Not much remains from a pitching staff that led Vanderbilt to the College World Series in June.
The Commodores did hold onto one piece they believe can anchor them in their quest for a return trip to the CWS.
When the deadline to sign 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft selections arrived Monday night, 11 of the 12 Vanderbilt players drafted had inked professional deals. One future Commodore had not — and that’s great news for Vanderbilt fans.
The Toronto Blue Jays failed to reach an agreement with first-round pick Tyler Beede. The hard-throwing right-hander from Massachusetts reportedly turned down the Jays’ $2.5 million signing bonus. Beede, drafted 21st overall, reportedly wanted $3.5 million.
He was the only first-round pick in the 2011 draft not to sign.
“Over the past month I’ve grown up a lot!” Beede wrote on his Twitter account. “I realize an education is priceless especially the Vanderbilt one! I thank the Jays fans for everything you guys are great. But God has plans for me and that is college is first..ill be a big leaguer one day… just not for three years!”
The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder was nearly untouchable in high school. In his last two seasons at Lawrence Academy, he was 14-1 with 0.80 ERA and 189 strikeouts in 96.1 innings.
With a fastball zipping in the 86-93 miles per hour range plus a curveball and changeup, Beede might jump right into a weekend starting position in 2012 for the Commodores.
“Tyler is a very confident and convicted young man — he followed a path that is less taken by many and not easily explored,” coach Tim Corbin said. “He is not the norm by any stretch of the imagination. He handled his own situation with the confidence and principle of a college graduate and then some. ... Tyler will be very impactful in our pitching situation, he's different — God willing, he will follow the path of many accomplished college pitchers who have gotten their education coupled with an SEC apprenticeship."
Vanderbilt must replace all three spots as Sonny Gray (Oakland A’s), Grayson Garvin (Tampa Bay Rays) and Taylor Hill (Washington Nationals) all inked professional deals. Garvin did so on the last day, as the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year and supplemental first-round pick reportedly signed for $370,000.
Also signing on Monday were third baseman and second-round pick Jason Esposito (Baltimore Orioles) and right-handed relief pitcher and third-round selection Jack Armstrong (Houston Astros). Esposito’s decision was not a huge shock but took longer than both sides wanted before they settled on a $600,000 signing bonus. Armstrong, on the other hand, might have played a bigger role on Vanderbilt’s pitching staff had he returned. Instead, the 6-foot-7, 225-pounder reportedly signed for $750,000.
Late last week closer Navery Moore and outfielder Joe Loftus agreed to deals with the Atlanta Braves and Arizona Diamondbacks, respectively.
Of the 12 (an SEC record) drafted, only relief pitcher Will Clinard opted to return for the 2012 season. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-hander from Cross Plains, Tenn., was drafted in the 30th round by the Minnesota Twins. Last season, he was 2-2 with a 2.75 ERA. He struck out 48 in 39.1 innings. He piled up the innings during the NCAA Tournament and could take on either a closer or starting role during his redshirt junior season.
Clinard will provide the leadership and experience for what will be a young pitching staff. Kevin Ziomek returns after a freshman All-American season. The lefty was 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in 27 appearances, including five starts. Fellow freshman phenom T.J. Pecoraro (7-0, 1.59 ERA) is expected to miss most or all of the 2012 campaign after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery.
Farragut product Philip Pfeifer could play into the mix, maybe as a midweek starter. The incoming freshman opted to keep his commitment to Vanderbilt after he was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 44th round. Pfeifer, a 6-foot, 190-pound left-hander, is Tennessee’s all-time leader in career wins, totaling a 46-4 record with 465 strikeouts in four years.
Along with Pfeifer, outfielder John Norwood decided to pass on the pros to attend to Vanderbilt. Norwood, a New Jersey native, was taken in the 12th round by Toronto.
But Vanderbilt couldn’t hold onto pitcher Kevin Comer or outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr.
Comer, like Beede, was drafted by the Blue Jays in the first round, 57th overall. The right-hander from New Jersey reportedly signed for $1.65 million. Dunston Jr., the son of the former Chicago Cubs infielder, was drafted by the Cubs in the 11th round. Dunston was at Vanderbilt taking classes this summer but on Monday night he agreed to a reported $1.275 million signing bonus.
“This has been a very long summer for these families and our program,” Corbin said. “This process is very stressful and agonizing for everyone involved — I don't wish it upon anyone. It tests your mettle as a person and leaves you to question whether you are making the proper decision. The celebration of draft day diminishes quickly once the negotiations begin."