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What Never Was: How VU Commits Who Signed With MLB Teams Fared in the Pros

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You demand it; I do it begrudgingly.

"Good job." -Corbs
"Good job." -Corbs
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few years, every time I write an article about a Vandy commit signing a MLB deal in lieu of coming to campus, someone asks if I can write an article about how "the ones that got away" fared in the pros.  As I am very lazy, and recruiting class sites have only recently gotten remotely reliable, I have always tried to pawn it off on the guys with better research skills (VandyTigerPhD, Christian D'Andrea, a million monkeys on a million typewriters, etc.).  No one has ever taken the bait.

This year, after posting the first edition of the MLB Signing Watch, reader JAinTX (loosely translated: "J ain't X" which all linguists and lexicographers know) was the first comment, asking:

Past Signee Update?
A few months back you guys did an article updating the status and results of VU transfers under Stallings (and forgot about Kyle Madsen).

Can we get one for the high school signees who went pro before enrolling at VU?

Holding true to my party line of "I don't want to do any real, actual work," I replied:

That would be very difficult, but if anyone wants to take that research job *cough, VTPhD or CDA, cough* go for it. I'm not doing it, as recruiting classes that go further than the last 5 years are hard to verify accurately.


I will say that, generally speaking, those who have gone to VU have greatly outperformed those who have signed major league deals. Anthony Hewitt, a 1st round pick from the Phillies (and VU commit) in 2008, never got above AA, and is currently in high A batting .225, awaiting the final pink slip in his locker. If you want me to quickly look at the Perfect Game commit lists from ‘08 on and see if there are any names who didn't suit up for the Dores and are now MLB stand-outs, I'll do it right now. (One minute)

...and that's how the sausage is made, folks.  For the purpose of this article, I will go back further than promised (back to 2004, Tim Corbin's first year with the team).

You all know how former Dores like David Price (Cy Young), Sonny Gray (possibly a Cy Young this year), Tyler Beede (currently dominating in the minors after the Giants tweaked his delivery and he can now control his pitches) et al. are tearing up MLB and the minors.  But what about those that never suited up in Black and Gold?  Until this article, they had existed as nothing more than a Schrodinger's Cat.  Today, we lift off the lid and find out it the cat is alive or dead.  If I missed anyone, blame Perfect Game's commit list database (or just tell me in the comments).

2004 Commits Who Signed MLB Deals In Lieu of College

1st Round: RHP Kyle Waldrop - Waldrop, one of the long line of Farragut HS standout arms, was drafted with the 25th pick by the Minnesota Twins, and signed rather than join Tim Corbin's rebuilding project in Nashville.  For the life of me, I can't find his minor league stats, but his Baseball Reference page shows he did pitch briefly in the majors.  in 2011, he appeared in 7 games as a reliever for the Minnesota Twins, going 1-0 with a 5.73 ERA.  In 2012, he followed that inauspicious start with 17 relief appearances, going 0-1 with a 2.53 ERA, which is more than respectable.  At the end of the 2012 season, he was granted free agency and signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates... where he never once saw the mound, and never would again.

Schrodinger's Cat Status: Dead. Survived, even thrived, briefly, but then you had to open the lid and kill it.

Notable VU Commits/MLB Players Who Played for Us: David Price.

2005 Commits Who Signed MLB Deals In Lieu of College

All came to Vanderbilt.

Schrodinger's Cat Status: No cat in the box.

Notable VU Commits/MLB Players Who Played for Us: Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Flaherty, Nick Christiani.

