tablet mg

Home > Baseball, Sport, Vanderbilt > 2011 Vanderbilt Baseball: Season Preview, Part 6

2011 Vanderbilt Baseball: Season Preview, Part 6

February 16th, 2011

The Dores figure to be a pre-season top 5 team in 2011 and will be previewed in 6 parts.

This is the last in a six-part series on Vanderbilt baseball’s 2011 season. Among all my most unhealthy habits, an addiction to following the Commodores baseball squad seems to be the most pervasive and difficult to crack. As a result, I’ve turned a time-wasting bit of fanaticism and converted it into a chance to write a bit. You can read each preview by clicking below on the links that follow the jump.

It should be noted that while this website endeavors to provide a solid team preview, membership over at VandySports.com is a must for any Commodore baseball fan. Chris Lee and Mike Rapp produce stellar premium content which is well worth the money spent. I know there’s no way I could follow the team as intently as I do without it.

Today’s post is the culmination of a long and what I intended to be a comprehensive overview of the team going forward. Herein is the second of two pieces on the post-2011 future of Vanderbilt baseball, focusing on the 2011/12 Recruiting Class and offering a sneak peek at the 2012/13 verbal commitments so far. Please note that I will likely post a post-script to this preview on Thursday to correct some things that I now know to be incorrect, including my projected starting lineup (as reported on by Chris Lee at VandySports) and a few other items.  Additionally, a feature on VandySports about the below noted recruiting class is in the works.

Click on through for the preview, part 6.

2012 Recruiting Class

The biggest loss to the roster is clearly in the front line weekend rotation. Vanderbilt is likely to lose its top four starters in Gray, Garvin, Hill and Armstrong. While it is probable that Kevin Ziomek and possibly TJ Pecoraro could get a spot start here or there and will see solid innings and while Will Clinard is likely to return along with high ceiling lefty Sam Selman, starting pitching had to be a priority for the Dores. Provided that he can navigate the draft (and Vanderbilt coaches have proven a reliable ability to do so), Coach Holliday has really assuaged fans’ long term concerns.

The Arms Race

Former ESPN RISE cover boy Tyler Beede is a good bet to escape the draft and make it to the Hawk. Photo: ESPN Rise.

The Dores landed two AFLAC All-American arms during the summer with Auburn, MA right hander Tyler Beede and Knoxville, TN southpaw Phil Pfeifer. Standing 6’4” 200lb, Beede looked SEC ready as a Junior at the AFLAC game with a solid inning that showed plus polish and outstanding command of a low-to-mid 90s four-seam fastball and a good curve. With a solid change and smart pitchability, Beede will be a candidate for a weekend spot at some point in his Freshman year. He chose the Dores over Baylor and Virginia and is the next in a long line of outstanding Massachusetts players to head South to Nashville. He may remind some of former Commodore Josh Zeid, who struggled to harness his potential and deal with a lack of movement on his fastball before going on to professional success after being graduated by Tulane; however, Beede has more weapons that he can reliably go to and really was one of the most impressive players at the AFLAC game. He is rated 23rd among 2011 high schoolers by Perfect Game. Beede is rated the top player in Massachusetts by MaxPreps.

Beede’s AFLAC teammate Phil Pfeifer comes with a bit more Southern grace and a big leg kick that would do David Price proud. Pfeifer hardly enters his Senior year of high school in Knoxville flying under the radar, having won the Louisville Slugger National Pitcher of the Year Award, the MaxPreps National Junior Player of the Year in 2010 and the MaxPreps top Tennessee player for 2011. Pfeifer impressed me in the AFLAC game and in one Team USA start I saw streamed online. Though one might worry he might struggle with wildness a bit with a big leg kick and some moving parts in his delivery, Pfeifer is surprisingly accurate and is a true power lefty almost certain to compete for weekend innings right away. One scout commented that his repetition is among his greatest assets, allaying fears at his ability to harness his mechanics. Along with his low 90s heat, Pfeifer features a plus power curve and a good change. Pfeifer closes out the top 50 for Perfect Game. By the time Pfeifer arrives on campus, he might feature stuff (if not velocity) comparable to a 2005 Price and polish comparable to a 2007 Minor. His lack of ideal big league height (checking in at 6’ 190lb) and firm commitment to Vanderbilt most certainly will make him a tougher than normal sell for a scout trying to convince a major league club to burn a high draft pick. That said, both Beede and Pfeifer figure to be mid round draft picks even if they do ask out of the draft, with clubs picking them on a flier, as the Cubs did with Sonny Gray in the 20th round of the 2009 draft.

Pfeifer, like Beede, is believed to require a very high number (if any) to forgo the draft, due to a strong commitment to Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of Amy Smotherman Burgess.

