Last year, an Anchor of Gold reader (I think it was lsmsrbls, but I'm not entirely sure) asked me how many top level baseball players finish their college degrees. With about 40% of MLB players coming from 4 year colleges, where they're required to stay in school for three years before they're draft eligible, and most players in the minor league stage of their careers having the Fall semester pretty much off, you'd expect that number to be pretty high, right?
Well in May 2014, the last time this statistic was measured, STATS LLC determined that only 39 MLB players - a whopping 4.3% - had obtained their undergraduate degree.
In other words, only about 10% of MLB players from 4 year colleges actually do the extra two semesters (on average) of work to complete their degree.
Though we like to think we're different at Vanderbilt, a story in May of last year only identified 1 Vanderbilt alum, then NY Met OF/PH Mike Baxter (pictured below), as having completed his degree.
"Astronaut" Mike Baxter appeared in 4 games for the LA Dodgers last year, but does not currently find himself on an MLB roster.
In other words, there are no current VU graduates playing baseball at its highest level, despite having more than a handful of former VU players on MLB rosters in '14 and 4 on MLB rosters currently (with more expected to see game action at some point this season due to injuries and/or promotions).
Let's list them now, in alphabetical order:
Current MLB Players (4): Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Flaherty, Sonny Gray, and David Price.
Played last year(12): Pedro Alvarez, Mike Baxter, Curt Casali, Nick Christiani, Ryan Flaherty, Sonny Gray, Taylor Hill, Mike Minor, David Price, Antoan Richardson, Drew VerHagen, and Josh Zeid.
This is why it's a big deal that pro prospects Philip Pfeifer, Zander Wiel, and Tony Kemp graduated this weekend.
Pfeifer is a likely top 5 round draft pick in this year's draft, and it's not hard to project him to being in an MLB bullpen in the next 3 years. He received his B.A. in Philosophy this weekend.
Wiel, though experiencing a resurgence of power as the cleanup hitter in Vanderbilt's potent lineup, is more of a long shot to make an MLB roster (due largely to a perceived lack of defensive positions other than 1B), but he will certainly be drafted, probably in the top 10 rounds. He received his B.A. in Communications this weekend.
Tony Kemp, however, is tearing up the Astros minor league system. Kemp is currently batting .337/.452/.379 at AA Corpus Christi, so it's not out of the question that he cracks the Astros roster either this year or next. When he does (and I think he's a likely September call-up), VU will be back on the list of having college graduates play in MLB.
Maybe more than wistfully hoping we can keep them forever, Corbin and staff could make a bigger push to David Price, Sonny Gray, et al, to come back not just to train, but to finish their degrees. Sooner rather than later.
Then, perhaps they could have moments like this:
I'll leave it to another former Commodore to sum it up:
*Note: It is notoriously difficult to find information on who actually has their degree, so it's likely I neglected to properly honor some of our former Dores. If you know of any current MLB-ers, or current minor league players who have obtained their degree, please post this info in the comments.