The 2016 MLB draft will be held starting Thursday June 9th at 6pm CT on MLB Network and MLB.com. Though the Commodores' 2016 season ended in the Regionals, many of our players will be hearing their names called this week, summoning them to a future riding busses to such glamorous locales as Lakewood, New Jersey, Toledo, Ohio, and Missoula, Montana.
Here's my best guess at whose names will be called, and in which rounds. With each player, I will include their 2016 statistics, Baseball America Top 500 prospects ranking, and my personal draft projection.
Potential First Rounders
CF Bryan "The Aluminum Foil" Reynolds
2016 Stats: .330/.461/.603 16 2B 3 3B 13 HR 57 RBI
Though Reynolds wasn't drafted coming out of high school, that was largely due to a season ending injury that cost him his senior year. The Brentwood, TN native's talent was apparent from the moment he stepped foot on campus, as he batted .600 in the first series of his freshman year against Long Beach State, and never slowed down since. Foil was instrumental in our 2014 National Championship run, last year's CWS Finals run, played for USA baseball, annoyed pitchers with his never-ending batter's box routine, and had the best perv stache of any Vanderbilt Commodore in recent memory. He has just enough speed and athleticism to play CF in the majors, but has played both corner OF spots and second base. Regardless, it's his bat that will carry him onto a major league roster. Though streaky, Foil has an uncommon combination of power from both sides, the ability to hit for average, and patience at the plate.
BA's Latest Mock Draft: 1st round (18, NYY)
BA Top 500: #31
Projection: Mid-1st to High 2nd round.
MLB Comp: J.D. Drew.
RHP Jordan "Top Sheff" Sheffield
2016 Stats: 8-6, 3.01 ERA
I'll let the excellent draft preview just published at MLB.com do most of the relevant talking here (click it and then return afterwards... I'll wait), but Sheff was a potential 1st round pick out of high school, and not for shaking hands with Tommy John, it is likely he would have signed with the team that drafted him (like his brother, Justus, did the following year). Sheff spent his first year rehabbing, his 2nd year stuck behind an all world rotation featuring 2 first rounders and a 3rd rounder, and spent his RS So. year as Vanderbilt's Friday starter all year. This year, save for some bumps towards the end, Sheff proved that he has a three pitch arsenal: a plus 94-98mph fastball, an above average breaking ball, and a changeup that, if he continues to harness it, will be the pitch that allows him to start at the highest level of professional baseball. Prior to the development of that changeup, teams may have only viewed Sheffield as a bull pen arm, though a back of the pen option, as his fastball and slider can be devastating. If a team thinks he can start (and they should), he should go in the 1st round, where he's been linked as high as pick #12 to the Red Sox, #19 to the Mets, and #20 to the Dodgers. If concerns over his last few starts, whether he can start, or the health of his arm (he's healthy now, but his previous surgery is cause for a red flag), he may fall a bit. I'd be surprised if he got past the Phillies at 2-1, though.
BA's Latest Mock Draft: Not chosen in the 1st round (had been previously).
BA Top 500: #23
Projection: Mid-1st to High 2nd round.
MLB Comp: Marcus Stroman.
LHP Ben "The Highlander" Bowden
2016 Stats: 2-1, 3.51 ERA 10 Saves
Coming off a strong summer showing in the Cape Cod League (Kyle Wright and John Kilichowski's injuries likely factored into this, as well), Corbs decided to try Big Ben out as the Saturday starter. In most of his starts, he was dominant through the first 4 innings, but shaky after that. Bowden will likely try to prove early in his minor league career that his future is as a #3-5 starter, but just like at Vandy, he's likely to end up a reliever in the back end of a bullpen. Bowden fires gas from the sinistro side, but often struggled to control his secondary offerings. It will be interesting to see which team drafts him, as if it's a team in contention who needs a LHP in their pen, it's not inconceivable to see Bowden drafted as a late season bullpen addition. If the team that chooses him wants to see if he can be a starter, Bowden is likely fated to spend at least 3 seasons in the minors working on control, and spotting his curve and change for strikes. I still think his future's in the pen, though, and that future is bright.
BA Top 500: #75
Projection: 2nd-5th round.
