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'Dores on the Farm: VerHagen, Casali Hang on in the Majors, Despite Speed Bumps

A pair of Vanderbilt alums are trying to retain their spots in the majors after a lengthy road through the minor leagues. Elsewhere, two other Commodores are one promotion away from joining the New York Yankees.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As Tim Corbin's proteges get older, the Vanderbilt coach's major league empire expands. More than half a dozen major leaguers can trace their baseball lineage to the Commodores' head coach, and several more are patiently grinding away in the minors with their sights set on a call up to the show. The All-Star break gave a few of these alumni a chance to shine. Two former #VandyBoys got to announce their arrivals as elite prospects on a national stage last week. Tyler Beede and Tony Kemp each impressed in the 2015 MLB Futures Game in Cincinnati.

Those two are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Vanderbilt baseball players who are rising through the farm leagues. Today, we'll take a look at four Commodores who have recently earned promotions that either placed them on an MLB roster or one step away in AAA.

Drew VerHagen (2012): VerHagen was the beneficiary of a Detroit bullpen that has been run through with a cheese grater this season. The struggling Tigers called up the former Commodore before the All-Star break, but his second appearance with the club got off to a terrible start. VerHagen walked four batters and gave up a hit in his only inning with Detroit so far, saddling the young righty with an 18.00 ERA and a 0:4 strikeout:walk ratio.

Vince Conde (2014): Conde has rocketed through the Yankees' minor league system despite an underwhelming performance at the plate. In 2015, he's played at the regular A, Advanced A, AA, and AAA levels; but he hasn't hit better than .170 since leaving the single-A Charleston RiverDogs. Conde pushed 2015 #1 overall draft pick Dansby Swanson to second base due to his stellar defense, and that's what has kept him rising through the minors in his short professional career. Yankee coaches are betting that his hitting will stabilize with a few more at bats - until it does, they've decided to test the limits of his glove at shortstop.

Caleb Cotham (2009): Conde joined another Vandy alum when he arrived in the lovely Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area. Caleb Cotham was called up to AAA on June 14th and has impressed in eight outings with the RailRiders so far. He's allowed only two runs in 13.2 innings of relief and has yet to give up a home run since his promotion. He's got a crisp 15:2 strikeout:walk ratio and could earn a call up to the Bronx bullpen when the Yankees expand their rosters to 40 players this September.

Curt Casali (2011): Casali has the strange honor of hitting better in the major leagues than he has in the minors this season. The former Vandy backstop is currently splitting time behind the plate in Tampa Bay with Rene Rivera, where he's batting .223 with a .748 OPS. That's not going to turn many heads, but it's better than his performance at AAA Durham; Casali was batting just .203 before the call up. With Rivera sputtering and C/DH John Jaso unable to meet Casali's level of defense, July and August will present a huge opportunity for the Commodore if he can step up his game at the plate.