Beede and Pfeifer are the two AFLAC arms, but the team fills out with several other truly high grade future arms. Next among them is a Shamong, New Jersey kid who just missed the AFLAC cut. Kevin Comer is a truly elite arm, ranking atop his home state and at number 78 nationally, according to Perfect Game. The 6’4” 210lb righty chose Vanderbilt over Clemson, UCLA and Virginia and comes from an athletic family. His father played football at Kansas and his mother was on the Korean national basketball team. He has a fastball that regularly pops the low 90s that he complements with a very good curve and a changeup. His fastball grades both as a power pitch and as sneaky fast, a combo that led Perfect Game to suggest that he would join Beede and Pfeifer as possible Freshman All-American candidates should they toe the rubber at the Hawk.

Flying just slightly more under the radar than Comer is 104th ranked Adam Ravenelle of Sudbury, MA. Ravenelle did not attend Perfect Game camps and was initially listed as a MIF in a couple of recruiting databases, but he is all pitcher and has the stuff to show it. He has perhaps the best fastball in the incoming class, topping out in the mid-nineties. Through in a good curve / change combination and the 6’4” 185lb righty is yet another arm who should compete for immediate playing time, if he gets through the draft. Vanderbilt secured his commitment early on in the process – he was the first commitment – marking another poaching of the top talent Massachusetts has to offer. Ravenelle chose Vanderbilt over Clemson and local Boston College and has seen his class ranking shoot up of late. It would not be surprising to see him join Beede, Pfeifer and Comer in the top 100 rankings this Spring.

Adam Ravenelle participated in the Yastrzemski Summer Classic at Fenway Park this past summer. Photo: ESPN Boston.

Taking the big man award for this class is impressively stout lefty Jared Miller, out of Avon, IN. Miller is not likely to be mistaken for the somewhat lanky Grayson Garvin, as he bests him both in height (6’7”) and weight (240lb). But there the stuff can get a bit similar. Miller was clocked with an upper 80s fastball, a high 70s change and a high 70s curve at the WWBA World Championships. He certainly isn’t quite as refined as Garvin was out of high school, but an impressive 82 strikeouts in 52.2 innings as a Junior is a good start. That he also is a multi-sport athlete indicates that he’s got athleticism that can translate to good future development.

Like Ravenelle and Jared Miller, Franklin, TN righty Brian Miller eschewed the prospect circuit a bit, taking away my resources to track his development. He did, however, participate in the WWBA, giving scouts a chance to time the 6’4” 170lb righty. With a very projectable frame, Miller hit the high 80s with the heat and flashed a slurve around 70 miles per hour. Miller was a member of the Tennessean’s All-Midstate baseball team in 2010, along with several members of the Commodores 2010/11 and 2011/12 recruiting classes. He also earned all district honors as pitcher of the year and is both a standout basketball player and a top-of-the class student.

Rounding out the pitching recruits is perhaps the biggest draft risk with what might be the most immediate payoff. 6’6” 230lb righty Drew Verhagen began his baseball voyage out of Rockwell, TX, through Oklahoma where he impressed in limited innings as a Freshman. Verhagen decided to transfer, taking his mid-90s heat first to Hyannis for an impressive summer on the Cape Cod league and now intends to suit up for Navarro Junior College for a year. Verhagen was rated the 82nd best prospect on the Cape and will be among the top JuCo prospects eligible in the 2011 draft. Should he get through the draft and should his shoulder prove healthy (he had issues with it as a Senior in high school), his flame-throwing heat, solid curve and change should plant a firm footprint on the mound at the Hawk in 2012. [EDIT: Please note that my information was wrong, Drew had Tommy John surgery in 2008 and therefore should not be considered an injury risk as TJ repairs have an incredibly high success rate — sorry for any confusion. See this blog correction.]

Taking the 2012 Field

Among positional players, none is going to carry more recognition than Shawon Dunston Jr., the son of cannon-armed shortstop whose play introduced the Shawon-o-meter to Wrigley Field. Dunston will immediately be among the most athletic and genetically gifted players on the Dores, ranking 55th nationally and 13th among outfielders according to Perfect Game. The Fremont, CA kid is a solid student who chose Vanderbilt over just about every school on the West Coast. What is perhaps most exciting about Dunston is that his 6’2” 162lb frame is yet to fill out and, much like fellow big league blood-liner Mike Yastrzemski, Dunston should continue to emerge both in talent and physical attributes. While the Vanderbilt outfield seems pretty set with Yastrzemski, Kemp and Harrell all figuring to return as projected starters in 2012, Dunston has enough ability and talent to challenge for immediate playing time if he gets through the draft – a prospect that articles noting his commitment indicated is a probability.

Shawon Dunston Jr will certainly be one to watch on draft day, though he's expressed excitement over making it to Vanderbilt. Photo courtesy of MLB.com.