2006 Commits Who Signed MLB Deals In Lieu of College

1st Round: OF Kyler Burke - Burke, drafted by the Padres, played 8 seasons in the minors, but never advanced past high A ball.  According to his baseball reference page, he was traded to the Cubs in the 2nd year, back to the Padres in that same year, and then traded again to the Cubs in '08 - in whose system he would play the remaining 5 years of his 8 year career.  From '06-'10, Burke tried to make it as a hitter and outfielder.  He was a .244 career hitter, though he did show some power (hitting 15 HR in 2009), and never made it past the high A Daytona Cubs.  in 2011, after busting out as a hitter, he tried his hand at pitching, and would do that until 2013.   He finished his career with the Daytona Cubs in 2013, going 6-1 with a 3.35 ERA at 25.  It is not known what Burke is up to right now, but he likely aged out of prospect status, and despite putting up good numbers in '13, that was the end of his baseball journey.  The last article about him that I can find features this sad quote:

"I just want to get to the big leagues," he said. "I love starting and I love the routine of going out every fifth day and getting my work in between. If it works out as a reliever, that's fine, too. It really doesn't matter to me."

8th Round - RHP Dellin Betances - Betances, a star reliever for the Yankees, has been playing pro ball since 2011, but has really broken out in the last two years.  In 2014, Betances got 70 relief appearances, and had a sparkling 1.40 ERA, striking out 135 in 90 innings (13.5 K/9).  This year, he's managed to somehow improve on that line, with a 0.26 ERA in 35 innings thus far (4 saves).  He's looking like the Yankees closer of the future, and is a probable All Star this year.  That said, he was never going to go to college, and Perfect Game did not even list him on our 2006 commit list.

Schrodinger's Cat Status: One Dead, one was never really in the box to begin with.

Notable VU Commits/MLB Players Who Played for Us: Mike Minor.

2007 Commits Who Signed MLB Deals In Lieu of College

All came to Vanderbilt.

Schrodinger's Cat Status: No cat in the box.

Notable VU Commits/MLB Players Who Played for Us: Taylor Hill, Curt Casali.

2008 Commits Who Signed MLB Deals In Lieu of College

1st Round: SS/3B Anthony Hewitt - Back when the Phillies drafted almost exclusively based on "tools," and totally disregarded things like, "Can he actually play baseball, though?" they fell in love with the uber-athletic Hewitt, who had not exactly been battle tested by the competition he faced in high school in Connecticut.  In short, Hewitt could never hit a breaking ball.  He is a career .223 hitter in the minor leagues, who, while still technically employed in high A for Baltimore in the Carolina league, if he's on another team's roster next year, I'll eat my hat.

5th Round: OF Ryan Westmoreland - Only played one year in the minors, then had to retire due to brain surgery.

Schrodinger's Cat Status: Might as well be dead. One cat found in the box.  One never actually entered.

Notable VU Commits/MLB Players Who Played for Us: Sonny Gray.

2009 Commits Who Signed MLB Deals In Lieu of College

All came to Vanderbilt.

Schrodinger's Cat Status: No cat in the box.

Notable VU Commits/MLB Players Who Played for Us: None in MLB yet, but Sam Selman (currently shuffling between AA and AAA) has the best shot of making it.  Connor Harrell is in AA for Detroit, hitting .242, but getting a lot of playing time.  Mike Yastrzemski is batting .263 and getting a lot of playing time for AA Bowie (Baltimore affilliate).  Anthony Gomez, a personal favorite, has apparently washed out already, and is playing in an Independent league in New Jersey.

2010 Commits Who Signed MLB Deals In Lieu of College

All came to Vanderbilt.

Schrodinger's Cat Status: No cat in the box.

Notable VU Commits/MLB Players Who Played for Us: None yet, but Tony Kemp is knocking down that door, batting .361 between two levels (AA and AAA) and is currently hitting .382 in 9 games since being called up to AAA Fresno.  He is blocked by probable all star Jose Altuve at 2B in Houston, so if he gets called up to the big club, it will likely be as a super utility player this year, as he can play multiple defensive positions.  He's a prime candidate to be traded for an arm to bolster Houston's 2015 playoff run, as well.  LHP Kevin Ziomek is 4-5 with a 4.48 ERA in 13 starts for Detroit's high A team in Lakeland, FL.  1B/LF Conrad Gregor is hitting .276 with Houston's AA affiliate in Corpus Christie, TX.

