in Nashville. Serving as both a designated hitter and catcher, Casali batted above .300 every year, catching the eye of the Detroit Tigers, who selected him in the 10th round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He did not end up making his MLB debut for Detroit, however, as he was traded to the Rays prior to the start of the 2014 season. A career .225 hitter, Casali has since bounced around the league, spending time with both the Reds and Giants in addition to his four seasons in Tampa Bay. Currently, he is serving as the backup catcher in San Francisco. 

Bryan Reynolds (2014-16) – Pittsburgh Pirates

Switch-hitting outfielder Bryan Reynolds was the model of consistency at Vanderbilt, playing in every single game in each of his three seasons with the team. An incredible junior season, in which he had a .461 on base percentage and slugged 13 home runs, helped Reynolds to be drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the second round of 2016 MLB Draft. Similar to Casali, Reynolds never appeared for the team that drafted him, ultimately being traded to Pittsburgh in 2018. He broke out in his first season with the Pirates, batting .314 with 16 home runs, before struggling during the COVID-19-shortened season in 2020. He rebounded in 2021, however, leading the team with 24 home runs and 90 RBIs and being selected to the National League All-Star team for the first time in his career. He opened this season as the Pirates starting center fielder and has already recorded seven hits and two long balls.

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About the Contributors
Andrew Wilf
Andrew Wilf, Former Sports Editor
Andrew Wilf (’24) is Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. He is from Livingston, N.J., and is majoring in history and minoring in business. He joined the sports staff his freshman year, previously serving as a Staff Writer, Assistant Sports Editor and Deputy Sports Editor. Beyond writing for The Hustler, he is also the host of Anchor Analysis, Commodore Clash and Live From West End. In his free time, Andrew enjoys watching the NFL and playing golf. He can be reached at [email protected].
Luke Rollfinke
Luke Rollfinke, Senior Staff Writer
Luke Rollfinke ('25) is a student in the College of Arts and Science planning to major in mathematics with a minor in communications. Luke loves all things sports, so when he's not writing for The Hustler, he's probably either playing for a club or intramural Vanderbilt sports team. You can reach him at [email protected].
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