Image credit: Ethan McElvain (Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images)
In the history of its program, Vanderbilt has had 18 pitchers selected inside the top two rounds of the draft. While he has yet to throw an official pitch at the collegiate level, freshman lefthander Ethan McElvain has flashed that type of upside. In his senior season, the Nolensville High School (Nolensville, Tenn.) product worked a perfect 6-0 record with a 0.95 ERA and 89 strikeouts across 44.1 innings pitched. McElvain pitched himself into a potential top 100 overall draft choice, and although he had plenty of opportunity to sign, his commitment to Vanderbilt remained steadfast.
An Ideal Frame
At 6-foot-4 and 210-pounds, McElvain has an ideal frame for a pitcher. He has a physical build with a thick lower half and present upper-body strength. McElvain attacks hitters from a three-quarters slot with present arm speed. He features a fastball, slider and a developing changeup. McElvain’s heater last spring sat in the low-90s, but this fall has been in the 94-96 mph range and up to 97. It plays especially well on the armside with running life through the zone.
McElvain’s best pitch is his low-80s slider. He has advanced feel for the pitch and is able to manipulate its shape well. Against righthanded hitters, it has a more vertical shape with added depth. However, it is especially lethal against lefthanded hitters with more horizontal movement and sweeping action. It generates tons of swings and misses and is comfortably a 60-grade offering.
He seldom throws it, but McElvain also has a mid-80s changeup in his arsenal. It is the least polished of his three pitches, but could eventually be an average offering. The continued development of at least a serviceable third pitch will go a long way towards bolstering his starter profile.
Primed For Success
McElvain this fall has had arguably the best showing of any true freshman on the roster. Most notably, he spun two shutout innings and notched four strikeouts against Wake Forest. McElvain’s command has appeared to take a step forward and in game action, he has consistently been around the strike zone.
Vanderbilt returns two-thirds of its rotation from last spring in southpaws Devin Futrell (8-3, 3.44 ERA) and Carter Holton (4-1, 4.11 ERA). Fireballer Greysen Carter (2-1, 4.08 ERA), who boasts a triple-digits fastball, Bryce Cunningham (2-3, 6.43 ERA) or Air Force transfer Sawyer Hawks (4-0, 2.84 ERA) seem like the most viable options to round out Coach Tim Corbin’s weekend rotation. Even if he is not in a starting role, McElvain this spring figures to log plenty of innings on the mound. He is primed to make a jump to the rotation full time starting next season.
McElvain has a chance to be one of the most impactful freshman arms in the country and could earn an invitation to pitch for Team USA’s Collegiate National Team. With a strong three seasons in Nashville, McElvain could be one of the first college arms off the board when he is next draft eligible in 2026.