This weekend, Vanderbilt went down to Chapel Hill, NC and the USA Baseball complex in Cary, NC to scrimmage against UNC Chapel Hill Tar Heels and The University of Rich Kids (nee The Richmond Spiders), respectively.
Click this link if you want to read about our 8-5 win over UNC. Stay with me if you want to read the tea leaves of our Friday and Saturday lineups, as well as talk about the new uniforms the boys had on this weekend.
Let’s Get Granular With Lineup Construction
Friday 10/15 vs. UNC
Saturday 10/16 vs. Richmond
The No-Doubt Starters:
- Though Shockwave batted in the 3-hole on Friday, you can go ahead and write his name in Sharpie at lead-off and in CF. #51 Enrique Bradfield leading off and patrolling CF is the biggest lock on the team.
- Parker “Can’t Lose” Noland will start at the hot corner and be a middle of the order bat. You can’t write it in Sharpie like you did with #51, as Corbs likes to move even the middle of his order around depending on the opposing starting pitcher, but barring injury, The Man Who Can’t Lose will be at 3B all year. Expect big things from Noland in 2022.
- The Dom Bomb should also start every game, though not at the same position. Keegan is well into the competition to be the starting catcher (likely competing with Alan Espinal and Jack Bulger for the job), and should start at first base on days he’s not behind the plate. Perhaps the most important thing to figure out is who should be this team’s catcher, but if Dom can prove that he’s solid behind the plate, that’s a big win for both the 2022 team and Keegan’s 2022 MLB Draft hopes, as catchers carry one of the highest defensive position values (only behind shortstop), and right handed 1st baseman the lowest. That said, based on what I have seen from Dom behind the dish in his first few years at Vandy, it would not shock me if Corbs opts for the defensive certainty of Alan Espinal. Either way, Dom will anchor the lineup at either the 3-hole or Cleanup all season.
- Similarly, though The Tater played both at 2nd and 1st, defensively, this weekend, I expect his bat in the meat of the lineup (likely around 6th). Though Davis Diaz could push him at 2nd, and if Dom manages to win the starting catcher job, Corbs might opt for the Infield Defense of Death strategy (Noland, Young, Diaz, and Kolwyck), it’s likely Tater will start. I still think he’ll win the job at 2nd, as he’s a better defensive player than even Harry Ray was.
- ...and that’s it. Might Spencer Jones stay in RF all year? It’s certainly a possibility. Might Troy LaNeve LaLeave the Yard repeatedly as the DH? Again, it’s possible. Still, once Isaiah Thomas left the team, our OF outside of Shockwave became an open competition. Javier Vaz should find himself in OF or 2nd in many games in 2022, Jack Bulger may grab some time out there if his defense has improved, and defensive competitions in the infield could even push someone like Tate Kolwyck or Davis Diaz to corner OF spots. Heck, even freshmen like Rob Gordon could find himself all over the diamond, defensively. He’s got SS defensive chops, and played 2B on Friday. I see Cal Hewett (LF on Saturday) as more of a bench guy, but he’s going to get a shot to impress.
- As for the pitching staff, it’s excellent news that Corbs already trusts Fr. LHP Carter Holton enough to have him start off the exhibition season on the mound. Though he gave up 2 runs, he K’d 5 and only walked 1 in 3 innings against an NCAA Tournament level lineup. That more than suggests he’s someone Corbs sees as a weekend starter in his freshman campaign. Similarly, So. RHP Patrick Reilly has been getting rave reviews on the Cape and from Friday’s game against UNC. He threw 3 IP scoreless, and Aaron Fitt had this to say:
Boy is Patrick Reilly electric. The @VandyBoys RHP bumped 97, sat 95-96 in his first inning of work, then 92-94 in his 2nd frame. Flashed a wipeout power slider at 84-87 and a developing changeup. Vandy needs him to be the dude who leads this rotation now, and I think he's ready. pic.twitter.com/Y3LxdR6sZt— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) October 15, 2021
So. LHP Hunter “Mr. Manager” Owen got the start on Sunday. I wouldn’t read as much into that decision, or Christian Little not getting the ball, though. As always, there will be a lot of competition from now until the spring for starting pitching slots at The Hawk.
Where’s Carter Young?
First, get off the ledge. Mighty Carter Young is expected to be the starting SS when the season starts. If you remember, he dislocated his shoulder in the postseason last year, so it’s safe to assume he’s just rehabbing that shoulder now so he’s back to full strength by February.
