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.

2023 Vanderbilt Baseball roster preview

With the first pitch of the college baseball season less than a day away, here’s what the Commodores’ lineup and rotation might look like against TCU and beyond.
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Lindsey Jorda
The VandyBoys will open their 2023 season on February 17 against TCU (Hustler Multimedia/Lindsey Jorda).

After a long offseason, it’s finally time for the VandyBoys to begin their quest to return to Omaha.

The Vanderbilt Commodores will head to Arlington, Texas this weekend for the College Baseball Showdown at Globe Life Field to kick off their 2023 season. The VandyBoys will start the campaign with a Friday matchup against TCU on Feb. 17 before facing off against Oklahoma State and Texas to round out the weekend. 

Tim Corbin’s 2023 squad features many new faces after the departures of program stalwarts like Spencer Jones, Dominic Keegan and Christian Little this offseason. As such, the Vanderbilt Hustler has you covered with our projected lineup ahead of the opening weekend tournament: 

The Lineup

Catcher – Jack Bulger / Logan Poteet

The expectation is for Jack Bulger to start the season at catcher. The junior has a ton of experience under his belt with 108 career games played through his first two seasons. The 6-footer from Bowie, Maryland is the definition of consistency: In 2022, he started 57 of the 58 games he played. Beyond just the experience and consistency, Bulger posted a very solid .269 batting average last season to go along with 57 hits and 25 RBIs. Poteet is an interesting case. The freshman out of Powell, Tennessee was the ninth-ranked player — and the second-ranked catcher — in the volunteer state. His list of high school accolades consists of multiple all-state selections and a .423 batting average as a senior. While it seems unlikely that Poteet will play as soon as this weekend, he’ll likely get more time down the line, and the future seems bright for the young catcher. 

—Aiden Rutman, Deputy Sports Editor

First Base – Jonathan Vastine 

Jonathan Vastine enters his sophomore year looking to build off of a solid foundation from the 2021-22 season. While Vastine’s freshman numbers — a .196 batting average —  may not exactly pop out, he spent the summer sharpening his game in the Northwoods league. Head coach Tim Corbin acknowledged that “[Vastine] is one of the best pure athletes on [the] team,” and the feeling within the VandyBoys’ locker room is that the sophomore is ready to make a jump. To go along with his athleticism, Vastine has an exceptional combination of power and contact as a hitter. This composure at the plate, as well as a year of experience under his belt, has Vastine poised to do big things this season. 

—Aiden Rutman, Deputy Sports Editor 

Second Base – Chris Maldonado 

The VandyBoys welcome another Maldonado to the squad this year, brother of closer Nick. The freshman will have a large hole to fill on the right side of the infield with the departure of Tate Kolwyck, who signed with the Los Angeles Angels as an undrafted free agent in July. Last season, Kolwyck mashed 9 home runs and hit 36 RBIs to go along with a .330 OBP and a .812 OPS. Maldonado attended Seton Hall Prep like his brother before him and was a Perfect Game Top 150 prospect. The scouting site describes him as having a strong and accurate throwing arm with solid athleticism in the field and the ability to hit to all fields at the plate. As with all freshman thrust into a crucial role with a top-tier program, Maldonado will have his “freshman” moments but should inspire confidence in Commodore fans as the season progresses. 

—-Bobby Kent, Senior Staff Writer

Shortstop – Davis Diaz

If Vanderbilt Athletics gave out a Most Improved Player award, Diaz would’ve been a finalist last year. The sophomore from California wasn’t a day-one starter but found his way onto the field as a consistent third baseman, a position he shined in. I was fortunate enough to be in the press box for the Davis Diaz breakout game against Missouri, including his first collegiate home run and a back pick at third that got the attention of Chris Rose and Jomboy Media, and I was amazed by his skill and his mind. Diaz is a true five-tool with a smooth glove and a bat that has a knack for finding the holes in the defense. Whether he was batting eighth or batting second, he found a way to impact the team on the offensive end, a quality that all great players want to have. He posted a .213 batting average that, at one point, peaked at over .400 before dropping back down to Earth. His greatest asset, however, is his patience at the plate. Diaz posted an unreal .353 OBP, having almost as many walks as hits and getting beaned 8 times last year. He’s also a solid baserunner, stealing four bags and scoring 40 runs for the VandyBoys. With the departure of Carter Young, we expect Diaz to slide over into his natural position in the middle of the field. That comfortability, I believe, will cause an increase in his fielding percentage—which already sits at an incredible .930—as well as the other aspects of his game. He’s already shown that he can flourish in any role he’s put in and with the increased role of the shortstop position, I’m confident Diaz will see great success. 

