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Where Are They Now: Vanderbilt Commodores edition

Starting with David Price in 2007, the Commodores have produced some first-round talent. Take a look back at some that have come out.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks back, the Boston Red Sox called up Austin Maddox. It was an SEC record-setting call-up, marking the tenth player from the 2010 Florida Gators roster to make their big league debut.

It got John Sickels thinking about other rosters. So he asked me to take a look back at some of the more prominent schools currently in the big leagues. Kind of a ‘Where are they now’ series, if you would.

David Price was the single most dominating pitcher in the country in 2007 for the Vanderbilt Commodores. He was kind of the turning point of the program. Since 2007, the Commodores reached back-to-back championship series and 32 players have been drafted to the pros.

Here’s a look at a few of the more interesting ones.

David Price, LHP, 2007

Golden Spikes. National and SEC Player of the Year. Dick Howser Trophy. There wasn’t an award Price didn’t capture in his farewell season in Nashville. The lefty went 11-1 with a 2.63 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 133.1 innings pitched. He became the benchmark that all lefties were compared. Remember just a few years back Carlos Rodon was the best collegiate lefty since Price?

Price was the first overall pick by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2007 and a year later he was coming out of the bullpen on the Rays World Series run. Price was electric in the ALCS and still pretty solid in the World Series. Ironically, Price’s career has become plagued with October troubles ever since.

That’s not to say he hasn’t become one of the premier lefties in the game, compiling a 124-67 record and 1636 strikeouts along the way. He added another trophy to his overflowing case, taking home the 2012 American League Cy Young Award.

Mike Minor, LHP, 2009

Price’s rotation mate in 2007 was the freshman Minor. He put together the best season of his collegiate career (9-1, 3.09 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 88.1 innings) behind Price. The Atlanta Braves liked what they saw, and two years later selected Minor seventh overall.

Like Price, it only took Minor one year to reach the bigs. Unlike Price, despite showing flashes of brilliance, his stuff never translated on the big league level.

Minor’s career was derailed by injuries, having not thrown a major league pitch in neither the 2015 or 2016 season. This year, he is working out of the bullpen for the Kansas City Royals with great success. He’s 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. Minor’s been particularly hot in June, allowing just one earned run over ten innings of relief. Still just 29 years of age, Minor may have reinvented himself and prolonged his career in a newfound role.

Sonny Gray, RHP, 2011

There’s just something about the ‘Dores and pitching. Gray had a big junior season for Vandy in 2011. He finished 12-4, with a 2.43 ERA, striking out 132 in 126 innings pitched. The Oakland As came calling on draft day and made Gray the 18th overall pick in 2011.

Gray reached the big leagues in 2013. He gained a lot of steam quickly, showing remarkable control and posting low ERAs and WHIPs over each of his first three seasons. Many expected Gray to become a Cy Young candidate in 2016, but injury struck and Gray fell apart.

He’s had a tough road back this season, but is currently one of the big names that will likely be dealt at the deadline. Despite poor numbers, Gray still flashes the stuff that enamored many just a few years ago.

Tyler Beede, RHP, 2014

Pitching, pitching, and yes, more pitching.

Beede’s best season in Nashville wasn’t his junior season, but his sophomore campaign when he went 14-1, with a 2.32 ERA, and 103 strikeouts. Despite command issues and down junior year, the Giants felt he had the stuff and selected him 14th overall in the 2014 MLB Draft.

Here’s what John Sickels had to say about the now 24-year-old righty:

Age 23, first round pick in 2014 out of Vanderbilt; 2.81 ERA with 135/53 K/BB in 147 innings in Double-A, 136 hits; fastball can hit 96-97 but is more commonly in low-90s, though command of the pitch has improved; has also developed very good change-up; curveball varies between below average and plus depending on the day, also has a fairly good cutter; command and control remain inconsistent but he can dominate when he’s on; needs a year of Triple-A; benefitted from friendly home park last year, more of a future inning-eater than rotation anchor; ETA late 2017.

Beede has thus far struggled in Triple-A. His strike out rate is back down (6.98 per nine), although his walk rate is right on par with his improved total in 2016 (3.23 per nine). Beede has been hit more, as most pitchers are in their Pacific Coast League debut, the highest home run rate and FIP of his young career.

The Giants are struggling, Beede’s time is likely sooner than later.

The Class of 2015:

Dansby Swanson, SS, Carson Fulmer, RHP, and Walker Buehler, RHP

Swanson and Fulmer were the headliners, but these three were key cogs in back-to-back trips the the College World Series championship series.

Swanson was the 2014 Most Outstanding Player in the ‘Dores 2014 championship. His junior season was even stronger (.335, 15 HR, 24 doubles), despite Vandy losing to Virginia in the finals.

The 23-year-old shortstop has been busy since the Arizona Diamondbacks made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2015. After winning a championship with the Hillsboro Hops in the Northwest League in his rookie season, Swanson was dealt to the Atlanta Braves. He flew up their minor leaguer ladder, making his debut last season. It was an overwhelming success as he finished wth a .302/.361/.442 slash line in 38 games.

2017 has been a struggle both in the field and at the plate, but Swanson is showing signs of coming around. He’s slashed .292/.337/.396 in June and his numbers are slowly coming back up. Despite daily ‘send him down’ cries, one must remember Swanson is still a rookie, and he still has plenty of promise.

Carson Fulmer was lights out in his junior season going 14-2, with a 1.83 ERA, and 167 strike outs in 127.2 innings. He joined Swanson as one of the four finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, just the fourth set of teammates to do so (and the second pair of Commodores to do so, joining Price and Pedro Alvarez in 2007).

Here’s what John said:

...posted 4.63 ERA in 103 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 104/56 K/BB, 96 hits; pitched 11.2 MLB innings with 8.49 ERA, 10/7 K/BB; at his best, shows 93-97 MPH, plus curveball, cutter, and solid-average change-up; was not always at his best in ’16, with a velocity reduction on the heat and regression with secondary pitches; opinion remains split on if he starts or relieves; as with Lopez, I think I would keep him as a starter for now but opening the year in Triple-A. ETA 2017.

Walker Buehler was 5-2, with a 2.97 ERA, and 92 strikeouts in 88.1 innings that 2015 season. Injury concerns saw him drop, rounding out the trio, when the Los Angeles Dodgers grabbed Buehler at 24th overall. Tommy John surgery ensued, but he has bounced back in a strong way.

He made five starts in the California League and was untouchable. Literally, he posted a 0.80 WHIP and 1.10 ERA, striking out 27 in 16.1 innings. He’s thrived in Double-A as well, cruising behind his patented low ERA and WHIP and strike throwing ability. Injury concerns and build leave question marks as to where Buehler winds up, but there is no questioning his talent.

HONORABLE MENTION:

Brian Reynolds, OF, 2016

Reynolds wasn’t a first-rounder, going to the Giants in the second round. His junior season he posted a .330/.461/.603 slash line with 13 home runs, and the success has translated to the big leagues as Reynolds has settled in as a professional hitter, earning him at least a mention on this list.

He had little problem adjusting to professional ball in his half-season debut split between two levels. He has continued the hit barrage in the California League this summer, posting a respectable .801 OPS.

Other notable first-rounders:

Alvarez, Ryan Flaherty (Compensation A), Jordan Sheffield (Compensation A), Kyle Wright