#8 Vanderbilt Baseball 2016 Preview

Vanderbilt Commodores
Overall Rank: #8
Conference Rank: #3 SEC
 Vanderbilt Logo
Vanderbilt was handed a bit of revenge from Virginia last season. After beating the Cavaliers for the 2014 College World Series title, it looked like the Commodores were going to do it again. After beating Cal State Fullerton and TCU twice in Omaha, Vanderbilt took game one 5-1 over UVA. But Virginia evened the series with a 3-0 win and forced a third and decisive game to decide college baseball’s best team. Vanderbilt scored twice in the bottom of the first, but was shut out the rest of the way and lost 4-2. As always, Vanderbilt is a major threat to get back to Omaha and a threat to win it all.
2015: 51-21, 20-10
2015 Postseason: NCAA CWS
Coach: Tim Corbin
Field Players:
There are some losses here, most notably Dansby Swanson, Rhett Wiseman and Zander Wiel, who each hit 15 homeruns last season, but the Commodores have plenty of talent waiting in the wings. Outfield Jeren Kendall will pick up some of the power hitting left behind by that dynamic trio. Kendall hit .281 last season, which is pretty low for Vanderbilt since they hit .290 as a team, but he belted eight homeruns and drove in 40 RBIs. Bryan Reynolds has some pop to his bat too, hitting five homers and 18 doubles with 49 RBIs as a sophomore. Kendall and Reynolds help make up one of the best group of outfielders in the country. Third baseman Will Toffey anchors the infield and also drove in 49 runs last season. Ro Coleman, Tyler Campbell and Karl Ellison are also back and were regulars in the starting lineup in 2015.
Gone are Carson Fulmer, Walker Buehler and Philip Pfeifer, but in steps John Kilichowski, Kyle Wright and Jordan Sheffield. Kilichowski is the most experienced of the bunch after starting ten games last season. He ended up with a 3-4 record with 64 strikeouts in 66.2 innings of work. Kilichowski will likely again take a back seat to other starters on the roster. Wright had a great freshman campaign. He made 29 appearances, with three starts and allowed just eight earned runs all season. In 58.2 innings of work he struck out 62 batters. Sheffield needs to work on his control after walking 43 batters in 60.0 innings, but he is brimming with potential. Like Wright, Sheffield made a few starts here and there last season, but was mostly utilized out of the bullpen. That will change this year. Assuming Wright moves from closer to starter, Ben Bowden could emerge as the new closer. Bowden is also a candidate to start after making 26 appearances out of the bullpen in 2015.
Who to Watch:
It will be interesting to see who emerges as the team’s top hitters. Certainly Kendall and Reynolds are expected to lead the way, but there is a lot of talent behind them that has been overshadowed. They still might be overshadowed for the most part, but players like Coleman and Toffey are great hitters who are more than capable of putting up huge numbers. Throw in some freshmen like Connor Kaiser and Alonzo Jones and it is hard to see this team dropping off much at all offensively.
Final Projection:
This should be another typical season for Vanderbilt. Some of the names have changed, but the talent is top notch. The pitchers are some of the best in the game, or will at least prove to be soon enough, and that should get Vanderbilt back to the College World Series. Coach Tim Corbin will have plenty of time to figure things out with a trip to Stanford being the lone road trip in the first month of the season. Vanderbilt does have to play at LSU, Texas A&M and Florida though, so if this group is going to win the SEC, they will really have to earn it.
Projected Postseason: College World Series
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Bryan Reynolds, OF, 286
Hits: Bryan Reynolds, OF, 91
Home Runs: Jeren Kendall, OF, 8
RBIs: Bryan Reynolds, OF, 49; Will Toffey, IF, 49
Runs: Bryan Reynolds, OF, 56
Stolen Bases: Jeren Kendall, OF,19
Wins: Kyle Wright, P, 6; Ben Bowden, P, 6
Innings Pitched: John Kilichowski, P, 66.2
Strikeouts: John Kilichowski, P, 64
Saves: Kyle Wright, P, 4
Madness 2016 Draft Rankings:
#14 Brian Reynolds
#18 Jordan Sheffield
#67 Ben Bowden
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#4 Donny Everett
#5 Alonzo Jones
#21 Julian Infante
#38 Matthew McGarry