—Connor Campbell, Staff Writer

Third Base – Parker Noland 

Unlike many of the other hitters in the starting lineup, Noland is a Vanderbilt veteran with the game experience to back it up. He played in 66 of 67 games his sophomore year and appeared in 48 last season. Posting a .274 average and a .445 slugging percentage in 2022, Noland has the potential to be a threat at the plate. Fans may recall his clutch 2-run bomb in the bottom of the ninth against Indiana State last season, setting up Enrique Bradfield Jr. to eventually steal home and win the game in the bottom of the 11th. His greatest asset, however, is his stellar defense- hallmarked by a career .972 fielding percentage.Yet, the greatest impact Noland has on the VandyBoys is far greater than his on the field talents. His maturity, leadership, and experience will be invaluable to the Commodores, especially in the postseason. Coach Corbin even stated that, “The best gift a program receives is when a senior player returns for their final year. Parker is that gift.” Although down in production during his junior season, the 2023 campaign looks bright for the Farragut High School product.

—Bo Talbot, Staff Writer 

Left Field – TJ McKenzie

After three years spent paying his dues behind a slew of great outfielders, TJ McKenzie is finally ready for his shot to nail down a corner outfield spot for the VandyBoys in 2023. McKenzie flashed power in his limited opportunities last season and followed up on that with a promising fall, positioning the senior to crack the starting lineup for the first time. McKenzie — who is the younger brother of Cleveland Guardian pitcher Triston McKenzie — was selected in the 39th round of the 2019 MLB Draft (St. Louis Cardinals) before enrolling at Vanderbilt. A 6’1 frame and springy swing allows the Florida native to uncork his plus-power, which should translate to doubles and home run potential from the corner spot. Though his game action has been infrequent to this point, McKenzie sports a .287 career batting average as well and figures to be a key veteran presence in 2023. 

—Bryce Smith, Sports Editor 

Center Field – Enrique Bradfield Jr. 

If you scrolled down to read about Enrique Bradfield Jr. first, I can’t exactly blame you (but trust me, go back up and read about the rest of this offense). It seems the prolific junior is out of words to describe him, but I’ll try to start with this: EBJ is one of the most talented players to ever don the Black and Gold and has a chance to put together one of the most decorated individual seasons in VandyBoys history in 2023. Through two college seasons, Bradfield Jr. has looked like what would happen if former 14-year MLB veteran Juan Pierre added plus-plus defense and a bit of juice in his bat to his game. The Commodores’ do-it-all leadoff man was a consensus All-American in each of his first two collegiate campaigns and has stolen 93 bases and maintained a .326 batting average across his first 129 games as a VandyBoy. EBJ might swipe the program record for career stolen bases (96) over the weekend and is 12 triples away from tying the legendary Tony Kemp’s Vanderbilt record for three-baggers. If all goes according to plan, Bradfield Jr. will be in the mix for the Golden Spikes Award and the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft by year’s end. Put simply, the Commodores will go as far as No. 51 can take them and if the first two seasons of his career are any indication, the sky’s the limit for Bradfield and the VandyBoys in 2023. 

—Bryce Smith, Sports Editor 

Right Field – RJ Schreck 

RJ Schreck has some big shoes to fill out in the right field, but if his track record is any indication of what is to come, he should be up to the challenge. In his last two years with the Duke Blue Devils, the Harvard-Westlake High School grad slashed .314 with 26 home runs and 89 RBIs in addition to recording 19 stolen bases. His power, among his other traits, is what makes Schreck stand out as someone who could be a key contributor to this year’s Vandy Boys lineup. The departures of Dominic Keegan, Spencer Jones, Tate Kolwyck, and Carter Young leave the Commodores without four of their top five home run hitters from last season and winning games is a whole lot harder when you don’t leave the ballpark. Schreck could be the solution to this problem, and if he can continue to showcase the bat skills that have made him stand out in many of the teams intrasquad scrimmages, he could find himself atop the team leaderboard in home runs by season’s end. 

