Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A revised look at the 2009 season

As Aram pointed out, the 2008 MLB Draft was not particularly kind to the Commodores.

Coach Tim Corbin probably expected to lose shortstop Anthony Hewitt, who went in the first round to Philadelphia, but there is a chance he could end up losing three or four other recruits who had a chance to contribute right away. Let's take a look at how Vanderbilt projects in 2009.

First, let's see who is gone:

Catcher: Shea Robin, 20th round (Houston Astros)
First Base: Brad French (graduation)
Second Base: Alex Feinberg, 43rd round (Colorado Rockies)
Shortstop: Ryan Flaherty, No. 41 overall (Chicago Cubs)
Third Base: Pedro Alvarez, No. 2 overall (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Left Field: Jonathan White and Parker Hanks (graduation)
Center Field: David Macias, 19th round (Chicago Cubs)
Right Field: Dominic de la Osa, 11th round (Minnesota Twins)
Pitcher: Brett Jacobson, fourth round (Detroit Tigers)
Pitcher: Nick Christiani, 32nd round (Cleveland Indians)

The recruits have until the end of the summer to sign, but here's an educated guess at who stays and goes:

SS Anthony Hewitt, first round: Gone
SS/3B Jason Esposito, seventh round: UPDATE (stays)
OF/P Ryan Westmoreland, fifth round: More than likely gone
OF Adam Milligan, sixth round: More than likely gone
OF Matt Marquis, 28th round: Most likely stays
3B Joe Loftus, 29th round: Most likely stays

The rest of the recruits were either undrafted or drafted very late and thus it would be shocking to see any of them sign.

Now, onto a look at your 2009 Commodores (with the analysis taken from an earlier post):

Curt Casali (SO)
Andrew Giobbi (R. JR)
Dylan Pratt (JUCO Transfer)
Drew Fann (R. FR)

Analysis: Casali is a star in the making and showed flashes of brilliance in limited action this season. He'll be playing for the Hyannis Mets of the Cape Cod League this summer and will take over for Robin as the starter, while Giobbi should have no problem shifting from first base to behind the plate on occasion. Pratt, meanwhile, is a catcher/outfielder who played his freshman season at Walters State CC along with Milligan.

First Base
Andrew Giobbi (R. JR)
Aaron Westlake (SO)

Analysis: Giobbi should hit in the middle of the order after a breakout season as the Commodores will look to Giobbi for increased production, as well as leadership, in 2009. Westlake, meanwhile, should be healthy after his season ended early due to a blood clot in his right shoulder.

Second Base
Brian Harris (JR)
Riley Reynolds (FR)
Alex McClure (JUCO Transfer)
Andrew Harris (FR)

This is probably Brian Harris' job to lose and I would be surprised to see anyone else starting at second to begin the season.


Jason Esposito (FR)
Gabe Ortiz (R. FR)
Riley Reynolds (FR)

Analysis: They went from having two to seemingly none, before ending up with one. The Commodores lost SS Anthony Hewitt and appeared to lose Esposito too before the Connecticut Player of the Year changed his mind and decided that he wasn't ready to become a pro. That's great news for Vandy, which will now be able to start two talented freshmen on the left side of the infield, just like they did with Alvarez and Flaherty back in 2006.

Third Base
Joe Loftus (FR)
Westlake (SO)

Analysis: Loftus was drafted by his hometown Twins, which means that there is still a chance he could sign. Still, I'd bet that Loftus doesn't get the money he's looking for and enrolls at Vandy, where he should become the starter from day one. There's also a chance that Westlake slides over to the hot corner from first base.

Left Field

Steven Liddle (R. SO)
Jordan Wormsley (R. SO)

Center Field

Adam Milligan (JUCO Transfer)
Ryan Westmoreland (FR)
Alex Hilliard (R. SO)

Right Field
Matt Marquis (FR)
Joey Manning (SO)
Dylan Pratt (JUCO Transfer)

Analysis: The outfield could either be very good or very mediocre depending on what Milligan, Westmoreland and Marquis decide. Liddle is a potential star and should start every game in left field in 2009. After that, however, we're going to have to wait and see. Marquis has one of the prettiest swings I've seen and should see immediate playing time. Milligan is a power bat who should also be ready to contribute right away if he doesn't sign with Atlanta. Manning is a specimen and has the chance to start, while Westmoreland is an outfielder/pitcher who may receive seven figures from the Red Sox. If the Dores lose two or three of their OF recruits, that could open up more opportunities for Hilliard and Wormsley, two redshirt sophomores who could thrive if given the chance.

In review, here's an early look at the 2009 Commodores:

C: Casali, Giobbi, Pratt, Fann
1B: Giobbi, Westlake
2B: Harris, Reynolds, McClure, Harris
SS: Esposito, Ortiz, Reynolds
3B: Loftus, Westlake
LF: Liddle, Wormsley
CF: Milligan, Westmoreland, Hilliard
RF: Marquis, Manning, Pratt

Now, onto the pitching staff, which has the potential to be dominate. I doubt Vanderbilt has ever had as many quality arms as it does right now.

