2024 Vanderbilt Baseball roster preview

A snapshot of the VandyBoys’ lineup and rotation for the 2024 season.
Davis Diaz giving Calvin Hewett a handshake with the image of Tim Corbin listening to the National Anthem. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Davis Diaz giving Calvin Hewett a handshake with the image of Tim Corbin listening to the National Anthem. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Lexie Perez

The VandyBoys will start their journey towards a College World Series championship this weekend when they open up their season with a series against Florida Atlantic University. In the 2023 season, the Commodores won the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2019. Despite winning the Southeastern Conference, Vanderbilt failed to make the College World Series after being eliminated by Xavier in the NCAA Regional

The Commodores lost several star players this offseason, including outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. and pitcher Hunter Owen. Vanderbilt has had a lot of turnover, especially in the starting pitching rotation. 

The Hustler projected the starting lineup and pitching rotation for this year’s Vanderbilt team:

The Lineup

Catcher – Alan Espinal

Senior Alan Espinal will be the No.1 catcher for the VandyBoys this season. Although he shared a reasonable amount of time with fellow senior Jack Bulger last year, Espinal is perhaps the most skilled catcher this team has. Espinal is a threat behind the plate with his incredible arm, which makes other teams uneasy about stealing against him. Each year, Espinal has grown in his offensive skills and approach at the plate, where, last year, he showed promises of providing the more consistent power hitting that this team lacks. In the 2023 season, Espinal collected 25 hits across 35 games with a batting average of .275 and homered six times. After a great summer in the Cape Cod League, expect Espinal to continue to be a consistent presence on both sides of the plate, with his best year yet on the offensive side. 

— Grace Hall, Assistant Sports Specialist

First Base – Chris Maldonado

After a dazzling back end to the 2023 season which consisted of being named to the All-Tournament team at the SEC Tournament, Chris Maldonado is back and expected to start at first base for Tim Corbin’s unit. Last year, Maldonado logged a team-high .310 batting average alongside eight home runs and 32 RBIs. Although he spent a lot of time during the end of the year playing at designated hitter, his versatile athleticism makes him useful as he’s played both first and third baseman during scrimmages. Where Maldonaldo will seek to make the most of his impact will be offensively, as he will aim to be a consistent bat and create some firepower in the lineup. As Vanderbilt is stocked full of players with great defensive talents, players like Maldonado will be vital with the bat in hand, especially with an expanded role in his upcoming sophomore season.

— David Hernandez, Lead Sports Analyst

Second Base – Jayden Davis

Tennessee native Jayden Davis will be playing his first season for the Commodores as a transfer out of Samford. Despite being a freshman, Davis led the Bulldogs with a .358 batting average en route to a selection as the Southern Conference Freshman of the Year and First Team All-SoCon. That plate prowess will come in handy for a Vanderbilt team that struggled to put it together on offense in last season’s most critical moments. While Davis should be expected to play second base predominantly, Corbin has noted that the transfer could be used in various infield positions. The SEC will be a big step up in competition for the former SoCon student-athlete, but this isn’t Vanderbilt’s first time taking a mid-major out of the transfer portal. Expect consistent development over the course of the season for a player who will don the Black and Gold for at least the next two years.

— Jayce Pollard, Assistant Sports Specialist

Shortstop – Jonathan Vastine

If Vanderbilt is to reach its goal of national title contention, Jonathan Vastine will need to continue ascending as one of Corbin’s cornerstones. Alongside Carter Holton, the junior was one of two Commodores to be named to the 2024 Preseason All-SEC second team ahead of this season. After transitioning to shortstop last season, Vastine played in all 62 of Vanderbilt’s games and was excellent on both sides of the ball. Alongside making just six errors from shortstop all season, Vastine was third on the team in total bases (103) and batting average (.287) as a sophomore. The sophomore’s impressive debut season as a regular starter was capped off by a solid postseason which was highlighted by a home run he smashed in Vanderbilt’s NCAA tournament win over Eastern Illinois. Everything points to Vastine continuing to build on two solid seasons in Black and Gold. 

