: College Preview Index
2016 Record (Ranking)
: 43-19 (20). RPI
Coach (Record at school):
Tim Corbin (610-290, 14 years)
: 15 regionals (active streak: 11), 3 CWS trips (last in 2015), 1 national title (2014).
Just two years after Dansby Swanson and Carson Fulmer were both selected in the top 10 picks of the 2015 draft, Vanderbilt has another dynamic duo capable of achieving the feat. Scouts regard center fielder Jeren Kendall as the top college position player in the draft class, and righthander Kyle Wright is in the mix to be the first college pitcher drafted. Either or both could be in play when the Twins make their decision on the first overall pick.
But first, Kendall and Wright, who were teammates this summer on USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, will focus on leading Vanderbilt back to the College World Series.
While Kendall and Wright are extraordinary talents, coach Tim Corbin said he most enjoys watching how they have grown off the field during their time at Vanderbilt.
“When I see guys like that who have been around a couple years, I like to see the progress they make in the locker room more than anything else,” Corbin said. “How they operate in the training environment. It’s fun to watch them teach and interact with their teammates.”
While Kendall and Wright are Vanderbilt’s two best returning players, both will be moving into new roles this season. Kendall played the outfield corners the first two years of his college career in deference to Bryan Reynolds, who was drafted in the second round last year. Now, he will move to center field, where he played for Team USA. Kendall profiles well in center thanks to his plus speed, athleticism and outfield instincts.
Wright, meanwhile, will take on the role of Friday starter, succeeding righthander Jordan Sheffield, who was drafted in the supplemental round last year. During Corbin’s tenure, Vanderbilt has produced an impressive array of exemplary Friday starters. In the last three years alone, Sheffield, Fulmer and Tyler Beede have held the role, and Wright has the stuff and makeup to follow in their footsteps.
Beyond Wright, Vanderbilt’s pitching staff is more unsettled, particularly after the loss of Donny Everett, whose death just before last year’s home regional loss rocked the program. Sophomore righthanders Patrick Raby and Chandler Day are leading candidates to round out the rotation and junior righthander Matt Ruppenthal will likely take on a key role at the back of the bullpen. But Vanderbilt once again has a wealth of talented arms who can step in in 2017, many of whom were a part of the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class a year ago.
“A lot of those freshman, now sophomores, are going to have to grow in motion,” Corbin said. “They haven’t experienced a lot of innings at this level yet. They’ll have to do it through our schedule and, in time, that will help them and benefit us.”
While the pitching staff is light on experience, the lineup returns nearly intact. Vanderbilt got a boost when catcher Jason Delay and third baseman Will Toffey chose to return to school after being drafted last year.
The Commodores had the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class a year ago and four saw significant action in the infield as freshmen. With that experience under their belts, all four are well positioned going into their sophomore seasons.
Corbin said as successful as they’ve been on the field, he has been most impressed by their maturity. The sophomore class has quickly become a strong foundation for the Commodores, a development which should be apparent on the field.
“They’re easy to be around,” Corbin said. “I don’t find myself worrying about them. The fact they got the luxury of playing early is a benefit to them and us. They’re experiencing the right kind of growth.”
The Commodores have the pieces to be formidable once again. If they’re able to continue to grow as a team throughout the season, they should again find themselves in the thick of the Southeastern Conference race and be ready to compete for a spot in Omaha.
||Jason Delay, Sr.
||Julian Infante, So.
||Ethan Paul, So.
||Will Toffey, Jr.
||Connor Kaiser, So.
||Ro Coleman, Sr.
||Jeren Kendall, Jr.
||J.J. Bleday, Fr.
||HS—Panama City Beach, Fla.
||Alonzo Jones, So.
||Kyle Wright, Jr.
||Patrick Raby, So.
||Chandler Day, So.
||Matt Ruppenthal, Jr.