Two-Way Clemson Commit Bubba Chandler Is One Of 2021 MLB Draft's Biggest Risers
The laundry list of sports that Bubba Chandler excels at is lengthy.
Whether he’s on the diamond, the gridiron, the field, the court, the green—the consensus is that he will excel.
Committed to Clemson to play both baseball and football, Chandler is a two-way draft prospect with high upside on the mound who transforms into a switch-hitting shortstop anytime he’s not on the hill. Minor football injuries brought the quarterback’s high school basketball career to a premature end before his junior year. But he can still dunk, and there’s little doubt that he could stretch the imagination in any sporting venue.
“He’s a competitor, so you can put him on a basketball court and he’s going to be really good; take him out to the golf course and he’s really good at that, too,” said Tyler Aurandt, Chandler’s football coach at North Oconee High in Bogart, Ga. “He’s the kind of naturally gifted athlete you don’t see very often.”
“Bubba was probably the best basketball player in our school,” said Jay Lasley, the Titans’ baseball coach. “I would imagine if you gave him a soccer ball, he could probably go out on a high school soccer field and compete and do something to help a team win.
“The crazy thing about Bubba is Bubba can throw a football over 50 yards lefthanded. He actually pitched one inning this season lefthanded.”
Though Chandler has been shooting a basketball, writing and cutting steak lefthanded for years, Aurandt first discovered Chandler’s ability to send a football halfway down the field with his non-dominant arm in his sophomore year. Around the same time, Lasley found the 6-foot-3, 205-pound athlete experimenting on the mound as a southpaw, and he made Chandler a promise.
“I told him, ‘Bubs, here’s the deal, when you become a senior, I’ll let you throw one inning lefthanded,’ ” Lasley said. “So we were in a game this year and he went out and threw one inning lefthanded. He wasn’t throwing max effort because we didn’t want him to get hurt, but he went out and struck out three hitters on nine pitches.”
It was an immaculate inning amid an already-impressive season for the young hurler, who mixed a loopy curveball in with his fastball from the left side. Chandler’s dominance was even appreciated by his opponents, the opposing coach offering encouragement because he wanted to see it for himself.
The most extraordinary component to Chandler’s ambidexterity, however, is that it doesn’t seem remarkable at all.
“This past summer when he was playing a lot of baseball games, and we were trying to minimize how much he threw but still get him some work, he threw a lot for us lefthanded,” Aurandt said. “You couldn’t tell one way or another if he was right or lefthanded by the way he threw the football. It’s pretty impressive.
“It says a lot about how gifted he is as an athlete.”
Chandler’s two-way athleticism offers him significant upside. Beyond that, it’s also allowed him to become more of a kinesthetic learner, which has helped him add pitches to a repertoire that already includes a mid-90s fastball, a hammer curveball and a seldom-used changeup. It allows him to visualize the action, then actualize the vision.
“I started throwing a slider this year, really just playing around with it,” Chandler said. “But then I started to get the feel for it and learn how to throw it. It’s been a pretty good pitch, and it’s good when my fastball is dialed in and I can work it off of my fastball, kind of like how (former North Oconee teammate and current Vanderbilt standout) Kumar Rocker does. Whenever he’s really good, his fastball’s working and that makes his slider look a lot better, so really I mimicked him.
“The cutter, sometimes I’ll try to throw it and it doesn’t really do what it needs to do. It will sink, but it will still be pretty fast. But then sometimes I’ll throw it and it will cut eight inches and be 95 or 96 (mph). So I’ve really got to work on that but whenever I get in a system that can really teach me and go over stuff all day with me, it should be a pretty fine pitch.”
Continuing to find ways to expand his toolbox, on July 26 last year, Chandler committed to gaining weight and adding strength so he could “take more hits” at quarterback. In four months he put on 35 pounds, giving him an advantage on the diamond that he didn’t foresee, allowing him “to sustain velocity and throw harder,” and “to hit balls further.”
Chandler doesn’t have a preference between a future in baseball or football as of yet. Baseball was his first love, getting his start at 4 years old and hoping to be a two-way player for “the rest of his career,” but he finds his recent football successes “fascinating,” and is interested in where they could take him. He is rated as a four-star prospect by 247 Sports and the No. 19 pro-style quarterback in the 2021 recruiting class.
He even excels in his home life, where he combines his high standard of care in task completion with a sense of humor. With a father meticulous about his yard, and Chandler’s chores including mowing the lawn and weed-whacking once or twice a week, he knows there are absolutely no limits to what he might someday become.
Says Chandler, “Oh, if sports fail, I’m going to be a landscaper.”