— Anish Mago, Deputy Sports Editor

Third Base – Davis Diaz

Davis Diaz is a premier defender with a great glove at the hot corner. Diaz had a solid offensive showing in the 2023 year with a .376 on-base percentage (OBP). Diaz has been a consistent part of Corbin’s lineup for the past two seasons, as he has made an appearance in 121 of Vanderbilt’s last 124 games. The star defender has elite arm strength, making him the ideal third baseman for the Commodores. If Davis Diaz slightly improves his collegiate batting average this season (.241), he can be a first round pick in the 2024 MLB Draft. Diaz started the 2023 season strong, with 30 combined runs across Vanderbilt’s first 10 games. Diaz will aim to start the 2024 season with another strong offensive start. As he has gotten stronger since coming to West End two seasons ago, look for Diaz’s slugging percentage to improve this season.

— Andrew Wilf, Sports Editor

Left Field – Troy LaNeve

Entering his fifth year on West End, Troy LaNeve’s name is synonymous with spark plug. The Pittsburgh native has often slotted in as the Commodores’ DH option to give life to the offense — as he did at the end of last season in the series against No. 2 Arkansas and against Texas A&M in the SEC Championship game — but this year, he’ll get a shot at more: a true starting role. LaNeve has averaged 26 games played in his three full seasons (the VandyBoys have played 64 games per season in that same stretch), so he hasn’t had a chance to truly hit his stride. However, as a wily veteran who slashed .262/.326/.500 in 42 at bats last season, LaNeve finally walks into a year with a starting role in an outfield that needs shoring up after Bradfield Jr. left a massive hole in the Commodores’ center field. It’ll be crucial for LaNeve to be the RBI machine he was at the end of the VandyBoys’ 2023 campaign if Vanderbilt wants to have success with their bats in 2024.

— Sam Curtis, Deputy Sports Editor

Center Field – RJ Austin

While RJ Austin played at second base for the 2023 season, he will likely move to the outfield with the loss of Enrique Bradfield Jr. to the 2023 MLB draft. He has yet to play center field at Vanderbilt, but his speed and elite glove skills make him a good fit for the position. It will be difficult for Austin to produce the same defensive plays as Bradfield, but his skills as a premier hitter strengthens this Vanderbilt batting order. Austin had a breakout freshman year, with a batting average of .257 and 43 RBIs. He also took Most Outstanding Player at the SEC Championships in May. He continued his strong play from the 2023 season into summer ball on the Cape where he batted an impressive .327. Consistency is Austin’s strong suit and Corbin knows wherever he slots Austin into the batting lineup, he will make an impact. In his media availability on Jan. 30, Austin stressed his improved plate discipline after getting behind in some counts last season. Austin will be a staple in Vanderbilt’s batting order and has the potential to make a big freshman to sophomore jump. He will also get experience at center field as he attempts to fill the shoes of Bradfield. 

— Henry Oelhafen, Sports Copy Editor

Right Field – Calvin Hewett

Calvin Hewett is in his fourth year with the Commodores and will look to be a constant contributor to the VandyBoys team this season on both ends of the ball. According to Corbin, Hewett is a pure athlete who covers a lot of space in the outfield and is a ball hawk. Corbin’s evaluation is strongly reflected in Hewett’s stats where he has a near-perfect fielding percentage of 0.988 across 95 games played. On the offensive side of the ball, the goal for Hewett will be to get on base where he is most dangerous. Last year, he went a perfect 11-11 when stealing bases, an impressive improvement from what he posted in his sophomore year at five, respectively. Hewett has one of the better slugging percentages among his teammates at 0.434 and will look to add some power to this Commodores lineup. Last year, Hewett stepped up in some big games for the VandyBoys, including a three-RBI double in the SEC championship tournament against Texas A&M. If the senior can continue to be a threat on the basepaths and consistent in the field, he will be a constant in Corbin & Co’s lineup this season. 