While Dunston is undoubtedly the big splash name in this class, the big splash bat comes courtesy of Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, LA. Lefty-swinging second baseman Connor Castellano has a swing that might remind some of former Vanderbilt star Steven Liddle, with solid gap-to-gap power and a distinct, level consistency. The 6’ 180lb star was a big get for the Dores and provides immediate backup depth if Riley Reynolds returns for a Senior year. Undoubtedly, Coach Corbin has something special to build toward with a possible double-play combination of McKeithan and Castellano for when the Gomez and Reynolds combo moves on. Castellano can also step in at 3B and is as solid an athlete as he is a student. Castellano was an Under-Armour All-American in 2010. He is currently ranked as the 74th best prospect nationally, the nation’s top 2B prospect and the top prospect in Louisiana by Perfect Game. In other words, Geaux Dores.

Joining Castellano as a top flight infield prospect is an Oviedo, FL native Vincente Conde, a kid who is just oozing with athletic potential. Ranked 175th nationally, the 6’ 190lb Conde is a true power-hitter with a big, but quick swing and good overall defensive abilities that rate for all four infield positions. He’s a kid who isn’t quite there with his potential and current production (power aside), so he might not be a day-one ready as a McKeithan or Castellano. With some hard work in his last year of high school and perhaps a reserve role as a Freshman, Conde could emerge as a Dominic De la Osa-type combination of big time power potential, if not quite flashing the speed that DLO had. Given his versatility, it’s not a stretch to imagine Conde being able to work himself into the roster card quite often by 2013.

Connor Castellano was an Under Armour All-American and seems a good bet to bring a Steven Liddle-like bat to Nashville. Photo courtesy Mike Janes/Four Seam Images.

Over on the first base bag is another local newcomer in Zander Wiel. A big 6’2” 225lb righty, Weil was one of the later commitments of the class and hails from Mufreesboro, TN. Like Brian Miller, Wiel earned Tennessean Mid-State honors as a Junior in 2010. He didn’t pick up on the prospect circuit or the WWBA, so I really don’t know a whole lot about him, but one has to appreciate Google turning up a Twitter handle like VandyBoy18.

Rounding out the infield crop is Will Cooper, a 6’ 185lb third baseman / outfielder out of Baylor in Hixson, TN. Cooper is an all-around athlete on the diamond, doing everything well. He’s got good power potential, a solid glove, better than average speed and a real dedication to academics. He’s already stated that he is one-hundred percent committed to enrolling at Vanderbilt and getting to the Hawk. He chose Vanderbilt over Wake Forest and Troy. Cooper participated in the prestigious East Coast Pro Games alongside fellow signees Beede, Castellano, Comer, John Norwood, Pfeifer and Ravenelle.

Last, but certainly not least, we revisit New Jersey for Vanderbilt’s final commitment of the class (so far, at least). The little hidden secret about Seton Hall Prep outfielder John Norwood of Peapack-Gladstone, NJ is that at least some think his national 353rd ranking by Perfect Game does him no justice at all. Norwood has serious, serious speed (clocked at a 6.5 60 in August) and Connor Glassey of Baseball America calls him one of the top under-the-radar guys in this college class. In fact, Norwood ranks 91st on Baseball America’s high school draft big board, joining fellow Dore commits Beede (19), Comer (35), Pfeifer (58) and Dunston (59). Much like Dunston, Norwood may have the talent to push the incumbent outfielders from day one and his athleticism certainly will push him into playing time of some form almost immediately.

Class Overview

All in all, the Vanderbilt class of 2011/12 is every bit as deep as the 2005/06 class that brought in stars like Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Flaherty, Brett Jacobsen and Josh Zeid and perhaps it even tops the 2008/09 class that yielded arms like Sonny Gray, Grayson Garvin, Jack Armstrong and Navery Moore. This squad has numerous true star players and a geographical diversity that has become a hallmark of the Corbin era. Although it’s unlikely that the team will rack up quite as many Gatorade State Players of the Year as 2005/06 or have quite as much drama and as many chewed fingernails as did the 2008/09 class, this could very well end up as another #1 overall class.

True, on paper and pre-draft, Florida would be the runaway winner, but unlike Kevin O’Sullivan’s troupe and many others, Vanderbilt usually wins out over the minor league ranks due to the unique combination of baseball, academics and a family environment that Coaches Corbin, Johnson, Day, Bakich and now Holliday have built up.

New Jersey native Kevin Comer is one of several truly elite arms in this Vanderbilt recruiting class. Like his teammates, a choice between the minor leagues and Nashville awaits. Photo courtesy of CourierPostOnline.