—Luke Rollfinke, Staff Writer

Designated Hitter – Calvin Hewett / Matthew Polk 

Vanderbilt will most likely split time at designated hitter between outfielder Calvin Hewett and utility man Matthew Polk. Head coach Tim Corbin will have a tough choice on his hands as neither player has received ample playing time to this point. Hewett, a junior, appeared in 33 games last season and made 85 at-bats (ABs), an increase from his 15 games and 7 at-bats in his freshman campaign. Last season, while still a limited sample size, Hewett had an On-base Percentage (OBP) of .427 and an On-Base + Slugging (OPS) of .931. Polk, a sophomore, posted roughly similar figures across his 36 ABs last season, with an OBP of .372 and OPS of .733. One can assume Corbin’s decision will most likely come down to who plays better at the start of the season and maintains consistent play. 

—Bobby Kent, Senior Staff Writer

Pitching Rotation and Bullpen

#1 – Carter Holton, LHP 

Coming off a phenomenal freshman season that earned him unanimous Freshman All-American honors, southpaw Carter Holton will be the ace of the VandyBoys’ 2023 rotation. He was excellent last year in 15 starts, finishing 8-4 with a 3.14 earned-run average (ERA), an impressive strikeout rate of 10.9 per nine innings and kept the walks down to just 3.2 per nine. Holton was named SEC Co-Freshman of the Week twice, and finished the regular season with three straight scoreless starts. Though he doesn’t have an overwhelming fastball, his swing-and-miss stuff was consistent all year, and his command was fantastic. While this year will require Holton to take another step up to become the Commodores’ Friday starter, he should be more than capable of continuing to progress.

—Frankie Sheehy, Deputy Sports Editor

#2 – Devin Futrell, LHP

For years, Tim Corbin has nurtured and developed freshmen pitchers in the midweek starter role who have gone on to become elite college arms (Mason Hickman, Kumar Rocker, Jack Leiter just in the last few seasons) and even World Series winners (Walker Buehler comes to mind). Devin Futrell is the latest in that group and the now-sophomore is poised to build upon a sensational freshman campaign as the midweek starter by locking down the Saturday spot this year. Last season, Futrell earned freshman All-American honors behind a 3.41 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 63.1 innings of work. 2022’s ‘Midweek Maestro’ mostly utilized a two-pitch mix as a freshman, with an arsenal more predicated on control than velocity. That mix includes a low-90s fastball that Futrell pinpoints on the corners of the strike zone and a sweeping curveball designed to miss bats. The Florida native accumulated a 9-3 record as a freshman and finished his season by tossing six shutout innings in Vanderbilt’s lone regional final win over Oregon State. Look for Vanderbilt’s Rich Hill equivalent to keep on improving in 2023. 

—Bryce Smith, Sports Editor

#3 – Patrick Reilly, RHP 

Patrick Reilly is one of the more electric pitchers in the Vanderbilt staff, and it’s within good reason. To start, the New Jersey Native stands at an intimidating 6’3” and 208 lbs with a fearsome stare from 60 feet away. He attacks hitters with a fierce fastball, trying to get ahead before whipping out his offspeed to keep his opponents on their front leg. When he’s on, he’s a monster, striking out opponents and keeping his pitch count low. These batters are lucky if they even get a foul ball against his stuff. When he’s off, it’s a way different story. Reilly is commonly subject to long innings with tons of walks and unnecessary jams. Jams that I’ve seen him get out of before, but jams nonetheless. In his two years at Vanderbilt, the Junior has posted a 4.99 ERA with a 1.94 BB/K ratio that’s steadily climbing. His 2-3 record is a slight dip from the 4-2 record he posted in his freshman year, despite his ERA remaining relatively the same. Reilly has been so close to solidifying the Sunday starter spot since he started with the program, but has never been given the conclusive nod. If he improves his control while retaining his dominant, electrifying pitching style, we expect to see No. 88 in olive green each week.

Connor Campbell, Staff Writer

Midweek Starter – Andrew Dutkanych IV, RHP

We’ve slotted freshman Andrew Dutkanych IV here as the midweek starter, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a few Sunday starts later on, especially given how open that competition is this year. While he was expected to be a first-round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, Dutkanych withdrew in order to attend Vanderbilt. History shows that Tim Corbin likes to put freshmen in this midweek role in order to ease them into the role against nonconference opponents. That was certainly the case for Futrell last year despite his progress and the inconsistency in the Sunday starting role. However, all indications are that Dutkanych will be a starting option for Tim Corbin, and a formidable one at that. He was recently chosen as USA Today’s prediction for SEC Freshman of the Year, so expectations are certainly high.

