Tim Corbin has built a pipeline to the major leagues at Vanderbilt - but it runs through scenic hamlets like Bowie, MD and Pearl, MS along the way.
That's where some recent Commodore legends currently call home as they continue the slow march towards their dream of playing in the majors. While former #VandyBoys like Tyler Beede and Tony Kemp have compiled highlight reels that have made a big league callup seemingly inevitable, some of their teammates have had to battle through slumps and injuries in order to keep their goal in sight.
Today, we'll look at some more recent Commodores who are still cutting their teeth in AA ball or lower. All four of today's alums were part of a roster that carried Vanderbilt to their first-ever College World Series. They left Omaha with a final four finish and a building block for Corbin's 2014 national title. Now, they're grinding their way towards a place in the majors.
Mike Yastrzemski. Yaz has been hot at the plate over the past two weeks. He's hit .308 with one home run, four RBI, and nine runs scored in his last nine games with the Bowie Baysox. That raised his average up to .256 and could signal the former Commodore's arrival at the AA level. Yastrezemski tore up single-A pitching in 2013 and 2014 before falling off once he earned his promotion to the Baysox last summer. He's been stymied around .250 ever since and his stolen base numbers - 17 in 21 attempts last year in A ball - have fallen to six swipes in 14 chances. He'll have to prove that this recent uptick is sustainable if he wants to escape Bowie and take another step towards a call up to the Baltimore Orioles.
Jason Esposito. Playing alongside Yaz in the Baltimore system was Esposito, a talented slugger who struggled to display the skills that helped make him one of the NCAA's most dangerous hitters during his time in Nashville. Since being selected in the second round of the 2011 MLB Draft, the third baseman had fallen behind the learning curve that the minors presented. A breakout 2014 season earned him a call up to AA this spring, but Espo wasn't able to catch up to the league's pitching. He struck out 59 times in 47 games and a recent 4-32 slump pegged his average at an anemic .190. As vandystu points out in the comments, Esposito chose retirement over a demotion to single-A ball last month.
Corey Williams. Williams is best known for getting his kneecap shattered by a Florida line drive...and then still having the strength to get the batter out at first base while lying on his stomach. He's making another comeback in 2015 after spending all of last season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He had recorded 10 saves for the Advanced-A Fort Myers Miracle in 2013, but that came with a 5.06 ERA. This season, he's bounced back; the lefty has a 3-0 record and 2.50 ERA. However, those numbers come with an overall reduction in strikeouts and fewer ground ball outs. Williams's return has been impressive so far, but his stats suggest that a regression is near. Let's hope his ongoing recovery leads to a boost in his strikeout rate.
Mark Lamm. After a disastrous 2014, Lamm is working his way back up through the Braves system. He had risen all the way to AAA Gwinnett last summer, but a shoulder injury limited his effectiveness and left him with a 5.93 ERA in 16 appearances. That was the first time his professional ERA had ever breached 4.00, and it curtailed what had otherwise been a steady rise through the minors. Now healthy, Lamm is back on track in 2015. He's made 29 appearances in relief for AA Mississippi and has cut a 3.00 ERA along the way. However, like Williams, his strikeouts are down and batters are reaching base more often against him this season than they had in his last stop at AA. He'll need to return to that 2013 form - where he was striking out more than a batter per inning - to restart his rise through the Braves' ranks.