The increasing number of players that have left Vanderbilt and had success in professional baseball has made things more difficult for coach Tim Corbin and his staff recently.
This isn’t going to make it any easier.
Two former Commodores – David Price and Sonny Gray – are among the three finalists for the 2015 American League Cy Young Award.
Price, who won it in 2012 as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays, led the American League in ERA this season with a 2.45. He was third in innings pitched (220.1), fourth in strikeouts (225), fifth in WHIP (1.08) and eighth in opponents’ average (.230). He went 18-5 with Detroit and Toronto.
Earlier Tuesday, he was one of the nine named to the Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame class of 2015.
Gray, in his second full MLB season with the Oakland A’s, was third in the A.L. with a 2.73 ERA and a .217 opponents’ average. His 1.08 WHIP was sixth and his 208 innings pitched were eighth. He was 13th in the league with 169 strikeouts. He finished 14-7.
The third finalist, Houston’s Dallas Keuchel, was second with a 2.48 ERA and was the American League’s only 20-game winner (20-8). His 245 strikeouts were most among the finalists. He led the A.L. in WHIP (1.02) and was second in opponents’ average.
Finalists for all the major honors awarded by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America were announced Tuesday evening. The A.L. Cy Young winner will be named 5 p.m. (CST) Nov. 18 on MLB Network.
Corbin has sent a number of players to the professional ranks in recent years. Three Commodores were first-round picks this year, including first overall choice Dansby Swanson. Price was the first overall choice in 2007 and Gray was the 18th overall choice in 2011.
As a result, Corbin said recently, when a recruit announces his intention to sign with Vanderbilt professional scouts begin to take more and longer looks at that player. Five signees – an all-time high for the program – eschewed their scholarships and signed professional contracts following the 2015 draft.
Three years ago, the Major Leagues raided Corbin’s staff as well when the Chicago Cubs hired pitching coach Derek Johnson, who helped develop Price and Gray, to be their minor league pitching coordinator. The Milwaukee Brewers recently hired Johnson to be the pitching coach for their Major League team.
"What he did at Vanderbilt gained the respect of our industry," Brewers general manager David Stearns said in a release to announce Johnson’s addition. "It was a very unique opportunity to jump to the Cubs' organization. I had not crossed paths with him previously, but (by reputation) and through references, he quickly emerged as a very strong candidate."
It won’t be the last time someone’s connection to Vanderbilt attracts attention from a Major League franchise.
(Photo: Getty Images)
For the second time in recent weeks, Vanderbilt baseball’s 2015 signing class came out on top in a recruiting ranking.
Tuesday, it was D1Baseball.com that deemed the 13 freshmen, who – along with the rest of the team – will conclude fall workouts later this week, the best bunch of newcomers in college baseball.
The group put together by coach Tim Corbin, recruiting coordinator Travis Jewett and the rest of the staff ranked ahead of SEC rival Florida (No. 2), UCLA (No. 3), Georgia Tech (No. 4) and Florida State (No. 5). The only other SEC school in the top 10 is Mississippi State at No. 6.
Here’s some of what the website said about the newest group of Commodores:
It’s deep, it has long-term potential, and just as importantly for the program, it’s a group of players that will help Vandy win right now. There are players in this crop that will star in 2016, and they are filling voids all around the diamond that would have been devastatingly difficult to patch for other schools. The Commodores sustained heavy losses from the draft, but as crazy as it sounds, a class this talented allows to them withstand those losses.
Two weeks ago, Baseball America had Vanderbilt ranked No. 1 in its 2015 signing class rankings.
For a few days Tim Corbin gets to be an observer, albeit much more than a casual one.
The Vanderbilt baseball coach will step back and watch the annual Black and Gold series and let his assistant coaches run the show. Hitting coach/recruiting coordinator Travis Jewett will coach the Black and assistant coach Blake Allen will be in charge of the Gold. Pitching coach Scott Brown will work both dugouts and bullpens.
“It’s a good opportunity for me to sit back and look at the whole, which you try to do anyway,” Corbin said. “But from a competitive standpoint it makes it nice to sit back and watch the kids play against one another.”
The series will consist of five games, three seven-inning contests on Thursday (4 p.m.), Friday (4 p.m.) and Sunday (noon). A pair of nine-inning games will conclude fall workouts Wednesday and Thursday (4 p.m. each).
“I try to sit back and observe more than anything and let coach Jewett and coach Allen … coach either side and then let (Brown) work with them on the pitching,” Corbin said. “… I always look forward to that. I look forward to any game, but those are neat experiences.”
The teams for Vanderbilt baseball’s 2015 Black and Gold series:
Tyler Campbell – Captain
Coach – Travis Jewett
Kyle Smith – Captain
Coach – Blake Allen
Tim Corbin can’t say for sure why David Price has struggled to win as a playoff starter.
His college coach is certain, though, that the hard-throwing left-hander’s losing streak won’t continue.
“At some point that worm will turn,” Corbin said Tuesday.
