College World Series 2021 Preview: Vanderbilt
The Vanderbilt Commodores are loaded with MLB talent.
You can’t talk about the Vandy Boys without starting with Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter. The best college pitching duo since UCLA’s Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer in 2011, the Vanderbilt pair has combined for a 2.32 ERA in 33 starts with 311 K’s in 212 IP.
Vanderbilt is a popular pick to repeat, and rightfully so, when you have the two best pitchers in the country each making a start in a three-game series, it is tough to lose. That being said, the Commodores don’t really have a clear-cut third starter, and if a team is able to steal a win in game one or two, Vandy will likely resort to a bullpen game for the rubber match.
A Vanderbilt bullpen game is still far from a walk in the park behind relievers Nick Madonado and Luke Murphy who account for 16 of Vandy’s 22 saves and both boast a sub-3 ERA in a combined 48 appearances.
While not quite the 2019 Commodore offense that featured eventual top 5 picks JJ Bleday and Austin Martin, Vandy can score in many different ways. The nation’s leading base stealer and the fastest man in Omaha, Enrique Bradfield Jr., has been everything Head Coach Tim Corbin could want out of a lead-off hitter. Bradfield enters the World Series, hitting .356 with a team-leading .474 OBP and elite defense in center field.
Junior Dominic Keegan is the most feared bat in the Commodores lineup, boasting a slash-line of .361/.441/.673 with 14 home runs along with power threats Carter Young (15 HR) and Isaiah Thomas (13 HR).
For Vanderbilt to not repeat, a team is going to have to beat Kumar Rocker or Jack Leiter and then win another one. It’s a tall ask, but I don’t think anybody had Arkansas losing to NC State in the Super Regional and that’s the beauty of baseball.