MLB Comp: Norm Charlton
C Jason "The Rain" Delay
2016 Stats: .248/.296/.336 10 2B 0 3B 1 HR 31 RBI
Delay had a solid, if unspectacular 2016, in which he wrenched the majority of playing time away from what had been a near 50-50 split with Karl Ellison the past two seasons. Delay had always been a master pitch framer with a solid arm and a bat that's better than most at the position. His huge leap forward this year, however, was the improvement he demonstrated in blocking balls in the dirt. In '14 and '15, spike curves and low two-seamers were his various Achilles Heels, and he was so bad at blocking them, Corbs needed to go to Ellison when pitchers who pound the dirt - such as Carson Fulmer and Kyle Wright - were on the mound. This offseason, Delay worked diligently at correcting this hole in his game, and might have salvaged his draft status in the process. However, though BA has ranked him in their top 500 draft prospects, he might not be as high as he would like, so I wouldn't completely rule out the possibility of Delay returning for his senior season. I'd still say it's only 20% likely he returns, though, as someone is going to see his defensive ability and cromulence at the plate, and see a future back-up backstop in the bigs.
BA Top 500: #406
Projection: 11th-20th round.
MLB Comp: Pretty much every backup catcher ever. Let's go with Crash Davis.
LHP John "K-Chow (arf arf) Bat Poison" Kilichowski
2016 Stats: 1-2, 5.06 ERA
K-Chow's 2016 season was largely a lost one, as arm tiredness kept him out of the first half of the season, and the rust showed all the way until the end of SEC conference play. As such, K-Chow is another possible returnee, but his '14 and '15 seasons, as well as his work on the Cape last summer are likely enough to get him drafted. In those years, he sat 88-92mph with the fastball, showed good control, and generally was in command of his secondary pitches. As he's a lefty with a functioning arm, he will be drafted. Does he take the money (guessing around $50,000), or does he come back to graduate and get one more shot at a title? I honestly don't know, but I'd put it at 60% leaving.
BA Top 500: #460
Projection: 11th-30th round.
MLB Comp: Pretty much every lefty swingman ever. Let's be optimistic and say Adam Morgan.
RHP Hayden "The Stone Cold K-Reamer" Stone
2016 Stats: 0-1, 4.22 ERA 3 Saves
Any team drafting the K-Reamer is betting on the freshman version, his spike slider, and a series of medicine men who can keep his arm healthy. Unfortunately, after a Freshman All-American 2014, Stone has undergone Tommy John surgery, was perhaps rushed back to action a little too fast this year (I believe it had been 10 months after surgery when he returned to the mound, which is not the normal 12 months before a pitcher even starts his practice throws), which lead to him vanishing from the pen around mid-season. When he's on, you've got an unhittable R-R late inning reliever, but he might have to sit out another year before even trying to throw again. It's a huge risk. Could he return to campus? Sure, but he'd better make sure to listen to every doctor before he tries to hero ball rush an attempt back to the mound.
BA Top 500: #464
Projection: 20th round - Undrafted Free Agent.
MLB Comp: Turk Wendell
Seniors Who Might Get a Shot at Minor League Ball
2B Tyler "Soup" Campbell
Soup has athleticism in spades, and his defense has improved enough to where he might just get a shot at being a Utility Infielder in the Majors. Those spots are tough to come by, and if he ever got called up, I imagine it would be after 5-10 years of toiling in the minors. He can do it, though. He might even get drafted.
1B/OF Kyle "Zombie" Smith
It would not surprise me if Kyle Smith became the latest Vanderbilt Commodore to get a coaching job with the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames, or as a Graduate Assistant with the Dores, but if he wants to give playing another go, he might get the opportunity.
All But Certainly Returning
- Ro Coleman (Jr.), because of course. After next year, he'll get a 5th year of eligibility, somehow. Then, he'll win the Josh Henderson Scholarship, and I will scream so loudly, the neighbors will call the cops.
- Tyler Green (RS So.). Green could easily assume the Kyle Smith role for 2017 as the big right handed bat off the bench, spot starter at 1st and LF, large human who can hit things a long way, but struggles to make consistent contact, etc.
- Ryan Johnson (RS So.). Will be the LHP long reliever for the next two years. Will have the opportunity to compete for a bigger role, but the competition will be stiff.
- Penn Murfee (RS So.). Has been promising in spurts, but known to get into prolonged slumps. Still, when he's on, he's on.
- Nolan Rogers (Jr.). 4th OF/defensive replacement.