Vanderbilt as expected is taking full advantage of their scholarship benefit with 17 freshmen on the roster. They bring in 2020’s top recruiting class and are set to make another run at the College World Series.
2019 Record: 59-12 (23-7)
2020 Record: 13-5
Perfect Game Recruiting Class: 1st
For a team that only had only three non-conference losses in 2019, Vanderbilt was off to a rocky start last season. They’d already amounted five losses in the early part of the season. None of the losses could be excused by a midweek matchup, and some were concerning. Losses to Hawaii, Cal Poly and USC was not expected for Vanderbilt fans.
Aside from that, the Vanderbilt pitching was far and away the best in the game. They led the SEC with a 1.84 ERA and allowed just a .175 average to batters. They struck out an SEC high 218 and had at leas four or five guys that could start for just about any team in the country.
Tim Corbin is back with another loaded rotation. It is arguably the best in baseball once again. Kumar Rocker is the name everyone knows and will be the Friday night ace. Rocker picked up right where he left off in 2019 with a 1.80 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 15 innings last season.
Kumar Rocker, Fastball & Slider, Overlay (individual pitches + overlay).
Just lay off the slider in the dirt. 😑 pic.twitter.com/ibvAKXwyLk
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) February 13, 2021
Another familiar name is Jack Leiter, son of 19-year MLB veteran and two-time All-Star Al Leiter. Leiter worked two midweek starts and a Sunday start against TCU last year. He was very good as well with a 1.72 ERA and a 2-0 record.
Following as the Sunday starter will be Ethan Smith. Smith is another midweek guy from the 2020 season. He made four starts and was 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA. Smith and Leiter had the benefit of facing easier competition in the midweek but don’t let that fool you, they have the stuff to take care of business on the weekend this year.
The hitting had a lot of turn around and will have new faces, as has been usual for Vanderbilt. This offense will have to prove it’s worth but that shouldn’t be an issue. Outfielder Isaiah Thomas leads the way in means of power for Vanderbilt. He led the team with four homeruns a year ago.
"That was the best feeling of my life."
— Vanderbilt Baseball (@VandyBoys) March 1, 2020
Cooper Davis is another outfielder who was off to a hot start. Davis is one of just three seniors on the roster. He leads returning starters with a .348 batting average in 2020. He had the most hits on the team and brings a lot of speed as well.
Two other sophomores will be back in starting roles after having great starts to their college careers last year. Carter Young started every game and was very dependable with a .328 batting average. Parker Noland (.259/.324..310) will also build on his freshman campaign.
The strongest asset to this Vanderbilt team is the pitching. All three starters will be drafted and at least two should go on to very successful professional careers. Vanderbilt’s benefit from extra scholarships also bolsters their bullpen which is very deep once again this year as well.
The questions will come from an offensive standpoint. Austin Martin’s absence will be felt as he was the main point of production in a somewhat underwhelming 2020 offense. Guys will need to step up and find some power somewhere but either way, the pitching will keep them in every series.
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