David Price. Pedro Alvarez. Sonny Gray.
Those are all Tim Corbin-bred players who made an immediate impact for their Major League Baseball teams as rookies. Other Vanderbilt alumni like Nick Christiani, Ryan Flaherty, and Mike Minor have turned into big league regulars as well. Behind them, a cache of athletes from the SEC's newest powerhouse program are waiting in the minors for their chance to turn heads on the biggest stage that baseball has to offer.
Since 2010, 30 Commodores have been selected in the MLB Amateur Draft. Amongst that group, only Gray has made it to the show - but a handful of his former teammates are showing the skills to join him soon. Here are six of Coach Corbin's proudest alumni, ranked in order of their potential callup dates.
Taylor Hill (SP, AAA Stats: 5-1, 1.99 ERA, 41:7 K/BB ratio) - Hill was the overlooked Sunday starter in a weekend rotation that featured Sonny Gray and Jack Armstrong, but he's developed into one of the minor leagues' most dependable pitchers in 2014. Hill's precision pitching has led to a stellar 6:1(ish) strikeout-to-walk ratio and he's quietly become one of the International League's best pitchers. The Washington Nationals have a question mark with their fifth starter right now, and a shift on their roster could mean a call-up for Hill, either as a spot starter or in long relief as a rookie.
Curt Casali (C, AAA Stats: .350 BA, 0 HR, 0 RBI in 6 games) - Vanderbilt fans knew Casali was special, but it took MLB executives a longer time to make that connection. So far, the Commodore catcher has only gotten better in each year as a professional, combining to hit .316 with 10 HRs and 53 RBI across A/AA last year. He's rolled that momentum into a promotion this spring, and he's impressed at the plate for Durham so far.
Sam Selman (SP, AA Stats: 2-2, 2.83 ERA, 20:15 K/BB ratio) - "Crazy Legs" put together a dominant season of Advanced Class A baseball last year, striking out 128 batters in 125 innings and earning a spot on Kansas City's AA roster. However, the control issues that dogged him back at Vanderbilt continue to haunt him as a member of the Royals' farm system. He walked 85 batters last year and his strikeout:walk ratio in 2014 is just 20:15. Selman throws fire, and he can be absolutely unhittable in stretches thanks to a frisbee style curveball. If he can exert better control over those pitches, he could find his way to the MLB in 2015.
Mark Lamm (RP, AAA Stats: 1-1, 3.97 ERA, 21:15 K/BB ratio) - Lamm's troubles finding the strike zone (15 BBs in 22.1 innings) have kept him from rising out of a middle relief role in AAA ball. He tallied 20 saves in two seasons at the AA level before getting called up to the Braves' farm team in Gwinnett but has yet to break through in the International League. Lamm has been a mostly reliable middle reliever for the Braves, but a recent pair of rough outings (4.2 innings, five earned runs, 10 baserunners) may have set him back.
Tony Kemp (2B/OF, Advanced A Stats: .361 BA, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 12 steals) - Kemp is a young, unproven prospect like his classmate Ziomek (see below), but his odds for an early callup are better for one big reason - he plays for the hapless Astros. Kemp has done everything that's been expected of him and more since being chosen with the first pick of the fifth round of the 2012 MLB Draft. His home run total from the first month of his 2014 season already doubled his overall HR production in three years at Vanderbilt - and while that's just a 2:1 margin, it's still a positive development for a player whose only weakness was a lack of power at the plate. Kemp is getting on base, scoring at a proficient rate (44 runs in 39 games), and generally wreaking havoc in high-A baseball. He's due for a promotion, and while the majors are still a long ways away, his professional career so far suggests that he'll be wearing an Astros uniform sooner than we'll realize.
Kevin Ziomek (SP, A Stats: 2-3, 1.38 ERA, 33:13 K/BB ratio) - Don't let the 2-3 record fool you. The Omega Man has been dealing in Class A and should be in line for a promotion this summer. While he's unlikely to hit the majors this year or even next, he's pitching well enough to wind up on plenty of top prospect lists. He's striking out more than a batter per inning and is holding opposing batters to a sub-.200 batting average so far this year. It may be a bit early to put him on this list, but Ziomek should become a hot commodity if he can continue to grow as a crafty pitcher.