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Vanderbilt Baseball Mail Bag #3: Answers to your Questions

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

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Mississippi State v Vanderbilt Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Question from msellis145:

How many more opportunities do you give Maldonado before moving him back to the bullpen? If he does eventually move back to the pen, does Reilly get the nod for Sundays over Futrell to avoid having two freshmen southpaws in the weekend rotation?

We’re just under two weeks from our SEC opener against Missourah (spits)—and no, I have no idea why we open conference play against a Big XII team—so I’d say this weekend against Wagner is likely Maldo’s last chance to make his case as a starter. Of course, you know I would put Futrell (or Reilly or Little) in the Sunday slot over Maldo based on how the pitching staff has performed up to now.

It’s not a knock on Maldo. It’s just that Maldo is best suited to be a closer. The same might be true for Reilly. Futrell, on the other hand, already has a 4 pitch arsenal he can throw for strikes. Do that and you can get through a lineup three times. Maldo and Reilly are really two pitch guys tinkering with a third offering right now. If you allow them to concentrate all that they have into one or two innings every few days, they will be downright unhittable. Have an SEC lineup see them thrice through and you’re asking for trouble.

More than anything, it will become a question of what’s best for the team, and I think both Corbs and Brownie agree with me that eventually, what’s best for the team is to have Maldo shutting things down at the end of games.

With Reilly, it’s a bit different, as we could always use him in mid-week games—remember, Walker Buehler was a mid-week guy as a sophomore—so as to allow him to keep tinkering with new off-speed offerings, as well as to work to refine his control, and get his confidence up.

If I’m setting the rotation, it’s McBain, Holton, Futrell, and Reilly/Little in the midweek.

As for the question of whether it matters that they’re freshmen, it only matters if they’re not ready. Both Holton and Futrell look starter-ready right now. It’s pretty obvious.


Question(s) from Your Uncle Mike & Chasrad:

Hey, I’ll mention Vaz, Holton and Diaz. How about them guys?

&

Do you think Vaz is a major league prospect?

I’ll answer the 2nd one first, as you know I loved me some Tony Kemp, and now some Cloney Kemp aka Vaz Offerens (and not just because I also was the short, fast baseball player that was often overlooked due to size until I whipped the crap out of you, but yes, obviously that factors in). I’ll plant my flag: Javier Vaz can absolutely be a MLB super utility player in a few years.

Remember Antoan Richardson? His Major League career may have only been 9 MLB games with the Braves in 2011 and 13 games with the Yankees in 2014 after being drafted by the SF Giants in the 35th round in 2005, but he gets to be one of the few people on the planet who can say they were a Major Leaguer. Though Richardson was largely a career minor leaguer used as a pinch runner during his two cups of coffee, I’d use him as Vaz’s floor. Kemp—a super utility man entering his 7th year in the pros who makes every team he’s on better—is obviously the ceiling. If I had to bet, I’d go closer to the ceiling than the floor.

Kemp was a 5th rounder by the Astros in 2013, and was one of the best players in college baseball that year. I don’t think Vaz will climb that high, unless his numbers from here on out mirror his dream weekend in Hawaii (and even then, Kemp had three years of beating the odds in the SEC dominance). Still, I can easily see Vaz as a round 10-20 guy who gets devalued based on size/power, and then just puts in work year in and year out in the minors to be a one man bench like Tony Kemp. He’s got speed for days, can play so many defensive positions, and his baseball IQ pops off the screen. Corbs rarely takes transfers, and pretty much never from the JuCo ranks, but it’s pretty obvious what he saw in Vaz Offerens.

Of course, the Giants will likely take him and turn him into Javy Vaz-trzemski.

*Note: Actually, Richardson was drafted 4 times, as the MLB draft is whacknuts when you really think about it:

June 5, 2001: Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 27th round of the 2001 amateur draft, but did not sign.

June 4, 2002: Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 27th round of the 2002 amateur draft, but did not sign.

June 7, 2004: Drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 13th round of the 2004 amateur draft, but did not sign.

June 7, 2005: Drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 35th round of the 2005 amateur draft. Player signed June 16, 2005.

Back to the first question...

Sweet baby Jebus I was excited when both Davis “Diaz de los Muertos” Diaz and Carter “Southpaw Sonny Gray” Holton made it past the MLB Draft and to campus this fall. Both were looking at top 2-3 round money, both bet on themselves and came to Vandy, and both look like sure fire 1st rounders in 2024.