— Hall

Designated Hitter – Jack Bulger

Jack Bulger is a big hitter that the Commodores will look for at the end of games to secure wins. Bulger comes into this season looking to improve his slugging percentage from the past two seasons. In his sophomore and junior year combined, he posted a .369 slugging percentage. In 2021 though, he had a noteworthy .414 slugging percentage. He had 30 RBIs in the 42 games he played in 2022. He also is known to get on base at an above-average clip of a .361 OBP. Corbin has a lot of weapons on his roster, so do not be surprised to see Bulger used as a designated hitter, especially once conference play rolls around. 

— Wilf

Pitching Rotation and Bullpen

#1 – Carter Holton, LHP 

Preseason All-SEC second team and the Golden Spikes Award watch list — Carter Holton has expectations as high as Everest coming into 2024. His career 12-5 record, 3.51 ERA and 1.22 WHIP read like a star in the making, but if the Georgia native wants to cement his name as a Vanderbilt legend, he must bring this team to Omaha. Holton should be off any training wheels, whether from injury or Corbin’s tendency to ease up on younger arm talent, and with one of the best bullpens in college backing him up, he has no excuse not to shine. Holton had some rough SEC outings against the likes of South Carolina and Alabama last season, but those performances are evened out by equally outstanding stretches against sides like Tennessee and Georgia. We know the junior has the chops to cut it with the best college baseball has to offer; it’s all about rising to the challenge, not backing away from it. If Holton is seriously in contention for the Gold Spikes come June, Vanderbilt will be a strong frontrunner for a national title.

— Curtis

#2 – Devin Futrell, LHP

The expectations were high for Futrell following Freshman All-American honors in his first year on West End, and the Florida native smashed through all of them. Futrell was Vanderbilt’s best pitcher last season, finishing third in the SEC in ERA (3.44) and fourth in WHIP (1.09) en route to All-SEC second team honors. It was simply a dominant year for the lefty, who filled a variety of gaps in Vanderbilt’s rotation as the injury bug hit the pitching staff over the second half of the season. Strong performances against Alabama in the SEC Tournament and Eastern Illinois in the NCAA Tournament further reaffirmed what Corbin and his staff know coming into this year: the Commodores will go as far as the top of their rotation can take them. If Futrell and Holton are able to recreate the magic of Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter’s 1-2 pairing, Vanderbilt will be a tough out in any format of any tournament. The expectations for Futrell’s third year in Black and Gold are justifiably high, and the junior will look to smash them once again. 

— Mago

#3 – Bryce Cunningham, RHP 

Now in his third year with the Vandy Boys, right-handed pitcher Bryce Cunningham will look to take over a weekend starting position from Hunter Owen. The junior has only started in ten games for the Commodores over his first two seasons, but an elite performance at the summer Cape Cod League may be a portend of greater success to come. While up north, Cunningham led the Bourne Braves to a second straight championship and notched an all-star game appearance behind a 2.38 ERA. To take a big leap forward for Vanderbilt, the righty will need to keep his ERA more in line with his summer performance than his prior games with the Vandy Boys, and a major reduction will need to be had in the number of walks allowed — 37 in just 30 appearances in the last two seasons. If the leap comes, his elite physical measurements and tight skillset could make him a day-one selection in next year’s MLB Draft.

— Pollard

Midweek Starter – Greysen Carter, RHP

When Greysen Carter first came to Vanderbilt, his fastball consistently hit in the low to mid 90’s. Now, in his junior year, Carter’s fastball velocity is consistently in the triple digits, giving him the potential to be one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in the nation. Although velocity isn’t everything for elite pitching, especially in the SEC, pitching coach Scott Brown and head coach Tim Corbin have been impressed with Carter’s improvements in command. This improvement in command has Corbin and Co. ranking Carter at the top of their pitching depth chart. Last year, Carter recorded 13 appearances, seven of which were starts. Carter was part of the combined no-hitter thrown in 2023 against Minnesota. Carter has continued to improve his skill set over the summer on the cape, where he was named an all-star. Expect Carter to consistently appear for the VandyBoys this season, where he will attack any batter before him.  

