As is usually the case in the Tim Corbin era, the strength of the Diamond Dores lies in its pitching—both in terms of high end talent and depth. I will preview the potential weekend starters later this week, but know that pitchers previewed here as relievers could certainly start (and vice versa).
In short, we could have a dominant bullpen this year, with at least three candidates to be shutdown closers—including two seniors I didn’t expect to pass on MLB bonus offers going into last year’s draft. Like last year, the only potential achilles heel is depth of left-handed relief options. We’re likely to have one really good one, at least, however.
Potential Closers and Set-Up Men
#66 Sr. RHP Thomas “The Mayor” Schultz
(4-2; 2.88 ERA; 23 appearances; 0 starts; 34 & 1/3 IP; 8.7 K/9; 8 Saves)
The Mayor ran for re-election rather than trying his hand in the minors this year, and our team will undoubtedly be the better for it. Early in his Vanderbilt pitching career, Schultz was a (somewhat erratic) starter who then got passed over by more consistent starting pitching options. Last year, Corbs made him the closer. He thrived in that role and will look to do the same in 2023. As an added bonus, we wont have to use him in that role on many back to back games, as, well... he’s got potential closer company in the pen.
#29 Sr. RHP Nick “Big Maldo” Maldonado
(3-1; 3.96 ERA; 13 appearances; 4 starts; 38 & 2/3 IP; 7.91 K/9; 0 Saves)
Last year, Maldo started out in the weekend rotation, likely in an effort to boost his MLB Draft stock—an effort which backfired as he struggled as a starter and was moved back to the pen mid-season. I feel pretty confident that had Maldo started off 2022 in the pen, he likely gets drafted and signs. As such, I doubt there’s any wavering on his role with the team this year. Simply put, both The Mayor and Maldo will be dueling closers/high leverage shutdown relievers, hence allowing both to stay fresh all year. As an added bonus, we got his younger brother (a SS with a chance to hit) to flip from Clemson. Last year, the question was “Where’s Maldo?” This year, we know. In the bullpen preparing to devour your soul with a mid-80s wipeout slider and mid-90s heater with arm-side run.
In 2021, Maldo had 9 saves and a 10.5 K/9 in 50 & 2⁄3 IP of work out of the pen. I would much prefer that version of Big Maldo than what we got last year during his yo-yo act between starting and relieving.
#99 Grad. RHP Jack “Prancetown Transfer” Anderson
(0-0; 0.00 ERA; 12 appearances; 0 starts; 10 IP; 16.2 K/9; 0 Saves)
The Prancetown alum came back for his Josh Henderson Year, and will be yet another power righty out of the pen. Like The Mayor, the Prancetown Transfer can paint corners—something that’s invaluable on a team with as many young, talented, but sometimes erratic pitchers as Vanderbilt.
His ERA, like his future resume with degrees from both Princeton and Vanderbilt, is immaculate. Time to trust him with more innings in high leverage situations.
Swing Men (Occasional Starters and/or High Leverage Relievers)
#88 Jr. RHP Patrick “Life Of” Reilly
(2-3; 4.99 ERA; 17 appearances; 3 starts; 52 & 1/3 IP; 11.89 K/9; 0 Saves)
Would it be phenomenal if Reilly put it all together this year and turned his elite stuff into something he could command through 6 IP on a regular basis? Of course. However, with Holton, Futrell, and Dutkanych likely to lock down the weekend rotation spots (maybe after a few weeks for the freshman future Ace “The Duke,” but still) Reilly will either be the mid-week guy or a high leverage reliever. He certainly has the stuff to start, but occasional bouts of wildness and potential for a “big inning” have made it apparent he’s likely a better reliever than starter right now. Of course, Corbs could also start the season out with Reilly and Owen piggybacking in one of the 4 rotation spots. Again, as always, we have enviable pitching depth. It would not shock me if Reilly started out the season in the rotation—especially given our late inning relief depth listed above—but his skillset would likely make him the most dominant closer in college baseball if Corbs decided to deploy him that way. Seriously, who’s hitting a max effort Reilly throwing gas and spike sliders in one inning of relief? No one. No one.
*Note: Reilly had 69 Ks in 2022. Nice.
#33 So. LHP Hunter “Mr. Manager” Owen
(2-1; 4.05 ERA; 8 appearances; 1 starts; 26 & 2/3 IP; 12.82 K/9; 0 Saves)
Owen’s my best guess at who will fill the Walker Buehler Mid-Week Ace role this season, but even there, he will have competition. Corbs may well decide he’d rather have two trusted LHP relief options. Either way, Owen’s likely a multi-inning swingman type in this pitching staff. With his swing and miss stuff, he could close, but... you know... see above for his competition in that role.
#97 So. RHP Bryce “Big Richie” Cunningham
(2-1; 4.59 ERA; 12 appearances; 6 starts; 33 & 1/3 IP; 7.29 K/9; 0 Saves)
Cunningham somewhat surprisingly got 6 starts as a freshman—4th most on the ‘22 squad. He was fine, but was more of an innings horse than someone whose stuff makes you stand up and take notice. Still, getting 6 starts as a freshman means he’s firmly in the mid-week starter competition as a sophomore. If he’s in the pen, instead, he will be perfectly cromulent there, as well.
