Vanderbilt Lands College Baseball’s Top Recruiting Class In 2019

Image credit: Spencer Jones (Photo by Mike Janes/Four Seam)

Vanderbilt won its second national championship in program history in 2019 thanks in large part to its 2015 recruiting class. That group came to Nashville as the top-ranked class in the country, full of expectations.

In the end, they delivered on the hype. Several players from that class returned for their senior seasons and completed their college careers with a dogpile in Omaha.

Now, however, that group has moved on to pro ball. The next elite class to become Commodores is ready to take its place at Hawkins Field.

Vanderbilt landed nine players from the BA 500 draft rankings, the most in the country. As a result, the Commodores rank No. 1 in the 2019 Baseball America recruiting rankings. It is the sixth time in the 20-year history of the rankings that Vanderbilt has landed the top class.

As is often the case for top-ranked recruiting classes, the Commodores were able to keep their class largely intact through the draft. They lost just a few players to pro ball but kept many more, including righthander Jack Leiter, the highest ranked player to make it to college. Leiter, the son of former all-star lefty Al Leiter, ranked No. 21 on the BA 500, which includes all draft-eligible players.

Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin isn’t sure what to expect from this year’s class. Until he gets them on the practice field and is able to really work with them, there are still too many unknowns. What he is excited about, however, is how many of them showed up.

“The obvious thing is we retained most of them,” he said. “In the situation presented, with the fact we lost quite a few people—seniors and juniors—it was important that we retained as many draft class participants as we could.”

Vanderbilt has been on both sides of that draft conundrum before. Just a year ago, even though Vanderbilt landed righthander Kumar Rocker, the highest ranked player to get to a four-year school, it also lost four recruits who were drafted in the first two rounds.

But Corbin is no stranger to navigating the draft with premium recruits like Leiter and lefthander/first baseman Spencer Jones and keeping them committed to Vanderbilt. It’s never easy to do, but Corbin said the key is starting with players and families who are committed to the idea of going to college.

“It has to be at the front of their mind,” Corbin said. “Kumar (Rocker) and Jack and so many others have had the opportunity to move into professional baseball right out of high school, but they see this as a progression, as a step, as a necessary step.”

Mississippi, which pushed Vanderbilt for the top spot, also did well to hold on to its top recruits through the draft. The Rebels didn’t lose any of their commitments to pro ball and as a result ended up with the No. 2 class in the country, the second-best ranking in program history.

Ole Miss also added exciting athleticism to its program with outfielders Jerrion Ealy and John Rhys Plumlee, who are both also suiting up this fall for the football team. Ealy was a five-star running back recruit, while Plumlee was a four-star quarterback, according to 247Sports. That adds its own complications, but with other well-regarded position players such as catcher Hayden Dunhurst and shortstop Connor Walsh in the fold, there is plenty of potential in the Ole Miss class.

With Vanderbilt and Ole Miss at Nos. 1 and 2, the SEC again leads the recruiting rankings. The conference produced the top-ranked class for the ninth year in a row and the top three classes overall. Florida lands at No. 3, extending the Gators’ streak of top-five classes to a record seven.

The process of recruiting is hard work for coaches around the country. At Vanderbilt, recruiting coordinator Mike Baxter is entering his third year on staff at his alma mater.

Baxter said working with Corbin and associate head coach Scott Brown has helped him develop as a recruiter.

“You’ve got to have your own way of going about it,” he said. “Personally, I feel like I’ve had good help. We’ve been able to see a bunch of players and get multiple sets of eyes on them.

“It’s fun and I enjoy it. They’ve been helpful to get my legs under me.”

In the end, Baxter’s efforts, as well as those of Brown and Corbin and everyone else at Vanderbilt, led to another top-ranked class. Time will tell how players like Leiter and Jones fit with the Commodores, but as they and the rest of their classmates arrive in Nashville to begin their college careers, there’s certainly reason to be excited about their potential.

“(The class is) not top heavy. It’s not bottom heavy. It fits us just right,” Corbin said. “We tried to get the pieces needed right now and for the next couple years. It’s not just filling a hole this year but for the next several years.”

Baseball America has ranked the top recruiting classes in college baseball since 2000. In that span, Vanderbilt has boasted the best group of incoming freshmen a record six times. Here is a look back at the Commodores’ top-ranked recruiting classes.

2005: 3B Pedro Alvarez, SS Ryan Flaherty

Alvarez turned down high six figures from the Red Sox as a 14th-rounder out of high school and went on to a storied college career that saw him become the No. 2 overall pick in 2008.

2011: RHP Tyler Beede

Beede ranked 35th on the BA draft board in 2011 but honored his committed to Vanderbilt even when the Blue Jays drafted him 21st overall and offered $2.5 million. The Giants made him a first-rounder again in 2014 after an up-and-down college career.

2012: SS Dansby Swanson, RHP Carson Fulmer, RHP Walker Buehler

Buehler (No. 50), Fulmer (123) and Swanson (138) were all viewed as high-end draft prospects coming out of high school. After three years at Vanderbilt, all three were drafted in the first round in 2015.

2015: SS Ethan Paul, RHP Patrick Raby, RHP Donny Everett

Everett tragically died in a drowning accident as a freshman, while Paul and Raby contributed to the Commodores’ 2019 national title run before embarking on pro careers this summer.

2017: 3B Austin Martin, RHP Tyler Brown

Heavily scouted in high school—he ranked as the No. 134 prospect in 2017—Martin has steadily produced at Vanderbilt, culminating in a late surge that has him poised to come off the board early in 2020.

2019: RHP Jack Leiter, LHP Spencer Jones, SS Carter Young

This class shows shades of 2012 with two elite recruits who made it to campus in Leiter (No. 21) and Jones (78) supported by Young, who ranked 178th after a lackluster senior year but offers high upside.

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