He referenced Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, who had a five-game playoff losing streak (the longest in franchise history). That night Kershaw pitched seven innings and was the winning pitcher as the Dodgers forced a decisive fifth game in their National League Division Series with the New York Mets.
Price’s next chance to win in the postseason as a starter (he is 0-6 in six career starts) comes Saturday. The Blue Jays picked him to pitch Game 2 of their American League Championship Series with the Kansas City Royals.
“David’s a kid that cares a lot about team,” Corbin said. “You say, ‘Well of course, everyone does.’ Well, caring a lot about team carries a different emotion for kids in several different ways. For him, he wants to do well for the organization and for his teammates.
“I’m not sure, I don’t know how much that has to do with his situation but there’s a certain amount of luck that is associated with his record and so on. But when it’s all said and done I’m still giving him the baseball.
“I’d still trust him and I’m sure Toronto does too.”
(Photo: Getty Images)
Call it Tim Cobin’s capital idea.
The Vanderbilt baseball coach has decided to take advantage of a time when players are out of school and take them off campus.
The Commodores will spend the last part of fall break in Washington D.C. for a trip that primarily will be educational. Their preparation for the 2016 season will not stop, though.
In addition to seeing many of the sights in the nation’s capital, players will practice Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning at the nearby U.S. Naval Academy.
“There’s very few times where they get to do other things besides baseball,” Corbin said. “So we look for opportunities within their schedule to get them off campus and do something that can educate them, that can increase their wealth of information. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to take them to the capital.
“I just want to ingrain [in them] our country as much as possible because I think sometimes that gets lost.”
NCAA rules allow athletics programs to make an international trip, which includes exhibition contests against local teams, once every four years. Last fall, Corbin and his team ventured to the Dominican Republic. Prior to the 2011 season, the first time the program reached the College World Series, the team went to Hong Kong.
This trip won’t include competition, but Corbin noted it would allow him to prepare players for road trips once the season starts. He plans to review his standards for conduct within hotels, airports and restaurants, etc. so that the first time the team goes on the road in the spring there will be no uncertainty.
In other words, there won’t be a wasted moment.
“It will be a tight schedule,” Corbin said. “There’s a lot going on. We’ve got a lot of activity set for the kids. I think they’ll enjoy it. Sometimes when you go on these things you don’t know what to think. But I think when they’re done with it they’ll be glad they did it.
“I’ve thought about going a lot of different places … but I think this is a good trip for this particular group.”
(Photo: Vanderbilt athletics)
Imagine how good Vanderbilt baseball’s latest recruiting class would have been if five players (an all-time high for the program) had not elected to sign professional contracts.
Coach Tim Corbin and his staff lost three pitchers and two position players following the Major League Baseball draft yet still had college baseball’s best signing class, according to Baseball America, which released its annual rankings Tuesday.
It is the record fourth time Vanderbilt has earned the No. 1 spot on that list. The last time was 2012, a group that included Dansby Swanson, Carson Fulmer and Walker Buehler (all first-round picks in this year’s draft) as well as Rhett Wiseman among others.
“I don’t know if a No. 1 ranking really sets in with me, personally, in terms of looking at the kids,” Corbin said. “I think the quality of the kids – both academically and athletically – is good. We see that.
“We don’t take for granted that they’re here. They certainly could have chosen another place to go to school and play baseball. So we’re certainly happy that a lot of them showed up and are engaging themselves.”
Vanderbilt also had Baseball America’s top-ranked recruiting class in 2005 and 2011.
This year’s group includes three players who were drafted – pitcher Donny Everett (29th round, Milwaukee) and Chandler Day (30th round, Cleveland) and infielder Alonzo Jones (36th round, Chicago Cubs) – and eight overall who were among Baseball America’s top 500 prospects. Everett was 21st on that list and the top 20 all signed professional contracts.
“[The draft] affected us,” Corbin said. “To what degree, I don’t know.
“We have the right amount of players on our roster right now. But had maybe one or two more guys showed up it would have increased the intra-team competition that you’re looking for in order to improve your team. … We do have roster limitations. So I think in a lot of ways it probably shook out for the best.”
Baseball America certainly thinks so.
There’s no doubt that David Price has made the Toronto Blue Jays a better team since he joined them in a trade at the end of July.
It has been a pretty good move for his college team as well, even though it’s been close to a decade since his college career ended.
“He’s had a direct impact on the recruiting up there [in Canada],” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said Tuesday. “I can’t say the young man’s name but we’ve had the good fortune of recruiting up there because of (Price). They’ve celebrated him very well.”
NCAA rules prohibit coaches from talking about recruits until they have signed a national letter-of-intent.
However, Cooper Davis, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound outfielder from Mississauga, Ontario, posted last week on Twitter that that he had committed to Vanderbilt. That drew a congratulatory response from Price, for which Davis, in turn, thanked the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner.
Baseball America reported last week that Davis clocked the fastest time in the 60-yard dash at Tournament 12, a showcase in Toronto. He hit a home run on the second day of competition there but stressed his ability to run is his best asset.