— Hall

Top Reliever – Andrew Dutkanych IV, RHP

Andrew Dutkanych IV was a likely first-round pick out of high school in the 2022 MLB draft, but he opted to withdraw his name and attend Vanderbilt. He was one of the most accomplished freshmen to reach campus in 2022, as he was the No. 1 ranked player in Indiana and No. 15 player nationally in his class according to Perfect Game. Many thought he would slot into that Sunday or midweek starter position in the 2023 season, but a hamstring injury against Evansville in early March sidelined him for the remainder of the year. It was a blow to Vanderbilt’s pitching depth, especially considering the injuries and fatigue the Commodores faced in May. Now, Dutkanych is ready to pitch again in the 2024 season. With a high-velocity fastball that reaches 96 mph and an elite slider that sits in the mid-80’s, Dutkanych can force a lot of swings and misses. However, command will be the key for Dutkanych to be a top pitcher for this Vanderbilt squad. In his few outings last season, Dutkanych at times struggled to find the strike zone and got himself into some tough situations with multiple players on base. Still, the athletic frame and impressive breaking ball make many think he could be the top reliever for Vanderbilt this season. 

— Oelhafen

Closer – Sawyer Hawks, RHP 

With former closer Nick Maldonado being drafted by the Miami Marlins, a big question mark has been placed in that key late-inning position. More than likely though, Air Force Academy transfer Sawyer Hawks will be entrusted with filling the shoes of Maldonaldo. In his last season at Air Force, Hawks tallied eight saves, a 2.84 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 50.2 innings, while also holding opposing batters to a .214 batting average. In the Cape Cod League over the summer, Hawks continued showing off his prowess, having a 1.35 ERA and 10 strikeouts over 6.2 innings. Usually relying on a decently high velocity fastball and a supplementary curveball, Hawks has the talent to potentially be in the starting rotation, especially after showing past ability to pitch multiple innings. However, his experience as a closer makes him more suited for the role, even though he will now be facing a steep increase in competition in the SEC. 

– Hernandez

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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].
Anish Mago
Anish Mago, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Anish Mago ('24) is from West Windsor, N.J., and is studying economics and political science in the College of Arts and Science. He previously served as a staff writer for the Sports section. When not writing for The Hustler, Anish enjoys playing basketball and rooting for all Philly sports. He can be reached at .
Sam Curtis
Sam Curtis, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Sam Curtis (’24) is from Wallingford, Conn., majoring in human and organizational development and French and minoring in data science in Peabody College. He was previously Assistant Sports Editor and Sports Copy Editor. When not writing for The Hustler, he cheers on the Philadelphia Eagles, the 76ers and Leeds United. Outside of sports, he enjoys traveling and learning about history and philosophy. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Henry Oelhafen
Henry Oelhafen, Deputy Sports Editor
Henry Oelhafen (‘26) is a student in Peabody College majoring in human and organizational development and minoring in business. Henry grew up as a Vanderbilt sports fan and loves to talk about both professional and amateur golf. In addition to writing, he loves to play golf with friends, hike and try new restaurants. He can be reached at [email protected].
Jayce Pollard
Jayce Pollard, Non-revenue Sports Specialist
Jayce Pollard (‘25) is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in public policy and economics and minoring in data science and Spanish. Outside of writing for The Hustler, you can catch Jayce trying to learn the rules of soccer, hating on the Arkansas Razorbacks and being chronically on Twitter. He can be reached at [email protected]
Grace Hall
Grace Hall, Deputy Sports Editor
Grace Hall (‘26) is from Belfast, Maine, and is majoring in public policy studies in the College of Arts and Science. Grace is also the vice-president of the Vanderbilt Club Field Hockey Team. When not writing for The Hustler you can find her watching the Boston Red Sox or Celtics, reading or at a concert. You can reach her at [email protected].
David Hernandez
David Hernandez, Lead Sports Analyst
David Hernandez (‘26) is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences double majoring in political science and law, history and society with a minor in communication studies. Outside of writing for The Hustler, you can find him playing basketball, catching up on his favorite shows and mourning the tragedy that is New York sports. He can be reached at [email protected].
Lexie Perez
Lexie Perez, Graphics Editor
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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