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.

‘Dores in the Pros: Minor League Baseball edition

With the minor league season officially complete, it’s time to check in on VandyBoys across the lower levels of professional baseball.
Lindsey Jorda
Former Commodore and Orioles prospect Enrique Bradfield Jr. hitting on March 8, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Lindsey Jorda)

The 2023 Minor League Baseball season came to a close this weekend, marking the beginning of a long offseason for many former VandyBoys across the country. Some will use the time away from baseball to build upon successful first steps in their professional careers, while others will take the time to rest and heal heading into 2024. As all of the top VandyBoys from years past reflect upon their careers, it’s the perfect time to take a look at how they have performed and where they stand in their journeys toward baseball’s highest level. 

Austin Martin

Martin was forced to miss the majority of his third professional season with a UCL sprain in his right elbow. After bouncing around the lower minor leagues throughout June, Martin was called up on July 3 to Triple-A for the first time in his career. In 59 games with the St. Paul Saints (affiliate of Minnesota), Martin slashed .263/.387/.405 with 6 homers, 28 runs driven in and 16 stolen bases. Better yet, his 14.2% walk rate reminded Twins and Vanderbilt fans of Martin’s patient approach and disciplined eye that has been one of the most consistent aspects of his game. He showed his defensive versatility again by splitting time between second base, shortstop and third base. While Martin’s primary position of shortstop is currently squarely occupied in Minnesota by Carlos Correa, his consistency and flexibility are assets that could take him to the show soon.

Jack Leiter

Leiter had another underwhelming season in the minors with the Rangers organization, finishing 2-6 overall with a 5.19 ERA over 85 innings. Spending most of the season with the Double-A Frisco Roughriders, Leiter reached up to 95 pitches in June, but his output slowed in the last half of the season. Leiter posted a 6.87 ERA in his last 10 starts, averaging less than four innings per appearance. He did make one start in Triple-A with the Round Rock Express in September, allowing 3 earned runs in 3.1 innings. Texas may have taken a risk by allowing Leiter to skip straight to Double-A when he was drafted. However, the experience and adversity he’s experiencing in these outings will surely only make him a stronger pitcher in the long run.

Kumar Rocker

Vanderbilt legend Kumar Rocker only made six starts in his minor league debut season before suffering a torn ligament in his right elbow requiring Tommy John surgery. It’s a devastating blow for Rocker, who just hasn’t been able to find a foothold yet since being drafted 10th overall in 2021 by the Mets, who did not sign him. Now with the Texas organization, Rocker is in the midst of what is always a difficult recovery for pitchers. Still listed at No. 9 in the Rangers’ prospect rankings, Rocker will hope to finally get his professional career really going in 2024 一 probably more than three years after he last pitched for the VandyBoys.

Chris McElvain

After being drafted in 2022 by Cincinnati, McElvain pitched the first half of the season with Single-A Daytona before being promoted to the High-A Dayton Dragons. He recorded 96 total innings between the two levels with a fine ERA of 3.75 in his first professional season. While primarily being used as a starter, McElvain served multiple roles in the Tortugas’ staff, making four multi-inning relief appearances in Single-A. Amid a crowded Cincinnati farm system, it may be tough for McElvain to make a quick jump to the show. But if he keeps putting up the numbers he did in 2023, he should get there eventually, in Cincinnati or otherwise.

Spencer Jones

Jones was drafted 25th overall in the 2022 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees after a breakout junior season at Vanderbilt in which he slashed .370/.460/.643 with 12 home runs and 60 RBIs. Some pundits wondered how his game would translate to the next level given his 6’7” stature and unorthodox swing, but Jones has done nothing but impress since kicking off his professional career. He spent his first season dominating Rookie ball and Low-A, tallying 22 singles, 6 doubles and 4 home runs in just 93 at-bats, before being called up to High-A at the start of 2023. In 100 games at the High-A level, Jones displayed both power and speed, tallying 45 extra base hits to go along with 35 stolen bases. That performance was good enough to not only earn him a call-up to Double-A in August, but to also be named the 73rd best prospect in all of baseball and the top prospect in the Yankees organization.

Javier Vaz

It came as a surprise to many when Vaz was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 15th round of the 2022 MLB Draft given that he was more of a role player than a star during his time with the VandyBoys. He spent three seasons in Nashville, during which he displayed an excellent glove and a patient approach — as evidenced by his 39:22 career strikeout-to-walk-ratio — but never found consistent playing time until the postseason. That being said, he has taken his game to a new level over the past year and a half, rising from rookie ball to Double-A in just 372 days. Perhaps even more impressive is that, after arriving in Double-A, he batted .304 with an .820 OPS 15 walks against just 18 strikeouts, avoiding any sort of adjustment period. Vaz has already positioned himself among the top 15 prospects in the Royals system, and he could easily see that ranking continue to rise if he can get off to a hot start in 2024.

Dominic Keegan

Keegan served as Vanderbilt’s cleanup hitter during the 2021 and 2022 seasons, leading the Commodores in batting average, hits, home runs and RBIs over that span. His prowess at the plate as well as behind it as a catcher led him to be drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 134th overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. He has continued to crush baseball since entering the minor leagues, slashing .291/.389/.477 with 15 home runs over his first two seasons. He will look to build upon that performance throughout the next month, during which he will participate in the Arizona Fall League as one of eight representatives from the Rays organization. Given that Tampa Bay has become known for helping prospects reach their full potential in recent years, Keegan seems perfectly positioned to develop into a major-league-caliber player. 

Enrique Bradfield Jr.

Bradfield Jr.’s Vanderbilt career was filled with countless accolades, including SEC Freshman of the Year honors in 2021, All-SEC First-Team honors in 2022 and the Vanderbilt career stolen base record, which he set in February 2023. His unique combination of speed, bat skills, and defensive ability made him one of the top prospects in the 2023 MLB Draft, where he was ultimately selected 17th overall by the Baltimore Orioles. He got off to a blazing hot start in the minor leagues, batting .291 with 25 stolen bases, 26 walks and just 16 strikeouts in his first 25 games. Many scouts believe his speed and glove are already MLB-ready, so if Bradfield Jr. can continue hitting at a high level, he could find himself among the Top 100 prospects in baseball in the near future. Either way, it shouldn’t be long before Vanderbilt fans will get the chance to watch him chase down fly balls and swipe bases at Camden Yards and other MLB Stadiums across the country.

RJ Schreck

Unlike many of the other players on this list, Schreck spent just one year at Vanderbilt, transferring over from Duke as a graduate student. However, his impact during his lone season on West End cannot be overstated. In 62 games batting in the heart of the Commodore lineup, Schreck posted a .306 batting average with 15 doubles, 14 home runs and 48 walks against just 32 strikeouts. He was selected in the 9th round of the 2023 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners and went on to enjoy a solid first taste of professional baseball over the summer, recording .258/.336/.392 in 27 games between Rookie ball and Low-A. 

Carter Young

In his first full professional season in the Orioles organization, Young spent most of the year in Single-A before making the jump to High-A in August. Young was teammates with Bradfield Jr. in both Demarva and Aberdeen. Young had a mediocre season at the plate, slashing .244/.327/.330 with 3 homers and just 37 RBIs. However, his numbers improved throughout the season and were generally better after his promotion to High-A. Young’s glove was worrying, though: The infielder was charged with 20 errors in 2023, way too many in an organization that values defense. While Young’s performance on both sides of the ball will need to improve for him to move up the ranks, we know from his Vanderbilt days that he is capable of taking that step up.

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About the Contributors
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].
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].
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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