“Speed is at the top for sure,” Davis told Baseball America. “Speed is my No. 1 tool and that’s the thing that I’m always trying to show. But I’m starting to get bigger and stronger and I’m starting to be able to develop that as a tool and it’s another thing. It’s obviously not pro-ready like my speed is but as I get older, that power will start to play.”
Similarly, Price has wasted no time endearing himself to his third Major League team and its fans.
He has started 10 games since the Detroit Tigers traded him on July 30 and he has gone 8-1 with a 1.95 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings in those contests. In that time the Blue Jays went from six games behind the New York Yankees in the American League East to 3 ½ games up following a 4-2 victory Monday, in which Price pitched seven shutout innings.
“They’ve just got a very exciting team to watch and he’s added to it,” Corbin said of Price, an All-American at Vanderbilt in 2007. “He’s added so much to it from a personality standpoint, from a confidence standpoint. (He’s) a teammate who really naturally celebrates the other players on the team publicly. He just has a good time.”
He also has an expanding sphere of influence.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Vanderbilt fell just short of the 2015 College World Series championship is on top of the college baseball world nonetheless.
That is the opinion of D1Baseball.com, at least. The website ranked Tim Corbin’s program as the country’s best based on “overall health of the program, based on recent history, coaching staff quality, facilities, scholarship/financial aid situation, conference dynamics, and recruiting and player development proficiency.”
The Commodores have played in the CWS championship series each of the last two years and won it in 2014. They have been to the CWS three times in the last five years.
Vanderbilt has had at least one player taken in the first or second round of the MLB draft for five straight years. This year three players went in the first round, including first overall pick Dansby Swanson.
The Commodores have won at least 50 games each of the last three seasons and have won more than 72 percent of their games (245-94) in the last five years.
Corbin and his staff repeatedly have brought in top-ranked recruiting classes.
Vanderbilt is one of four Southeastern Conference schools among the top 10.
(Photo: Vanderbilt athletics)
After consecutive appearances in the College World Series championship round some might expect Vanderbilt’s baseball team to be focused on getting there again.
Not so, say coach Tim Corbin and his players.
The Commodores opened fall workouts Thursday with the pursuit of another national championship on their minds but not in their sights.
“We don’t think about that until it starts getting close,” sophomore outfielder Jeren Kendall said. “We’re just playing day by day, training session by training session. We’re just kind of staying in the moment with the team and having fun.”
Vanderbilt lost the 2015 best-of-three series to Virginia, the same team it beat to win its first national title a year earlier.
It was the third time the same teams met in the championship series in consecutive year and the first time those teams split. USC beat Arizona State in 1972 and 1973 and made it three straight in 1974. Arizona State, though, did not make it back to Omaha in 1974. Oregon State beat North Carolina in 2006 and 2007 but did not even earn an NCAA regional invitation in 2008. North Carolina, on the other hand, fell one game short of a third straight championship series appearance in 2008.
So there is no historical context to suggest what might happen for the Commodores next spring.
“The only thing that we will do as a group, and I think they will tell you this naturally, is to try to create the best experience for them,” Corbin said. “Whatever level they can get to, that’s the level we hope to get to as a group. Whether that’s topping out in the SEC, whether it’s being in the middle of the SEC, wither it’s getting to the College World Series no one knows but we just want to maximize the experience for them.”
The best way to do that, they say, is to focus on the camaraderie instead of the competition.
“We want to spend the maximum amount of time with each other,” pitcher John Kilichowski said. “We love the accomplishment but we want to spend as much time with each other as possible.
“… You don’t want it be like a business where you go to work together and then you split up, you scatter, you’re gone. We live together. We eat together. We do whatever. It’s a very personal relationship we have with each other. It’s very family-oriented.”
Dansby Swanson says that one of the most important lessons he learned during his three years as a Vanderbilt baseball player was to listen.
In particular, the first pick in the 2015 MLB draft wrote in an entry Friday on The Players Tribune, it is best to heed the advice of those who experiences exceed yours. The program established by coach Tim Corbin not only makes it easy to understand the benefits of doing so, it provides easy access to those exact types of resources.
What do you say when Sonny Gray, David Price and Pedro Alvarez are behind the batting cage watching you hit?
Not much. You just listen to their advice.
That was how Swanson started his piece on the website, founded by New York Yankees great Derek Jeter that allows athletes to provide first-person accounts of their lives and careers. Swanson talked at length about a preseason workout in Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez offered extensive advice on how to study pitchers and approach at-bats. Alvarez, of course, was an All-American third baseman with the Commodores.
Swanson also said Price, currently a pitcher with the Detroit Tigers, is “like a big brother to me” as he talked about the enduring connection to the program for former Vanderbilt players.
At Vandy, we always had Major Leaguers stopping by, saying hello to Coach Corbin, lifting at the gym and getting to know the current team. Once people leave, they always come back. It says something about the love that everyone has for this place.
Swanson’s story provides a clear sense of his appreciation for the Vanderbilt baseball program – and makes it seem highly likely he’ll be back to help future members.
(Photo: Getty Images)