To assuage your mind, here’s a photo of Young doing defensive drills during warm-ups on Friday:
To assuage your mind even further, Fr. SS Davis Diaz has the look of someone who will fight for playing time as a freshman, and should be able to take over the SS position quite seamlessly once Young is drafted next year:
.@VandyBoys Fr. SS Davis Diaz has impressed today. The first ball off his bat early in the game was 100 mph and he just made the defensive play of the day so far by snaring a between hop chopper in the hole that came off the bat at 107 and threw the guy out at first.— Joe Healy (@JoeHealyBA) October 15, 2021
To assuage your mind even further, check out Fr. 2B/SS Rob “Flash” Gordon coming off the bench to hit a bases clearing double to give the Dores a 7-3 lead on Saturday:
Where’s Jack Bulger?
That one I honestly don’t know. However, I haven’t heard anything specific. Maybe he’s nursing a minor injury, or maybe he’s fallen to spot #3 in the catching competition. We’ll know more after Fall Ball next week.
Let’s Talk About those Scrimmage Unis
Though I’d be shocked if more than a handful of AoG readers made the trek down to North Cackalacky to see either of these scrimmages, I’m sure you all saw the Old Person Telephone-Style Numbers on both sides of our scrimmage uniforms and had questions.
*Note: Keep the volume off when playing the 8-5 victory over UNC recap tweet above, unless you like listening to The Backstreet Boys rap remixes. I, for one, do not. I’m an O-Town remixed by Lil’ John purist.
I know my calculus (WHAT?!); I know you plus me equals us (OKAY!!!).
My Take(s) on the Big Numbers on the Front and Back Scrimmage Unis:
- Sweet baby Jebus, those Military Green Scrimmage Shirseys with Big-Ass White Numbers worn on Saturday vs. The Spiders were awesome. The bright white pops off the military green backsplash. In fact, I like them even better than our traditional Sunday Military Greens. They’re no Gangster Pajamas, but I’ll put these green and white scrimmage shirseys at spot #3 (behind the Gangster Pajamas and the Classic Creams with black and gold piping down the pant legs).
- Friday’s Black Shirseys with Big-Ass Gold Numbers, though? Hard pass. Flip that color scheme (Gold Shirseys with Big-Ass Black Numbers) and add some white piping, and you’ll get me. These just looked like they were sponsored by Chico’s Bail Bonds. Not in the good way, either.
- Now, why go with the Big-Ass Numbers on both front and back to begin with? Oh that’s a calculated decision to help out the scouts in attendance, and I am here for it! Though our program attracts more than our fair share of scouts and gets our boys drafted both highly and in great volumes (I mean, there were more Diamond Dores in the MLB playoffs that players from any other school), there’s no reason not to enhance even our already flashing neon light visibility. Think about it this way: when you’re a scout, you’re likely there to look at the big boys. You already know who Enrique Bradfield is, where you’re likely to see him in the lineup and field, and you’ve got his #51 on the front page of your notebook. But what if #2 flashes once or twice—say, he makes a diving catch while you drop hot dog mustard on your pants, and then, a few innings later, legs out an infield single on a two hopper to short while you were there to scout the opponent’s shortstop’s defensive chops (and some relish from a different hot dog joins your pants stain party)? Well, with those Big-Ass Numbers (tm), you’re more likely to make a note of the jersey number of the person who did those little notable things. Now, you’re checking the roster for who #2 is, and writing up a scouting report on a late-round value pick who could turn into a utility man and pinch runner down the line. The Dores are making it easier for all of their players to get noticed by scouts, even if only marginally, and I support this tactic whole-heartedly.
It’s the same reason their social media team puts clips like this up on the bird app:
Tate “Tater” Kolwyck, a senior 2B who went undrafted in the 2021 MLB draft, is not one of the stars the scouts came to see. However, in my humble opinion, he’s got at least a Mikey Yaz type shot of making the majors and having a solid baseball career. As all Diamond Dore fanatics who watch every pitch and come to Anchor of Gold to read what some jackwagon thinks about Fall Scrimmage Lineups and Scrimmage Shirseys with Big-Ass Numbers on them knows, The Tater is an excellent defensive second baseman with fast hands and more pop in his bat than you would assume upon seeing him in person. Beyond that, we know that his power was sapped by a hamate bone injury when Tater was in the midst of an offensive tear to begin the 2021 season. Do the scouts know this? Not unless they also went to Vandy (I have to assume this was like 90% of the strategy behind the Cubs tabbing former Diamond Dore Carter Hawkins to be their new GM). In short, every effort to get the non-stars into a scout’s notebook is absolutely welcome, as it may lead to more Dores drafted, and, as such, an even better sales pitch that our already Herculean sales pitch on the ‘crootin trail.