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Vanderbilt Baseball Mail Bag #2: Answers to Your Questions

Letters... we get letters... we get stacks and stacks of letters...

Postman Collects Letters
A Royal Mail postal worker leans into a post box to empty a batch of letters and parcels, on 20th November 2019, in the City of London, England.
Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images

After a two game sweep over the South Ramajama Jaguar Action News Team in which we averaged an otherworldly 16.5K/9, I am finally in the right mood to answer your questions from Monday. Here we go...

Question from Smyrnadore:

Do we need to worry about the only positive ray of sunshine we have in Vanderbilt sports or is it way too early to panic? Asking for a friend.

You can see why I waited until our two mid-week games to open up this bag, right? When this question was asked, we were a lowly 1-2, and our All-World Closer had somehow managed to blow two saves. Had I answered Monday, the answer would have been...

No, we don’t need to worry. Yes, it is way too early to panic.

It’s just easier to give that answer today, given we just witnessed utter domination from three freshmen RHPs—Jack “Leits Out” Leiter, Thomas “The Mayor” Schultz, and Michael “Doolin Banjo” Doolin—in their first ever collegiate appearances Tuesday and Wednesday.

Question from Dore31:

Should we expect some weekends like this early on while the team gels? We’re obviously very talented but there a lot of new faces – several freshmen in the lineup, need to find a #3 starter, and the bullpen behind Brown is pretty unproven. Rocker and Hickman give us the ability to win 2 every weekend but should we expect some of these 1-2 weekends if we get a bad break on Friday/Saturday and struggle on Sundays while Corbin figures out the right 9 and we find a #3 guy?

Fair question, and my answer is the same as my answer to the previous question...

No, we don’t need to worry. Yes, we should expect some bumps in the road.

However, I will push back on the “need to find a #3 starter” part. What we’ve seen over the first 5 games has led me to believe we have at least 7 weekend rotation type starters, with Rocker, Leiter, Hickman, Smith, Doolin, Hliboki, and Schultz all current or future Ace type starters. Small sample size aside, I don’t really see how anyone could justify starting Eder over many of them, and certainly not over Rocker, Leiter, and Hickman (yes, I think Hickman, though great, is a clear third in this pecking order). It will all work itself out before SEC play, with the added bonus that we get Eder back as a much needed LHP out of the bullpen.

As for Corbs “figuring out the right 9,” that’s where you’ve hit the nail on the head. In only 5 games, we have had 4 different batting orders (5 if you take into account which pitcher Corbs initially put in at DH). Beyond that, our best hitter—Austin Martin—has moved from the 3 hole to the Leadoff spot, and switched defensive positions from 3B to CF—both to get Parker Noland’s bat into the lineup, and to do the Voltron style OUTFIELD OF DEATH (tm).

To be honest, he’s not going to figure it out in the sense that it will be as potent as last year, but he will be tinkering with it all year to get it running at least cromulently. We lost 6 bats from last year’s lineup. We’re replacing most with freshmen. Have to expect a dip. Prep yourself for a lot of 3-0 and 2-1 victories, as opposed to the 8.14 runs per game we averaged last year. Luckily, we’ve got the pitching to do it.

Question from RancorIsGold:

Arguably Jones had a less than cromulent opening weekend batting .222 in nine at bats and being credited with 3 errors. Given his potential on the mound does Corbs give Keegan (or someone else) a 2020 audition at first soon? Or should I shut up and chalk it up to early season jitters?

Similar to my previous answer, I expect first base will be a position of flux all year. We’ve already seen Dr. Jones and J-Hen Malloy man the cold corner this season. Both have been flawed, though J-Hen looked much more solid with the glove yesterday than Jones has in any game thus far. Keegan, Duvy on off days, Noland, and a slew of others could conceivably see time there this year.

I don’t think Jones’s pitching prowess factors in here, at all. I would assume, what with his broken elbow last year, that this year will be all bat, no throw—a veritable RS year where we still get to use him in the plate.

I still think he has the most potential—offensively AND defensively—at 1B, but he is raw at both. I would expect, at the very least, a platoon with Jones/Keegan or Jones/J-Hen for the foreseeable future. If Corbs doesn’t trust Jones at 1B by SEC play, I still expect his bat in the lineup at DH when he represents the platoon advantage, at least.

Question from Shoogymgshoogs:

If you could trade for any player in the SEC to add to this Vanderbilt team, who would it be and who are you offering for them?

Do you mean this year? Because if not, give me any of last year’s Vandy sluggers in this order: 1) Bleday, 2) Paul, 3) Clarke, 4) DeMarco, 5) Scott.

I’ll answer as if you mean 2020, because that is clearly what you have asked, and I was just being cute in the previous paragraph.

Trades work best when you move someone from a position of strength/depth and bring in someone who would help your biggest weakness. Our biggest strength is our insanely deep pitching staff. Our biggest weakness in 2020 is quite clearly hitting, and more specifically, power hitting.

There are a bunch of bats who could help us. aTm’s Zach DeLoach is hitting .833 through 5 games, and Clanga’s Rowdy Jordan is a hell of a hitter, but I’mma swing for the fences and go for a big bat with a great track record:

Arkansas Jr. OF Heston “Astronaut George Taylor” Kjerstad. He’s a professional hitter who slashed .327/.400/.575 with 17 HR and 51 RBI as a sophomore last year, and is off to a hot start in 2020, as he has already clubbed 4 dingers in three games (albeit against Eastern Illinois). Note that we have, as a team, in 5 games... a whopping 1 HR. Yeah, I’d try to get a power hitter like Kjerstad.

We’d have to go full Will Wade and make a “strong-ass offer” to pull this off, but I would offer up Mason Hickman and Isaiah Thomas and see who blinks first. No slight to the Stonecutter or Tech Support, but if you want a star, you’ve got to make it worth the other team’s while.