The Commodores will probably lose Christiani and Jacobson, but that's it. Sonny Gray went in the 25th round to the Chicago Cubs, but has been adamant about coming to school, and Navery Moore went in the 26th round to the Boston Red Sox (leave us alone, Theo), but he has reportedly enrolled in summer school already. Additionally, Jack Armstrong (36th round), Will Clinard (36th round) and Grayson Garvin (45th round) should all enroll.

So, here's a look at the staff:

Mike Minor (JR, LHP)
Expect Minor to return to his freshman-year form and be the ace that the Dores need and expect, especially as he looks to improve his stock for the 2009 MLB Draft.

Caleb Cotham (R. SO, RHP)

Cotham was a pleasant surprise in 2008, emerging as a dependable No. 2 starter. He's got a plus fastball with good command and a solid breaking ball and should be even better in year two. Pitching on the Cape this summer will only help.

Russell Brewer (R. SO, RHP)
There was no better story this season than Brewer's. The former third baseman wasn't expected to contribute much if anything on the mound, but after an impressive summer and fall, Brewer found himself closing games. After a summer on the Cape, the right-hander should come back even stronger in 2009.

Chase Reid (SO, RHP)
I'm a big fan of Reid, whose curve ball is as good as they come. The right-hander had an impressive freshman campaign (42 Ks in 37.2 innings, 4.30 ERA) and should see an even bigger role as he improves his command.

Drew Hayes (JR, RHP)

Hayes flew under the radar somewhat in 2008, but I think he has a chance to be very, very good. In fact, he already is. It took Hayes some time to settle down, but once he did, Hayes was one of the Dores' best pitchers. He finished the season with a 3.51 ERA and had 53 strikeouts in just 41 innings (a sign that he's got great stuff). Furthermore, opponents hit just .212 against him. The only concern was the 29 walks, but I think that is easily correctable.

Taylor Hill (SO, RHP)

Of the true freshmen, sources told me that Hill has the biggest upside. He showed flashes of it in 2008, finishing 5-2 with a 4.60 ERA in eight starts. If the Dores had more depth, Johnson would have been able to bring Hill along more slowly. Instead, Hill was forced to learn as he went and still managed to hold his own.

Richie Goodenow, (R. SO, LHP)

Goodenow should be valuable as a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen.

Mark Lamm (R. SO, RHP)
I envision Lamm being a solid middle reliever or possible midweek starter for the Dores. He's got good stuff (3.98 ERA, 28 Ks and just 23 hits in 31.2 innings, .211 opp. BA) and should only get better.

Sean Bierman (SO, LHP)
Ben Blanton (R. FR, LHP)
Kellen St. Luce (SO, LHP)

I grouped these three left-handers together because I have not seen enough of them to project where they will fit in in 2009. Bierman chose the Dores over Virginia, Tulane and Arizona State and was ranked No. 172 by Baseball America. Blanton was a late signee in 2007 as was St. Luce, who "has a big, strong body that resembles Dontrelle Willis of the Florida Marlins," according to Perfect Game. I think all three will have an opportunity to contribute and it will be interesting to see how much they progressed over the past year, particularly St. Luce.

Now, onto the recruits:

Sonny Gray (RHP, Smyrna, Tenn.)

Gray is considered the best Tennessee High School prospect since David Price. Fortunately for the Dores, he is following in the same path, already telling major league teams not to draft him. Gray is a 5'10'' right-hander with a power arm that tops out around 96 mph and a dominant 84-86 mph slider, and has a chance to be a weekend starter right away.

Jack Armstrong (RHP, Jupiter, Fla.)
Armstrong, whose father pitched in the majors from 1988-94, is the top right-hander in Florida and the No. 28 player nationally by Perfect Game. He is 6'7'' and extremely athletic (a talented basketball player) with a low-90s fastball.

Navery Moore (RHP, Franklin, Tenn.)

Moore was considered one of the nation's top prospects before undergoing arm surgery last spring. He is fully recovered and should be able to pitch immediately thanks to his mid-90s fastball.

Grayson Garvin (LHP, Suwanee, Ga.)

Garvin is the top lefty in Georgia thanks to terrific command, a 86-90 mph fastball and a very good changeup. He is the No. 55 ranked high school prospect by Baseball America and has a lot of upside.

Will Clinard (RHP, Cross Plains, Tenn.)

Vandy does a great job recruiting in-state. Clinard is the fourth-ranked prospect in Tennessee. He's 6'4'' and consistently throws 88-92 mph.

Corey Williams (LHP, Huntsville, Ala.)
Williams, the No. 4 prospect in Alabama, has good command of three pitches. This year he sported a 1.92 ERA, while striking out 86 and walking 29 in 54.2 innings.

The 2009 season could not come soon enough. Make sure to stay tuned this summer as we follow the players in their summer leagues (you can see the list here) and learn what the recruits ultimately decide.

Photo [VU Commodores]


Braddock said...

Thanks Jared. Any idea where to find a link to all the summer teams the returning 'Dores AND the recruits are on? I seem to remember seeing one at one time. Don't remember if it had the recruits as well. If not, where might that info be available - so that we might follow the 2009 VU baseball team throughout the summer.

