CBB Column: Vanderbilt and the Draft

In the past 6 season, Vanderbilt University has become one of the thorns in the sides of those trying to recruit high school players committed to Coach Tim Corbin and recruiting coordinator Eric Bakich.  A recent NYTimes profile of Pedro Alvarez disclosed at least one of the secret strategies used by Coaches Corbin and Bakich (a tax planner and a thick three ring binder).  Commodore recruits are told to weigh the value of a Vanderbilt diploma against any potential signing bonus, which a tax planner brings down to earth with an analysis of taxes against the bonus, living expenses during the life of potential contracts and certain luxury purchases. 

For players such as Jeremy Sowers, David Price and Pedro Alvarez, a number that could be life altering was established and not met.  For some, that number is clearly not going to be met and they ask out of the draft.  Price and 2007 blue chippers Curt Casali and Joey Manning did just that, with Casali and Manning enrolling early to make themselves draft ineligible.  Price was drafted in the middle rounds and turned down a substantial offer from Los Angeles.  On the other hand, a pair of recent players whose very high asking price was met have passed on a residence off West End.  Kyle Waldrop (in 2004) and Kyler Burke (2006) both struggled in the minors but received their desired numbers. 

This draft class features a pair of AFLAC All-Americans who have made clear that they do not wish to be drafted: TN and FL right handed pitchers Sonny Gray and Jack Armstrong Jr. have reportedly distributed letters asking not to be drafted.  A bevy of additional players who will be looked at in high rounds have set very high asking prices and will be considered signability risks, including NJ and NH outfielders Matt Marquis and Ryan Westmoreland and CT infielder Jason Esposito. 

Then there is late rising CT shortstop Anthony Hewitt.  Reports indicate that Coach Corbin visited with Hewitt between the throng of pro scouts two weeks ago to assess the mindset of the infielder who some believe has the highest ceiling of any player in the draft.  Hewitt is an interesting case in that he is already a very high risk selection in that he is considered raw and struggled mightily in a 2007 summer wood bat league.  Add to that the signability issues normally attached to a Vanderbilt recruit, and you have a very high risk selection.  One that, perhaps, is best suited to a team with multiple early picks who might be willing to follow Hewitt for the summer and maybe eat the pick if they decide they don’t want to meet Hewitt’s number.  The Brewers have been linked to Hewitt and meet that profile.

Among the established Commodore players, there are three players expected to hear their name early: Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Flaherty and Bret Jacobson.  Alvarez, as is well documented, will not last past the first five picks despite his hamate bone removal and the association with Scott Boras.  Flaherty projects as a 3B or UT player and should be gone in the first 100 picks.  Jacobson is intriguing in his raw talent and 97 MPH heat; however, a horrific Junior year dropped him out of first round projections early in the season.  After those three and Dominic de la Osa (who should be called early on day two), there is a drop in the desirability of players with 5 fourth year players and a junior who could be drafted. 

This is where I expect Vandy players and recruits to hear their names this week:

1st Round:
Pedro Alvarez, 3B (Pirates, 2nd)

Sandwich Round:
Anthony Hewitt, CT SS (to either the Mets or the Brewers)

2nd to 3rd Round:
Bret Jacobson, RHP (possibly Arizona, who drafted him in 2005)
Ryan Flaherty, SS

3rd to 8th:
Ryan Westmoreland, NH OF/RHP (Red Sox)
Matt Marquis, NJ OF (Red Sox, Angels, Mets, Yanks, or Brewers)
Jason Esposito, CT SS/3B (Red Sox, Angels, Mets, Yanks, or Brewers)

5th to 10th:
Adam Milligan, JuCo OF (Braves, who drafted him in 2006 and 2007)
Navery Moore, TN RHP
Will Clinard, TN RHP

8th to 10th:
Dom de la Osa, OF (Tigers, who drafted him in 2004 and 2007)

12th-15th:
Sonny Gray, TN RHP (flyer / waste pick)
Johnny White, OF
David Macias, OF

15th to 20th:
Nick Christiani, RHP
Grayson Garvin, GA LHP (signability and elbow stiffness last month drop him from higher contention)
Corey Williams, AL LHP (possibly higher if reports he has reached 95 MPH are true, lower if he’s around 90 MPH)

20th to 40th:
Alex Feinberg, 2B
Shea Robin, C
Dylan Pratt, JuCo C/1B

Late round flyers:
Jack Armstrong, FL RHP
Joe Loftus, MN 3B (Twins)
Riley Reynolds, MO SS/2B

Players I don’t think will be picked, but hope get a shot with a club: Parker Hanks (OF) and Brad French (1B, UT)

Expect the Mets or Brewer to bite on at least one Vandy recruit who’s either (i) named Anthony Hewitt, who they can follow through the summer before deciding if they really want him to take the gamble on his 5 tools; (ii) Moore, who they can follow through the summer to assess his elbow; or (iii) one of the signability issue recruits (Esposito, Gray, Westmoreland and Marquis). Esposito, playing in CT, has had the least press of the elite recruits, but should garner some early interest if he hasn’t pulled himself off the table.

The Red Sox have been noted as seriously scouting Westmoreland and Marquis in media reports and I do think they might bite as an overslotter and try to buy them away; however, the experience the Sox had with Alvarez three years ago likely means they won’t go for them unless there isn’t anyone they knew they could sign that they wanted in that slot.

Milligan has been drafted twice by the Braves now and was arguably the best outfielder in JuCo ball. Teammate Pratt is also one to watch, though my understanding is that there are severe signability concerns. Pratt was just as impressive for Walters State as Milligan this year.

It will be an interesting draft to watch for Vanderbilt fans and be sure to rub it in my face as to how wrong I end up being.

  • http://thecollegebaseballblog.com NYDORE

    So far:

    1st Round
    Alvarez to the Pirates: Spot on.
    Hewitt to the Phillies: Round earlier than expected

    Sandwich Round
    Flaherty to the Cubs: Round earlier than expected

    4th Round
    Jacobson to the Tigers: Round later than expected, wrong team

    5th Round
    Westmoreland to the Sawx: Within range, correct team

    6th Round
    Milligan to the Bravos: Within range, correct team

    On the clock for correctness:
    Esposito in next two rounds
    Marquis in next two rounds
    Clinard in next four rounds

    Navery Moore enrolled in summer school and is not eligible to be drafted, as reported this morning by VandySports.com