Dodgers: Vanderbilt University Providing the Dodgers With Talent

OMAHA, NE - JUNE 24 Pitcher Walker Buehler
OMAHA, NE - JUNE 24 Pitcher Walker Buehler /

Vanderbilt University boasts a prestigious baseball program that consistently produces quality players for the MLB Draft. The Dodgers front office under Andrew Friedman has looked to harness some of that near-finished talent by spending high draft picks on products of Vanderbilt. Commodores Walker Buehler, Jordan Sheffield, and Jeren Kendall were selected in consecutive years under Friedman.

From Dodger Stadium, head southbound off of Stadium Way via Chavez Ravine Place then veer east on W. College Street into Chinatown. Make a right on N. Broadway and continue south for a block and a half until arriving at LA’s Far East Plaza. Pause for a moment to enjoy the savory aromas wafting from an array of phenomenal gastronomical offerings, then proceed to the back of the plaza’s longest line.

Undoubtedly, you will now find yourself waiting endlessly to eat at a joint known as Howlin’ Ray’s. If you’re not sure what to order, and you happen to be in line next to Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Logan Forsythe, you may want to ask for his recommendation. Logan is a Tennessee native who lives on a 65-acre farm in the Nashville area during MLB’s off season. Chances are, he knows a little bit about Music City’s famous hot chicken.

As for Nashville itself, Tennessee’s capital city is home to such historic sites as the Grand Ole Opry House, the Ryman Auditorium, and the resplendent Vanderbilt University. A private institution that has been consistently recognized as one of the finest schools of higher education in the US, Vanderbilt is also known for its prestigious Commodores baseball program.

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher David Price was formerly a standout at Vandy. The hype surrounding the lefty heading into 2007’s MLB Draft was intense and lead to him being selected first overall by Tampa Bay, then known as the Devil Rays. A young guy named Andrew Friedman was presiding over only his second draft as Tampa’s General Manger at the time when he chose Price.

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Obviously, Friedman liked what he saw in terms of Vanderbilt grooming their ballplayers for the professional environment. So much so that, in his first draft as President of Baseball Operations for Los Angeles, the Dodgers took Walker Buehler, a right-handed pitcher from Vanderbilt, with their first-round pick –  24th overall. In fact, since the Friedman regime has taken power, the Dodgers have selected Commodores prior to the second round every single year. In addition to Buehler, there’s outfield prospect Jeren Kendall, taken 23rd overall as the Dodgers’ first pick in last year’s draft and right-handed pitcher Jordan Sheffield, taken 36th overall in the Competitive Balance tweener rounds of 2016.

It’s not just Friedman and the Dodgers that are targeting these products of Vanderbilt Baseball either. After Price went first in 2007, pitcher Casey Weathers was selected eighth overall by Colorado. Weathers signaled the beginning of what turned into a mini-trend as Vanderbilt has had a pitcher drafted in the first round of all but one odd-numbered year since. In 2009, it was Mike Minor taken seventh by Atlanta and Sonny Gray went 18th overall in 2011 to Oakland. The trend was bucked in 2013 before being revived in 2015 by Detroit with their selection of Carson Fulmer at overall pick number eight and kept alive last year by none other than Atlanta. Choosing a Vandy Boy again in 2017, this time with their fifth overall pick, the Braves selected right-handed hurler Kyle Wright.

Speaking of Atlanta, the Dodgers selected another Vanderbilt pitcher, Philip Pfeifer, in the third round of the 2015 draft before including him in a trade to Atlanta for Bud Norris a year later. On the Braves, Pfeifer joins Vanderbilt alumnus and fellow 2015 draft classmate Dansby Swanson. Swanson was originally selected number one overall by Arizona and subsequently traded, but that’s a story for another blog.

There have been a number of quality professional ballplayers drafted from Vanderbilt in the first round over the last decade. Other members of this group include established veteran infielder Pedro Alvarez, taken second overall in 2008 by Pittsburgh, and pitcher Tyler Beede of the Giants who was selected 14th overall in 2014.

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Nashville is a city famed for its hot chicken and honky-tonk hits. Not to be overlooked, though, is Vanderbilt University which has been supplying a pipeline of MLB talent consistently over the past decade. For three years in a row, the current Dodgers front office has spent some of their most highly prized draft picks on well-groomed baseball players from Vandy’s storied program. Vanderbilt products Walker Buehler, Jeren Kendall, and Jordan Sheffield will now look to provide the Dodgers and their fans with a few good reasons to cheer for Commodores Baseball going forward.