Through the first three weeks of the season, here’s how they’re doing:

#20 Fr. LHP Carter “Southpaw Sonny Gray” Holton: (2-0, 3.71 ERA) with a 11.65 K/9, 2.12 BB/9, and a .125 opponents’ batting average (tied for #1 with fellow Fr. LHP Devin Futrell amongst Vanderbilt pitchers who have started a game). Oh, and he damn near threw a 7 inning perfecto this weekend. In my opinion, even though McBain has been dealing and deserves to be the Friday night guy, Holton’s the best pitcher on this team.

#11 Fr. 3B Davis “Diaz de los Muertos” Diaz: .500/.579/.607 with 3 2B and 5 RBI in 11 games (9 started). Oh, and he has now won a major award...

Oh, and how do I feel about Diaz right now?

Yeah... they’re the cornerstones of that class for a reason. Add in Futrell and that’s a hell of a future foundation. They’ll spend some time in Omaha in their 3 years at Vandy. Bank on that.


Question from jakirby89:

This is a crucial question to those of us who are millennial fans…Which VandyBoy has the best walk up music this year between EBJ (Tootsie Roll), Parker Noland (So Fresh, So Clean), and Gavin Casas (The Way I Live)?

Can I include pitchers? Because I’m going to. Actually, I’ll break it down to two categories: hitters’ walk-up music and pitchers’ warm-up music.

For the former, it is absolutely Parker Noland with Outkast. Though his game has been less “So Fresh, So Clean” thus far this year, and more Stankonia. Perhaps, even though this is, without a doubt, the best walk-up song of the bunch, Parker should consider saying “Sorry, Miss Jackson” to the baseball gods so as to get out of his Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik funk and back to hitting “Bombs Over Baghdad.”

And yes, “B.O.B.” needs to be his new song, as he needs to get more amped up than simply feeling his threads, even if Sir Luscious gots gator belts and patty melts and Monte Carlos...

As for the pitchers, it’s no contest. Patrick “Life of” Reilly with:


Question from JesseCuster44:

Which is more satisfying:

The sweep in Hawaii

OR

Clanga struggling and their fans having no response?

Schadenfreude. Always Clanga-based Schadenfreude. Clanganfreude.


Question from vandyfan1:

Seems like we have settled in since the okie st series is this what u pictured the team looking like?

Pretty much. The offense in the last 9 games has been what I expected of this team this year (of course, no one expected Javier Vaz to turn into VAZ OFFERENS or Davis Diaz to basically be Austin Martin right away). I expected this to be a team who grew into a starting rotation (the talent was always there, but Corbs would have to let the competition work its way out), took a hit at defense behind the plate, and therefore, would need the offense to pick them up from time to time. It’s no shock that the offense started cold against the Okie Pokes, as the weather was in the 30s, and that tends to slow a baseball offense down like a Minnesota metabolism.

I expected what we’ve seen from Carter Holton, but Devin Futrell being this ready this early in his career, and McBain unleashing the power of apples as a true SEC Caliber Friday Night Ace are pleasant surprises. I also thought Dr. Jones would be good, but not this good. In addition, Jack Bulger has been a pleasant surprise both at the plate and behind it. He should be our starting catcher, or at least a 1A to Dom’s 1B.

On the somewhat pessimistic side, scroll up to see my thoughts on Maldo in the starting rotation. I mean, it is also what I expected, though, so... whatever. He’s a great closer. Let him return to that role and get back to kicking ass and taking names.

My only worries right now are about Carter Young (.220/.360/.488) and Parker Noland (.194/.306/.290). I fully expect Mighty Carter Young to break out of his early season woes, though Corbs has certainly sent him a message by batting him in the 9 hole. With Noland, we’ve got a bench full of guys who can take his spot, so his leash will be (and has been in the past few games) short. Still, I think the kid can play. Pay attention to the two of them, as if they get back to playing like the back of their baseball card by SEC play, that moves this from a good SEC offense to the best offense in College Baseball.

That sound like something you would be interested in?


Question from Forece10JC:

Is this program now at a point when anything less than a trip to the CWS is a disappointment?

Not every year, but pretty much yes. I’d say we’re at least in the 2 trips to Omaha, 1 to Supers expectations game in every three year cycle (as the best players will leave after their junior years). Look at what we just lost to the draft and look at how good some of our freshmen already are. This is a dynasty. Just enjoy it.


Question(s) from kgj513:

A.What did Troy LaNeve do to never be heard from again?

B. If you had to guess, does Futrell replace Maldonado in the weekend rotation come conference play?

A) What did Troy do?

Wait... that’s Troy McClure, not Troy LaNeve. You might remember him from such medical films as Alice Doesn’t Live Anymore and Mommy, What’s Wrong with that Man’s Face?

