Getting drafted creates questions for three Vanderbilt baseball players

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 10:37pm

Anthony Gomez turned on his phone and got the news he wanted.

Coming out of an end-of-the-year meeting with the rest of his teammates, the Vanderbilt shortstop learned the Miami Marlins selected him in the sixth round of the MLB Draft on Tuesday.

He was the last of three Vanderbilt juniors taken on the second of the three-day selection process. Left-handed pitcher Sam Selman went to the Kansas City Royals in the second round. Right-handed pitcher Drew VerHagen was taken by the Detroit Tigers in the fourth.

"You have to be happy for the boys," coach Tim Corbin said. "Part of what we do here is try to help them develop to give them further opportunities beyond Vanderbilt baseball. Now I think the decision for all three of them is if it's the right timing and if they feel they can increase their development to where they might be able to attain their degree and maybe reach a higher draft status a year from now."

The 6-foot, 185-pounder has batted .353 in three years and his 265 hits rank fifth in school history. The Nutley, N.J., native was named a Freshman All-American in 2010 and is a two-time All-SEC selection. This past season, which ended Monday in a NCAA Regional loss to North Carolina State, Gomez led the Commodores with a .353 batting average, 88 hits and 56 RBIs.

Even with the stellar season, Gomez wasn’t sure how high his draft stock had risen.

“I had no idea where I was going to go. I was just hoping for the best,” he said. “I’m not disappointed with that. There were a lot of good players that went after me and a lot that went before me.

“... It’s a great feeling. It is bittersweet because you obviously don’t want to leave a program like this behind. At the same time, it’s a childhood dream. You’ve just got to take a step back, kind of look at it and see what you want to do.”

Gomez has cousins, aunts and uncles who live in Miami — “The whole works,” he said — but he’s not sure yet if he’ll join them in South Beach. He has a contract to play summer ball with the Cape Cod League’s Orleans (Mass.) Firebirds for the second straight year. He says he’ll report there in a couple weeks “if that is the route I take” and opts to stay for his senior season.

The signing deadline for all drafted players is July 13 — a month earlier than last year.

“I’m going to sit down, let all this craziness settle down a little bit and talk to my family and try to figure things out,” he said. “Right now they’re just excited that I actually got my name called. But I’m going to have to settle down the next few days, kind of figure things out and put things in perspective.”

Selman and VerHagen also have tough decisions to make.

Selman, a 6-foot-3, 185-pounder, led the team in wins with nine and tied for the most strikeouts — 79 in 75.2 innings pitched. Using a fastball that touched 94 miles per hour and a nasty slider, he posted a 9-3 record with a 3.57 ERA and opponents hit just .236 against him.

The Austin, Texas, native recovered from a slow start and flourished in the midweek role. He won five straight starts to land back in the weekend rotation.

VerHagen was tops on the team — among starters — with a 3.44 ERA. He went 6-2 in seven starts and 27 appearances in his lone season at Vanderbilt. The 6-foot-6, 225-pounder transferred after one year at Navarro College in Texas. He helped the Bulldogs win the junior college national championship. The Rockwall, Texas, native began his career with the University of Oklahoma.

On Monday night, two Vanderbilt commits were selected in the compensatory round, which followed the first round. Two-way player Matt Olson out of Parkview, Ga., was taken 47th overall by the Oakland A’s. Six picks later, the Texas Rangers took right-handed pitcher Collin Wiles from Stilwell, Kan., 53rd overall.

Olson, a 6-foot-4, 236-pounder, has the ability to play both ways in college but most scouts see him as a first baseman at the pros. The left-handed hitter helped lead Parkview to two straight state championships.

Wiles, a 6-foot-4, 187-pounder, was 8-0 with a 0.10 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings.

Kansas’ Gatorade Player of the Year told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram he is passing on his scholarship offer from Vanderbilt and signing with the Rangers.

"The kids put that out there if they were taken in and around that area [compensatory rounds] the likelihood of them signing would be high," Corbin said. "Because of that they'll probably forego their college career, which is too bad for them. You know, we'll survive. They have to do it on their own. They come here you have a little bit of support. I'm not saying that they can't do it. It's just a different way of life."

Briefly

• Vanderbilt men’s basketball coach Kevin Stallings also had a vested interest in the draft. His son, Jacob, was taken in the seventh round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jacob, a former Brentwood Academy standout, batted .294 in his senior year at North Carolina. The 6-foot-5 catcher started in all 61 games.

• In addition to the Vanderbilt trio, Tennessee two-way player Drew Steckenrider was selected in the eighth round by the Marlins. The right-hander was 4-6 on the mound with a 3.37 ERA last year. The switch-hitter from Lawrenceville, Ga., led the Vols with six home runs and batted .221.

3 Comments on this post:

By: joe41 on 6/7/12 at 6:36

Professional baseball just doesn't have the kids best welfare at heart. Dangling big money to a high schooler feeds their ego but doesn't necessarily do anything for the kid in the long run.

Joe

By: Dore4Life on 6/7/12 at 7:27

MLB and the NCAA do more for the best interest of baseball players than is done for the best interest of men's basketball or football players. I'll take the system for baseball players every time over the system for the others.

By: 4gold on 6/7/12 at 7:55

MLB is going to ruin college baseball. Why cant they wait for the talents to develop and let the kids enjoy the college experience.

Vandy pitching was weak as it was. Losing Selman will hurt. The Bull pin lost the NC State series. They just blew up. Go Dores!