Jarred Amato said...

I've added a link that lists where all of the returning players will be this summer, but I'm not sure about the recruits. I think that some will enroll in summer school at VU and work out here, while others may play for their local American Legion teams or in similar leagues.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I agree on Milligan being most likely gone. He's been patient with the Braves the last two years and though I do think he'll get a substantial offer, he has first day potential if he can translate two 1st Team AA JuCo years into a first team All-SEC Junior year with the Dores.

Also, I would put Westmoreland more "on the fence" than most likely gone... though I would agree that if I were on odds maker, I'd probably put it 70-30 that he signs.

With Marquis, I agree that I think he's likely safe on campus. Only think that could turn that is if Boston doesn't sign some of their other high schoolers (like UT bound Casey Kelly and Ryan) and their primary backup plan (Ricky Oropesa) doesn't have a similar pricetag as Marquis.

Also, I wouldn't completely close the door on Esposito. Yeah, he's almost certainly gone and has agreed in principle on a number with the Royals; however, if the Royals think they can get both Eric Hosmer and Tim Melville signed, there might not be money left over for Jason (who, from most reports, would have a good shot at starting as a frosh at short or third). You can see my Roster analysis and draft summary at's baseball board under the name NewYorkDore.

Jarred Amato said...

New York Dore,

Love reading your insight on Vandy Sports and the College Baseball Blog. And you're right, it's hard to know for sure which way these recruits are leaning.

With Milligan, it'd be great to have a proven left-handed bat in the middle of the lineup. But reading his quotes in the story that I linked, I just got the vibe that he loved the Braves organization and would sign if the price is right. Also, Atlanta is clearly impressed with Milligan (drafting him three straight years) and has seen enough of him to know that he is quality prospect who could go much higher in next year's draft, which means they will be probably be willing to pony up to sign him.

As for Westmoreland, I'd agree with your 70-30 odds. You can't fault someone for taking seven figures to play for your hometown team, but selfishly I'd love to see him in CF batting leadoff for the next 3 seasons.

I love Marquis' swing and fully expect him to enroll. As for Esposito, I'm not going to hold my breath. But you're right; with the Royals, you just never know.

On another note, a couple of VU sources told me today that they're not sold on Ortiz being an SEC-caliber shortstop, which makes the loss of Esposito that much more painful.

At least our pitching staff should be filthy.

Anonymous said...


I agree with your analysis but am not terribly swayed by the Milligan article. The Braves have the resources to toss at Milligan, but I'm not sure he doesn't take his chance at 1 year at VU. He's been prepping to play for Vandy for over a year now and feel pretty good about him getting to campus (even though he was one to watch for this draft). I acknowledge that even Sonny has a number, but I have a gut feeling we'll see Adam batting in the middle of the order.

Interestingly enough, a recap of Amity's game tonight has Jason as "Vandy-bound" again, though it likely was because the author wasn't up to date. There's an agreement in principle, and I'm not holding my breath, but if you have a budget and are picking between signing Melville or Esposito you don't have to ask twice about who you sign (assuming they sign Hosmer). KC has also inked a significant number of prospects but hasn't finalized with Jason yet.

I hate the draft but love it all the same. This is far more exciting than any signing day... but I wish it was covered more in the mainstream media.

And, in re: TCCB... I'm most proud of the fact that I believe Sonny Gray is the only individual player to have his own post tag on the site. Nothing like deifying an 18 year old.

Jarred Amato said...

Couldn't agree more about the draft. I don't get too excited about football signing day, particularly because it's usually a year or two before we get to see the recruits on the field. And with basketball, signing day is a mere formality.

Something I wanted to mention in the post is the fact that you know Vandy has arrived as a legitimate program when it's worried about losing prospects on draft day.

And that's pretty funny about Sonny. I never noticed that.

Also, are you going to watch any of the guys play this summer? I'm from Newton, MA, and will be spending a lot of time covering the Cape League and I'm also planning to go check out the guys in the NECBL. Love to catch a game with you if you're around at all.

Anonymous said...

Doubtful that I'll make it out to the cape, but you never know. And I don't believe the NYCBL or the NECBL play anywhere near the City. But you never know. Brian Foley of TCBB is a Bostonite and will likely be up at the Cape a bit over the summer.

On Sonny, I do believe his is immortal and impervious to the added pressure we're all laying on him as the Messiah of VU sports and the first to bring a major sport title to campus.

Unfortunately, I've become quite used to following baseball from afar (go All-Access and Barca!). But you can believe I'll be in Nashville for our first hosted Super Regional and then in Omaha for some steak and fried Commodore opponents.

And, if you wanted to know you've arrived as a program, it actually isn't losing people to the draft... it's the fact that MLB draft analysts associate VU more than any other school with the term "signability." That, right there, is when you've arrived.

Anonymous said...

Post Script... we should have held our breath. Esposito renegged on a $1.5M deal with Kansas City and is heading to West End. Big break for VU as he's an almost certain 3 year starter.

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