I think our Troy boy is just on a loaded roster. I would have expected him to platoon with either Jones or Vaz in a corner OF spot, but who among them are you taking out of the lineup right now? If I’m LaNeve, I’m taking non-stop reps at first base and in the batting cage, trying to unseat Parker Noland, or at least give myself a shot at some DH reps.

B) Yes. Futrell or Reilly.


Question from TennesseeBrave21:

Long time lurker - first time poster. I know this has been discussed in previous mailbags, but what do you think the deal is with how little Christian Little has pitched this season thus far? He has seemed to be fairly effective when on the mound this season (granted some of his control issues from last year have seemed to carry over). Do you think he could be recovering from some sort of relatively minor injury or something of that nature? Or is it just a case of everyone else has been extremely effective, so they haven’t had the need to press him into more action? Thanks!

We might as well call this “The Weekly Christian Little Update.” Okay. Unfortunately, my answer is pretty much the same as last week’s answer, so I’ll just update his stats and my opinions (both bolded) and cut and paste:

He’s pitching well (0-0; 1.50 ERA) in limited innings (4 appearances for 6 IP thus far). I’ll assume you mean to ask, “Why is Christian Little not starting?” For that, besides the obvious answer of competition within the staff, I really don’t know. Everything I’ve seen would place him as the fourth best starting pitcher on the team (meaning the fourth best pitcher amongst pitchers I would trust to throw 6 IP in a start). *By fourth best, I mean in terms of both stuff and readiness to get through a lineup three times. His stuff is probably 2nd behind Reilly. He’s got a hell of an arm, a frightening arsenal of pitches, his control is improving, and his glove can communicate with all who live in the ocean (and no, there is no picture on Google Images of his Aquaman glove, for some reason). Not to beat a dead horse, but you know how he was an early enrollee and pitched at 17 last year? Well, he’s still the youngest player on the team.

If/when Corbs decides to move Maldo back to the pen, I could see Little getting the midweek starts. I’m down for that.


Question from chasrad:

Do you foresee T. J. McKenzie making a start at DH?

I mean, it certainly is possible. He’s hitting an other-worldly .600/.667/1.400 thus far, so there’s not really any more he can do in his limited opportunity (5 appearances, 1 start, 6 AB). Let’s at least try to get him a few midweek starts to get a real look at him. Of course, this roster is so loaded that he’s more likely a late inning defensive replacement, pinch hitter, and pinch runner in 2022. I think he’s a prime candidate to transfer out after this season and immediately become a star elsewhere. Georgia Tech will likely come calling, as they have done before. Of course, Corbs may have designs for McKenzie to take over for Vaz in LF next year, after Cloney Kemp graduates. If McKenzie is willing to stick around for his senior year to compete for that open spot, he could win that job.


Question from KnockinOnHeavensDore:

When Corbin retires will Vanderbilt baseball sink into mediocrity? Or is the program at the point where it can sustain blue blood status despite a coaching change?

First, I hate this question with the passion of a thousand suns. The following is settled Anchor of Gold Law: 1) Corbs will never die. 2) In the event that we misplace Corbs, or he decides to no longer remain on this earthly coil, so as to join his body thetans in the ethereal realm fighting Lord Xemu, we have the Corbs Cloning Coalition located in a facility next to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on island of Spitsbergen, Norway, in the unit next to the individual strands of Dansby Swanson’s hair. 3) Jeff Green traveled.

That said, there’s a reason Scott Brown has turned down offers to be a head coach elsewhere. Keep the culture, the investment, Opportunity Vanderbilt, and the coaching tree, and we should be okay. I mean, LSU, other than their Smoke LaVal nonsense, was able to maintain their blue blood status once they brought in Mainieri. Once you’re a blue blood program for this long, the only way to get ejected from Blue Blood Valhalla is to really screw up a coaching search/decision and then commit to it, as LSU did after Skip Bertman retired and they promoted their administrative assistant who had just joined the program in Smoke Laval—of course, they would have been fine if they promoted Administrative Specialist, Head Coach Nadia Harvin. And even Smoke Laval, LSU’s Turkey Inseminator Robby Caldwell parallel who somehow got a contract extension, took the Tigahs to Omaha twice in 5 years.

Still, Corbs can stay at Vandy as long as he wants. Go ahead and pull a Mike Martin and stay until your late 70s. Baseball’s not exactly a sport that drives a coach to early retirement.


Question from Parlagi:

Did you squee hardest at the Vaz grand slam, Holton’s six perfect innings, or the entire weekend for Diaz?

VAZ OFFERENS GRAND SALAMI!!! (SQUEEEEEEE!!!!!!)

I will be taking no more questions at this time.