Thirteen new players will step onto the field this weekend for Vanderbilt when Cal State Fullerton comes to Nashville for the first fall ball series at Hawkins Field.
And that baker’s dozen is already receiving high praise.
Vanderbilt’s recruiting class, which includes 12 freshmen and one junior college transfer, was ranked No. 1 in the country by Baseball America, the publication announced Thursday.
The last time VU topped the recruiting rankings was 2005. That group included Pedro Alvarez and Ryan Flaherty.
This year's class includes seven pitchers — led by right-hander Tyler Beede, who was drafted 21st overall by Toronto and was the only first-rounder to not sign a professional contract. That group also includes Philip Pfeifer, a left-hander from Knoxville who holds the Tennessee state record for career wins, Franklin native Brian Miller and junior college transfer Drew VerHagen.
Chris Harvey headlines the position players as the 6-foot-5, 215-pound catcher graduated from Germantown Academy in Norristown, Pa., a year early to enroll at Vanderbilt. John Norwood will try to break into an outfield that returns three starters after he was drafted in the 12th round by Toronto.
The Commodores will play two nine-inning games against Cal State Fullerton on Saturday and Sunday, starting at 11 a.m. on both days. Tickets may still be purchased for $5 (outfield) or $7 (infield) at the McGugin Center ticket office or by calling 615-322-4653.
Vanderbilt is coming off its first trip to the College World Series and had a Southeastern Conference-record 12 players drafted in the most recent MLB draft.
Only pitcher Will Clinard returned, so the freshmen class will have a chance to make an immediate impact. The Commodores will have a new catcher, third baseman and first baseman, along with a revamped bullpen and starting rotation, which will most likely include a freshman.
“It has been kind of a learning fall for a lot of us, even the older kids,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said a couple weeks ago. “It is a work in progress. It would be premature of me to tell you anyone has a spot right now. ... The things that are unknowns are catching, third base, first base and whatever we do on the mound from a starting situation. We could roll people out there in those spots if we had to play tomorrow. But I don’t necessarily think it is going to be the way we end up in May. Those faces could change. We’ll see.”