Top 25 Breakdown: No. 1 Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt's Projected Lineup
|C||Karl Ellison, So.||.192/.352/.219||0||9||0|
|1B||Zander Wiel, Jr.||.260/.378/.409||5||44||13|
|2B||Tyler Campbell, Jr.||.212/.297/.303||0||6||0|
|3B||Will Toffey, Fr.||HS--Barnstable, Mass.|
|SS||Dansby Swanson, Jr.||.333/.411/.475||3||34||22|
|LF||Bryan Reynolds, So.||.338/.395/.480||4||54||14|
|CF||Nolan Rogers, So.||.203/.310/.243||0||14||3|
|RF||Rhett Wiseman, Jr.||.277/.343/.387||0||30||12|
|DH||Kyle Smith, Jr.||.154/.205/.205||0||5||0|
|RHP||Carson Fulmer, Jr.||7-1||1.98||91||95||41||10|
|RHP||Walker Buehler, Jr.||12-2||2.64||102.1||111||31||0|
|RHP||Tyler Ferguson, Jr.||8-4||2.69||77||65||30||0|
|RP||Hayden Stone, So.||4-0||1.71||58||60||14||3|
SEE ALSO: Five Questions with Vandy’s Tim Corbin
Hitting: 65. The Commodores should have another quality lineup. The ‘Dores must replace College World Series hero John Norwood and scrappy shortstop Vince Conde, but otherwise they welcome back a majority of their lineup from last season. Wiseman is expected to take a big step forward this spring after hitting .277 last season, while Swanson and Reynolds are the most consistent bats in the lineup, with both possessing an ability to hit for some power. Wiel will continue to be an imposing presence in the Vandy lineup, and many eyes early this spring will be on Toffey, a physical freshman. The hard-nosed New Englander could be playing college hockey. Instead, he’s at Vanderbilt and is coming off a strong summer and fall, where he showed advanced hitting skills despite his youth. This will be a productive, balanced lineup.
Power: 60. Things change from season to season, but the Commodores had one of the more intriguing offenses last season, finishing 168th in the nation in homers, but also finishing second nationally in doubles. The bad news is the ‘Dores probably, again, won’t be loaded with big home run hitters, but that doesn’t mean much when you look at this lineup from top to bottom. Wiel, Swanson and Reynolds all have plenty of home run pop to increase their totals from last year, while Swanson and Reynolds, in particular, finished ’14 with doubles totals well into the 20s. Projected DH Smith has pop in his bat, Campbell has gap potential, and Toffey, again, will be a cog to watch from a power perspective.
Speed: 70. If you like speed and athleticism, Vanderbilt will have your type of lineup. The Commodores return Swanson, who led the team in stolen bases with 22 last year, and has impressive speed, while Campbell, Reynolds and Wiseman are all athletic guys with good instincts and speed. Rogers is another athletic player who will earn significantly more playing time this spring. Even Wiel, despite his powerful frame, has some athleticism. The ‘Dores will be a team to watch around the bases, and the team will be very athletic, especially in the all-important outfield.
Defense: 70. Ever heard the phrase defense wins championships? Well, in today’s college baseball, that precisely is the case, and the Commodores again will have one of the better defensive units. With Conde gone at shortstop, Swanson, who was an elite defender at second base last year, moves over to his natural position—short. Meanwhile, Campbell will occupy second base, and he, too, is a very good defender with good instincts. Toffey is a steady defender with a strong arm at third, while catcher Karl Ellison makes up for his lack of potential offensive firepower with good catch-and-throw skills. Then there’s the outfield, which will be versatile and elite with Reynolds, Rogers and Wiseman.
Starting Pitching: 75. There’s good, and there’s great. Vanderbilt’s starting rotation will be excellent, with the only thing keeping them from a perfect 80 score being Ferguson’s ability to be more consistent with his control in that No. 3 role. Ferguson has a sturdy frame and big-time stuff, sitting 93-95 mph with his fastball along with a power curveball. However, he has command issues at times. On the flip side, RHPs Fulmer and Buehler are as good as it gets and very likely first-rounders. Fulmer has an aggressive, unorthodox approach with his delivery, and sits anywhere from the mid-to-upper 90s with his fastball. Fulmer also possesses an above-average slider, and his changeup continues to develop. Buehler has the most potential of the three. With a long, lean, frame, Buehler sits 92-95 mph with his fastball, has a plus curveball and the changeup is an above-average pitch.
Bullpen: 65. The Commodores will have another good bullpen, but emulating last season’s domination out of the pen might be difficult. Talk to the Vanderbilt coaches and they’ll tell you the loss of Adam Ravenelle is a big one, while Brian Miller and his devastating slider always kept teams off balance. With that said, the ‘Dores do welcome back one of the nation’s premier relievers in Stone, who jumped on the scene in a big way last year with a plus-plus slider, a good 90-93 mph fastball, and perhaps most importantly, a veteran-like demeanor. Power LHP Ben Bowden and his improved command should log some very important innings, while redshirt freshman RHP Jordan Sheffield is an intriguing arm to watch. Sheffield missed last season because of an injury, but was one of the nation’s elite prospects out of high school with a fastball in the mid-90s. His secondary stuff, however, remains a work in progress. Also watch for RHP/INF Kyle Wright, whom the Vandy staff is very high on thus far.
Experience/Intangibles: 70. What’s not to like about this Vanderbilt team? Sure, there are a couple of question marks in the lineup, and it has a pair of tough arms to replace out of the bullpen, but overall, this team looks very good on paper. Vandy coach Tim Corbin praised his club’s eagerness to move on from the national title season and focus on getting back-to-back national titles. All the key pieces are there to repeat.