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SEC Baseball Team Previews: Vanderbilt Commodores

SEC Baseball Team Previews: Vanderbilt Commodores

Vanderbilt enters the 2020 season as the defending National Champions. The target is on their back nationally as well as within the SEC as they are the defending SEC Champions as well. We’ll see if they can replicate those results in 2020.

2019 Record: 59-12 (23-7)

Postseason: College World Series Champions

Perfect Game Recruiting Class: 1st

2020 Prediction: 1st in the East

2019 Season

The 2019 season went about as close to perfect as you can hope. The Commodores lost just three out of conference games during the regular season. One of those came to a ranked TCU team and another in extra innings.

They lost two of their first four SEC series before going on a historic tear through the schedule.After April 7 they wouldn’t lose another series and in fact, lost just four games the rest of the way to close the year 35-4. Vanderbilt was unstoppable.

2020 Schedule

Notable Non-Conference Games

February 14: No.13 Michigan 50-22, 39 RPI

March 6: No.14 UCLA 52-11, 2 RPI

March 8: TCU 34-28, 59 RPI

May 5: No.1 Louisville 51-18, 9 RPI

Vanderbilt avoided any challenging nonconference series this season but have some interesting tournaments and midweeks. The 2020 season opens up with an exciting rematch of last year’s College World Series. The game opens up the MLB4 Collegiate Baseball Tournament.

They’ll follow that a month later in the Southern California College Baseball Classic in Los Angeles, CA. They’ll get a perennial powerhouse in UCLA the opening night followed by Southern California and TCU on Sunday.

May 5 brings one of the best midweeks seen this year. It’s unlikely Louisville and Vanderbilt will still be No.1 and No. 2 in the rankings by the beginning of May, but it should still be a high profile game nonetheless. Vanderbilt defeated Louisville three times last year, including twice in the College World Series.

SEC West Opponents

April 2-4: @ No.11 LSU

April 17-19: @ No.25 Ole Miss

April 24-26: Alabama

May 14-16: No.10 Mississippi State

Not Playing: No.7 Arkansas, No.8 Auburn, No. 20 Texas A&M

Vanderbilt got the easiest SEC West draw of any East team. They went 9-3 against their West opponents in 2019, including two series sweeps. The only series they lost was Texas A&M who is not on the schedule this season.

Vanderbilt plays in two hostile environments at LSU and Ole Miss. Their pitching should be enough to handle two series wins against two teams that have to replace a lot of offense. Alabama is a team they swept in 2019. Mississippi State should pose a great series under the lights in Nashville.

SEC Baseball Team Previews: Vanderbilt Commodores
Kumar Rocker threw a 19 strikeout no-hitter against Duke in the Super Regionals. (Photo by sports.usatoday.com).

2020 Roster

Potential Starters

RHP Mason Hickman: 9-0, 2.05 ERA

RHP Kumar Rocker: 12-5, 3.25 ERA

LHP Jake Eder: 3-1, 2.97 ERA

The Vanderbilt starters were a terror for every batting lineup they faced in 2019. They lose just one starter from that rotation but should have a replacement who is more than capable.

The ace of the bunch is Mason Hickman. It’s slowly creeping up on two years since the Tennessee native’s last loss. You’d have to go back to his freshman season on a May 6 Sunday against Auburn.

Kumar Rocker had himself about as good a freshman season as you can hope for. He was voted Freshman of the Year by D1Baseball and Baseball America. He also earned the College World Series Most Outstanding Player. On any other team, Rocker is a Friday night ace.

Jake Eder will fill in the space vacated by Patrick Raby. The lefty was one of Vanderbilt’s most trusted arms out of the bullpen last year. He’s spent the offseason working on making the transition to starter has earned that opportunity.

Offensive Weapons

The offense looks to be a little more human this year – that is to say, there’s a chance the team might not go for 100 home runs this year. Yes, that was the Commodores total by season’s end. Six of the teams seven homerun hitters are gone, however, accounting for 78 long balls.

SEC Baseball Team Previews: Vanderbilt Commodores
Austin Martin hit two home runs against Louisville in the opening game of the College World Series. (Photo by abcnews.com).

All that said, they still return the player with the best batting average from 2019. Third Baseman Austin Martin returns with an astounding .392/.486/.604 slash. He belted 10 long balls and 46 RBIs, all team highs for returning players.

Catcher Ty Duvall is another strong-armed bat. He hit a respectable .275 with five home runs along with 42 RBIs. He should be improved at the plate and will be another pillar to build the lineup around.

The highly touted recruiting class will likely factor into the offense a good bit for Vanderbilt. Newcomers Parker Noland, Spencer Jones and Will Duff should all see extended playing time.

Outlook

The outlook is very good once again for Vanderbilt. Year after year they somehow manage to reload and fill a roster strong with potential MLB talent.

This year’s offense is largely unproven as of yet. A lot of younger players and guys who don’t have as much experience will need to step in and fill the roles left from last season. The pitching, however, is as strong as ever. Trust the rotation to hold the Commodores down until the offense comes around.

 

 

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