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College  | Story  | 3/8/2018

Quick Take: Vanderbilt

Photo: Vanderbilt Athletics

Perfect Game College Player Database

During the season Perfect Game scouts will be traveling to some of the top series to watch the very best players in college baseball. Those observations, captured with both written notes and video, will be shared in the College Player Database as linked above, notes that can also be accessed on the players' individual PG profile pages. Throughout the season select reports will be shared in feature format to promote the players, the teams and college baseball as a whole.

Vanderbilt Commodores

What Happened: Vanderbilt dropped two of three in the Shriners College Classic in Houston, losing in extras to Sam Houston State and 3-0 to Louisiana before getting the victory on Sunday over Houston. The Commodores got solid starting pitching and high-end individual bullpen performances, but the bullpen as a whole is responsible for the Friday loss to Sam Houston. With the exception of the Saturday shutout, Vandy's offense, highlighted by a whole mess of true freshmen, showed that they should be able to hit and hit well this season. 

Carrying Tool: Those freshman hitters. Vanderbilt's offense is built with freshmen up and down the lineup, with Austin Martin, Pat DeMarco, Jayson Gonzalez and Phillip Clarke all getting significant at-bats thus far. They, by and large, have exceeded expectations thus far, with all of them hitting at least .300 (Martin leads the pack at .405) and they've done a fair job of limiting strikeouts while also hitting for power along the way. If they can avoid any serious group-wide dropoffs as SEC play gets rolling along, they have a chance to help carry this team deep. 

Concerns: Starting pitching. While the stats on the surface look fine from the perspective of the Vanderbilt weekend rotation, just below the surface raises some concerns. While Drake Fellows was dominant in his start, both Patrick Raby and Chandler Day struggled a bit and had short outings, counting heavily upon a bullpen, that, while talented, also has some warts. For the Commodores to go deep into the postseason this year they will need that starting rotation as a whole to come together to go deeper into games. 

Best Player on the Field: J.J. Bleday. While he didn't stuff the stat sheet as a few others in Vandy's lineup did, the argument can be made that Bleday had the greater overall impact on the games, particularly their win, from the perspective of both offense and defense. Bleday was sterling in right field, making a pair of diving catches and a sliding third, all while hitting in the middle of the lineup and providing a big power presence, something Vanderbilt is missing since the departures of Jeren Kendall and Will Toffey of a year ago. 

Fearless Forecast: We'll see Vanderbilt's offense hit a bit of a lull during SEC play, but they'll be back in rare form by the tournament. Any time you expect major contributions from freshmen, regardless of the level of talent, there are likely to be some growing pains as the scouting report gets out on them. Vanderbilt's super frosh aren't likely to be immune to this, but they're also so talented that they may be able to stem the flow of it. The SEC will make adjustments to them, that much is for sure. Vanderbilt's season will likely be determined by how these freshmen are able to re-adjust back.  

Database Player Reports (11):

• J.J. Bleday
• Tyler Brown
• Chandler Day
• Pat DeMarco
• Drake Fellows
• Jackson Gillis
Connor Kaiser
• Zach King
• Ethan Paul
• Patrick Raby
Reid Schaller

Prospect Spotlight: Connor Kaiser, SS

As Vanderbilt's much-heralded freshman class gets off to a hot start, so have the Commodores, but it's Connor Kaiser who is likely to be the first Vanderbilt positional player off the board when the draft rolls around this June. Kaiser is a long, athletic-bodied shortstop who is definitively bigger than most at the position, fitting into the new-age sort of shortstop model, being tall with good athleticism but also good physical projection. He's got some strength to the build right now but he could end up out-growing shortstop altogether if he keeps filling out that physicality.

He's a solid average athlete with the necessary quick-twitch athleticism to play shortstop well at the collegiate level, but his professional home may be as more of a utility player who could handle some second and third base as well. The hands are quite clean in the middle infield and the side-to-side agility is pretty solid as well, especially for a player of his length, and he shows enough arm strength to handle the throws from deep in the 6-hole with no real trouble. 

Offensively, Kaiser is off to a hot start and is expected to be a steadying veteran presence in a lineup that features a good number of underclassmen. He has a mostly quiet approach, with a leg lift trigger and lower hand pinch load that can cause him to be a bit late creating separation, but he shows more bat speed this year than he has in the past and he has solid feel for timing to begin with, so the complexities of the hand load aren't a problem at this point. It's a compact swing online drive path, built for covering the plate well and using the whole field, and he shows solid extra-base pop as well. A mostly average runner, Kaiser will occasionally dig down the line in the 4.25 second range, which is above average, but he's likely to be pretty consistently an average runner long term. 

He's going to have to hit this year, and ideally hit for some power as well, as while he's been a good defender at Vanderbilt, when it comes to the draft, the offensive profile is a little light for much beyond rounds 4-5. He shows the ability to handle the bat and spray contact, but without some punch to that offensive profile he looks more like a potential utility guy at the big league level as compared to a starting shortstop. However, the early returns are encouraging, as he's shown more adept at making hard contact thus far this season while continuing to play steady defense.