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2021 Position Previews: Outfield

Baseball season starts Friday with a home series against Wright State. I will write position previews once per day on: 1) Starting Pitching, 2) Relief Pitching, 3) Infield, 4) Outfield, and 5) Catchers.

College World Series - Vanderbilt v Michigan - Game Two Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Two of the three starting positions are likely filled, but who will be the third OF?


Returning Starters

#3 Sr. OF Cooper “The Ontario Barrel-Maker” Davis

(.348/.416/.435 with 2 3Bs, 2 2Bs, and 5 RBI)

His game is predicated on speed, as exemplified by his being safe on all 5 stolen base attempts in 2020. He’s an extremely valuable lead-off hitter who has an exceptional hit tool and great speed. He can man any position in the OF, but if he does not win the CF job, expect him in LF, as his arm is not the type to be able to throw out a runner at 3rd from RF. I’m hoping Davis can improve upon 1) staying healthy, 2) taking more walks, and 3) bringing back the Vanderbunt.

#8 Jr. OF Isaiah “I.T./Run Support” Thomas

(.258/.313/.532 with 5 2Bs, 4 HR, and 13 RBI)

Though our I.T. shares a name with a Hall of Fame shooty hoops player ours is spelled correctly), this one has a future on the diamond. Expect him to patrol center field (or RF if Corbs goes with Cooper Davis or Enrique “Shockwave” Bradfield in CF) all year. Expect him to bat third (or at least in the meat of the lineup) all year. He’s a defensive stud, and though he still has too much swing and miss to his game for my liking, is my choice for the title of Commodore hitter who can swing a game entirely by himself. When he gets hot, he stays hot. He just needs to work on limiting the cold streaks.

In the 2020 shortened season, I.T. moved from “Tech Support” to “Run Support,” as he led the team in HR (4), tied for the lead in RBI (13), and was 2nd in doubles (5). He was the type of player who would normally start as a freshman, but in 2019, the outfield was patrolled by JJ Bleday, Stephen “The Human Fire Hydrant” Scott, and Cooper “The Ontario Barrel-Maker” Davis. Still, Thomas found a way to make an impact, played in 21 games (starting 6), and slashed .368/.405/.684 with 3 HR and 3 2B.

Presumptive Starter

#51 Fr. OF Enrique “Shockwave” Bradfield, Jr.

I’m going out on a limb here, and anyone mentioned below could take the 3rd OF spot, but I’m openly rooting for the “All Centerfielder Outfield of Death” featuring Davis, Thomas, and Bradfield.

The 6’1” 160 lb lefty from Hialeah, FL has a game that should remind you of Juan Pierre, as this young man is faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaast. 6.26 in the 60 yard dash fast. Put him in center field and cover half of the outfield fast. In fact, if he cracks the starting lineup, an outfield of Bradfield, Davis, and Thomas would just be unfair to opposing teams. It’s a three CF outfield tandem, and would erase even the idea of hitting a gapper. Yes, please.

The last guy we had that was that fast was Alonzo Jones (note: Jones was clocked at 6.17 in the 60 in a 2014 PG showcase event). Whereas Jones was never able to fully put it together with the bat, Bradfield’s hit tool is more advanced at this stage in their careers.

Here’s what Perfect Game said about him after the 2019 showcase:

Enrique A. Bradfield Jr. is a 2020 OF with a 6-0 155 lb. frame from Hialeah, FL who attends American Heritage. Slender athletic build, not the type of frame that is going to fill out much but has plenty of room for some wiry strength. Outstanding runner, 6.26 in the sixty, has game impacting speed on the bases and in centerfield on defense. Left handed hitter, hits from a straight tall stance with a hanging left lift load, has quick hands and a compact short swing, hands driven swing with contact to all fields, has consistently shown the ability to take pitches and square up the ball, prototype leadoff hitter. Has easy and fluid footwork and actions in the outfield, runs very good routes and charges the ball hard, playable arm strength with a quick release. Polished player who understands his strengths and plays to them. Excellent student, verbal commitment to Vanderbilt.

Of course, like Juan Pierre, expect a Willie Mays Hayes archetype game from the Shockwave. As a lithe young man, he should completely abandon the idea of hitting for power, and instead, put it on the ground and make the middle infielders move. Expect the Vanderbunt to be a major piece of his offensive arsenal. Opposing pitchers should expect that issuing a walk to this young man is tantamount to putting him on 3rd, as he will be a terror on the base paths. Could he be a taller Tony Kemp? I can dream, can’t I?

Bradfield will have to fight for playing time on an absolutely loaded Vanderbilt Commodore team. Looking at his competition, I’m confident enough to pencil Bradfield into the 3rd OF position, as he’s got every tool but power. He’s a future “write his name in Sharpie in the leadoff spot on every lineup card” guy as soon as he wins one of the three starting OF jobs.

*Note: If you don’t know the origins of “Enrique Shockwave,” Councilman Dexhart of Pawnee, IN would like to take you, and a few of your sexy friends, to a cave in Brazil. If you did know the origins, same answer. In my defense, it was my birthday, and I really wanted to do it.

The Top Competition

#18 So. UTL Will “Duff Man” Duff

(.267/.333/.333 with 1 2B and 3 RBI)

Duff Man says a lot of things, and plays a lot of positions. Will he be able to hold of the young speedster Bradfield?

#19 So. OF Troy “Snow Man” LaNeve

(.000/.500/.000 with 1 HBP in 1 AB)

#11 Jr. OF Matt “Colonel Crank” Hogan

(.000/.000/.000 in 2 total ABs)

The Freshmen

#36 Fr. OF/RHP Grayson Moore

Here’s what Perfect Game had to say about the two way player:

Grayson Moore is a 2020 OF/RHP with a 6-4 185 lb. frame from Longwood, FL who attends Lake Mary. Big athletic build, looks bigger and stronger than his listed weight, has filled out and got stronger over the last year. 6.65 runner, very athletic in the outfield with clean actions through the ball and soft hands, outstanding raw arm strength, makes very accurate on line one-hop throws, potential top level defender. Switch-hitter, has a bit better bat speed and barrel whip from the right side but creates leverage and torque from both sides, middle to pull approach, legit switch-hitter with projectable power. Also pitches, high leg lift delivery, slow pace through release, over the top arm slot with some body lean, deep arm action in back. Primary fastball pitcher, topped out at 91 mph, showed some feel for his change up and picked up a strike out on it, developing curveball. Excellent student, verbal commitment to Central Florida.

*Obviously, he switched his commitment to Vanderbilt. Top 200 Ranking: Unranked.

Perfect Game Rating: 10.

#21 Fr. OF Calvin “Hobbes” Hewett

Here’s what Perfect Game had to say about Hewett:

Calvin Hewett is a 2020 OF/1B with a 6-3 185 lb. frame from Greenland, NH who attends Portsmouth HS. Large, athletic frame with broad shoulders and a long, projectable build with room to fill throughout; has quick-twitch muscle and implements it well with his overall game. Primary outfielder, takes a quick first step to the ball and made a nice diving catch in center field in live action, fields the ball out front, upper body dominant release with a short arm action, can continue to implement additional lower half, arm strength will continue to develop. Righthanded hitter, begins with a narrow base and a high hand set and back elbow in the box. Gets closed moving into contact and remains short with swing path through the zone. Creates contact out front and showed comfort working to his pull side and middle parts of the field, upper body dominant swing, projects nicely moving forward with added physical strength. Good student. Verbal commitment to Vanderbilt. Top 200 Ranking: Unranked.

Perfect Game Rating: 8.5 (the #1 OF and #2 overall prospect from the state of New Hampshire).