—Frankie Sheehy, Deputy Sports Editor

Top Reliever – Thomas Schultz, RHP

Schultz was one of the pleasant surprises on last year’s Vandy Boys team when, after appearing in just 18 games over his first two seasons, he took over as the team’s primary closer, posting a 2.88 ERA with a 3.3 K/BB ratio. That performance, along with his ability to work quickly and efficiently, earned him some consideration in MLB Mock Drafts but fortunately for Vanderbilt, that did not come to fruition. Now he will bring his three-pitch mix, which features a powerful two-seam fastball and a devastating slider, back to Nashville to don the black and gold for one more season. While the role of closer may be handed back to Nick Maldonado this spring, Schultz should still be one of the first names Tim Corbin turns to when the going gets tough. 

—Luke Rollfinke, Staff Writer

Closer – Nick Maldonado, RHP

Appearing in 45 career games, Maldonado is one of most experienced arms in the Vanderbilt bullpen. He began his Commodore career as a reliever, but quickly became one of the arms Coach Corbin turned to whenever he needed a ringer. If there was a utility equivalent to pitching, Maldonado is it. His sophomore year, he pitched 50.2 innings and recorded 9 saves. Last year, he started 4 games including an elimination game in the Regionals against San Diego when he went 7.2 innings. This year, he is expected to move into the closer role and should shine, with a fast ball in the low-90’s and a devastating curveball that peaks around 75 mph. That kind of velocity difference between pitches is ideal for a closer that needs to keep hitters off balance in clutch situations. 

Bo Talbot, Staff Writer

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About the Contributors
Bryce Smith
Bryce Smith, Former Sports Editor
Bryce Smith ('23) is majoring in human and organizational development in Peabody College with a minor in business. Bryce previously wrote for SBNation before joining The Hustler. Hailing from Chicago, Bryce is a die-hard Bears and Cubs fan who is also hoping that the Bulls and Blackhawks may one day rekindle their dominance. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Aiden Rutman
Aiden Rutman, Sports Editor
Aiden Rutman (‘25) is a student in Peabody College majoring in human and organizational development and minoring in communication studies. He formerly produced The Hustler’s sports podcast, Live from West End. In addition to writing and podcasting, Aiden is an avid New York sports fan, and he loves playing sports, spending time outdoors and trying new foods. You can reach him at [email protected].
Frankie Sheehy
Frankie Sheehy, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Frankie Sheehy ('24) wrote for The Hustler Sports section and graduated from the College of Arts and Science with majors in economics and law, history and society. He was also the president of the Vanderbilt Chess Club and a superfan of the Chicago White Sox. You can reach him 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].
Bowman Talbot
Bowman Talbot, Former Staff Writer
Bowman Talbot ('24) is a student in the College of Arts and Science studying political science and history. When not writing for The Hustler, Bowman can be found exploring Nashville, defending 2019 LSU football as the greatest college football team of all time and watching the New Orleans Saints choke in another playoff appearance. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Bobby Kent
Bobby Kent, Former Senior Staff Writer
Bobby Kent (’23) was a Senior Staff Writer for The Hustler Sports section, having been on staff since his first semester at Vanderbilt. Bobby was also the Sports Director for VandyRadio, co-host of Kent and Coad, a weekly sports talk show on VandyRadio and the host of VU Sports Wired, a Vanderbilt Video Productions and Hustler Sports Television show. Bobby previously interned at CNN Sports where he assisted in producing studio shows, writing anchor scripts and creating fullscreen graphics. He also wrote an article about Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo for CNN.com that was a top 5 story for digital. He was an economics major in the College of Arts and Science with a minor in business. Bobby has been a dedicated sports fan ever since he was little and loves to track the decisions made by front offices, players and coaches. Bobby hopes to one day have a career in the business of professional sports either in sports media or with a professional sports organization. When not writing articles, providing opinions about Vanderbilt sports on TV or serving hot takes in the radio studio, Bobby can be found watching his beloved Philadelphia sports teams and watching the Eagles fly. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Connor Campbell
Connor Campbell, Senior Staff Writer
Connor Campbell ('25) is a human and organizational development and cinema and media arts major from Staten Island, N.Y. Connor shares a strong love for both sports and film, leading to his interest in "The Ringer" and, consequently, his casual and quippy style of writing. Outside of The Hustler, Connor does freelance photography, runs the social media accounts for Vanderbilt Club Hockey and is the president of Vanderbilt Tap That. You can reach him at [email protected].
Lindsey Jorda
Lindsey Jorda, Former Social Media Director
Lindsey Jorda (‘23) is double majoring in neuroscience and psychology in the College of Arts and Science. When not working for The Hustler, she loves reading, listening to music, watching movies and playing with her dog. She can be reached at [email protected].
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