2023 College Top 25 Preview: No. 6 Vanderbilt
Last season: 39-23 (14-16 in SEC), lost in regional final
Final ranking: NR
Coach (record at school): Tim Corbin (841-400-1, 20 seasons)
The good news: Vanderbilt—as so often is the case—has a wealth of pitching. Freshman All-American Carter Holton (8-4, 3.14) is back to lead the rotation and classmates Bryce Cunningham (2-1, 4.59) and Devin Futrell (9-3, 3.41) both acquitted themselves well in their first seasons in Nashville. The Commodores also get back veterans Nick Maldonado (3-1, 3.96) and Thomas Schultz (4-2, 2.88, 8 SV), despite both earning draft interest. Added to that mix is righthander Andrew Dutkanych, who was rated as a potential first-round pick before formally withdrawing his name from the draft. With other very talented pitchers like Hunter Owen and Patrick Reilly back in the fold as well, Corbin and pitching coach Scott Brown will have no shortage of options to fill any role. In fact, Vanderbilt will arguably have the deepest pitching staff in the nation. The Commodores also welcome back All-American center fielder Enrique Bradfield Jr., the fastest player in the country, and brought in another top-10 recruiting class.
The bad news: While Bradfield Jr. is back, Vanderbilt lost five regulars from its starting lineup, including first-round pick Spencer Jones, leading hitter Dominic Keegan and shortstop Carter Young. Jones and Keegan anchored the heart of the Vanderbilt lineup, and they were the only two Commodores to slug above .500 last season. Replacing their run production will be critical. Vanderbilt made a rare foray into the transfer portal to add outfielder R.J. Schreck (Duke), who hit 26 home runs over the last two years, despite playing in Duke’s spacious ballpark. His addition gives the lineup a new power hitter and other players like Jack Bulger could take a step forward in power production, but Vanderbilt won’t replace Jones and Keegan one-for-one. Vanderbilt also will have a new look defensively, with the losses of Keegan and Young opening holes at catcher and shortstop, respectively. The versatile Bulger could take over behind the plate, while Alan Espinal provides a glove-first option. Sophomore Davis Diaz, the standout of Vanderbilt’s 2021 recruiting class, could slide over from third base to take over at shortstop, but Vanderbilt has a plethora of options around the infield.
Player to know: Enrique Bradfield Jr., OF.
Bradfield Jr. has brought game-breaking speed to Nashville. He stole 47 bases as a freshman in 2021 and swiped 46 bags last season. He needs just four steals to break the program record of 96, which Charles DeFrance set in 1982. Bradfield Jr.’s elite speed also plays in the outfield and he’s perhaps the best defensive center fielder in the country. He’s more than just a speed demon, however. Last year, he showed more pop and hit eight homers. When Vanderbilt needs something to happen offensively, it’s often Bradfield Jr. who gets the job done.
Path to Omaha: It starts on the mound for Vanderbilt. Holton is the overpowering ace, but he has advanced pitchability and is a reliable cornerstone for the rotation. The Commodores have as many options to join him on the weekend as any team in the country, and scoring runs against this pitching staff figures to be a real challenge. But to make it to Omaha, Vanderbilt will need to make sure its new-look lineup can provide enough support—both offensively and defensively. Whether that’s a veteran like Bulger or Parker Noland stepping up or a younger player like Diaz or freshman R.J. Austin making an impact, the Commodores need a couple players to help Bradfield Jr. shoulder the load. It may take a few weeks for them to round into form, but they should get there in time to make a run.
NCAA Tournament Regionals Results At A Glance
After three days of regionals, nine teams have advanced to super regionals. Here's how it all stands going into Monday.
|OF||Enrique Bradfield Jr.||Jr.||.317||.415||.498||243||8||36|