In Louisville Slugger’s pre-season All-American team, Pfeifer and Beede were honored with first team status. And according to ProspectWire, Vanderbilt features two five star high school recruits (Beede and Comer), five four star recruits (Castellano, Dunston, Norwood, Pfeifer and Ravenelle) and four three star recruits (Conde, Cooper, J.Miller and Wiel). ProspectWire did not have Miller ranked or among the recruits. They similarly did not list the JuCo Verhagen.

In the-ones-who-got-away category, two high profile players with recent bloodline connections to the Dores ended up signing elsewhere in the 2011 class. Amity third baseman Mark Esposito of Bethany, CT (brother of current Vanderbilt All-American Jason Esposito) chose to take his talents to Marshall after being ranked the 326th best prospect in the nation by Perfect Game and the top player in Connecticut by MaxPreps. Meanwhile, Webb School shortstop Parker Wormsley of Knoxville, TN (brother of former Dore outfielder and current graduate assistant Jordan Wormsley) chose to stay home signing with the evil Orange empire. Wormsley is a Louisville Slugger pre-season All-American and is ranked 344th by Perfect Game.

Realistically, it is again a Herculean task to expect Coaches Corbin and Holliday to sneak yet another class through the draft completely unscathed. Although my inquiries, limited as they are, indicate that Vanderbilt stands likely to clear some of the larger hurdles in the class, when you are dealing with as many top flight recruits as this class features and so long as college baseball retains the ridiculously low partial scholarship numbers afforded by NCAA rule, continuing to haul in entire classes in spite of the allure of the pro dollar is unlikely, but not impossible. We really won’t know until the signing drop dead date.

LOOKING FORWARD TO 2012/13

When the time comes and the next set of eyes are looked up upon, Vanderbilt will start this process once again, with the entire coaching staff sitting down and seeing what talent needs to be sought and evaluating those players who might succeed on one of the finest fields in college baseball. In fact, Coaches Corbin and Holliday are off to a fast start, landing three outstanding verbal commitments for the 2012/13 class.

The big fish among them is catcher Chris Harvey (ranked 32nd), a 6’4” 215lb masher of a catcher out of Germantown Academy (think Ted Skuchas) and Norristown, PA. Mind you, that’s 6’4” as a rising Junior in High School. Harvey chose Vanderbilt over North Carolina, Florida and Wake Forest and is considered a true, all-around star both defensively and at the plate.

The second verbal commitment is another raid on Massachussets, as Coach Holliday scooped up 6’1” 190lb outfielder Rhett Wiseman from Mansfield, MA. He has an athletic frame and wields a lefty bat that is noted as having that distinct “good” pop when it strikes the ball. Wiseman currently ranks 216th in the draft class of 2012.

More recently, Coach Johnson zeroed in on Lexington, KY righty Walker Buehler, the latest addition to the burgeoning class. A high potential pitcher straight out of Wildcat country, Buehler ranks 204th nationally, per Perfect Game, and already flashes heat that can top out at 90 miles per hour, despite a 6’1” 150lb frame that continues to develop.

Both Wiseman and Buehler are born of NCAA baseball playing fathers, while Harvey’s dad played college football. Harvey is rated a five star recruit by ProspectWire, while Buehler and Wiseman are not yet rated.

As Vanderbilt continues to recruit from good stock, I and several others will continue to take stock of their progress. While I will update this site occasionally with recruiting and general baseball updates, be sure to tune into VandySports.com, where I help Chris Lee, Mike Rapp and Jesse Johnson stay on top of the recruiting tale. And, more importantly, while my flights of fancy sometime take toward projecting rosters out, over there and at the Hawk itself, you’ll be able to enjoy and take in what should be a fantastic 2011 campaign.

2011 TV Schedule

If you can’t make it out to the Hawk, all non-televised home games will stream on VUCommodores.com. The two games this weekend at San Diego (but not the two at San Diego State, it appears) will be webcast by the Toreros. Below is the announced TV schedule, with most all games also appearing on ESPN3.com.

March 27 Vanderbilt at Arkansas CST 2:00 p.m. ET

April 2 Vanderbilt at Auburn CSS 7:00 p.m. ET

April 8 Alabama at Vanderbilt CSS 7:00 p.m. ET

April 16 Vanderbilt at South Carolina CSS 7:00 p.m. ET

April 17 Vanderbilt at South Carolina ESPN2 1:00 p.m. ET

April 23 LSU at Vanderbilt SPSO 3:30 p.m. ET

April 24 LSU at Vanderbilt ESPN2 3:00 p.m. ET

April 30 Tennessee at Vanderbilt CSS 1:00 p.m. ET

May 13 Florida at Vanderbilt CSS 7:00 p.m. ET

May 19 Vanderbilt at Georgia ESPNU 7:30 p.m. ET

Scouting Videos

Where a clear and useful online video was available, I posted them below. Tyler Beede Philip Pfeifer Adam Ravenelle Shawon Dunston Jr Connor Castellano Chris Harvey

Comments are closed.