#36 Jr. RHP Grayson “Gitmo” Moore
(1-1; 5.06 ERA; 16 appearances; 1 starts; 26 & 2/3 IP; 13.16 K/9; 0 Saves)
Gitmo can miss bats with the best of them, but, like Reilly, has to improve on consistency and control. Also, he improved his 9.00 ERA as a freshman by nearly 4 runs. By that logic, he will have around a 1.00 ERA in ‘23.
Returning Relief Pitchers
#17 So. LHP Ryan Ginther
(0-0; 5.87 ERA; 7 appearances; 0 starts; 7 & 2/3 IP; 14.09 K/9; 0 Saves)
If I had to pick a potential “Breakout Player” from the kids in in the bullpen this year, Ginther is my man. He came on strong late last year, then kept that positive momentum going in the NECL summer league, where he went 3-1 with a 3.43 ERA and a 12.43 K/9 rate that will play well as likely our first left-handed option out of the pen. Southpaws who throw hard heat are worth their weight in gold. If he can control that, he’ll be someone SEC lefties fear.
#98 So. RHP Greysen Carter
(0-0; 6.75 ERA; 5 appearances; 0 starts; 5 & 1/3 IP; 10.13 K/9; 0 Saves)
Yet another power righty with good K/9 peripherals who needs to learn to harness it to be effective for the Diamond Dores? You know it.
#55 So. RHP Colton Regen
Regen couldn’t break into the starting roster last year, but is yet another tall, thin, long-limbed power righty who could help out the pen in ‘23.
Here’s what Corbs said about him on his vucommodores.com page:
“Colton has really improved greatly over the last year. He has changed his body from a strength standpoint and has grown significantly with his movement on the mound. His arm is very fast and strong. He has the chance to throw high level power stuff. He also is one of the fastest athletes on the team. Well-liked young man who has really grown off the field and academically.”
Seniors Returning from Injury
#40 Sr. RHP Sam “Hliboki Bartokomous” Hliboki
The Perfect Stranger had a promising freshman season (15 & 2⁄3 IP with an immaculate 0.00 ERA) in the Covid shortened 2020 season, then popped yet again during his sophomore campaign with 20 IP and a 2.75 ERA (including one start). He then got injured and has been out since. All reports say the arm is healthy and Hliboki will be back on the mound as a senior. I could see him in pretty much any role, to be honest, as he could either start or relieve. I’m just glad to have him back and healthy. He’s the top wildcard among the arms, as I saw him turning into a Drake Fellows type starter early on in his career.
#43 Sr. RHP Michael “Doolin Banjo” Doolin
On the other hand, it does not appear likely Doolin will return to the mound this week. If he’s able to return at any point this year, we would welcome him back, as he was a pinpoint control type starter before his injury. He was 1-0 with a 0.87 ERA in 10 & 1⁄3 IP as a freshman in ‘20. Like Hliboki, Doolin could start or come out of the pen.
He’s been out for the past two years after shaking hands with Tommy John, but this blurb by Corbs on his vucommodores.com player page gives me hope Doolin will get back to the Maddux type control starter we saw when he was a freshman:
“Everyone is rooting for Mikey. His journey in our program has come with tough and unique challenges. Over these last two years, he has chosen to create a team role and help our program tremendously. His time and energy with his teammates will pay dividends for him going forward. He will get back on the mound for the first time since the spring of 2020. Mikey’s abilities are undeniable. He has life to his pitches and commands the ball very well. We are looking forward to getting him back on the field.”
The Young Guns (Freshmen)
*Note: What I write about the future starters is pasted, verbatim, from what I wrote about them in the 2022 MLB Draft 2nd through 20th Round Primer: The Commits.
#38 Fr. RHP David Horn
Here’s the Perfect Game scouting report on the two way player:
David Horn is a 2022 RHP/1B/3B with a 6-4 210 lb. frame from Mission Viejo, CA who attends JSerra Catholic School. Recorded a 7.05 second 60-yard dash time. Extra large frame with good athleticism and room for additional strength. Primary right-handed pitcher with an easy, low effort delivery. Fastball command to both sides with the pitch topping out at 93 mph. Misses a lot of bats low in the zone. Longer arm stroke through the back and fastball in-zone whiffs are his calling card. High three-quarters slot with good feel for the 12/6 curveball. Slider has good horizontal action and threw strikes with all three. Right-handed hitter with a slightly open stance and line drive approach. Looks to lift and has strength off the barrel. Generates leverage to the pull side and gets onto his front side well. Great student. Verbal commitment to Vanderbilt. Named to the Perfect Game All-American Classic.
#22 LHP JD Thompson
Here’s the Perfect Game scouting report on the two way player:
JD Thompson is a 2022 LHP/1B with a 6-0 180 lb. frame from Rusk, TX who attends Rusk. Medium athletic build. Well controlled low effort delivery, pitches within himself and repeats his mechanics well. Fastball topped out at 87 mph, has been up to 90-91 mph frequently in the past, throws his fastball to spots with occasional arm side running life. Curveball has good shape and feel and will throw on any county. Change up is his most effective pitch, locates the pitch well with fade and deception. Mix and match southpaw who knows how to pitch and has been very effective in the past. Good student, verbal commitment to Vanderbilt.