2011 Commits Who Signed MLB Deals In Lieu of College

1st Round (Supplemental): RHP Kevin Comer - Signed largely as a "well fuck you, Vandy" after Toronto lost out on Tyler Beede (as they gave Comer a large chunk of that money, as rules were different in the pre-slotting era). He has done nothing. Sure, he's young yet, but he's 22 in high A ball (and has never gotten higher). It's too soon to call it a bust, definitively, but that's what his MLB career has been.

11th Round: OF Shawon Dunston, Jr. - In A-ball batting .237. Not likely to turn into his dad any time soon.

Schrodinger's Cat Status: Two cats, near dead.

Notable VU Commits/MLB Players Who Played for Us: None yet, as they're only a year out of college, but Tyler Beede is already in AA and doing extremely well - going 3-3 with a 2.44 ERA on the year.  John Norwood, last year's CWS hero, went undrafted, but was signed by the Miami Marlins and is hitting .223 with 5 HR on their single A team.  The remaining notables are still on the team (Philip Pfeifer - 3rd round; Zander Wiel - 12th round) and playing extremely well.

2012 Commits Who Signed MLB Deals In Lieu of College

1st Round (Supplemental): 1B Matt Olson - In AA (good for his age), but batting .217 (not good). He is still a power hitting boom or bust prospect, as last year he hit .262 with 37 HR with High A Stockton. He could still see the pros eventually, but he's having a down year as he adjusts to the higher level of competition.

Schrodinger's Cat Status: Cat is still alive, but showing signs of distress.

Notable VU Commits/MLB Players Who Played for Us: They're all still on the team.  This is the best recruiting class we've ever had (perhaps until this year, maybe?), featuring Dansby Swanson, Carson Fulmer, Walker Buehler, Rhett Wiseman et al.

2013 Commits Who Signed MLB Deals In Lieu of College

All came to Vanderbilt. (We might have lost Jordan Sheffield if not for Tommy John Surgery scaring teams off, but he's here, and should get a shot at a weekend rotation spot next year.)

Schrodinger's Cat Status: No cat in the box.

Notable VU Commits/MLB Players Who Played for Us: They're all sophomores or redshirt freshmen, but notable players include Bryan Reynolds, Jordan Sheffield, Hayden Stone, and John Kilichowski.

2014 Commits Who Signed MLB Deals In Lieu of College

1st Round: RHP Touki Toussaint - Spent last year in rookie ball. This year is 1-2 4.36 ERA in low A in 6 starts. Still a high level prospect, but is very much a project for the D'Backs.

1st Round (Supplemental): LHP Justus Sheffield - Also in low A. 6-1 with a 4.72 ERA in 13 starts.

2nd Round: LHP Cody Reed - Last year, in rookie ball, Reed went 0-2 with a 2.20 ERA in 11 starts. Those are great numbers, but there's nothing listed on him for 2015. Presumably, he's injured. Can't find anything to verify that.

2nd Round (supplemental): SS Isan Diaz - Only has 3 AB this year in rookie ball (1 hit), but last year, hit only .187 in 49 games of rookie ball. Not a great start, but he's young yet.

6th Round: RHP Dylan Cease - No stats, no appearances, as he's still recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Schrodinger's Cat Status: Five kittens in the box, still alive, but the lid will close again soon, resetting the paradox.

Notable VU Commits/MLB Players Who Played for Us: They're all freshmen, but we have 3 freshmen All-Americans in Closer RHP Kyle Wright, 3B Will Toffey, and LF Jeren Kendall - all have possible MLB futures.  To have this much talent already shining on a College World Series team, while having lost 5 top prospects to the draft, says all I need to say about the excellence of Vanderbilt's current recruiting machine.