These are unsettling times for Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin – and he doesn’t believe it needs to be that way.
As the MLB deadline for signing 2011 draft selections who have remaining college eligibility nears, Corbin is in the same boat as many other college baseball coaches. Teams will meet for fall practices later this month and Corbin and his peers aren’t sure who will show up.
By midnight Monday, though, they will have a better idea.
Drafted Commodores who had not signed as of late last week were pitchers Will Clinard and Jack Armstrong and outfielder Joe Loftus. Plus, three Vanderbilt commitments, including two first-round selections, are undecided.
“It makes it worrisome from a scholarship standpoint,” said Corbin, who in June guided the Commodores to their first College World Series. “You don’t know what you are going to have. You don’t know what you can give out. It makes it very difficult that way.”
The current deadline comes more than two months after the draft.
Corbin proposes players should have to sign – or not sign – by the end of June. That way, he says, the MLB can infuse them into their farm systems immediately and college teams aren’t kept waiting as contract negotiations drag on.
“I think it costs them a significant amount of money for that deadline to be a couple of months,” Corbin said. “It gives them more negotiating time for the kids and their advisors. From a standpoint of professional baseball, getting the kids they want to sign into the system as quickly as possible. And it makes easier for a college coach to understand what he has for scholarship money and really who to recruit the next year.
“The kids you will have in your program or not have in your program, it allows you to know your depth chart going into the summer. We don’t know what our depth chart is going to be this year, let alone two years from now. So it makes it difficult to recruit to it.”
So far, pitcher Sonny Gray, as expected, signed with the Oakland A’s after being selected 18th overall. Others who jumped to the professional ranks include Aaron Westlake (Detroit Tigers), Corey Williams (Minnesota Twins), Taylor Hill (Washington Nationals), Mark Lamm (Atlanta Braves), Curt Casali (Detroit Tigers), Navery Moore (Atlanta Braves) and Bryan Johns, who was signed as undrafted free agent by the Boston Red Sox.
First-round selection Grayson Garvin (Tampa Bay Rays) and second-round pick Jason Esposito (Baltimore Orioles) are still in negotiations but are expected to reach deals. Incoming freshman outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr. (Chicago Cubs) took summer classes at Vanderbilt this summer and is expected to report in the fall. Pitcher and former Farragut standout Philip Pfeifer (Texas Rangers) has said he will honor his commitment to Vanderbilt.
Clinard and Loftus most likely will return. They were the last two Commodores to be drafted, going in the 30th and 46th rounds, respectively. Both could increase their draft stock with solid senior seasons.
Loftus, who was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks, is coming off an injury plagued season and will have to work his way back into an outfield that returns all three starters.
Clinard, who was taken by the Minnesota Twins, led the team last year with 34 appearances – all out of the bullpen. The right-hander had a 2-2 record with a 2.77 ERA, 48 strikeouts and 10 walks in 39 innings pitched. He assumed a bigger role in relief during the postseason and could move into a starting spot.
Armstrong appears to be on the fence. He was the fourth Commodore picked. Taken in the third round by the Houston Astros, Armstrong might have a tougher decision – and a bigger signing bonus to walk away from. The former starter pitched in just 13 games last season, compiling a 2.65 ERA and an 0-1 record in relief.
“We are in conversations with them right now,” Corbin said. “It is kind of a big log jam.”
Two of Vanderbilt’s top incoming freshmen, pitchers Tyler Beede and Kevin Comer, were drafted in the first round by the Toronto Blue Jays. Neither have signed yet but MLB.com is reporting Beede will honor his commitment to Vanderbilt.
Beede, a Massachusetts native, will most likely jump into a starting spot as all three of last year’s weekend starters (assuming Garvin signs) are gone. Plus, T.J. Pecoraro will miss most of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his elbow at the end of his freshman campaign.
“I don’t know what are pitching staff is because I don’t know who will be back,” Corbin said. “We will develop them. [Pitching coach Derek Johnson] will help develop them and they will be good, regardless of who is here pitching.”